What's the best way to keep in touch with my readers? This is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Members Q&A, hosted by Michael La Ronn, author of science fiction and fantasy novels as well as author self-help books, and ALLi Director, author, and poet Orna Ross.
Other questions include:
- Do editors charge different rates for non-native English speakers?
- Does Barnes & Noble Press allow full control of copyright?
- How much can you change in your book before it becomes a second edition?
- Where can I find ALLi's Contest Database?
- Should I take my book out of KDP Select after the first 90 days?
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Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, 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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Watch the Q&A: Keep in Touch With Readers and MoreWhat's the best way to keep in touch with my readers? This is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Members Q&A, hosted by @OrnaRoss and @MichaelLaRonn. Click To Tweet
- Self-Publishing Services Ratings page
- Awards and Contest Ratings
- ALLi Directory of approved self-publishing services
About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcript: Keep in Touch With Readers and More
Orna Ross: Hello. Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors' Member Q&A, with me, Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn.
Michael La Ronn: Hi, Orna. How are you?
Orna Ross: I'm very well. It's June in England and all is well, the sun is shining.
Michael La Ronn: Yes, sun is shining and the weather's nice, and the pools are open, and it's a beautiful thing.
Orna Ross: It's a beautiful thing, absolutely. What's seldom is wonderful around here, and sunshine is seldom, so it's great. We're all enjoying ourselves.
So, yes, we are here with another edition of our Member Q&A, kindly sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, and thank you to them very much for their sponsorship and support of the show.
So, for those of you who may not have tuned in before, this is where our members ask their questions publicly.
So, we've lots of forums for our members to get private answers to their questions, and indeed a member Facebook group as well where they can share answers, but the idea here is to bring out some of the questions that come up again and again, and our members have kindly agreed that we can share them with everyone so that everyone can benefit from the answers.
So, Michael is the man with the questions. Let's go.
Michael La Ronn: Okay. So, this is a multi-part question from Claire. Maybe we can do this rapid fire, Orna? So it has to do with IngramSpark. So, (inaudible) point for IngramSpark when you are wanting to price to get into libraries. So, like wholesale pricing?
Orna Ross: Pricing is not the most important thing when it comes to libraries, they make choices on lots of different criteria, and also different libraries have different criteria. So, you would absolutely tie yourself in knots if you were trying to work that out from their perspective. Much better for you to work out from your perspective what you need as a publisher, in terms of profits. Then you put the offer out and those who align with that offer will come in. So, what a lot of our members do is just add on the amount of profit they want to make to the cost of making the book, and that seems to work well. Some add on $1, some $2, some $3, it's up to you.
Print on demand books are already more expensive than the equivalent book put out by a trade publisher who runs a consignment print. I think everybody in the business is aware of that and understands why that is so, and some people are price sensitive, some people are not, but you've got to look after your own pricing, and it has to make sense for your business.
Michael La Ronn: And is Ingram the only place in town that does hardcovers?
Orna Ross: At the moment, but hush, hush, not a very well-kept secret, they're coming soon on Amazon too.
Michael La Ronn: Yes, that is probably the worst kept secret, certainly the worst kept secret in the decade that I've been an author.
Orna Ross: Yeah, you can’t keep a secret with indie authors. It's just not possible.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, exactly. Okay. So, our next question is from Charles Kyle, and Charles asks, does Barnes & Noble Press allow full control of copyright with ease of rapid removal from Barnes & Noble if they wanted to publish the book elsewhere?
Orna Ross: Yes. That's the short answer. Yes, and yes. With all the self-publishing platforms, you retain your copyright, you're the copyright holder. And with most of them, including Barnes and Noble Press, it is as simple as declaring your intention, because you as the rights holder can't be held in place, as it were.
So, you can de-list your books. However, it's worth saying that all you can do is de-list. Once a book has been put out there, it remains in the book ecosphere, for want of a better word, it will still have an ISBN, if you've given it an ISBN, it will still be floating around various catalogues, it will remain on Amazon. I have books on Amazon I wish would go away from previous publishers, and stuff like that.
