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Publishing: Introducing IRIS – IndieReader’s New Instore Service

Publishing: Introducing IRIS – IndieReader’s New Instore Service

IRIS is IndieReader's new book distribution service designed to help self-published authors get their books onto the shelves of independent bricks-and-mortar bookstores. IndieReader's founder Amy Edelman explains IRIS's features and benefits, and how it works alongside the Edelweiss database used by indie bookstores. (Bit of a floral theme going on here!) If you have any questions that Amy hasn't anticipated here, please ask them via the Comments form, and Amy will be happy to answer.

Amy Edelman

Amy Edelman, founder of IndieReader

 Q. What is IndieReader In-Store (IRIS)?

A. IndieReader In-Store (IRIS) is IndieReader's new publishing, book marketing and distribution service. Working with Edelweiss, an on-line interactive database used by a majority of independent bookstores (plus Barnes & Noble), IRIS will combine the selling power of brick and mortar bookstore with the vast community of self-published authors. This new program will provide an easy, cost-effective and efficient way for booksellers to stock and sell branded, self-published books and for indie authors to get on their work onto the shelves of indie bookstores. Books distributed by IRIS will carry the trusted IndieReader (IR) imprint, differentiating them from the millions of other indie books on the market.

Q. What’s the difference between a “branded” indie book and one that’s not?

A. What’s the difference between a tablet and an iPad? The difference is that one is just a “thing” and the other has a specific identity as part of a recognizable brand. Indie books—for better or worse—are out there on their own with no way for booksellers and buyers to tell them apart. IndieReader solves that problem by creating a central resource where booksellers can go to get more info on self-publisheded titles.

Q. What is Edelweiss and how will it help me get my indie book into stores?

A. Edelweiss is an online, interactive, cross-publisher catalogue service that supplements or replaces traditional hard-copy publisher catalogues. It also acts as an interactive research tool for librarians, bloggers and reviewers, creating a one-stop source, simplifying the ordering process. Edelweiss is also a social media networking site that allows buyers to share book information and favourites and to request Digital Review Copies (DRCs) from authors (à la NetGalley). Part of the appeal of Edelweiss is its ability to present comprehensive and up-to-date information about each title in the catalogue, including bestsellers, award winners, reviews and information like where the author is based. This is especially important for indie titles. The more information booksellers have about your book, the more likely they’ll be to stock it.

 IRIS logoQ. So how will that work with IndieReader?

A. Edelweiss has agreed to let IndieReader, via a new program we’re calling IndieReader In-Store (IRIS), include your books in their catalogue. Basically, IR will act as your book’s publisher and distributor. Titles are posted with their IR reviews — along with the book's genre and author's proximity to their stores —so that bookstores can decide which books they want to stock.

IndieReader has also signed up as a Partnership Publisher with the American Book Association (ABA), giving us the opportunity to participate in direct outreach to ABA member stores' decision-makers. When you sign up with IRIS, your book’s title and information will be included on a sell sheet in a Red Box Mailing, which is an in-store marketing action kit, currently sent to 1,100 ABA member stores.

Q. How much does it cost to participate?

A. The cost of listing via IRIS is $399. There will be an additional $25 fee per title after the first year as long as your book is in the database.

Q. Why can’t indie authors do this on their own?

A. Edelweiss is set up for publishing companies and even if they did allow individual authors, their annual fee for inclusion would discourage smaller publishing companies, or even authors with multiple titles. And membership to the ABA is not open to authors.

Q. So let’s say my title is available via the Edelweiss database. Don’t booksellers still need to want to carry them?

A. Most definitely. But the creation of IRIS was precipitated by the co-owner of an independent bookstore who wanted to know how IR could make it easier for them to carry indies and find local authors. We have since spoken to other indie booksellers across the country who are feeling the same way (backed up by recent articles in the Christian Science Monitor and Publishers' Weekly that note increasing interest from indie bookstores in self-published titles). IndieReader has also signed up as a Partnership Publisher with the American Book Association (ABA), giving us the opportunity to participate in direct outreach to ABA member store’s decision-makers. When you sign up with IRIS, your book’s title and information will be included on a sell sheet in a Red Box Mailing, which is an in-store marketing action kit, currently sent to 1,100 ABA member stores. Basically, IR will act as your book’s publisher and distributor. Titles are posted with their IR reviews — along with the book's genre and author's proximity to their stores —so that bookstores can make informed decisions about which books they want to stock. The truth is, some indie authors now have hundreds of thousand of readers. Indie bookstores are always on the look-out for new revenue sources and something that will differentiate them from the big box stores which don't (yet) carry indie titles.

IndieReader logoQ. How much administrative work will be involved with listing a title/catalog?

