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Cowriter Troubles, Buying Your Own ISBNs, Poetry Chapbooks, And More: ALLi Member Q&A Podcast With Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black

Cowriter Troubles, Buying Your Own ISBNs, Poetry Chapbooks, and More: ALLi Member Q&A Podcast with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black

In this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: Help! My cowriter isn't pulling their weight. What should I do?

Other questions include:

  • Should I buy my own ISBNs or use the free ones given to me by book retailers?
  • What are some pricing ideas for poetry chapbooks?
  • Should I consign my books to a bookstore?
  • How can ALLi members submit for a guest blog feature?

And more!

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Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Cowriter Troubles

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Watch the Video: Cowriter Troubles

In this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black: Help! My cowriter isn't pulling their weight. What should I do? Click To Tweet

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: Cowriter Troubles

Michael La Ronn: Hello, and welcome to the AskALLi Member Q&A, Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations. The podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. I'm Michael La Ronn, and I'm joined by Sacha Black. How are you, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Hello, hello. I'm okay, thank you. I'm a little tired today, bit too much fun in London yesterday, but other than that, I'm delightful. How are you?

Michael La Ronn: Fantastic. Too much fun in London, that sounds like a good book title.

Sacha Black: Yeah, it does. I don't think I'll be elaborating live on the podcast though.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, we'll keep the details off the podcast. For the book only. But I remember you said last time we were on live that you were going on holiday, right?

Sacha Black: I did, yeah.

Michael La Ronn: And how was your holiday?

Sacha Black: Really great, and I feel very restored and well, it's funny, isn't it, because after I came back, I was listening to a podcast that said, the effects of a holiday only last for three weeks, and I am more than three weeks out and I wouldn't mind another holiday. But other than that, it was delightful. How was your summer?

Michael La Ronn: It was great. It was great. So, so what you're saying is that the key to life is to go on holidays every two and a half weeks? So basically, every two and a half weeks you get that bump.

So, for everybody listening, exactly, that is the secret to life. Yeah. So, just write a book, make a couple million, a cool million, and then just pick a different place on the globe to go to every time.

Sacha Black: 100%. Well, that's it, I think we're sorted. We can call an end to the show then, can't we?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. All right. Well, thanks everybody. It's been great, you know where to find us.

No, my summer's been good. Last time, I was in a hotel room in Wisconsin on a business trip, and I got to go to New York, and got a couple more trips planned through the end of the year. It's been nice. The weather's been hot here, not a lot of rain. So, I would say so far, a pretty epic summer.

It's good to see it come to an end because fall is my favourite season, at least here in the United States.

Sacha Black: I do like autumn.

Michael La Ronn: Autumn, I should say, autumn or fall, it's my favourite season. So, it's starting to get sweater weather here and it's hot chocolate days.

Sacha Black: Oh, yes, absolutely, and it's just like the range of leaf colours that I love.

Michael La Ronn: Oh, that too. You can't beat that, and the crisp weather. I'm feeling poetic today, I don't know why.

Sacha Black: Maybe we'll have some poetic answers as well for everybody.

Should I do a consignment with a local bookstore?

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and speaking of answers, we've got some questions, don't we? So, why don't we get into our first question, which is from member Craig, and the answer is, should I do a consignment with a local bookstore?

I can take this one if you don't mind me starting. So, bookstores, this is an interesting thing that comes up from time to time. I think everybody knows somebody that does consignment with a local bookstore or even a coffee shop; I've seen coffee shops do it.

The short answer, or the short explanation of it, is that you give the bookstore x-amount of your books, and they display them, and if they sell them then you share a percentage of sales.

I just personally, in Michael La Ronn's opinion, I just have never seen a situation where that has worked out really well. Unless, maybe like I've seen some children's book authors, maybe, but like for not children's book authors, I just haven't seen it work out that well, and it ends up being a lot of expense for not a lot of upside. So, I just think, you only have so many resources and so much energy, and I think you could put that energy towards something else that is more productive. But if you want to try it, there's nothing wrong with it, but I would just go into it with pretty low expectations.

What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Yeah, I completely agree. I did it with one store and it was not great on either end. I'm pretty sure I never got paid. I know quite a few authors who have ended up with not great experiences, I have to say. Like you said, it's not that it can't work, but it is very time consuming. A lot of the weight of the financial responsibility for printing is on your shoulders. You can wait a long time to get paid.