So, publishing a book, while as indies we're really lucky we can change up lots, you can never fully de-publish once you've put something out there.
Michael La Ronn: I agree.
All right. Our next question is from Michael, and he says that he is new to self-publishing, wanting to know some tips on how to market his book, and then also, is there some way of making contact with readers who have already bought my books electronically?
Orna Ross: So, the way to make that contact is to build up your own email list, and that is a fundamental of publishing that Michael and I, and everybody in ALLi, and, I think everybody, I think it's probably the only thing that absolutely everybody in the self-publishing sphere is agreed on, and that is that you should have your own email list.
So, if you haven't set up the whole funnel system to draw readers in, to attract them to sign up for your email list, that's your first job, because there is no way when a buyer purchases your book on Amazon, or Kobo, or all the various platforms that are out there, that you won't get the data, you want to know who that reader was and they, in a sense, “belong” to the store where they purchased the book rather than “belonging” to you. So, the only way they “belong” to you is when they join your email list or they buy the book directly from you on your website, in which case you also get their contact details.
So, if you haven't already set yourself up for that, now is the time to do that, and by coincidence we have today on the blog, our Ultimate Guide to Reader Magnets, which is all about how you attract readers and begin to get their contact details, putting that call-to-action at the end of each of your books, you know, it's a really core part to marketing.
Do you want to pick up on some other marketing tips, Michael?
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's great. I would definitely second checking out the Ultimate Guide to Reader Magnets, I think that's a smart way to handle it, and also it will address some additional content that I think that you're looking for, Michael.
I would also say, an alternative way of being able to communicate with people, it's kind of an unusual one, is starting a podcast. You can reach people in a different way than you can via email, so there are some people who listen to podcasts religiously, and you could do a podcast update, you know, you start a podcast, but you only use it when you have a new thing out. That could be another way to do it. It's an investment, and not everybody wants to start a show, of course, but you could do that if you want it to.
Also having a blog is also another important way to communicate with your readers, because there may be some people who may not want to commit to getting that deep with you in an email, and so having something that is on your platform and not a social media platform, I think is important because you can increase your reach.
Orna Ross: In short, really, and I know Michael agrees with me on this, there are just so many ways to market and reach a reader. For most authors is it's not about there being a lack of ideas or a lack of ways to do this, it's about finding the right way for you, and that takes a bit of trial and error.
All forms of marketing require investment from you, either investment of your time or your money, or actually most often, both. So, if you've no money, you'll put in more time. If you have less time, you'll put in more money, but it is important to realize that marketing is a core part of publishing. It's not an add-on. Publishing isn't just the production bit, marketing and promotion, and rights licensing are fundamental parts of the publishing process as well, and things that we need to learn as author publishers.
So, the thing with marketing is to go slow. Try getting one reader at a time. If you can get one interested reader, you can get a hundred, you can get a thousand. It's really setting up that system that suits you and your particular amount of time, money and interest. So, you're trying to attract the reader who's really core to your books, the person who really loves what you do, that's the person you're looking for. Forget everybody else. Go really, really niche and try and draw in that person, and then put some effort, some money, some time behind it, and through trial and error, you will learn what's right for you. So, give yourself time to work this out. Don't expect it to all happen overnight.
I think that's a big part of marketing frustration for indie authors, is the expectation that it should happen as soon as we have invested some time or money. Approaching it in the spirit of experimentation and exploration and determination that it will get there, but giving it the time to do that.
Michael La Ronn: Yep, I agree. Okay. So, our next question is from Tanya, and Tanya says that English is her second language. She is very proficient in speaking and writing English, but not perfect, and her question is when she's looking for an editor, do editors charge non-native speakers differently, and how do they determine pricing?
Orna Ross: Yeah, that's a really good question, and I should have said up top, and I will say now, if anybody, those of you who are tuned in here live, if you've got questions, do feel free to ask them in the comments and hopefully we'll have time to get to them. And if you have any comments to make on any of the answers or any of the questions, please do feel free to weigh in on those.
