Each month David Penny and Debbie Young are in the indie author hot seat to answer the most pressing questions from our ALLi members. Between them they have a wealth of self-publishing experience to share, and both love nothing more than sharing their advice and experience with other indie authors just like you, so that you are prepared and ready to travel along the self-publishing path to success.
Even though only members can submit questions, the broadcast is accessible to everyone to learn from. Join us each month to listen to the podcast, watch the broadcast recording, or read the full transcript.
Summary of our Ask ALLi Self-Publishing Member Q&A Topics:
Q: How do we handle royalties for a co-writing project?
Q: What’s the best way to produce cover artwork for print?
Q: How do I register by books with the Nielsen Database
Q: How Can I access Waterstones’ Distribution Channel
Q: Can I offer free audio book downloads to gain reviews?
Q: What are the benefits of InstaFreebie and BookFunnel for Book Giveaways?
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Each month we answer questions from ALLi author members and share best practice advice and top tips.
Read our Self-Publishing Q&A Transcript
Debbie: Hello everybody and hello David, over in Spain this month. And I’m here in the UK and welcome to everybody, all the ALLi members and other listeners from all around the world, to our monthly Q&A session for indie authors. It’s great to have had lots and lots of questions this month, we’ve grouped them all together to make the show, hopefully, be a little bit more logical. We’ve grouped them together in, basically in the order in which an indie author works. So, from writing through to production and distribution to marketing and promotion. By the way, this is technically our November podcast in this series but we’ve swapped with the one that usually comes at the end of October, so, don’t panic if you think you’ve done a Rip Van Winkle and slept through Halloween. We’re actually recording it in October still.
Q: How do we handle royalties for a co-writing project?
So, kicking off with the very first question about writing, where it all starts. A really interesting question here from Elle, she says, “I’m co-writing a book, I’m in the US while he is in Australia.” So, different time zones, different countries, even with the internet that can still be challenging, but she’s says she’s clearly comfortable about the writing of the book but says “how do we handle royalties once self-published, for example, on Amazon?”It’s the first time publishing for both of them.
Before answering that question Dave, I think it’s perhaps worth pointing out for anyone who is wondering why on earth anyone would try to co-write a book with somebody who is on the other side of the world, why someone would do that. Just to say it’s actually a growing trend. A lot of authors who are already established as author-publishers of their own books and doing well, are finding that’s a good way both to increase their productivity and to reach a wider audience because the authors, both of the partners in the writing partnership, are then effectively sharing their readership, introducing new people to each other and with the hope that if the other person’s readers like the joint book, then they’ll go on to explore that writer’s other catalogue as well. So even though Elle says it’s the first time publishing for both of them, it’s actually, she’s starting out with something that a lot of established authors are already doing and embracing. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of co-writing with anybody David?
David: I find if you can do it in like a small group, and I always wanted to set up like a brainstorming group, where you got together once a month and you brought along the plot for your next novel and everybody just pitched in. I find just talking about it …
Debbie: Yeah, yeah and I’ve had quite a few people who have also said oh, you ought to write a book about this particular action that might trigger a murder story, which is good fun, yes, so, a lot to be said about collaboration in all sorts of ways.
David: As you say the writing is probably the easiest part of this but also maybe the most interesting. But in terms of how do you handle the royalties, I think it’s important that you have a contract between you so that it’s written down in detail, who gets what. In particular, only one of you will be allowed to upload that to Amazon. You can have two authors on the page, on the sales page, when you define it, but you can only have one person who receives the income. So, you would obviously have to record everything as it came in. So, you would probably distribute your royalty statement on that particular book out to the other author so that they could see exactly what was going on. I’m not sure, I know that ALLi does have contracts and Orna is in the process of creating templates for ALLi members. And I suspect that this is likely to be something that we already have in progress, not available but maybe quite shortly it will be.
Debbie: Yes, and it’s also worth mentioning perhaps, that when you’ve got the book up there, even though only one of you can have the royalties going to your dashboard, you can both and should both claim the book for your Author Central page. So, for your author page, once you’ve contributed, you just need to email through Author Central to say “I claim this as my book” as well. And a book can belong in that way to lots of people. So, for example I’ve had short stories published in anthologies that have got as many as 50 people in and we’ve all claimed it for our page.