And really, I just think that, if you spent all of that time focused on promoting the book in general, sometimes you can be lucky enough that deals will come your way and that you'll end up in a bookstore in a different way.

So, personally, I don't put consignments with local bookstores into my business plan.

Michael La Ronn: I don't either. I was recently at an event where they had a “bookstore”, and in the bookstore, the bookstore was at an event and it was an independent bookstore, and they agreed to have books, and they asked if I was interested.

And I was like, no, I'm going to pass on that, and I was glad I did because I don't know anybody there that was happy with how things went down.

So, it's an expense, and Sacha and I are both business folks, and we think, at least I think I can speak for you, Sacha, in saying you've got to be careful with your expenses and manage them, and you're going to really have to get a benefit from it.

Sacha Black: That's exactly it, what's the return on investment for your time and money in printing them and developing those relationships? If you can't get a return on your investment, then there's no point.

Michael La Ronn: You really have to have a killer cover. The cover has to be killer, the genre has to be killer, and it has to be a genre that people who go to the bookstore really buy.

So, most bookstores, I would say, are generic, they don't specialize in a genre. But to me, if I were going to do it, a slam dunk would be, there's an indie bookstore in my neighbourhood that specializes in fantasy or a certain type of fantasy, or that sort of thing. Or they do Warhammer or D&D, and your book ties into that or is related to that. To me, that would be more of a slam dunk. But other than that, it'd be a challenge.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and they are few and far between. I know there's a romance store, independent store, in Australia. There's a fancy one in Edinburgh, but you know. There's an LGBT, Gays the Word in London, but these are very rare.

Should I use an ISBN for my eBook?

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. So, next question is from Kyle, and the question is, several platforms do not require ISBNs for eBooks. Some have told me it's better to have one and others don't think so. What's the answer to this?

Sacha Black: ALLi's policy is that you should have one. So, I can confirm that. In diplomatic terms, there is no right or wrong answer, but ALLi's policy is to have one ISBN per format of your book, because it's the right business choice, it protects you, and for a whole multitude of other reasons which we have outlined in a blog post, which we will link to in the show notes.

Also, we have a guide on ISBNs, which if you're a member, you can download for free in the member zone, and if you're not a member, then you can buy in our bookstore on selfpublishingadvice.org and then navigate your way to the bookstore.

Michael La Ronn: Perfectly answered. I would say the same thing.

Should I take a larger story out of a short story collection and sell it separately?

Okay, next question is from member Judith, and the question is, I will self-publish a short story collection next spring. One of the stories is 11,000 words, and I can envision it as a separate book, not included in the full collection. Should I, for marketing purposes, offer two books, or what would be the best way to approach this?

So, short story collection, one of the stories is 11,000 words, which is a big story. That's a long story.

Sacha Black: I don't think there's any right or wrong answer. If you're asking me with my business head on, I would say that if you have it as two separate things then it's two products to promote, which is two doorways rather than one doorway for people to find your work through. So, I'd be inclined to separate it out. What do you think?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it depends on the content. If the content can stand alone, if it can have its own cover, if it's something that you can independently market, then yeah, I would split it up.

11,000 words is a very long short story. You're getting into novella territory at that point. So, it probably wouldn't hurt, but sometimes with these big collections, I've talked to people where the really big story is a centrepiece in the collection and it doesn't do well to split it up, because it doesn't make sense thematically. So, I would say that you know the story better than anybody else. It's up to you to figure out, can you split it up, which is what we would both recommend if you can do it, and if you can't, then just release it as one book and just take the lesson and apply it to your next book.

Because it depends on the other stories in the collection. I've done short story collections, and you want most of the stories in the collection to be uniform, like of a unit. They don't all have to be the same, they don't all have to be the same length, but you have a, for lack of a better word, a biggie small situation if you've got one story at 2000 words, another story that's 11,000. It's a strange experience for a reader reading a short story collection where the stories are that varied. So, you want them to be uniform if you can help it. It's okay to have some variation, but you don't want some stories that are super short and some stories that are super long, because like I said, it just creates a strange reading experience.

My cowriter hasn’t contributed anything, how do I stop working with them?

Okay, the next question is from Ruby, and the question is, I've been co-writing, but they haven't contributed almost anything, the co-writer. I don't want to put their name on my work, how do I go about that?