So, yeah, I don't think editors sit there saying, I'm going to charge non-native speakers more money, but I think in practice, it's likely that will happen, just because an editor charges by their time really, and they will assess a manuscript. They either charge by time or by word, and they will assess the manuscript often on the quality of the work, in the sense of how much work has to be done on a sentence, how much work has to be done on the paragraph, how much work has to be done on the chapter, and on the whole book. So, if they've got fixed per-word pricing, they will have averaged out, and they will know that sometimes they get a manuscript that's very clean, has been copy edited already, and all they have to do is proofread it, for example.
Sometimes they're going to get a manuscripts that needs more work, more time and more effort, and I think it's 100% likely and natural, that if you're writing in the second language and you have the skill of a second language, that it is going to need a bit more editing work. It may not necessarily need more payment though, if you choose somebody who charges by the word. So that will be my recommendation for you, rather than choosing somebody who charges by time.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I would always use someone who charges by the word. Otherwise, it's very easy to get bamboozled, let's just put it that way. You can't watch their screen; you can't monitor their time. I would stick to the word, and I would make sure you get a couple of different quotes. So, talk to a couple of different editors and figure out, don't just go with the first one you find. I would get some quotes, because you may be surprised, your English may be better than some native people's English. So, you just don't know until you talk to an editor, and they can give you a good sense of how much time and effort it's going to take on their part in order to give you a clean manuscript.
Orna Ross: It's a very good point you're making, actually, not one that I had really thought about, but actually in written English, some non-native speakers perhaps are more proficient than some natives, I hadn't thought that through. So, yeah, good point.
Michael La Ronn: All right. Let's see. The next question is from Vanessa, and she asks how much of a published book can you change before it must be published as a new edition?
Orna Ross: I think there is a set percentage here. Do you know what it is, Michael? There is a set recommendation.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, the industry standard is about 10%, I think. I think it's, if you change 10% of the story, or of the content, then technically you should publish it as a new edition. That's a guideline. It's not a rule. No one's going to come to your house and arrest you because 11% of the book is different and it's not a new edition, but for readers say, I would say, if it's about 10%.
You do not need a new edition if it's a new cover, you do not need a new edition if you're just changing typos, or copyright, the copyright page, or back matter, things like that, you don't have to do that.
The example would be, you get your book re-edited, that would be a classic example of where you probably would want to do a second edition. Or you've written a book that's on a time sensitive topic and you're updating it down the road, like the 2019 Guide to Hot Cars, and now you're doing a 2021 edition, but you're really not changing the content. That would be an example.
So, 10% I believe is the rule. For me, I think, just making sure that you're clear to your readers. You also want to be updating your book description, letting people know on the interior of the book, that this is a new edition so that people aren't confused.
Orna Ross: Yes, the signposting is really important, and a lot of this is also for booksellers and librarians. So, they want to be really crystal clear as to the fact that this is a new addition. So, a new ISBN is necessary for a new edition. It's worth mentioning that, because sometimes people are not sure.
But essentially, yeah, as Michael said, be fair to your reader and your own judgment really as to whether, you know, if it's tidied up, prettied up a little bit, that's fine. But if it has a fundamental change that somebody who read it before will be missing out on, and if they didn't know it was a new addition, for example, or if there's new information or new chapters, or anything like that of any significance and consequence, it's worth doing a new edition.
The other thing is that, if you have made those kinds of major changes, republishing gives that book a bit more juice than just going in and changing the manuscript. So, if it's going out again, but with a new publication date, then you're getting all the advantages of first-time publication for that new edition. Another question that we get asked a lot about this is, can you carry over reviews?
You can. You will have to manually contact the platforms to see that happen, but that generally is not a problem. So, yeah, if in doubt, probably you do need to go there.