Q: What’s the best way to produce cover artwork for print?
So, great, ok. So, on to the next question about collaboration, or cross-collaboration of a different kind, and we’re talking about production questions now. Mia asks the best way to produce artwork for a print book that she wants to publish at the same time, both with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. And Mia is very sensibly following ALLi’s recommendation that you publish your print books through both, because that enables you to have your book on CreateSpace and going out through their distribution network, at the same time as being made available to brick and mortar stores and other retailers through Ingram Spark. And of course we should also note that when you’re doing that, use the same ISBN for both, otherwise you can get in a tangle. So, what would you do? ” I want to make a paperback version and I want to have my cover designer make one cover that will be good for a six by nine book in both services. How can I get her to design one cover that will work for both services, is that even possible?”
Good news Mia …
David: Yes, I think it is, it is possible. I suspect that if we had somebody like Jessica Bell here who is a cover designer, she would say it is feasible but not to be recommended. But I’ve looked up, the primary difference between the two is that CreateSpace and Ingram Spark use slightly different paper stock. I may have this back to front but I think the Ingram Spark book is very slightly thicker [I think it is, yeah]. And what happens then is the particular issue is with the bleed area all around the book, so, you must make it wide enough so that it will fit in possible size. And even more important is the spine width, because that is defined by the thickness of the book. So, you have to make sure that if you are using an image, that you leave enough space, so, it has to fit in to the narrowest possible, and you don’t have like a blue front cover and a red back cover because then you will get bleed all the way down the spine in one or the other. Yes, it is possible, a good cover designer should be able to do that for you. What I would recommend you do in both cases though, is you can download a template from both CreateSpace and IngramSpark and you simply place your image on the top of that and it will tell you whether it is going to work or not. So, it has marks everywhere. It’s got marks for the spine. And if you can place your, what you do is you place both images, one over the other and make one semi-transparent, that’s how I do it, and see all the markers on the page underneath and then you can just ensure that it does fit into the space available.
Debbie: Yeah. Now, that’s really helpful advice, especially to people who are doing it themselves as well, who are using Canva or InDesign or whatever to make their own cover. But actually Mia is saying that she is using a cover designer. So, actually for the cover designer, if they’re a specialist book cover designer, which is what you should be using for a book because it’s a very specialized job, the cover designer ought to know and they will make very short work of doing it for both. It’s just a question of tweaking the size and changing the way, the format, I can’t remember which way it is, but one prefers RGB format, the other CMYK, don’t they, as well?
David: I think they’re the same on both now, they will accept both. I think its CMYK is fine for both of them.
Debbie: Right, but if she’s using a professional cover designer, a specialist book cover designer and she puts the challenge to the book designer and they don’t understand the question or don’t know the answer, that suggests to me that perhaps they’re not a specialist book designer [yes it does]. I know my designer, I use Rachel Lawston, she just does it, sort of standing on her head and in a very short and efficient time space.
David: Yeah, I use Jessica Bell, and she’s the same.
Debbie: We’ve got lots and lots, so that we’re not showing favoritism, we’ve got lots and lots of terrific book designers, specialized book designers details available in our services brochure. Which you can view, if you’re not a member of ALLi, you can view it on the allianceindependentauthors.org website, if you are a member of ALLi, you can actually download it as well. And it’s all sorts of providers in there, service providers in there who are all partner members and so, are providing tried and tested services. So, a good thing to look at, at any time.
Q: How do I register by books with the Nielsen Database
We’ve got another question on production from Chris, who is asking about registering his books with the Nielsen Database, which comes pretty much, well, often comes at the end of the production process. Some people who are more organized than me, actually do that earlier on. But he says, I have my books with Ingram Spark, do I have to also add these to the Nielsen Database as I’d rather Ingram distributed them to stores rather than doing it myself. And if so, do I have to add them and when I do, can I put IngramSpark as the distributor? So, what would you say, David?