Sacha Black: I am 100% going to leave this one to you, your legal hat. So, over to you.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, there is a legal component to a question like this, but I've also co-written, and I'm actually co-writing a book right now with someone, and that's the biggest fear. It's exactly what the question is, is someone's biggest fear when you're co-writing, because it really is a partnership. It's a relationship, and it's like when you were in school and the teacher made you do the group work and you had to partner up with somebody, and you get somebody that's like, I've got to work with Susie again? I’ve got to work with James? He never pulls his weight.

So, sometimes you can feel like those situations, and you don't want that because when you're co-writing with somebody, you're basically, it's almost like getting married in a way. You're going to co-own that copyright for the rest of your lives, and that's a heavy thing to say.

So anyway, if you're having problems and the person's not pulling their weight, we've got to go back and just go back to step zero, and step zero is, what was the contract that you signed between the two of you? If you don't have a contract, then you have a really sticky situation. So, you have to have a contract if you're doing any sort of co-writing with somebody, and that has to outline what is going to happen if Susie doesn't pull her weight, or if you become incapacitated and you guys are 90% of the way through the book, does the other person have a right to hire a ghostwriter or somebody to help finish the book? How does that work?

So, there should be some sort of clause in your contract that discusses what do you do when you hit an impasse, and That's the first step. Now, if you don't have a contract, then the best thing that you can do is just call the person up, sit them down, and have a come to Jesus moment, and say, here is how I'm feeling. Just read them their rights. Say, listen, you said you were going to do this. You didn't do it. You promised that you were going to have this by x-date, you didn't do it, and what are we going to do about this? And you lock the door and neither of you leave until you find a solution, and you hope and pray that you can come to some sort of solution.

If you can't, then maybe the best thing to do is to walk away from the project. Maybe you abandon it, both of you give up any rights that you have to the work, and you agree in writing that you're not going to do anything further with it. It's never an easy way to navigate it.

Sacha Black: No, it's the worst-case scenario, but it is ultimately the most logical thing you can do if you've exhausted all other options.

Michael La Ronn: I agree. So, just make sure you have a contract, and make sure the contract outlines what you're going to do, and if you don't have a contract, then you just have to have to talk it out. Lesson learned, always have a contract when you're writing, because lots of stuff can happen, you just never know.

How do I submit to the ALLi guest blog?

Okay, next question is from Allison, and the question is, I am new to ALLi and have just published my debut novel, but I'd like to know how I can submit to the guest blog.

Sacha Black: Okay, so I can answer this in a few different ways. So, the first thing is, we don't take posts that are overly promotional for a book. For example, I've just published my book, this is the book, here is the sales link. We don't do that.

So, the first thing to do is to think about your pitch. What is it that you can offer the blog that is new, unique, a new spin on something?

One of the key things is that we like our posts to be super tangible, so what are the tangible tips, tangible takeaways? How is this very practical, hands-on advice for other authors? So, that would be the first thing that I would say.

We also lean towards the business, marketing, promotion, rights-end, as opposed to craft. Very occasionally we'll have a craft post, but we don't typically take those.

We prefer things, sort of, once it's been edited, and we do have some editing advice on there and we have had editors post as well, but typically you're more likely to get accepted if you are, once the editing is complete.

In terms of the practicalities of how you apply/pitch/submit, I used to take them, and they are now going to [email protected]. That is her email address. Holly is the blog content manager, and you can send her your pitch. The more detailed and comprehensive your pitch is, the better, the more likely you are to be accepted.

So, do include things like a couple of titles or a couple of pitch options. Include, say, five to seven bullet points about the type of content that you would like to put into it.

It's not like sending us an essay, just some bullet points that give us a general idea of what it is that you want to include, and some takeaway points. If you want to include a link to a different article that you've written previously that would give us an idea of what your style is like, that would be great.

Then understand that we have very long lead-in times. We are talking like a quarter of the year planned in advance now. So, this is not going to be a quick, unless it's like a news breaking item, in which case it's going to go through our news editor anyway, this is not going to be a fast turnaround. Like I say, we are 12 weeks planned out at all times now.

We then have monthly content meetings and quarterly content meetings, where we decide what will come in and what won't, so expect at least a month before you'll have confirmation whether or not we will accept your post.

Then the other way that we accept content from members is as case studies. So, if you are in the member forum on Facebook, please do keep an eye out for when people like Kayleigh, myself, or Holly, post in there because we are quite often looking for case studies.