Michael La Ronn: Yep. All right. Next question is from Damien, and it says, I thought I saw somewhere on your site a list of book contests that were either reputable or scams, do we have a link to that?
Orna Ross: Yes. Yes, we do. If you go to selfpublishingadvice.org/awards, that should draw it up, I think.
We are actually in the process of doing a lot of work on this page at the moment. It's in the process of going through an update in the background, you can't see anything until it will all show at once, but it's taking place over time.
We also have a guide to awards and prizes coming up, and Sacha Black has been working on this, as have I, and Dan Holloway has also contributed. So, quite comprehensive ALLi guide to awards. We also are working with a new, if you're interested in awards and prizes, working with a new partner member who is doing great work in this area.
Book Award Pro, worth checking out.
Michael La Ronn: Yep, there they are a great service.
Orna Ross: So, yeah, that's going on in the prizes and awards arena.
More and more awards opening up to indie authors as well, and lots not, still, and very much part of our open up to indie authors campaign, but we are seeing more prizes open the doors, which is good.
Michael La Ronn: Yes, and this actually segues into our next question, which I think is a complimentary question. Is there a page on the ALLi site where authors can find out if there are services that are good for authors or if they're predatory?
Orna Ross: Yes, that's our other ratings page, also available. So, these two ratings pages, and you'll find that at selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings, these two ratings pages, you know, ratings of services are a community outreach service from ALLi. So, they are open to the community. They're not just a member service.
We do, however, for our members specifically, have a directory of partner members who are listed on the ratings listings, but there's a searchable database where they can find good services for their particular need at a particular time.
Then we also bring out quarterly, a directory, which is a print PDF download, and all of these are available on the website under services. If you go into the services area in the member zone, you'll get the directory, the database, the listings and everything that you need.
And then, as I said, the two big listings, they're worked on by John Doppler, who heads up our watchdog desk, and John does an amazing job. It's impossible to fully “oversee” this exploding area of self-publishing services, but nobody knows more about this arena than John. His insights are incredible, and he has been working in this area for a very long time. He's seen a lot of people come and go.
So, we also have the Choosing a Self-Publishing Service book, which as well as talking about the principles and the various people who are good, bad, and indifferent, it also teaches you how to evaluate a good service, how do you know whether a service is good or bad?
Because we can't list absolutely everybody, and you'll never be able to, we'll always be playing catch up a little bit. They come and go, they change names if they're not good, they hide under aliases. All of these things go on. So, it's important that you develop the skill where you can go to a website and know whether this is a good service or not, and there are warning signs to look out for. So, all of that's contained in the Choosing a Self-Publishing Service book.
Michael La Ronn: All right. So, to tee up everything you said here, just to give it a nice little summary. For our listeners who are not ALLi members, there's two websites that we think are helpful for you in figuring out all of this stuff.
For our ratings directory, so services that we recommend or services that we have opinions about, you can go to selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings. That is for service providers that you want to look into.
For contests, you can go to selfpublishingadvice.org/contests to look up different contests. Those links are for non-ALLi members, they're open to the public. All right. So, ALLi members and non-ALLi members can have access to that.
If you are an ALLi member, we have a guidebook called Choosing a Self-Publishing Service. It's free to ALLi members on your member dashboard. If you're not an ALLi member, you can certainly purchase it to support our organization and the authors that wrote it.
And then you also have access as an ALLi member to additional member directories that have some additional information regarding contests and service providers. Is that an accurate statement?
Orna Ross: And ways to get at them, you know, searchable databases and some stuff, just easier ways to access. Yeah.
Michael La Ronn: Correct. Okay. Very good. We have a lot; we have so much sometimes we just have to repeat.
So, the next question is from Marilynn and the question is, does ALLi have any written knowledge of any sites or resources dedicated to writing children's books or promoting children's books?
Orna Ross: Yes. So, we have a children's advisor, Karen Inglis, and Karen has written a guide to self-publishing for children. She's fantastically generous with her time. So, that's one way in which we support children's authors. We have a partnership with the Society for Children's Book Writers, and Illustrators, and that is a fabulous organization for children's book writers.