David: IngramSpark have changed fairly recently and what they do now, is they will distribute the data that you enter into their system to Nielsen automatically, I believe. However, I would also recommend that you go to Nielsen and check that it has been added correctly because I have read some comments that the Nielsen database didn’t match what they thought they’d put into IngramSpark. I think that’s the kind of, you know, beta version with Ingram, so there will be some teething issues with it. The official record of your book will always reside with Nielsen. So, I would say it would be wise to go and check that. Their website and their registration page is not the easiest thing in the world to use but it is possible to do it and if it won’t accept information, it says please email it in, and every time you email it they’re really, really helpful. But the whole point about this is, if possible, put Ingram Spark your distributor of choice because then if somebody, a library or a bookstore or something else looks, they will go to Nielsen to look up the book but send the request of that book to the distributor. So, don’t do as I did initially and have yourself as a distributor because then you will get the email or the letter saying can you please send me these books.
Debbie: Yes, yeah and, I mean, it’s astonishing, IngramSpark are very helpful, they’re geared up to sending out single copies, printing off is the whole point of print-on-demand. I think their average print run at their Milton Keynes plant is 1.8 books. So, most of them must be, they’re sending out single orders like that all the time. Which is amazing, they give an amazing service. One thing to bear in mind, that a lot of people forget because we’re so used to instant changes on our own websites and that sort of thing, is that it sometimes takes a little while for information to filter through. In the same way that when you update a record for one of your books on CreateSpace or KDP, it takes a day or two for it to filter around the world. The same happens with IngramSpark Database populating Nielsen, you know, it’s not a live thing that’s updating every minute of the day. So, patience is certainly a virtue, in this game. But it will get there, it will get there. And as you say, both IngramSpark and Nielsen, they are so helpful, so if you think you’ve been patient enough and your changes still haven’t gone through, then do contact them and you will find them amazingly helpful. Their best interest is for us to be happy, really, as well as the people that they are supplying to. So, they’re working with us, not against us, when things go wrong.
Q: How Can I access Waterstones’ Distribution Channel
David: Yes, they’re very, very good indeed. Ok, we’re going to move on now from production to book distribution. And we have a question from Gary, who asks about e-distribution. He is looking to engage a service provider for distribution and marketing of his e-book, which he anticipates will cover mainly UK audience, as “it is about my experience working in British third world development charities. Waterstones seems to be a key distributor for e-books in the UK, but looking at the self-publication guidebook, it looks as if the only way of accessing the Waterstones distribution channel, e-book partnerships and SmashWords doesn’t cover Waterstones, is this correct please?” So, what’s your take on that one Debbie?
Debbie: Well, it’s an interesting question and one that made me actually step back and think now, hang on Gary, do you really only want to distribute to UK readers, even if you think it’s going to be a mainly UK audience, you may be surprised. Because actually, experience, it may be British charities that you’re working with, helping developing countries, but there are lots and lots of other countries who have got charities helping developing countries elsewhere and with those keywords that are referring to the area of work that you’re in, you may find all sorts of people, all over the world, will want to read your book. It will certainly, I suggest that your experience will certainly be relevant to those other countries. Now, also provided that you have rights, worldwide rights for the distribution of your book, and as you’ve written it I’m assuming that you have, Gary. Then why would you want to limit it to the UK, because e-book distribution is by definition done online, on the internet, it’s all without boundaries, without frontiers. Countries are actually irrelevant in a way, although you get different royalties, depending on which country you’re distributing them to. You’ve got an amazing reach including the countries that your book will be focusing on, the countries where you’ve been helping. So, I would step right back and start again and think actually, how do I distribute my e-book to the widest possible audience, which will also include Waterstones. As David suggested, when he put the question, I don’t think Waterstones is the major, well, I’m certain, it’s not a major distributor of e-books. It was at one point, a high profile distributor of Kobo.
David: Yes it was, I think they now sell Amazon Kindle. But once you’ve bought an e-reader, you would then buy your e-book from a book seller like Amazon or Kobo, iBooks etc. You wouldn’t go to Waterstones to buy it, I don’t think.
