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Your Most Common Self-Publishing Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Your Most Common Self-Publishing Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black in our Member Q&A Podcast

The AskALLi Members Q&A Podcast is back with your most common self-publishing questions answered by authors Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black.

Questions include:

  • Where can I find the IngramSpark discount code?
  • Where is ALLi's resources on ISBNs?
  • What does ALLi think about X service?
  • I have a problem with my membership. Can you help?
  • I signed a deal with a bad publisher.
  • How do I get the rights back?
  • Can I distribute my books with both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark
  • Where is the best place to start for a beginner?

And more!

Our Members Q&A Podcast is brought to you by specialist sponsor Kobo Writing Life, a global, independent ebook and audiobook publishing platform that empowers authors with a quick and easy publishing process and unique promotional opportunities. To reach a wide audience, create your account today! We'd like to thank Kobo for their support of this podcast.

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!).  You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts: Your Most Common Self-Publishing Questions

Michael La Ronn: Welcome to the AskALLi Member Q&A podcast, the podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. My name is Michael La Ronn, and we are back with the show.

Thank you to many of our listeners who have been emailing in asking when we would come back. We've made some updates to the ALLi slate of podcasts, so I'm back, but I am not joined by Orna, I am now joined by Sacha Black. How are you, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Hello! Thank you for having me, my new partner in podcasting crime.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, partner in podcasting crime. I guess, for those who don't know about you, Sacha, do you want to introduce yourself?

Sacha Black: Yeah. So, I am Sacha Black. I do work with ALLi, I basically manage the blog, and I'm also a writer of non-fiction writing craft books. I have some young adult books and a secret pen name, and I podcast myself and yeah, I think that's probably enough from me.

Michael La Ronn: All right. Yeah, you do a lot. You're kind of like me; editor of the blog, prolific author, got some great writing books for writers, and a great podcast. So, it's going to be fun. We're going to definitely miss Orna, but Orna is doing another podcast, I believe, with Howard on the ALLi network, so you're going to get plenty of Orna. No worries. She handed the reins over to me and said, all right, Michael, just go forward and answer as many self-publishing questions as you can.

Sacha Black: I shall try and do her justice.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and for the questions that you all submit that neither Sacha or I can answer, we'll probably go to Orna anyway, so it's all good. Orna will always be present in some way on this show.

So, with that, I say we jump into our questions, and the most important thing that we want to make sure we do is answer as many questions as possible that come in. And because we took a little bit of a break from the show, we thought it would be a great idea to do a member Q&A greatest hits. So, what are the most common questions that folks have been asking? And in many cases, a lot of these questions came in over the break while we were out, and so we're going to answer these questions generally, and then that way, we've got a really good show that we can send people to for these types of questions as they come up in the future so that we can focus on some of the more specific questions that you all may have. All right.

How do I find the IngramSpark discount code?

So, our first question, our greatest hits, the questions we get all the time that we want to make sure people know how to access. This is probably our number one ALLi benefit, and people want to know about the Ingram Spark discount code. It allows you to get free revision. Allows you to set up so many titles on the platform.

Sacha Black: Five, I think, five per month.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, five titles per month without paying a setup fee. So, Sacha, your first question for the show, where can members find that?

Sacha Black: So, it's a nice and easy answer, this one. You need to log into your ALLi dashboard. So, you visit allianceindependentauthors.org, and then you click log in, and then you want to navigate across the menus to Approved Services, and then Discounts and Deals. Then once you're in discounts and deals, you actually get access to all of the discounts, not just Ingram Spark, and you can search via type of service. So, if you wanted production and distribution, editorial design, so on and so forth, and I'm pretty sure that Ingram you can find in production and distribution.

So, that's the one you want to click for that and then just scroll down until you find it. It's nice and easy that one.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, very nice and easy. And just remember that the code will change on a monthly basis. So, if it's September and you don't upload a book until December, you need to go in and get the new code. So, very, very helpful, and you just need to know where that is. Thank you for that description, Sacha.

Where can I find what I need to know about ISBNs?