So, this could be about any aspect of your business. It could be, have you ever run a newsletter stacking promo? Great, well, we'd like to hear about your experience. It could be, how do you use ISBNs? Great, we want to hear about your experience. It could be, how do you choose an editor? Let's talk about your experience of working with editors. It could be anything, and we might just want to quote, or we might want a bigger, thousand-word case study, for example.

So, there are a number of different ways that you can contribute. Usually, the thing that people want is the exclusive article. If you want exclusivity in that you are going to have to produce an article that is between two and a half and three and a half thousand words, and we do have quite stringent criteria and expectations for those articles. So yeah, hopefully that helps. That was a bit longer than I anticipated answering, but it was comprehensive.

Michael La Ronn: I don't think we've ever gotten that question before. So, that's a good, like we should take everything you just said and turn it into a video or something that we can point people to.

Sacha Black: That's a great idea, yeah.

Can I publish a rewrite of my book?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Alan, and Alan asks, I don't know how to proceed with publishing a rewrite of my book. Is it possible to publish a rewrite of one's book?

Sacha Black: Yes, and it's a very easy answer as well. Have you changed more than 10 percent of the book? If you have changed more than 10 percent of the book, you need to do what's called a new edition, and that will require a new ISBN.

If you have changed less than 10 percent of the book, then you just upload a new version and nothing changes.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and then there's another consideration, which is how many readers have purchased the previous book, and if those people purchased that book and they read the second edition, well, I guess first off do your existing readers need to know about the new edition? For most people, the answer is probably no, unless you're writing maybe non-fiction.

And if they don't need to know about it, if they were to pick it up and read it, would they tilt their head or how would they feel about it? So, that's also another consideration you should keep in mind is, sometimes even if you're doing less than the 10 percent, it still may make sense to rebrand it and republish it. So, just something to think about.

My Amazon KDP Account was closed, what can I do?

Okay, next question is from Roddy. Actually, no, the next question is from Tiffany, I'm sorry. Unfortunately, my Amazon KDP account was terminated. What can I do to reinstate my account?

We get this question, and it's an unfortunate scenario, nobody likes to have their account cancelled by Amazon. It's the email that we all dread getting and certainly keeps us up at night in a cold sweat.

So, what I would just suggest to anybody that encounters that issue, if you're not, first things first, make sure you're doing everything that you are required to do as part of the Amazon Terms of Service. We highly recommend that. That's not negotiable. So, make sure that you're following their terms to the letter.

Then also make sure that you stay calm and professional in your responses and do what you can to move the process along.

If you are not getting any traction, if you are an ALLi member, we do have a relationship with KDP. You can write to us in confidence at our contact form, which is allianceindependentauthors.org/contact, and we would be happy to review your case and see if there's anything that we can do on our end to interface with Amazon.

Sacha, do you want to add anything?

Sacha Black: No, I don't think so.

How do I increase my book sales?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from Kathleen. How do I get my book noticed for increased sales?

Sacha Black: So, this is the $64million question, isn't it really?

So, visibility is a problem for everybody. So, in order to get noticed, you need visibility, which is really another word for traffic. You need traffic and people to head towards your book's sales pages. Now, there isn't really a single answer for how you do this. There are a multitude of ways that you can do this, and it really depends on what your business model is, and what you enjoy doing, and how much you already know about your audience.

So, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you've done the basics, like your cover is actually on genre, it fits in with all the other covers in your genre. You've got a good book description. Your metadata is accurate, is helpful, because we can have metadata and it not be helpful for us.

So, I'm going to assume all of those things. In which case, you have a traffic problem, and the best, not the best, that's the wrong word. You can either spend time or you can spend money to drive traffic to your book. If you have time but not money, then you can do things like reaching out to other authors, asking to do newsletter swaps, trying to organize your own promotion in BookFunnel or a StoryOrigin.

You can, I'm very reluctant to say, build a social media following, because having a social media following doesn't necessarily translate to sales. What you're doing there is you're building a platform and growing awareness. Awareness helps to make people aware of your books, which therefore increases the likelihood of sales, but when you're growing a social media platform, you're doing that on a platform where you can't purchase books innately inside that app. So, you're increasing the friction between you and the purchase.

So, the next option then really is paid advertising, and you can do that through Amazon. You can do it through Facebook, you can do it through BookBub. You can also do advertising inside a lot of the book distributors platforms. So, for example, Kobo Writing Life has their promotions tab, and also Barnes and Noble has a section that you can apply and get into. So, you can do things like that.