A. Lots, but that will be taken care of by IR.

Q. Are only new titles listed?

A. Nope. All titles that are available via Ingram Wholesale may be listed.

Q. Is IRIS exclusive or will I be able to list my books elsewhere?

A. IRIS is not exclusive.

Q. What about terms/trade discounts?

A. If there is one thing that keeps indie bookstores from ordering indie books, it’s terms. All submitted titles need to be returnable to Ingram Wholesale and require the standard trade discount—for a publisher selling to a distributor—of 55%.

Q. What specifically does terms/trade mean for me?

A. Here’s an example:

Let’s say your book costs $12.95 retail, $5.18 wholesale (the price Ingram pays to buy it from the printer) and $3.60 to print. The printer’s compensation is calculated as Wholesale Price ($5.18) minus Print Cost ($3.60). Ingram Wholesale gets their cut out of the 55% discount so the author is getting –  $1.58 revenue/per book that is sold (the distributor paid the wholesale cost to get the books, so they get it back when they return it). For this example, that means that you would have to sell 252 copies of your book to make back your $399 fee to be in the IRIS program. Keep in mind that your title will be getting seen by over 37,000 book industry professionals, including retailers, reviewers, librarians, and publishers.

Q. My book is published via CreateSpace and I’m not sure they accept returns or offer the correct discount. Can I still set it up in the IRIS program?

A. At this time CreateSpace does not accept returns, which most booksellers require. They also don’t have the industry standard discount (55%). But don’t despair. If your title is in the extended distribution program, which really doesn’t include brick and mortar booksellers because CreateSpace books aren’t returnable, you can do both.

Q. What if my book is in CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution?

A. Also not a problem – and no need to withdraw your book because CSED is no longer exclusive. Ingram Spark (the printer that IRIS is using) can transfer any title over from CreateSpace as long as the ISBN belongs to the author. If you have a print-ready, formatted copy of your book, you can send it to IRIS and we’ll make it available via Spark, effectively making it available via the Ingram Wholesale channel. If your book is not formatted, you can send your Word file to IndieReader Publishing Services (IRPS). We can format most books for $399 and make them available via Ingram Wholesale.

Q. What exactly is involved in the return process with the bookseller? Who pays for what?

A. The bookstore buys your books from Ingram and then Ingram buys it from the POD printer. Using the numbers above, Ingram buys the book from you for $5.18, and the printer keeps $3.60 as the print cost, and the publisher gets their $1.58. If Ingram returns the book back to the printer, you pay back the $5.18. If the book is destroyed, that’s the end of it. If you prefer the book be returned to you, there is an extra $2.00 charged on top of the $5.18, and you get to keep the book. We suggest that suggest that authors put their royalties into an escrow account until after the 90 day return period.

Q. Whose ISBN would we use?

A. As long as you own your own ISBN number, you can use the one you currently have. If your book was published as a CreateSpace imprint—or if you selected CS’s extended distribution—you will need to purchase a new one as the ones supplied by CS are not valid outside of Amazon. If, however, you purchased a universal ISBN through CreateSpace, you may use that number. If you do not own an ISBN, you can purchase one at a discount directly from IndieReader for $99/per or from Bowker for $125/per. (You can find more information about ISBNs here https://www.myidentifiers.com/isbn/about.)

Q. Are there different degrees of “visibility” on Edelweiss for indies versus the traditional publishers?

A. No, it's up to the individual bookstores to search for what they want, but when a particular bookstore is looking for an indie book, IRIS is the easiest way to find one.

Q. So what do I get for the $399? Is it just a listing?

A. No, you also get a review from IndieReader that will be included in the Edelweiss database, as will be your home-base location (for stores interested in readings), whether or not your book is an IRDA Winner or IR Approved. When you sign up with IRIS, you book’s title and information will be included on a sell sheet in a Red Box Mailing, which is an in-store marketing action kit, currently sent to 1,100 ABA member stores.

Q. Are there any other benefits to signing up with IRIS and having my book available on Edelweiss?

A. Yes, included in the $399 fee is inclusion in the Edelweiss Digital Review Copy (DRC) Module. Similar in function to NetGalley, it is a secure, controlled way for authors to share their DRCs with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, media, booksellers, wholesalers, etc.

Q. What if IndieReader has already reviewed my book?

A. If your book has already been reviewed by IndieReader, the fee for being included in IRIS will fall to $300 per title.

Q. What if my book gets a bad review?

A. If your book receives a review of less than 3 stars, you can opt to not have it included in the listing, with a statement saying, “The author declined to include their IndieReader review.”