I'm going throw another one at you because I know this is in your wheelhouse. We get questions all the time on this podcast about ISBNs. Do I need an is ISBN? When do I use a new ISBN? Do I need a different ISBN for my eBook versus my paperback? If I edit my book or fix some typos, do I need an ISBN? Where can our members find our best resources on ISBNs?

Sacha Black: So, we have got an ultimate guide, which is quite a lengthy blog post article, called the Ultimate Guide to ISBNs, and I believe we also have a short mini guide as well, I think, which you can find in our publication section. But the article, if you go to our blog website, which is selfpublishingadvice.org and then type in ISBNs, it's the first article that comes up usually, and it's called the AskALLi Ultimate Guide to ISBNs for Authors, and it literally answers all of those questions.

It has some case studies in there as well, which is quite useful to look at the different times that you may or may not need to use them.

And just to answer one of the points that you said, it is one ISBN per format. So, audiobook is different to eBook, which is different to paperback, which is different to hardback. So, you would need one for each of those. You do not need one for each distributor. So, you would use the same ISBN for Ingram Spark as KDP Print for your paperback, and you would use the same ISBN for your hardback on Ingram Spark and on KDP Print, because they now do hardbacks. So, that's probably the point most people struggle with.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and you answered that really well. I was going to say, the short publication you're referring to is called, Using ISBNs for your Self-Published Books. That is a short guide, it's available to ALLi members and you have to log into your ALLi dashboard. It's under Publications and then Short Guides.

Sacha Black: If you're not a member, you can actually still access this, but you just need to purchase it from our store. If you go to selfpublishingadvice.org, and then navigate to Buy Books, and then you can find it in our bookshop there as well.

Michael La Ronn: And we will include links in the show notes to where you can purchase that book if you're interested. I will also plug another ALLi resource that mentions ISBNs, and that is a book that Orna and I co-wrote, it's called 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered. There's also a very lengthy section on ISBNs in that book as well for anyone who is interested in that too.

See, look at that. We've got quite a few questions answered already.

How can I find the right service provider?

So next question, and it's another question we get a lot. We know that there are lots of different service providers out there, and sometimes it can be hard to know which ones are potentially legitimate, which ones are not legitimate, and you maybe need some words of caution around.

So, maybe you come across X-editor in the wild and you want to know, hey, what does ALLi think about that particular service? Or you come across another service and you're not quite sure if it's a good value for the money or not. And the question is often, what does ALLi think about X-Y-Z service?

And I'll answer this one. We have a watchdog. Our watchdog does a great job of looking out for services that do a really good job in the community that we want people to know about, and then they also do a good job of letting people know about the services that you should avoid either due to poor value for the money, maybe some issues with customer service in the past, or just some outright issues of fraudulent activity or potential bad actors.

So, we have a ratings directory, and it's called our Self-Publishing Advice Ratings Directory, and you can access that at selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings.

This is a database that you can basically filter or search by name. So, you can type in the name and see if it is in our database and what we think about a particular service, and if the service that you're looking at in particular is not in the database, please reach out to us via our contact form on our site. We would be happy to take a look and get them added into the database and give you some opinions. So, this is one of our great services, and we just want to make sure that people know about that because it can definitely save you a lot of time and heartache.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I'm just going to add to that. In our ratings database, we have a categorization, and there's an explanation of the different categories on that page as well. So, if you don't understand what any of the color-coded categories mean, just look for the key which explains the different ratings.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and John also wrote a great book, How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service. It's one of our ALLi guidebooks that's available for members, and also available for purchase in our store. We'll also include a link for that in the show notes. That is just a great guide to get into John's mind about what he's looking for what he looks at when he vets potential companies to put in that ratings directory.

Okay, next question is, I have a problem with my membership, can you help? What should members do, Sacha, when they have an issue with their membership?

Sacha Black: Reach out to the membership desk, I think is the word I'm looking for. Yeah. Do you have the specific email, because there is a member services email and Sarah Begley will usually help with pretty much anything, I'm pretty sure. Or she's able to pass you onto the right person, so if it's a financial issue with the membership renewals, then that gets passed to Philip. But do you have the email address?