Now, they have partnered with us because they are really interested in developing their self-publishing services, services for their members who want to self-publish books.
So, we are currently preparing a guide for children's book writers and writers of YA, young adult books, and that should be ready mid-summer, and we will be sharing it with the members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. But also, it will be on sale on our website, and it will be downloadable, as all our guides are, free of charge, to ALLi members in the member zones.
So, children's book writers are very much on our mind at ALLi at the moment.
Michael La Ronn: Yes, it's one of the most common genres of questions we get. So, I'm excited about that partnership. I think it's going to be really cool.
Orna Ross: Yes, they're a great organization, and it's a very good fit because they've got all the knowledge, the specific technical stuff, and children's is so demanding, because obviously the different age groups have completely different requirements. So, it's like a macro genre, isn't it, and very different kinds of books and kinds of authors with different needs. And they're really fantastic at that, and then we're bringing the self-publishing expertise.
So, yeah, it's good.
Michael La Ronn: Yep, absolutely. Okay. So, these next couple of questions are regarding service providers, and I did look them up in the service ratings directory, so we can use that information if we need to.
This question is from Denise, and she has a book ready to publish and is thinking about using the service provider Matador so that she can get into bookshops, but also use Amazon KDP to take advantage of eBooks and some of the KDP Select features, but I heard that often books do well on KDP for the first 90 days, and then taper off. Would it make sense to use the KDP platform for three months and then go with Matador? What are the pros and cons of this strategy?
Orna Ross: Okay. So, they're very different things. So, let's just unpack it a little bit. First of all, you should be on Amazon, and I think you're probably, and feel free to weigh in here in a bit, Michael, I think probably what you're asking about is KDP Select.
So, there's a 90-day exclusive option on Amazon, where you can opt in. Amazon also gives every new book a bit of extra algorithm juice, I call it, where you get a little bit of a grace period as a new publication, that you don't have on the book's been out two or three years later, but honestly, these are very small benefits.
Really, your strategy for Amazon should be to have your books on Amazon indefinitely. Certainly don't ever think about taking your books down from Amazon, unless you've got ethical or other reasons why you don't want to be on Amazon. You've made a very conscious choice, if you're neutral on the Amazon question, then absolutely, you should be there. They sell more books than anybody else, and you'd be putting yourself off from a prime and excellent platform.
So, it doesn't in any way stop you from working with Matador, and we would advise anybody to go direct to Amazon for the Amazon ecosystem, and work with other services in addition to that, not instead, because the services are going to put your book up on Amazon in a way that sometimes, and Matador doesn't fall into this category, but sometimes the way in which a service has an inroad into Amazon isn't as good as our inroad with KDP.
So, go to Amazon, leave your books on Amazon, and have a marketing strategy for Amazon. That will get you much further than putting your book up and the passive advantage that you get in the first 90 days, which really isn't all that important. The most important thing is that you have a marketing strategy in place.
Secondly, you said about Matador, you're using Matador because you want to be in bookstores, and Matador is an Excellent service, partner member. I've spoken at their conference, they're a really good UK-based publisher, and they do get some books into bookstores.
So, they would be the first to say that there is no guarantee that by going with Matador your book ends up in a bookstore. Nobody, these days, can guarantee you that. So, if you have that sort of equation in your mind, you know, that if I go with Matador, my book will definitely be in a bookstore, then that's not quite it.
The third thing I would say, I would kind of notice from your question is that I think you need to do a little bit more reading and research about self-publishing to really fully understand your needs and your service needs. So, while Matador is there as an option, and as I said, it's a very good option if you know why you're going that way, and you will end up with a very good print book, and they will help you and hold your hand lots of steps of the way, you can also produce your own print book through Amazon KDP and through IngramSpark, and also have access to bookstores in a different sort of way. So, I'm not saying you shouldn't go the way you've gone, and perhaps you have done more research than I'm picking up from the question, but it just seems to be, make sure you know all your options before choosing a service.
