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I actually didn’t think about how I was going to get my first book published until it was almost completed. Did I want to have it published by a traditional publisher? Or did I want to self-publish? Or did I want to go with a print-on-demand (POD) company?

Before making a choice, I took all three options into consideration. But what it ultimately came down to was to answer the question, what were the results I was looking for? At first I just really wanted to write a book so I could be seen as an expert in my field. All the marketing experts say having a book is a way to show yourself as an expert. So my original intent was not to make money but to establish that I knew what I was talking about. The traditional route seemed like the way to go because, as I understand it, you don’t get much after you get the advanced payment. Your royalties on each book are about 3%-15% with the higher percentage reserved for famous authors. So you are looking at getting 14 cents to $1.50 a book. Not much.

When I looked more into the industry, I realized that traditional publishers make you sign over all your rights to your work. I don’t know about you, but I have a problem signing over something that I put my heart and soul into creating. Yes, they take care of the marketing, promotion, bookkeeping, printing, assume all the risk and such but I don’t think that deserves all the rights to my work for the rest of the company’s existence. Also, it takes a long, long, long time for a book to be published by a traditional publisher. I’m talking two years or more. I didn’t have that kind of patience. I wanted my book out, yesterday. Not to mention that before you get to a publisher you have to find an agent who believes in your work that will shop you around. That takes even more time. And when your book sells you have to share and I use that word loosely with the publisher and the agent who get more of a royalty than you do on your own book.

That didn’t really appeal to me so I looked into self-publishing and honestly, it is just way too much work, time and money. In order to self-publish, you have to establish yourself as a publishing house, buy an ISBN, well, they don’t sell only one, they sell them in packs of 10 for about $250 or something. Then you have to find a designer and printer. You have to have books in your home, garage or wherever you are planning to store them. You are responsible for getting your book into bookstores. That is a lot of money to invest up front. I just can’t handle that kind of financial risk. Much to much stressful.

I moved on to print-on-demand. This format is almost a hybrid of self-publishing and traditional. What really caught my attention was that I didn’t have to worry about carrying books in my car or my tiny apartment, unless I wanted to. And the royalties were going to be higher. I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a printer, handling returns, bookkeeping and any type of customer service. Yes, I still have to hire an editor to ensure I put out quality work. Plus, all the marketing and promotion is on me, but I was okay with that. And I wasn’t going to have to put a whole lot of money up front.

So now that I had decided to go with a POD, I had to decide which company I wanted to go with. You have to be careful of which one you choose. There are some that maintain the rights to your work and the files you sent them to create your book. And you have to pay them to get them back, usually hundreds of dollars up to a thousand. Some offer marketing or editing services but they are super expensive. Some you can’t really tell what your royalty is going to be at the end of the day.

After comparing companies, I decided to go with Booklocker.com. I paid a little over $500 upfront to get the book laid out, original cover design, an ISBN, listed with Ingram and most importantly I retain all the rights to my work and files. And as if that wasn’t good enough, I make 35% off of each book sale and 70% off of each ebook. Oh, did I forget to mention that they create the ebook at no additional charge? So instead of making $1.50, I’m making about $5 on each book and $9 on each ebook sale. I am not locked in a contract, so if I decide I want to leave or get a contract with a major publisher I don’t have to wait or pay a fee.

I am so thrilled that I selected to go the POD route. I am making more money off of my book and can actually make a living off of it.

If you are considering publishing your first body of work, I suggest you also look into all three options and decide which one is best suited for you. And keep in mind that just because you get published through a traditional publisher doesn’t mean you’ll get rich. No matter which option you choose you are going to have to work your butt off to get noticed and get people to buy your book.

Good Writing!

–ChaChanna Simpson is the author of LIFE AFTER COLLEGE: WHAT YOUR PARENTS AND PROFESSORS NEVER TAUGHT YOU. Visit her website at www.twentity.com.

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An interview with Jerry D. Simmons, regarding the far-reaching implications of Amazon’s announcement that any small press or print-on-demand publisher doing business with them would need to print books through their publishing arm: BookSurge. Jerry is a former Executive with the Time Warner Book Group who left there in 2003 to build one of the leading social networking sites for Independent authors, NothingBinding.com.

