The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today by Chris Mason: Guest Post

Hello, my name is Chris Mason and I would like to thank Vicki before I start off for giving me a platform to speak with you today.

Today’s topic is “The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today” The answer is indie authors themselves. Now before you get your torches and pitchforks and try to run me out of town hear me out.

I have been writing since 2008 and publishing since 2013. Almost all newbies authors form bad habits that are hard to break.

These bad habits include:
1. Idol worship of Amazon
2. A lack of professionalism and yet wanting to be taken seriously by the big 5. The Big 5 is slang for the big 5 publishing companies.
3. Not treating being an author as a real job.
4. The over-reliance on social media for marketing.
5. The inability to see the Longview and the big picture. What I mean by this is the lack of a plan or believing everything done in marketing is based on the acquisition of money. As an indie author, I have found I do a lot of things whose purpose is not going to lead to money.
Since each one of these could have its own blog post I will only be focusing on one of these points today. If Vicki invites me back I would be happy to cover the other points, However, today I Will cover idol worship of Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong Amazon accounts for one out of every two dollars spent in the United States and I am impressed at the empire that Jeff Bezos has created but one thing to keep mind is that Amazon is not your friend. I hear the following statement from many new authors “I just put my book on Amazon when should I expect the royalties to start rolling in”. Amazon is not a lamp you rub and money comes out. I will now cover the problems with Amazon and other alternatives authors can use without the pitfalls Amazon intentionally puts in the way.
The problems that will come up when using Amazon include:
1. The push towards exclusivity with Amazon. Amazon gives the new author the idea they can make more in royalties(70% per sale) if they are exclusive to Amazon. While this is technically true there is a high cost to pay. First off 70% is only 10% more than the standard royalty of 60%. The cost for the extra 10% is exclusivity with Amazon and I don’t think the lack of eyeballs is worth it. Don’t kid yourselves selling books is like any other type of sales, it’s a numbers game. There is even an old saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That saying applies to selling books just like to anything else.

Next problem with Amazon. The circle of death. If you have never heard of The circle of death it goes something like this. Every day an author’s book sells it moves up in the rankings of Amazon.However, every day that same book doesn’t sell it goes down in the rankings. For the average author just starting out no one knows who they are. The new author hasn’t built any social proof as to the quality of his or her book or credibility of the author to help sell the book in mass quantities. Therefore the book’s ranking will plummet like a rock till the book is so low in the rankings at Amazon that Waldo will be easier to find then the book in question.

The next problem is Goodreads. I will not go into detail about the problems with Goodreads here but understand all books will wind up at Goodreads whether the author of the book wants it there or not. I sure didn’t want any of my books on Goodreads. For more information about the issues with Goodreads please read the free book Authors versus Goodreads by Zoe Desh free at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/505481.
Next, let us cover the problem with the ISBN assigned by Amazon. I know a lot of authors choose to go with the free ISBN that Amazon will give them mainly because it’s free. First off nothing is free.Everything has a cost and this ISBN is no different. If an author chooses to use the ISBN supplied by Amazon to publish their book through CreateSpace. The author may find several doors close to them. Here are some of the drawbacks when using the Amazon issued ISBN number. First off the ISBN issued by Amazon locks your book into only being able to be sold through Amazon’s distribution chains. This means you can only sell on Amazon. I understand that a lot of people claim Amazon can get their book into a library or a bookstore. This is not true. First, most libraries do not consider it a real ISBN because it’s not. It’s issued by Amazon. It is an ASIN. These are not real ISBN numbers.

Only Bowler is authorized to sell ISBN numbers in the United States. Authors can purchase ISBN numbers at this website. ISBN Org at https://www.isbn.org
I suggest buying in bulk to receive volume discounts. It is my understanding that Nielsen does the equivalent in the UK. Here is their website, http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk . Libraries and bookstore need official ISBN numbers to be able to catalog all books in libraries and bookstores. Without an ISBN both of these options will be closed to the average author. I have many more problems with Amazon’s business practices and their treatment of authors in general, however, let’s move to a much more pleasant topic.