Michael La Ronn: I don't have the email address handy, but you can just go to selfpublishingadvice.org/contact and anything you send in that form will go to that email for Sarah.

Yes, sometimes we get questions about membership. We are unable to answer those questions on this show, and so sometimes there can be a lag between the time you ask your question versus the time we're able to see it. So, those questions are best asked on our contact form. That way Sarah and Phillip can make sure to address it and help get it taken care of quickly.

We just don't want people hanging here because we don't always check our questions every day and so we just want to make sure that if you do have a membership question, we want to make sure that's a priority and that you get it taken care of quickly.

How can I get my rights back from my publisher?

All right. Next question is, I signed a deal with a bad publisher, how do I get the rights back? What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: The honest answer is, it depends, because it depends on what your contract says. The place you should always go first is to look at your contract, to look at the clauses and to look at what exactly you signed away and what the length of terms were.

So, each contract is different, there is no standardized contract in the industry. So, for example, if you signed your rights away for all formats for five years, then if you are out of those five years, then you can approach your publisher and ask for your rights back. That also then depends on if there was a sub-clause that said something like, after five years, if there are less than 250 sales a year, for example, and if you're having more than 250 sales a year, then your publisher is within their rights to keep or to renegotiate the contract anyway, because obviously it's a dual thing with the time and the quantity of sales.

If you are out of your contract and there are no sub-clauses that you think are iffy, then you can simply write to your publisher and ask for them to revert your rights. It is as simple as an email, and you then go into negotiations.

You may not get all of the materials. For example, if they've paid for your cover, then it's very unlikely that they will give you the cover. You may not even get the final files from your book. So, for example, if they've had them formatted and they've had them proofed, you may not get that proof version. You may only have what you have as the final file that you submitted. So, they are within their rights not to give you that back.

The expectation is that, if they agree to revert your rights, then they should pull down any copies of your book that are for sale on any dashboard, any distributor. So, you do need to check those things.

I have a recommendation. I've read a book called, Take Back Your Book by Katlyn Duncan. That is absolutely phenomenal. She is a hybrid author who had some of her rights reverted, she's still got some trad books, and she's got lots of case studies in there that look at different types of authors who have had their rights reverted or not reverted as the case may be.

But really, if you have signed a deal away, signed a contract, and you are only in the first year of that contract and you're unhappy, unfortunately, unless you've got a break clause in the contract, it's quite unlikely that you are going to be able to get your rights back until the contract is fulfilled in terms of those time clauses or sales clauses. So, that's the hard truth of it, to be honest with you.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's not an easy question because, what you said in the beginning is spot on, Sacha. It depends on what you signed, and another thing to think about is that sometimes authors sign life of copyright contracts. So, it's not so much, I'm just licensing this particular book to you, you may have given the entire copyright to the publisher, which creates all sorts of other issues that you have to think about in terms of getting your rights back.

And another thing to remember too, is that you're wanting your book, but the publisher, if they've published a lot of books, your book is a number for them, and your book is an entry on their balance sheet. By holding your IP, it makes their company more valuable. So, this is why publishers are less likely and reluctant to give up their rights, because essentially, they're forfeiting something on their balance sheet.

So, the best way to avoid signing a bad contract is just to avoid signing a bad contract. Just think twice about it, is my advice.

Another thing is, at least here in the United States, I'll just plug this really quick, there is a principle called Copyright Termination, and it allows you to get your rights back after 35 years. We won't go into the legal loopholes of that, but 35 years is a long time to fix a mistake.

Sacha Black: I am 35. That's the whole of me.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. I'm 35 too. So, yeah, that's a long time, and if you're not in the United States, maybe your country has another principle that you can get your rights reverted under, but I just always encourage people to really think about when you're signing a contract, what are the long-term consequences of this and how am I going to regret this in the future? Or what ways could this come back to bite me in the terms of, I want to get my rights back, but as Sacha mentioned, the book is over the sales threshold, so I can't get the rights back? Or the publisher did a terrible job with the cover, I don't have any say? Or maybe the book takes off and becomes really popular and maybe you want to make figurines or toys, and you can't do it because of a contract; you gave away all the rights for the book, as opposed to just the eBook and the print rights. So, there's a lot to think about and definitely have to be careful.