What’s the real outcome going to be from this Amazon decision?

The publishers impacted will follow the demands of Amazon and print their books with Book Surge. The wider implication is that Amazon strengthens their position with these publishers and creates a monster with their vertical integration. This leaves each one of those publishers vulnerable to new demands by Amazon. What’s next? Higher discounts. Right now these publishers have been forced to change vendors, it might have cost them a bit more money, but remember, they market to writers not consumers. So if they are unable to place their authors’ books on Amazon, it looks bad in the eyes of their customers, the writers. These publishers don’t have the courage to say no and take a stand. And it’s not about the fact they sell a ton of books on Amazon, it’s about their customers’ view of them and their ability to market their own books.

How do you predict the long-term effects of this as it relates to the small author and publisher?

The long-term effects for the author and publisher are devastating. With Amazon strengthening and securing their place in the distribution and sales channel, they can do anything they want. The next move will be to squeeze these small authors and publishers for placement fees, advertising fees, and eventually higher discounts. When you give in once, it never stops, this is the way of the publishing world and booksellers. It will get to the point where they start to lose money on each book sold. Only then will Amazon back off, but you can bet they are going to push authors and publishers to the wall and take every possible nickel out of the equation.

What can an author/publisher do to “fight back?”

Draw the line with this decision, pull their books from Amazon, create a new online market for selling their books, a central location for all self-published, print-on-demand books that has no alliance with any publisher or printer. Again, it’s not about selling books, it’s about how they are seen in the eyes of their customers, the writers. They are concerned about their own pipeline for new business drying up and that is much more important than giving in to Amazon’s demands. Each one of these publishers could switch all their allegiance to B&N.com today, but they haven’t, and the reason is that in the eyes of the writer, they feel they must be on Amazon to be successful. Short term it hurts business and they are more concerned about that than the longer term impact which is going to be a continual erosion of their profit margin.

What alternatives do authors and publishers have besides selling their books on Amazon?

It’s time for the self-published, print-on-demand companies and small publishers to begin creating their own marketplace, totally and completely separate from all the online platforms that sell their books. I strongly believe that the website http://www.NothingBinding.com is a solution, and for full disclosure, it is a site that I founded. But here is the key, if you are not part of the traditional world of big New York publishing, from which I spent 25 years, then authors must realize it is fruitless to continue to struggle to become part of something dominated and controlled by the largest publishers in the world. Amazon is clearly inside the traditional world, and they are setting restrictions on anyone outside that wants to be part of their world. This will never end! It’s time now to create your own community and establish a voice in the marketplace. I’m confident that Nothing Binding can fill that void, becoming the community and voice for Independent publishing. The name alone signifies a non-alliance with any publisher or printer. A social networking website that allows authors free placement of their books with links to outside sources is a perfect way for authors to separate themselves from the traditional world of big publishing; in fact, it’s the only way to create a market and achieve increased sales they so desperately want and need.

Do you think this was a bad decision on Amazon’s part and if so, why?

Obviously Amazon weighed the profit from the sales of all these POD books versus the additional revenue of printing AND sales. They made a calculated gamble and it appears they have been right. Now there is no stopping them on their demands. It won’t happen overnight, but they will make new rules and continue to do so until it negatively impacts their own revenue stream. Giving in is a monumental mistake for the author and publisher, if the POD companies had taken a stand against the decision and risked short-term profits, they would have been much better in the long term and more respected by their own customers in the marketplace. Why do you think Amazon did this only for the print-on-demand books and not books that are offset printed? They claim they did this so it would be easier for them to marry books with other products that customers wanted, combine the package and shipping for convenience and cost savings. What about all the other books that are offset printed? They have the same problem with marrying books and products, but they don’t own an offset printing company, yet! If I was running any company that does a substantial amount of business with Amazon and saw what they were doing with books, I’d keep a close eye on what other parts and manufacturing companies they purchase. Vertical integration in this case is good for Amazon, no, great for Amazon, but bad for the publishing business and possibly very bad for other product lines sold on Amazon.

Since AuthorHouse/iUniverse and Lulu have signed the contract with Amazon, does this change the playing field for the other publishers, or is it irrelevant (and if so, why)?