The importance of diversification. Now listen to me very clearly. While I am completely against exclusivity and I personally don’t like Amazon and their business practices I would recommend using them as one of your distribution channels. Keep in the back of your mind that sales is a numbers game and you as an author need as many eyeballs looking at you and your books as you can get.
I’m going to quickly run down how to turn your one product into many products and how to get seen in wide release as fast as you can instead of choosing exclusivity with Amazon.
Let’s say you as an author wrote The Joy of flying. It’s a great book on how to get your pilot’s license. You have worked hard on it and you want to sell it to as many people as you can. So here are the steps.
1. Let’s make an ebook . First I’m going to make an assumption that you have a Word document. I’m also going to assume that you have paid for a proofreader and copy editor. Those two jobs by the way or different. A proofreader will look for grammar and spelling errors in a manuscript all a copy editor will actually change aspects of the manuscript. Next I’m going to assume that you have paid for a cover. While the cover is very important to book sales please be realistic in what you’re going to spend and do not spend more than $60 for a cover.

Now that we have all the necessary parts for an ebook let’s go shopping for a distributor. There are three major players for ebook distribution. They are Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital.

I have already discussed the problems with Amazon so I’ll be moving on to the pros and cons of Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital will distribute your book to all the likely suspects of book retail.These include Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. The benefits of Draft2Digital are they are easy to use, have phone support, and will pretty much take any manuscript and help an author format the manuscript into a book. On top of that while Drafr2Digital doesn’t do a lot in the way of print books, they will help format a book into a 6 by 9 perfect-bound paperback. The website is located at https://www.draft2digital.com .

Remember back I mentioned everything has a cost. The cost of having Draft2Digital format a book is that the book will not be distributed to as many retailers as possible.

Moving on to the last ebook retailer on the list Smashwords. Smashwords is my retailer of choice as they are the largest ebook retailer in the world and they have the widest distribution possible.

The cost of the incredibly wide distribution of a book is that you as an author have to use the Auto Vetter system. The Auto Vetter will automatically check for errors in formatting. However, using the Auto Vetter is going to be painful to use. The Auto Vetter is so hard to use because the books that Smashwords distributes have to be available in a variety of file formats and each format has its own specific requirements that must be met to be included in that retailer’s catalog. Some of these file formats are for e-readers that are no longer being made.

There is an easy way around the painful Auto Vetter. Outsource the format work of the book. If an author uses a service such as Fiverr he or she can get their book formatted for about $15-$200 depending on length. Author’s worried about losing sales to people who have Kindle devices don’t worry. All Smashwords books are available in Mobi format. the Smashwords website can be found here https://www.smashwords.com .

Both Smashwords and Draft2 Digital offer free ISBN numbers. In both cases the author keeps the rights and for filing reasons the company is put down as the books publisher.
Congratulations the author now has an ebook. This will be invaluable when review copies or ARCs( advanced review copies) are needed.

I hear what someone in my audience is saying. “What about print?” The print field is somewhat larger than the e-book field.

The main players are as follows: Amazon’s CreateSpace, Bookbaby, Ingram, Lulu and Print Ninja. unless the author in question has thousands of dollars we can knock some of these options off the list right now.

CreateSpace gets knocked off for its lack of distribution options.

Bookbaby and Print Ninja get knocked off due to price. Ingram gets knocked off due to complexity so that leaves us with Lulu.

I hear somebody out there saying “wait somebody told me Ingram was a great company why shouldn’t I use them”. Ingram is a great company. They are the Microsoft of books. Ingram prints about 99 percent of the world’s books.For this reason, their criteria for formatting is tedious and time-consuming they also charge fees up the wazoo. There is a fee to set up an account with Ingram and there is a fee every time a change is made to a manuscript. So for our purposes, they were removed as an option for a paperback.

Bookbaby was removed due to cost. While they will do both ebooks and print their fee is about $2,500 for a 25 book minimum. That leaves Lulu as the only player left in the game.
first off let me tell you I’ve heard on the web that Lulu is more expensive than its competitors. I believe Lulu has more benefits to offer than its competitors. For example, Lulu can offer hardcover, comic book, photo book, calendar and many other print options. Lulu also offers two types of paper. Create space in comparison only offers one. Lulu also offers flat-rate royalties. This means you set your royalty rate in dollars not in percentage.

For example, you may want a $4 per book royalty rate. if so Lulu will build that into the price. Lulu does offer to distribute your book to brick-and-mortar retailers for an additional fee. I personally do not take this option as I don’t think it’s a good return on investment. That being said, it’s still an option that most other book printers don’t offer. Lastly will do bulk printing and give authors volume pricing. Another good benefit to Lulu is its ease of use. For example, if you have all the documents you used for your ebook you have all but one document necessary to get your book up and ready to go at Lulu. the one missing document, of course, is the back cover. Once you have that it should take you no more than about 10 minutes to put your book up and have it ready for sale at Lulu.
Now onto audiobooks. If your book is suitable for audio you can open up several more markets by just making an audiobook.