You can absolutely do it. I would definitely read Katlyn's book and we've got lots of resources on ALLi as well.

Sacha Black: Katlyn did write an article for ALLi on the self-publishing blog, so you could start there as well, and I'm pretty sure if you type in “rights reversion”, onto our blog, that article will pop up, I think, and I'm pretty sure it's called the Ultimate Guide to Rights Reversion, and it is excellent, and she is excellent. It's very comprehensive.

Michael La Ronn: We'll grab that article and we'll put it in the show notes.

Can I distribute my books with Amazon KDP and IngramSpark?

Next question is, can I distribute my books with both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark?

Sacha Black: Do you want me to answer that one?

Michael La Ronn: You can, or I can take it.

Sacha Black: Okay. So, it depends, which seems to be a running theme for us today. It depends. So, if we're talking about eBooks, then it depends whether or not you enroll in KDP Select, also known as Kindle Unlimited. If you enroll into Kindle Unlimited, I'm just going to call it that for sake of simplicity, then the answer is no, you can only have your books there.

If you are talking about print books, then yes, there is no exclusivity with print books. You could have your books printed with Lulu as well, if you wanted, or anywhere else. Draft2Digital print also, although they go via IngramSpark. So yes, with print books, you can have them anywhere, and for eBooks, it depends.

Because I know Ingram Spark also deal with eBooks, but you can have your books in Kindle Unlimited only. So, not on your website, not on Kobo, not on Apple. Only Kindle Unlimited.

Or if you do not enroll in Kindle Unlimited, then you can have them anywhere. So, you could, if you wanted to go through Ingram Spark for the eBook, or you could go through an aggregator, like Draft2Digital or PublishDrive, or you can go direct to Google, to Barnes and Noble, to Kobo, to, well, any of the other stores.

So yes, it really depends on eBook exclusivity or not, but for print, you can always go wide with that, and ALLi encourage you to, as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yes. We always encourage you to go wide wherever and whenever possible, because you never know who's going to be interested in your book, and Kindle Unlimited, at least for eBooks, that's one slice of the global publishing market. For the most part, it's mostly the United States. So, there's a big, wide world out there other than just United States readers. So, being able to reach all those readers is critical to building a long-term career.

Sacha Black: Absolutely.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes we get the question around, does it make sense to distribute your paperback through Ingram and KDP? And the answer to that is, yes, you should absolutely use both Ingram. Ingram is the largest print book distributor in the world, and what a lot of people don't know is that Ingram works with Amazon. So, when you click that expanded distribution button on KDP print, that's actually being fulfilled through Ingram.

So, if you have ISBNs, or if you want to use Ingram, we highly recommend that, and what we recommend that you do for print is just simply upload your book to KDP Print, don't check expanded distribution, and then upload to Ingram Spark. That way, Ingram Spark will already handle the expanded distribution, and you'll have the benefit of being able to discount your book by the proper amount and being in Ingram's catalogue, which will make it much easier for bookstores to purchase your book if they want to.

So, a very common question, we get that a lot as well, but we definitely recommend both, it's not an either/or, it's a yes/and, but keep in mind the eBook limitations that Sacha mentioned around Kindle Unlimited, because that's important.

Where is the best place to start as a beginner to self-publishing?

Okay. Next question is, and this is kind of a nebulous question, I'll state it and I'll start, where is the best place to start for a beginner?

We get this question a lot, and it's great because there are always new people coming into self-publishing and, I don't know about you Sacha, but I think it's so much easier to get started now than it was when I started in 2014, because when I started, there were some resources, like there was Joanna Penn, and there were a few other places out there that had blogs or podcasts and stuff.