Then there are other things like setting up the correct business infrastructure. So, if you have a reader magnet and a mailing list, and you are driving traffic towards your first in series, and you have linked that in the back of your book, you will get subscribers if you are providing the right type of content on your mailing list for them to come and sign up to.

Then it's a matter of rinse and repeat. Publish more books; the more books you have, the more options and opportunities you have for people to see your work, the more likely it is you will get additional readers. That was a whistle stop tour.

Michael La Ronn: No, that was good, it hit all of the things that I was thinking.

Then also the newsletter, just building a newsletter, and you don't get immediate gratification from a newsletter, but over time it gets better. So, that's also another important piece. But yeah, that's exactly how I would have answered it.

How do I distribute my book to Norway?

So, next question is from Laura. I'm based in the UK, how do I distribute my book to Norway, please?

I would say, publishing is an international endeavour.

I'm not aware, well, I guess for Norway, when you price your book at different retailers, you can assign a Norwegian currency or price your book in the Norwegian currency, but I'm not aware of any specific stores or outlets in Norway.

I mean, the answer is, if you want to make your book available in as many places as possible, publish wide. Use a store like Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, StreetLib.

Sacha Black: StreetLib was the one I was thinking of.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, Street Lib, and just make sure your book is available there. Make sure you optimize it in all currencies or all currencies that you can, including the Norwegian currency.

I think it's the Krona, is the name of the currency. So yeah, that's my answer.

Sacha Black: No, that's, Denmark. Yeah, I'm not sure about Norway.

Michael La Ronn: We could settle this with-

Sacha Black: – a little Google. I don't think I have anything else to add because, it's basically about picking the right aggregators after the big five, is it five stores that we apply?

So, it's looking at what aggregators there are, things like PublishDrive that does a lot of Asia, StreetLib does a lot of Africa, a lot of the Scandinavian countries, things like that. So, yeah, just do your research on the aggregators really is my only bit.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it is the Norwegian Krone. So, I don't know if it's pronounced Krona. Somebody can educate us.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I'm sure it was Danish Krona and then it must be Norwegian Krone. We're going to pretend that we are geographically educated and move on.

How do I put my book onto Goodreads?

Michael La Ronn: We are indeed. Okay. The next question is from Stella, and the question is, I'm trying to put my book up on Goodreads, but cannot find out how. Any advice?

Sacha Black: Yes. Okay. So, number one is that your book, if you distribute to Amazon, your book will go on to Goodreads after the day of publication or on the day of publication. If it's on pre-order, it will not go on to Goodreads. So, that's the first thing to say.

The second thing to say is, if you put your book on Goodreads whilst it's on pre order and then your book goes live, you may find that there are two entries for that book, and you'll need to ask a Goodreads librarian to merge those entries for you.

So, the third thing then is to say that you can put the book on yourself. What you need to do is you need to go in, this is under your reader account, you need to go in and search for your book, which obviously is not going to be there, but that's the point. Once you have typed in the search and it's come up with no entries, or it will come up with some that are similar, scroll to the bottom, look for the bit where it says, ‘not found the book, add new entry'.

You can add the entry, add all the information, upload a photo of the cover, add all the information that you've got. You can submit it and it will be on there, basically immediately. Then you need to go into your author account, and you need to search for the book again, find the book, and click something like, I wrote this book, or I own this book, or something along those lines, I don't remember the exact wording.

Basically, claim the book, and then you can attach it to your author profile. This is all under the understanding that you already have an author profile, because you need the author profile in order to be able to claim the book. If you're still having problems and you can't seem to add the book yourself, and you're not willing to wait until it's already been published, then I would contact a Goodreads librarian.

If you literally Google ‘Goodreads librarian', you can go into their forum section. What I will say, it is the worst system to try and navigate, in existence. It is diabolically poor and very confusing. So, I really do understand why you've had issues, but it is there, and I do use it every single time when I have issues.

The last thing I would suggest is that there are an awful lot more Goodreads librarians than you realize. So, if you are having trouble and you can't seem to navigate that system, you could always ask in the ALLi forum to see if there's a Goodreads librarian in there, and if there is, I'm sure they will be willing to help you.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely. So, Goodreads hasn't changed much in the last 10 years, 15 years.

How do I find out if a hybrid publisher is reputable?