The two major players in this Arena are ACX owned by Amazon and Authors Republic owned by Audiobooks.com. I understand the attraction to Amazon’s ACX. I mean who wouldn’t want their audiobook done for free. However, as mentioned before everything has a price.

Just like with Kindle unlimited and the exclusivity clause that prevents you from selling your ebook or paperback anywhere( including your own website) but Amazon the same goes for ACX. However, instead of a 90-day exclusivity clause use for Kindle Unlimited. The exclusivity clause for ACX is seven years. It should also be noted that just like Kindle Unlimited the only distribution you get with ACX is audible.com.

It is, for this reason, I suggest going with authors Republic. They can get you into Amazon as well as many other audiobook retailers. think of Authors Republic as the audio equivalent of Smashwords. They have tools like ACX to help you make your audiobook or you can submit an audio track already made. the latter is what I recommend. Since I use them I also know for a fact that authors Republic allows you to attach bonuses to your audio files.

For example, one of my audiobooks comes bundled with the companion e-book. I have built the ebooks price into the cost of the audiobook so I don’t lose money. It’s a kids book which is in essence a book and a tape bundled together. the Authors Republic website can be found at the following web address. https://www.authorsrepublic.com . A word of caution. just like every author should know the audience for their book. They should also be aware that not every book is suitable for every format. Well as an author you have written the joy of flying. It is in all available formats. This includes audio, ebook, and audiobook.

If you distributed through authors Republic, Lulu, and Smashwords your book should now be available in about 31 different retailers around the world. How is that for eyeballs?

I could give you some more retailers to sell the Joy of Flying but I will save that for another day.

I have a homework assignment I would like everyone reading this blog post to do something for me. I would like you to read the free ebook Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self-Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their success( And How To Fix Them). The book is available at Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631282 .I just think this is a really good book for helping Indie authors get set on the right path.

I would like to thank you all for letting me share my experiences with you today. Thank you again Vicki for letting me speak and share my views. I hopefully will be able to talk to you all again real soon. thanks for stopping by.

Here’s where to connect with me and learn more about me and my books

Link to my books in e-format: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/digitalattic

Link to my books in print: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ChrisMason

Link to my books in audio: https://www.audiobooks.com/browse/author/171672/chris-mason

Social media links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011109078034

Twitter @Chrismason9595

Bio: I live with my wife on a big rig that goes cross country. I mainly write in three genres. Children’s picture books, coloring books for both kids and adults and internet reference guides about free digital resources on the internet.

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10 thoughts on “The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today by Chris Mason: Guest Post

  1. Chris, spot on commentary. This is not just a self-publishing phenomenom. Authors published by other than the BIG 5 face marketing challenges and the rude awkening that much if not virtually all falls into your lap. That wake-up call often catches an author on their heels so they run to the comfort of great Leviathan (Amazon) and overlook the myriad of book selling opportunities and distribution possiblities. Marketing and selling scares the be-jesus out of most mortal authors. Of course that’s why I began “Authorpreneurship” as a workshop for aspiring authors. Knowledge and preparation builds confidence in anyone willing to invest the same passion they began their writing trek all the way through the journey to signing copies of their books at book events and engaging readers and retailers almost daily, either face-to-face or virtually through an effective, broad-based marketing strategy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mike, I am glad you like my commentary post. I was scared I would get run out of the proverbial town with torches and pitchforks. This is because most indie authors that I talk to on social media go googly-eyed when talking about Amazon. Recently I read a post that asked what is the most scary aspect of self-publishing? The number one answer was indeed marketing. I’m glad you are offering a class to help authors out with this aspect of self-publishing. I have never found marketing my books to be a scary proposition. Maybe you could explain to me why most authors fear marketing their books. If Vicki invites me back to post again. My next topic will probably be on indie authors and professionalism. Thank you Mike for taking the time to read and respond to my post it is greatly appreciated.

      Like

    1. I rarely make visual changes to guest posts. The breaks showed up on the proof. I am not sure why they didn’t show up for you. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will check for visual appeal even more closely before posting!! Thanks!!!

      Like

  2. My eyes and head are hurting from trying to read those long unformatted blocks of text, Vicki and Chris. Sorry I can’t read the whole thing. What I read seems to make good solid arguments, and I thank you for them. The monopoly of Amazon is worrying, and should be worrying to everyone — “lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. Happy new year to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

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