Q. Does IRIS guarantee that bookstores will buy my book?

A. No, we do not. But we do guarantee an increased level of visibility via its listing under the IndieReader brand.

Q. Who pays me? IRIS or the bookstore?

A. You will get paid via IRIS.

Q. How long do titles stay in the Edelweiss catalogue? Is it a permanent online listing?

A. No, the fee to IR will be an annual thing. Renewal is $25/yr per title after the first year.

Q. Is Edelweiss US distribution only?

A. No. It is used by booksellers worldwide.

Q. Some stores now offer e-books. Are e-books included or is this just for paper?

The retailers, wholesalers, and librarians who use Edelweiss in their ordering process are still definitely focused on physical books, but there’s nothing stopping you from listing ebook exclusives to give them more exposure.

If you have any further questions that Amy hasn't answered above, please leave a comment and Amy will reply. 



This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. I realise this is an old article, but hopefully Amy is still responding. What was the uptake by indy authors on this? Did it expand into UK and perhaps Australia and just to clarify, the returns policy… On the assumption that a book shop (or shops) took 100 titles at $10.00 retail – and returned all of them (worst case) how much would the author be out of pocket, on the assumption someone has to fit the bill for printing…

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  3. Forgive me, but I’m not seeing the benefit of this.
    First, I get bulk orders through Createspace – sometimes 20 a month, sometimes as high as 60. If these aren’t from distributors, where are they coming from? (That’s a serious question, actually….)
    Also, I use a free CS ISBN, in case anyone’s wondering if paid-for ISBNs make a difference. (And a small point – CS ISBNs are ‘valid’, everywhere. They are ISBNs; they work just like everyone else’s ISBN and are in no way inferior to ISBNs acquired in other ways. Nielsen accepts them – and by the way, you can register a book on Nielsen with its cover jpg free of charge for a basic listing, or pay for an upgraded listing if you’d like to give more details about your book. Part of the user agreement with CreateSpace is that you don’t print a book with a free CS ISBN anywhere but CreateSpace. But they are not second-rate ISBNs. Perhaps that’s what you mean, Amy? But I digress)
    Back to IRIS, and my other main point – IRIS isn’t a quality curator (nor does it claim to be), so I can’t see that a bookseller would take special notice of its list or that it gives an author a leg-up to recognition. It still falls to the author to create curiosity about their work. In that case, it seems the money for an IRIS listing would be better spent on other awareness-raising activities.
    But what am I missing?

    1. Hi Roz,

      As far as getting bulk orders through Createspace, I’m not sure where all the orders are coming from, but as the author, perhaps you should check. I would assume that they’re not coming from brick and mortar bookstores, because almost ALL OF THEM require (and this is standard for traditional publishers too) that books be returnable and available at a standard 40% discount, neither of which CreateSpace offers.

      As far as the free CS ISBN, they are not ‘valid’ everywhere (and in fact you note that later in your question: “Part of the user agreement with CreateSpace is that you don’t print a book with a free CS ISBN anywhere but CreateSpace.”).

      In order to address your main point, perhaps I should explain more about Edelweiss, which has replaced paper catalogs from major publishers and is where brick and mortar bookstores go to find and order their books. IRIS is the only branded indie book resource available on Edelweiss, with listings that include an IR Review (necessary for the book to be listed), a Digital Review Copy of the author’s book (similar in function to NetGalley), a GoodReads rating and, because Edelweiss is also a social media tool, potential feedback from the store buyers, all of this on their terms (industry discount and returnable). So we’re really offering booksellers a lot of info on books that they’re excited to carry but haven’t been able to take a chance on.


  4. Hi – I’m UK based. Do most UK independent bookshops use the Edelweiss database? I hadn’t heard of it here before… If not, (what % of uk bookstores approx use it?)

    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Karen,

      This is what my contact at Edelweiss had to say:

      “We’re actually just beginning to dive into the UK market in a big way this year. HarperCollins UK and a couple of other large publishers will be going live in the next few months. So right now, our list of UK stores using the site is fairly limited, but this landscape should change radically by the end of this year.”

      She listed about 25 retailers.

      Let me know if you have more questions!


  5. Dan,

    Createspace worked the same way. I used my own ISBN, but when I went to move the book from CS Exp Dist to Ingram LSI, I was told the ISBN was already in use, and it listed CreateSpace as the publisher.

    I had to go thru a rigamarole to get CS to “release” the book, have it be listed in Ingram as “not available” and then re-submit it (same ISBN) for my press to show as the Publisher

    1. Hi Dan,

      It depends. If the author already has their own ISBN, IRIS will be like a distributor, with royalties coming through you. If the author chooses to buy an ISBN from IRIS, then the royalties will flow from IRIS to the author.

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