All right. Next question is from Tim. So, Sacha, we are getting off the beaten path now, we're starting to get into some questions that we didn't talk about. So, we're going to have some fun. Okay. First question is, I am considering working with a hybrid publisher to publish my book, does ALLi have any information on various hybrid publishers and their reputations in the market?

Sacha Black: Well, we have the ratings page, and we have the Watchdog as well. So, I would recommend that they go to both of those areas on the website, and we can link to those in the show notes.

Michael La Ronn: So, start at our service ratings directory, selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings is where we can start, and we'll throw the other link in the show notes as well.

Sacha Black: Oh, and the other thing that we can recommend is, if you're a member, to download the How to Choose Your Self-Publishing Service guidebook, which will give you advice on how to do your own assessment of the companies as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and that's from our watchdog. So, you can get that for free by logging in and just going to guidebooks and downloading it.

Where can I find the IngramSpark discount code?

So, speaking of logging in and finding something that is a big benefit that ALLi members take advantage of, for old time's sake, Sacha, can you tell everybody where to find the IngramSpark codes?

Sacha Black: Okay, well, the IngramSpark codes have changed. You used to have to pay for your upload for each individual book, which was £49. They have since removed this cost, so it is now free to upload to IngramSpark. However, should you wish to revise your files after your book has been with them for 60 days, then you will incur a charge.

ALLi has a discount code which will prevent you being charged for that revision after 60 days, which you can find when you log into allianceindependentauthors.org, and navigate to Discounts and Deals and then go search by different type of provider.

Michael La Ronn: Perfect. So, we get that question all the time, so if you haven't heard it, now you've heard it.

How do I provide copies of my book for beta readers?

All right. Next question is from Dawn, and in Orna's book, Creative Self-Publishing, Orna says, provide each beta reader with a copy of your manuscript in their preferred format. The question is, how do I do that? How do I provide beta reading books to my readers?

Sacha Black: Well, I would hope that, if you're going to self-publish, you need some way of formatting. So, I would, depending on what computer system you have, whether it's a Mac or a PC, there are different types of software that can help. There are some free templates on places like Reedsy, Draft2Digital. You can go into the accounts and get free templates, or you can buy software. If you're intending to publish more than a couple of books, then you make your money back by not paying formatters essentially. So, the first bit of software is Vellum, and the second bit of software is Atticus. Vellum is for Mac only, and Atticus, I believe you can have on either computer.

Essentially, you import your Word document or your Google document or whatever, and it will spit back out various different files for you. If you don't have those bits of software, then you can use things like a PDF converter. Usually, you can get some kind of free PDF converter, or you can do it online. Most people will take a Word document. I mean, at Beta, I have never sent my Betas anything other than a Word document. It might be a confusion between Beta and ARC.

So, if I just explain that a Beta reader is somebody who reads a very raw draft, and an ARC, an advanced reader copy, is somebody who is reading essentially for review just prior to publication, or to help you promote your book in the form of a street team.

It's at that point that I would be handing out ARC copies, which are more likely to be PDFs, EPUBs, not MOBI anymore, so EPUBs or PDFs, or a physical copy if that's what you're doing. At that point you should have formatted the book anyway, in which case I would refer you back to the formatting software.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly, yeah, or if you're strapped for cash, you could just use Calibre. It's a free software. Yeah, Calibre is a free tool. You can insert a Word doc and you can convert it to PDF or EPUB or whatever.

Sacha Black: Sorry, I was just going to add actually, my advice though is to give Word documents out, because in a Word document or a Pages document if you're a Mac user, your beta reader is able to insert comments, and that means that you'll know exactly where they're talking about, and you can do that change in the document. So, I actually always prefer to give out a Word document anyway.

Michael La Ronn: I agree because, if they're willing to put comments or catch typos with track changes on, that sort of thing, that's always going to be a superior experience for both you and well, maybe not for the beta reader, but for you in terms of ingesting the feedback, it's easier.

Can I distribute through both BookVault and IngramSpark?

So, all right. Next question in the unexplored territory here is from Carlos. If I authorize distribution through BookVault, will it stop distribution through IngramSpark?

Sacha Black: No. No, it won't. They are two separate companies, and they have some crossover distributors that they use, but no, they are two separate companies, and we very much encourage use of both, because BookVault is very good at, for example, integrating with Shopify and being a direct store. It doesn't have as wide of a network as IngramSpark. So, we typically tend to say use both in conjunction with each other.