But now, I mean, I think it's almost the opposite problem in that there's so much. There's dozens and dozens of blogs, and podcasts, and resources that, as a beginner, sometimes you just don't know where to start, and where I would recommend that people start is, first off, become a member of ALLi. That's where I would recommend starting, because we have lots of resources. So, start with ALLi, and start with our guidebooks, and start by reading our blog, and listening to our podcasts, because we'll slowly start to get you the information that you need.

But I would also recommend just picking a trusted resource. Somebody that has a voice that you admire, somebody that is walking the path that you want to walk, and figure out what they're doing, and just take one step at a time. I think the tendency around getting started is to feel like you have to do everything at the same time. Like you have to do everything at once, and you really don't have to do everything at once. There's no one that's going to come to your house in the middle of the night and bang on your door because you didn't get your author website started right away.

I think the most important thing to do is just take a breather, get your head wrapped around all the things that you do need to know, and then figure out what you need to do one by one.

So, some of the important things that I would probably focus on first is, how do I write that first book? Because if you don't finish that first book, you don't really have a career. So, finishing that first book, understanding the process of getting through that book, I think is important, and understanding ALLi's seven stages of publishing.

So, every book goes through seven stages in a life cycle. There's the creation stage. There's the editorial stage. There's the production stage, which includes formatting, includes preparing the book for eBook and print. There is the distribution stage, where you upload the book to different retailers and figure out how you're going to distribute the book, where you're going to distribute the book. And then there's marketing, promotion. And then, if you're ever in a position to do it, right's licensing.

So, when you understand the seven stages of publishing that ALLi frequently talks about, that gives you a really nice roadmap in terms of what you should, and how you should go about it.

Other things would be like a website, you know, getting a website going and getting a mailing list is also pretty important; the sooner you start it the better. But, yeah, those are some of my thoughts off the top of my head. Sacha, what do you think?

Sacha Black: It's interesting because I agree with absolutely everything that you said. I think that my, so, the things that I say have changed over the years. So, I have recently gone with a secret pen name, which means I'm starting again, and I'm not starting this time in the way that I started before. So, what I have personally done this time is I have started by reading everything in my genre, and really picking a genre and picking a niche, and understanding what works and what doesn't work, what I like and what I don't like, and what the repeating patterns are in a genre.

So, you've talked about the business side, and I really think it's very important to do the mailing list, the reader magnet and getting the book done. Completely agree. The thing that I am doing differently this time is to look at the market before I put a single word on the page, but that's because my goal is income.

And so, for me, I start with reading everything I possibly can in my genre to understand what the reader wants, to understand what the patterns are. So, the patterns, you know, perhaps it's a trope, perhaps it's a type of character. What the popular things are in the popular books. What do they read like? What's the tone like? How much description do they have? How long are the books? So, understanding, really getting to grips with what the market actually wants, so that I can provide what the reader wants.

So yes, I agree with everything that you said, and that's probably the only thing that I would add is that's where I have started this time.

Michael La Ronn: That's a really good point in understanding your genre.

I want to ask a follow up question on that, what if you don't know what your genre is?

Sacha Black: Then you need to find out. So, if you know your story, you know what your story is, then you need to go to Kobo, or Apple, or Amazon, and look in the charts, look at the books that have inspired you. Look at the topics that you are seeing, the themes that you're seeing come up. This is why I say you need to read and read a lot, because it's only by reading that you start to understand, oh, actually my book doesn't really feel like that one, it feels more like this one. Or, oh, actually I'm seeing a lot of enemies-to-lovers tropes, you know? Oh, I'm seeing that in this genre, but actually I'm seeing more fake dating over here. So perhaps actually, because I'm doing enemies to lovers these are my genres, you know?

So, look at your bookshelf, look at what you are reading, and go into those charts and see what is charting, and what is trending, and what the similarities are to your story and your book. That is kind of the only way, I think, is to read, and read, and read, so that you can understand what you're seeing.