With Author House and Lulu agreeing to Amazon’s demands, it puts pressure on the other companies to follow suit. None of these companies can risk their own business drying up and even though it’s doubtful they lose a ton of sales if they dropped from Amazon, it would be the negative perception their own possible customers would have, i.e. the writer, and of course their competition would use this as leverage in their own marketing as “being the one company still doing business with Amazon.” These writers don’t really understand the implications, yet, all they see is that their books are or are not on Amazon for sale; that’s all they care about.

In the survey of writers I completed long before NB was started, I found that virtually 98% felt they must have their books on Amazon, and clearly 70% hated the fact they had to give a 55% discount to them. When asked if Amazon went away tomorrow, how much would it impact sales, only about 15% felt they sold enough books on Amazon to make a difference. They must be there, they hate being there, yet it doesn’t really make a big difference, so what’s the point? Once Amazon raises the effective discount, or asks for ad or placement fees, and the publisher passes this along to their authors, they might wake up. But who knows, right now, all the authors care about is making sure their books are still listed and for sale on Amazon.

Fighting back should be done gradually and not a knee jerk reaction. I think if these authors and publishers set a deadline for Amazon to reverse their decision or else they would pull all books, they could get positive media attention to this, they will have capitalized on this in a way that would draw attention to them and their books, and in the long run they would be out from under the thumb of a very big online retailer. The analogy I use is that if the U.S. had been serious about alternative fuels back in 1973 during the oil embargo, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today, 35 years later. Of course you can’t compare oil to books, but the fact remains, this cave in to Amazon is a very steep and slippery slope and it won’t take anywhere near 35 years for them to realize their mistake, maybe 35 months!

If authors seek out other platforms to sell their books – how will they compete with the “comfort level” consumers feel with Amazon?

There is no way to compete with the comfort level of Amazon and that of course is a problem, but a short-term one. Solutions will create short-term discomfort, but I strongly believe people buy books on Amazon because it’s all they know. If there was a viable alternative, then I think consumers would welcome it. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the publishers to counter this strategy with cover price discounts, until the consumer starts to feel comfortable again and then you can readdress the price issue. These publishers will have to make some short-term concessions to attract their consumers, but it beats what they are going to have to endure when they cave to Amazon. There is no easy solution, there is no silver bullet that will make everything okay tomorrow, there will be some issues that have to be worked out, but if all these authors and companies would combine forces, create a new online market for themselves and their books, in 35 months they will be glad they did. Eat it in the short term for long term gain-that is the answer to the Amazon problem. Because Amazon is going to do nothing in the future to help the POD companies’ bottom lines, they are going to continue to eat away at their margins in a number of ways while at the same time squeezing them on price and discount. It’s a no win situation for the authors and publishers and it doesn’t appear that they really realize the situation they put themselves in by giving in to Amazon’s demands.

Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

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Hi all,

The special publishing issue of Voice in the Dark Ezine is out for your reading pleasure.

In this issue…

Editor’s Note
Fictional Character Interview
Special Publisher Interviews
–Meet Lida Quillen, Publisher, Twilight Times Books
–Meet Kathryn Struck, Publisher, Awe-Struck E-Books
Featured Interviews
–Meet Lida Quillen, Publisher, Twilight Times Books, Interview by Mayra Calvani
–Meet Lynda S. Burch, Publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, Interview by Mayra Calvani
–Meet Elizabeth Burton, Publisher, Zumaya Books, Interview by Mayra Calvani Book Excerpt — Tremolo by Aaron Paul Lazar
Gladiator’s Arena–by Mayra Calvani
Short Fiction
Articles
–It’s my Book! Right? by Ghost Writer
–Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishing by Barbara Hudgins
–The Perils and Pitfalls of Publishing: Who Can an Author Trust by Dee Power and Brian Hill
–How Do Books Get on Book Store Shelves by Dee Power
Sanctuary — Columnist Mayra Calvani
Whodunit? — Columnist Billie A. Williams
Pam’s Pen — Columnist Pamela James
Seedlings — Aaron Paul Lazar
This & That — Columnist Dana Reed
Reviews
Notes
Events
Resources

Just go to www.MysteryFiction.net and click on Voice in the Dark on the left sidebar.

Enjoy!

Best,
Mayra

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