Debbie: No, no, so, what you should do is look at how you want to distribute your e-book, the sort of entry level is to distribute it via KDP, which is Kindle Direct Publishing, so, that you are putting your book within reach of anyone with a Kindle. There are two e-book formats, one is .mobi which is the Kindle propriety version and then there’s .epub which will enable you to upload your books at any other platforms that you like, that you fancy. Which you can either do going direct to individual platforms such as Kobo and iBooks but the easy way of doing it, and the downside is that it gives you a little bit less control, is to use what they call an aggregator like SmashWords or Draft2Digital. Where you upload it once and then SmashWords or Draft2Digital or whoever pings it out to all of these others. They’re a sort of middle man really, they ping it out to all of these other distributors and they give you one royalty payment, one dashboard, no, actually I think it’s little bits of royalty comes in from everybody but it’s all through one dashboard. Which makes life very much easier for you. So, ALLi’s recommendations is if you want to go wide, go direct to Kobo and iBooks if you can, because that gives you some advantages but if not, pick one of our partner members like Draft2Digital or SmashWords …
David: And go to Amazon directly. So, Amazon, iBooks and Kobo.
Debbie: Yes, go to Amazon directly, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Kindle and aggregate to everybody else. And then you will get to many, many more people than Waterstones. So, apply it.
David: They’re print aren’t they, rather than e-books …
Debbie: Yes, they were testing the water and trying to get more into e-books and I think they’ve sort of pulled back a bit. I think, to be honest, they’re probably finding they make more money out of selling the fancy covers and things. But e-readers, I know they’ve got lovely Kindle covers in there.
Q: Can I offer free audiobook downloads to gain reviews?
Now, the next one, now we’re talking about audiobook distribution. So, from e-books to audio books. Phillipa says “I have a self-commissioned audiobook”, which I suppose, assume means that it’s one that she’s made herself, or she’s, perhaps she means she’s organized the production herself using voice artists, perhaps. “It’s been checked for ACX compatibility”. ACX being Amazon’s audio book service, “I want to be able to offer review downloads for free. I’m trying to decide between Authors Republic and FindaWay Voices and have seen references to Scribl. My concern is more about as wide a distribution as possible, especially libraries. Any opinions or downsides would be most appreciated.” So, she’s asking, her main question is about offering free downloads so that she can get some reviews up there. You’ve worked with audiobooks Dave, what’s your advice?
David: Yeah, I’ve done exactly the same thing. I’ve commissioned voice artists to produce three of my books, I’ve got a fourth one, probably next month I think? I can’t remember, he said he was going to do it as soon as he got a free moment, yeah, so the fourth one is going out. And I did what you shouldn’t do and I switched narrators partly through a series, but yeah. Presumably Phillipa does not wish to go through Audible, which is where the ACX compatibility comes in, primarily, because she wants to go as wide as possible. There are a number of different players in the market. Authors Republic is the most established of these distributors, around quite a long time. They also have, at the moment, the widest distribution channels. So, if Phillipa is concerned about getting into as many outlets as she possibly can, and particularly into libraries and other things, then Authors Republic probably is a good way to do it. It’s also an advantage in that they are ALLi partner members, which helps. FindaWay Voices, may be but I’m not quite sure because they’re much more recent. But what is great with Authors Republic, but FindaWay Voices probably does the same thing, is that they will pay directly into your PayPal account. This might sound weird but I wish that Amazon would do the same because I lose part of my payments each month because I get charged for foreign transactions, because it comes from dollars into pounds or pounds into dollars and euros into pounds and goodness knows what. And the bank is, they’re sending the bank dollars and then they’re transferring that into pounds and they charge me something like £5 or £10 a month in transaction fees for it. So, PayPal would be a much better option all around, but never mind. So, yeah, FindaWay Voices, as I said, is newer. They offer slightly less channels than Authors Republic does, however they aren’t connected to Draft2Digital. So, that might make life easier if you already use them for distribution of say, the print book as well. So, it should be easier. In both of the cases, I think you will earn about 60% of the sale price. Other things that may be important to you, both of these, you are able to set your own selling price. I go directly through Audible and I have no control over what the sales price is, they set the sales price for me. I;ve just done that because it was easier, because you can set your own sale prices so set it at something like $30 or $50 or something, that nobody is ever going to buy.