So, for example, and I'm going to keep the genre secret, sorry, this is difficult one to explain. But in this particular genre that I'm looking at, all of the books that are in KU are between 250 and about 280 pages long, whereas books in the same genre that are not in KU are 350 to 450 pages. So, that's a pattern that I'm spotting. So, it's those kinds of things that help you know, and if you've written a book that's 250 pages, well then you know that perhaps, actually, those are the books that are closer to your genre or to your niche. So yeah, it's a case of pattern spotting and doing a lot of reading, and a lot of investigating on Amazon, and Kobo, and Apple, and so on and so forth, to find the books that are closest to yours.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and it's also a battle of expectations too. I remember when I started, I did all the stuff that you talked about, Sacha, you know, looking at the market, and all the business stuff that I talked about, and my first book was a flop, and I made $5.79 my first month of publishing. And there's also that, like figuring out what your expectations should be, what are healthy expectations for you to have? I thought my first book would make me six figures and I'd be able to retire to a beach, and I'm not kidding, I'm not exaggerating. I literally thought I was going to be successful, and it didn't happen. So, there's that too.

So, there's all the things you have to learn, and then there's the reality of that first book, which is, I think, the reality for a lot of people. And it can be difficult to manage all of that, and so you just have to know that you don't have to do it all overnight; it's a lifelong journey.

Sacha Black: It really, really is.

Can ALLi give me specific marketing tips for my genre?

Michael La Ronn: All right. So, another question that comes up a lot, Sacha, I'm just going to throw this one out there, which is, we're talking about genres, and we often get the question, I'm writing Christian fiction, or I'm writing urban fantasy, or I'm writing science fiction, or I'm writing a nonfiction book, or a memoir, are there specific marketing tips per genre? That's a question we often get.

And I'll answer it. The answer is, yes, there is, but it comes back to what Sacha and I were talking about in terms of knowing your genre.

So, we are unable to give specific genre marketing advice, but what we would recommend is that a lot of the basic marketing stuff works for all genres. So, knowing your audience, knowing what goes on the cover, knowing the distribution of those books and what other authors are doing to market those books, I think, are more important than actual, specific urban fantasy marketing tips, right? Because at the end of the day, they're probably all doing a variation on the same theme.

So, if you have questions on how to market in your particular genre, we recommend looking at what other authors in your genre are doing. That is the first, most important thing. So, get on a few mailing lists for the biggest authors in your genre, the biggest self-published authors in your genre, those are usually the best targets, the best people to follow, other indie authors, I should say. Get on their mailing lists, follow their Facebook pages, see what they're doing, and then do that.

And you may not get the same results, but at least you'll get a sense of what they're doing and that will help answer the question.

Okay, next question. So, Sacha, now we're going to move to some more specific questions because we got through all of the questions we had planned, but first I noticed we have some comments coming in live.

Where can I find the ALLi podcasts?

So, Carrie asks, is there a way to rewatch this stream? Yes, Carrie, this will be broadcast, I believe, next Friday. So, every Friday our podcast episodes come out. So, you should be able to listen to this wherever you get your podcasts. And then we also do post these on our ALLi YouTube channel. So, just stay tuned. When these episodes come out, we will post them on our blog at selfpublishingadvice.org, and it will have all of the links to listen to the podcast and where to watch the video, if you want to do that. Okay.

Why might you want to keep a pen name secret?

Morgan Bailey says, it's intriguing that Sacha wants to keep her new genre secret. I write openly in two genres under two names and am looking now to consolidate as it's tough enough to market one.

Sacha Black: Many, many reasons to write secretly, not least because there's no pressure. You can experiment, and if the experiment is successful then maybe I will tell people the pen name, but also there's reasons to do it, to keep the data very clean and to keep the audiences very separate because they are very different genres.

So, there's a multitude of reasons for doing it, not least, you know, it is an experiment and I just want to play without any pressure and nobody watching.

Michael La Ronn: No pressure and then re-evaluate.

Sacha Black: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Should I update the first book in a series or release a new edition?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Anthony asks two questions; in the middle of a sequel, I have a desire to update the first and release a new version. Is that advisable or do we wait until after? So, in the middle of a sequel.