Do pick up a copy of Debbie Young's book, How to Get Your Book into Bookstores. Again, free of charge to ALLi members in the member zone, and available for other people to buy on our website at selfpublishingadvice.org/shop. You'll find it in there.
Anything to add, Michael?
Michael La Ronn: You nailed it. You hit every angle that I was going to say.
Our next question is from Linda, and I'm going to ask this question, and then I'm just going to answer it Orna, if that's okay.
Orna Ross: You do. I'm tired of my voice.
Michael La Ronn: I happened to look this one up on the service ratings directory, and I was like, okay, I'll just answer it. Linda asks, does ALLi know anything about Pubby Reviews? Is it legitimate? Is there anything we need to know about it?
And the answer to that is that, in our service ratings directory selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings, we have Pubby Reviews listed as a new service, and it's one that we're watching right now, but we do not have an opinion formulated. So, more to come as we have more members who send in their experiences and John has more opportunity to dig into that company.
Orna Ross: Thank you. That's great.
Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question, is it worth an author entering their book for the London Book Fair?
Orna Ross: No, is the short answer. So, you've come across one of these services that offers, for a fee, to bring your book to London Book Fair to put it up on the shelf and for everybody to walk past it and ignore it. Unless you're talking about something different, and I've got that wrong? I'm just assuming that's what you're looking for. This is not how London Book Fair works.
So, London Book Fair, and every book fair, they are rights fairs and they're built on relationships, and agents bringing books to promote to publishers and making rights deals at London Book Fair, or shaking hands on deals that were already made somewhere else in advance of the fair.
So, self-publishing services that display your book, I mean, there are a lot of publishing people going around the fair and somebody just might pick up your book and just might say, “this is the book I've been waiting for to publish. I'm going to contact the author and give them an advance.” But to be perfectly honest, the chances of that happening are far less than of you winning the international lottery tomorrow night.
It's so unlikely. It's not how publishing works. So, the short answer is no.
Michael La Ronn: Okay. Well, those were all the questions we had for today, but I did want to put in a plug. Many of the questions we answered today are answered in a book that we wrote called, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered.
It's a book that I authored, Orna also helped, and it basically compiles all the most common questions that we've answered from this show over the past, what, 10 years, Orna? It's been probably 10 years now.
Orna Ross: Yeah, must be coming up to it.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, almost a decade. So, that's available free if you are an ALLi member on your member dashboard.
It's like a 60,000-word book of just the most common questions from the moment you come up with an idea for a novel, all the way to publishing and marketing that book. So, that book will be helpful for a lot of people listening. If you're an ALLi member, grab it.
Orna Ross: Absolutely, and non-fiction and poetry too.
You said novel there, but it actually is all-
Michael La Ronn: I do it subconsciously. I don't think about it.
Orna Ross: Your obviously writing a novel at the moment.
Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I am. But yeah, it's available for non-fiction writers and poets too, and you can get a copy, if you're not an ALLi member, you can get a copy wherever you get your books, but you can check it out at selfpublishingadvice.org/150
So, that's 150.
Orna Ross: Yeah, because there's 150 questions in it, and Michael did a fabulous job on that book, I have to say. I think it's a 5-star ratings only book. Last time I looked, all that was there was five stars. So yeah, anyone who has used it, we get really fantastic feedback about that book.
I think it's the ability to be able to go in and zone in on the question, whatever is on your mind at the moment, because that's all we can look at as indie authors. We can't look at the big picture, we just run away and hide. So, the ability of that book to bring you right in exactly where you need to go.
So, yes, thanks for bringing it up. That's great. And thank you for writing it, more importantly. And thank you for being here today for the show, and thank you all for being here and the great questions that were sent in. So, do please, members, keep the questions coming. Only members can ask questions, but anybody, as we've seen, can listen into the answers, and we'll be back again next month with another Q&A show for you.
Until then, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye. Bye.