Does my book have to be stocked by Gardeners to be sold in Waterstones?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, and then the second part of his question is, and is the only way to get my book into Waterstones to have it stocked by Gardeners?

Sacha Black: Yes and no. No, theoretically, ingramSpark should have a connection with Waterstones. What I will say from experience is that I have, by the fact that I am a book hoarder, made multiple relationships with Waterstones booksellers, who have all struggled to get my books in stock, and I'm distributing through IngramSpark.

Theoretically, IngramSpark says that Waterstones can, and it should be the case, but I often find it is not the case. The second thing to say is, on rare occasions, you can pitch their headquarters in Piccadilly, and they will take consignment from you. It is extremely rare. You do have to pitch hard, and you do have to take all of the financial burden on yourself, and I know this because I had one of the booksellers locally go and do all the research for me to find out how it could happen.

So, the simplest answer is to say, yes, if you want it distributed in Waterstones, the easiest and most friction-free way to do that is to go through Gardeners.

Now, I will give one additional caveat, which is to say, even if you pay the humongous set-up fee with Gardeners and you have your books printed, there is absolutely no guarantee that your book will be stocked in Waterstones. In fact, it's extremely unlikely unless you are selling vast quantities of books.

Should I tip my designer, editor, or other freelancers I work with?

Michael La Ronn: Well said. We are down to our final question, Sacha, which is from Gigi, and this is an interesting question. What is the tipping culture regarding designers, editors, and other freelancers. My experience with tipping is that it varies widely between culture to culture. I'm not from the United States and generally it's not expected to tip outside of hospitality here. What do you think?

Sacha Black: I don't think there is a pre-set culture because it's an international system. So, often you can have, for example, a British author, an American designer, or the other way around, or a European designer, or a European author with an American or an Australian designer, and I just don't think that there is any expectation.

What I will say is that I have personally worked with a number of editors and designers over the years, and probably 20 percent of them have some kind of system, if for example it's through PayPal that, that you pay, where it will say add a tip onto it.

I've had both designers and editors have systems that do that, and designers and editors where they don't, and sometimes I've tipped if I've had it in my budget and when I haven't had it in my budget, I haven't because I didn't have it. So, I couldn't do it.

Ultimately, I don't think there is any expectation because we're not in the same culture, so I don't think that you can have that expectation.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I think this is something I would be curious to hear from listeners on their thoughts, because I think it varies. So, my philosophy with tipping is, typically I'm only going to tip if there's an amazing job, and that doesn't mean I'm a miser or anything like that, but it's never occurred to me to tip an editor or cover designer. Maybe I should, I don't know, but I'm just curious what other people think too, because this question just doesn't come up.

Sacha Black: It doesn't, and I think it also depends on the price point as well. If you're working with a designer that costs you a thousand pounds or more for a cover, I'm not going to tip; they've already had that in the thing. If you're working with a VA who's only charging $10 an hour, or $12 an hour, I'm probably going to tip, or I'm going to ask them to send me a bigger invoice at Christmas, or something like that.

So, it really does depend on your experience, I think, and what you feel comfortable doing, and what you feel financially able to do.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's entirely situational, and I think that the best time to tip is when you're able to and when you feel like you can. As authors, this is a challenging lifestyle because we want to make millions and billions and trillions and gazillions of dollars from our books, but it doesn't happen early on, and so we have to weigh that.

So, maybe more successful authors tip more, that's probably not a surprise. But yeah, I think, certainly you want to reward any freelancer that you work with who does an above and beyond great job. You definitely want to reward them, and as Sacha said, if you've got it in your budget. Editors and cover designers, they're trying to make a living just like we are, right?

Sacha Black: Exactly.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Well, we are at the end of our podcast for the month. Thank you for listening to the AskALLi Member Q& A, Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast.

If you would like to ask your question, if you're an ALLi member, you can check the show notes for a link to our form where you can enter your question, or just go into your ALLi account, it's at allianceindependentauthors.org. Log in, and there's a place where you can submit your question there as well.

So, with that. Sacha, go ahead.

Sacha Black: No, I think I'll mention this in October, don't worry.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Well, stay tuned because now you got to figure out what Sacha is going to say in October.

Sacha Black: Hooked! Come on back guys!

Michael La Ronn: Cliffhanger. So, there's your craft tip for the day, use cliffhangers. So, we'll keep you in suspense as to what we're going to talk about in October, but in the meantime, have a wonderful month and we'll talk to you then.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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