Okay. So, Anthony, what I would say is, it depends on how big your audience is. I mean, if it's your first book or if you don't have a whole lot of readers, it's not uncommon. I know exactly what you're dealing with, you've published book one, and then you're writing book two and you realize, oh crap, I need to change a detail or two in book one. I would just go ahead and do it, personally. I would just go ahead and do it and then, especially if it's a continuity error, or if there's some sort of issue that will prevent people from understanding what's going on in the series. I don't think it would hurt you to just go ahead and take care of it. If it's more substantial, then maybe you do want to wait. But what do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Again, I completely agree. I was just going to say, I think, and I don't have the specifics so you would have to look at the terms and conditions, but I think there is a term and condition that says, if you update more than 10% of a book, it has to be a second edition; something along those lines. But you would need to look at your distributors and their terms and conditions to see whether or not they would want a second edition, versus if it's only a couple of sentences or whatever, then I would just do it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. I mean, my thought on it is that, if it's a novel, chances are it's probably not more than 10% for most people, I would just do it and ask for forgiveness. Especially if it's a story, but yeah, there's definitely that guideline. And then, the 10% rule also applies to ISBNs. So, that's another thing you have to think about, but hopefully Anthony, that is not a problem you are dealing with.

How do you motivate yourself to continue writing and publishing?

And then Anthony's second question is, how do you motivate yourself? During the pandemic it's been hard to feel creative and finish my books.

Sacha Black: That's a hard one for me.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Well, what I would say, Anthony is, staying motivated, reconnect with your why. Why are you doing this? Why did you become a writer?

And, for me, I have a story that I tell a lot. I had a near death experience, and so I always connect with that experience, because there's an alternate universe somewhere out there where I wouldn't be here. And so, I think about that, and that keeps me going, but what's your passion?

Sacha Black: Yeah. For me, I tell a similar story. I want my son to grow up seeing that you can follow your dream and make it possible, and that's why I do what I do. I grew up knowing I could be successful, but not necessarily in a creative world, so that's what I want him to see. I want him to see someone being successful as a creative.

And I think the other thing that really works, at least for me, is community. So, try and join some writing communities because you will be surrounded by people who are doing the words and getting the words out, and quite often people do challenges or sprints, or they do a quarterly challenge together. That kind of environment of everybody getting the work done, turning up, that kind of helps to foster the motivation.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Challenges and community are key. And also, what are the things that generally motivate you?

I tend to be a very goal-oriented person. I love going after numbers. I want to write a hundred books or have published a hundred books next year. Some people are more motivated by, oh, I want to write that story that I absolutely love and it's super detailed. Just figure that out and find ways to reconnect with that and remind yourself of that.

It definitely hasn't been easy to write during these crazy pandemic times, but what I always like to tell people is that you don't fail unless you stop writing forever. You can always pick up the pen.

Should I get reviews for the first book in a bundle before the second book is written?

So, all right, next question, and this will be our last question here. It's a multi-part question. We've got member Adrian, who is wanting to do an unplanned bundle. So, basically, they released a non-fiction title seven months ago, and they're working on another book that's on the same topic, and they want to bundle it with the existing book that they've already published. So, the first part of the question is, should I release the next book and tell my ARC team to review the single?

I would say, yes. It's never too early to get reviews in terms of your books. So, if you've got the first book published, definitely send the first book to your ARC readers, and then once they've read that I would send the next book to them. That way, it's top of mind, if they like it, then you you've given them, hopefully, helpful information that they'll be able to use to do it.

So, yeah, a lot of the tricky stuff with unplanned bundles, and anthologies, and omnibuses, and stuff, is the timing. And I think, the sooner you can get things in front of people, it makes it easier because it stays top of mind, because people read stuff and then they move on to the next thing.

You have any thoughts on that, Sacha?

Sacha Black: No, I agree with basically everything that you said. If you've got two different books in one, I would definitely try and get as many eyes on it as possible, and if you have the content and you're not bundling for a few months, then I would definitely try to get reviews.

Should I run ads for my bundle or for each individual book?

Michael La Ronn: So, the next part of the question is, should I run ads to book one, book two, and the bundle? Or will they cannibalize each other's sales?