Debbie: That’s interesting, isn’t it, because you can set, within certain constraints, certain broad constraints, you can set your e-book and print book prices wherever you like, on Amazon, so that is interesting on the Audible prices.
David: What’s fascinating with Audible is that if you download a print book, for instance, you can get the audio book for something silly like 2.99. And it may or may not make the sale otherwise but it’s quite good and I get a reasonable commission on that. I make, I’m quite pleased with my monthly royalty payments from Audible, so, I’m probably just going to stick with them for the moment, because it’s easier. And they do have huge marketing clout for distributing books.
Debbie: Yes, yeah, and I think that’s, I mean that sort of classic evolution in an indie author as well, isn’t it? Start off with, don’t try and do too much all at once. Start off small and grow and do the more complex things, I mean, you’ve been doing this for years so you’re hardly a beginner, but when you want to get on and spend enough time writing, sometimes it makes sense to make the decision to have the simple life. I mean I go through, I go direct to Amazon on my e-books. I haven’t done audio yet. But I’m still using Draft2Digital, it’s in my plan next year, to start going direct to Kobo and iBook, and gradually you sort of grow your reach and your control. And it’s best to try and do little by little because otherwise you’d go mad, I think, it can be too overwhelming for anyone to do it all at once.
David: Keep it as simple as you possibly can and basically go with what everybody else goes with and don’t worry too much about it.
Q: What are the benefits of InstaFreebie and BookFunnel for Book Giveaways?
David: Ok, so, we’ll move on to promotion now and we have a question from a very familiar name who ought to know better than to have to ask. But it’s from Jay Artale who is a well-known member of ALLi and helps run the Indie Author Fringes alongside me and Orna. But she’s saying “have either of you used InstaFreebie or BookFunnel giveaways with other authors?”
Debbie: It’s a really good question and I suspect that Jay has planted it in there because she knows that lots of people will be wondering the same thing. And InstaFreebie and BookFunnel, we’ve had quite a few blog posts on the ALLi blog, and just as a reminder, the blog can be accessed by anybody, members and non-members of ALLi. The address is www.selfpublishingadvice.org. We’ve got lots of advice and case studies of some of the earlier adopters of both InstaFreebie and BookFunnel, both of which services are relatively new but evolving. BookFunnel, I think was there before InstaFreebie was. What BookFunnel is, is a platform to which you can, it provides you a space, effectively, to which you can upload copies of your e-books in, I think you have to do it in all the formats, mobi, and epub and I think PDF is optional. You have an account, it’s free initially and for high volume use you have to pay something. But for most indie authors, free will serve their purposes, at least initially. And so, your files then reside on there, it’s all completely safe and confidential and you have a code that then you can give your BookFunnel code for a specific book to people of your choice.