Sacha Black: They're nonfiction, yeah?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah.

Sacha Black: No, so I have different audience. So, I do this, I have a textbook and a workbook, and then a bundle of both, and I tend to find that it is different readers. So, if you get a hundred percent, wait, I don't know how to do the maths or the numbers, but the textbook gets the most and then I get about 30% more workbook sales. And then again, about another 30% of box set, but obviously it's different people, so it's just worth doing it anyway.

So, I don't know if that helps. I would probably just run ads to book one, but it depends on the type of ad. If it was a Facebook ad, I would run it to book one. If it's an AMS ad, I would do it to book one, book two, and probably the box set.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's a pretty sound strategy. Another thing to think about is where you distribute your bundle as well. So, I personally find that omnibuses on Amazon, it's hard to let people know that they exist, because if you have a series, you've got book one and you've got book two, and then you've got this omnibus out there. It doesn't really feel good to put the omnibus in the same series, because if someone wants to click and buy them all, then it just distorts the math for them. It doesn't really feel good either to put in your book description, ‘this is also available as an omnibus'. So, I just have not found a good way to do it on Amazon.

Sacha Black: Can you not do a series of omnibuses?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, you can do that. You can do that.

Sacha Black: So, that's a better way to do it, perhaps. And if you've got, say like a 15-book series and you keep bundling three books, then you can have, you know, like five books in your omnibus series of three.

Michael La Ronn: I've done that with one of my series, that's exactly what I've done, and the problem I still have with that is letting people know it exists. So, if you're going to do that, that's a really good idea, but run ads to book one in the omnibus and book one in the singles.

But what I think I'm going to do moving forward is I'm going to actually start just putting omnibuses on Kobo, and Apple, and other places like that, where they make it a lot easier to promote your omnibuses, and then just leave the singles on Amazon.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and the omnibus is when, let's say you've got 20 books in an omnibus on Kobo, they allow you to charge whatever you want and you still get your 70%, whereas on Amazon, the minute you go over 9.99, they start hacking the amount that you earn from them. So, it makes more sense to, to have the omnibuses on Kobo, and Apple, and all the other places. But of course, you have to be not in KU to do that.

So, if your book one, and book two, and book three are in KU, just because you've created an omnibus does not mean that you can put that omnibus wide, because the same content is in KU. So, you can actually only do that if you are not in KU.

Michael La Ronn: No, that's right, and I believe on a lot of places, I could be wrong on this, but at least I think it's true on Amazon, you can only put something into an omnibus once. You can't do multiple omnibuses. So, if you have one book as a single, I think you can only put it in an omnibus one time.

Sacha Black: Oh, I didn't know that. So, you couldn't do a 3, 3, 3, 3, and then a whole series?

Michael La Ronn: I don't think so. So, that's something look at. Look at the terms and service folks, because it could change, or we could be wrong. But yeah, that's something to be aware of too. So, the final part of Adrian's question, I told you he had a multi-part question, should I order a new cover for the bundle?

Sacha Black: Yes.

Michael La Ronn: Yes. We both agree. Get a new cover. Full stop. Do a new cover, and I would not phone this one in, I would reach out to the designer and have them do something. What a lot of designers are doing now is they do a panel, like if you've got three books in a series, the first third is the first book, the second middle third is the second book, and then the third, third. So, it looks really nice, and they centre the stuff. You could also do it other ways, but definitely get a new cover. That's going to help you with the marketing, and it will reduce reader confusion as well.

So, make it clear that they're looking at an omnibus as opposed to a single. And whether that be a 3d cover, sometimes the 3d covers, I think sometimes they can look a little tacky. But however you want to do it, just make sure it looks professional.

Okay. Well, Sacha, that concludes our first Member Q&A together. I think we had a good time.

Sacha Black: Amazing. I think we did amazing.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, we had a lot of good questions. And if you've got questions, be sure to go to our question form. We'll put that in the show notes, a link to that, and we will be happy to answer your next question on our next show.

So, we will be back next month. But in the meantime, we hope that you have a great month and happy writing. See you next month.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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