Whether you want to give away copies for review purposes, to your street team for pre-publication reviews or as competition prizes or whatever. So, the code is kept secret, just you have the code. And you put your books on there, you can have other documents as well, actually and I’ve used it for other documents too. And I use it for review copies, for sending people review copies and in fact we use it also, at ALLi, we use it to distribute the free downloads that members of ALLi are entitled to, it’s one of the 21 benefits of ALLi membership. You have access to free downloads of all of our growing library of guidebooks, like this one, [holds up copy of Opening Up To Indie Authors] or like this, we’ve got various subjects there. And it’s a really easy way, it doesn’t actually take very long to set up, and it’s a really easy way of distributing books for free. InstaFreebie, on the other hand, was started more as a wider promotional service whereby they share the images of your book covers and a little blurb about your book and they have, it’s a subscription service where readers sign up to get free books from InstaFreebie. So, they sign up to get free downloads. The purpose of that is really, whereas BookFunnel is to distribute free copies of books to people that you know, Instafreebie is to distribute free copies to people that you don’t know in the hope that if they like one of your books, then they will become regular readers, they will go on and read the rest of your books. There are different ways in which you can use InstaFreebie. You can use it for free and just give away free books or if you pay a certain amount then you can demand that people give you their email address in return for their free book. So, it is a great way to build your mailing list and get email addresses on your mailing list. Where it may fall down is that, as we all know, there are lots of people out there who will take anything for free and may not read your books. Then, they’re more likely to download books that aren’t actually books that they will enjoy so you might, so, if they read them, so, if you get a horror reader downloading a romance and they hate it, then you’re more likely to get a bad review. Also very likely that they won’t read it at all, so you have this false sense of achievement of having distributed umpteen downloads and actually getting nothing to show for it. I know quite a few people who have sent out a lot of downloads, who have distributed a lot of downloads but have had no real reviews for them. But on the other hand, there are people who have had quite a few or have had one wonderful review that has made them so happy that they have felt it justified the whole process. BookFunnel has recently expanded its service so it’s got something a little bit similar but I think most people are still using it in those two very different ways. So, BookFunnel, to provide free copies to those you know, InstaFreebie, to attract new readers to your mailing list. You don’t have to give away a whole book on InstaFreebie, in the same way that you can use any other document on BookFunnel as well, for example, I trialed it with my email magnet for my website, which is a short story which I turned into a. mobi and I got some additions for that. People who have built their email list using InstaFreebie may find they get a higher unsubscribe rate than with a normal email list, and it is worth keeping it separate from your other mailing lists until you’re sure, you might want to email them different things, for example, initially, geared up to the way that they came to you rather than sending them the same thing that you would send to your normal mailing list. So, they’re both worth investigating, more information on our blog, just put in InstaFreebie or BookFunnel into the search box on www.selfpublishingadvice.org.
David: Yes. Good. I think we may have almost run out of time, Debbie. We had a couple of questions hanging on but rather, I think some of them will take a little while to answer, so we’ll move the last two on marketing over to next month.
Debbie: I think Jay puts the link on the end of each transcript as it goes up, so, the transcript, it will go up for this podcast eventually, and there will be a link on there telling you how to do it, how to submit your questions next time. So, we will be back at, as I said at the start, this was the November podcast, although it’s only October. So, we’ll be back at the beginning of December. How many of us, by then, how many of our viewers who will have completed NaNoWriMo by then, I wonder? How many will be NaNoWriMo winners? Are you going to do NaNoWriMo, David?
David: I’ve never done it, I’m not a joiner in that sense, so no. Every year it comes up and I think oh, I should do that but I’ve already written this year’s book and I haven’t got anything else to do. I’ve got a conference in two weeks in Zurich, so, I don’t have any time to do NaNoWriMo this year.
Debbie: Just for anyone who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, if you haven’t come across it before, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month. The website is www.NaNoWriMo.org. It challenges you to write 50.000 words in a month and it’s a great way to get your productivity up and to really fire off a first draft of something. And I shall be doing it, so, I shall confess in our next podcast …
David: I think it’s a great idea and I think for those people that do do it, it will be really beneficial, so yeah, I’m not against the idea, I think it’s fantastic.
Debbie: So, right, so, happy November everybody and we will see you at the start of December and keep those questions coming in, bye-bye.
David: Yes, keep the questions, bye now.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
Each month David Penny & Debbie Young answer Member’s most pressing self-publishing questions as part of our monthly AskALLi Q&A.
Only ALLi members can submit questions to this particular event but all authors can watch the event live and learn from the expertise shared.
ALLi’s Technical Manager David Penny is the author of the best-selling Thomas Berrington historical mystery series set in the final years of Moorish Spain, and before returning to writing full time he worked in education, printing and publishing, and for 25 years ran his own software company.
ALLi’s Publications Manger Debbie Young enjoys sharing best practice with our members around the world, as well as running two local authors’ groups and the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest on her home turf. Small wonder, then, that her cosy mystery series, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, is set in a small English village populated with authors and booksellers.