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Where To Sell Your Books, Removing Your Books For Sale, ISBN Basics, And More Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Where to Sell Your Books, Removing Your Books for Sale, ISBN Basics, and More Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black in our Member Q&A Podcast

In this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: where to sell your books.

Other questions include:

  • How do I remove my book for sale?
  • Do I need an ISBN for ebooks?
  • What happens if I have a problem I can't resolve with Amazon?
  • How do I get reviews if I have no audience?

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 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: Where to Sell Your Books and More

In the #AskALLi Member Q&A with @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black: where to sell your books. Also, removing your books for sale. Click To Tweet

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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.

Listen to the Podcast: Where to Sell Your Books and More

Michael La Ronn: Hello, and welcome to the AskALLi Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. This is 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 good because a week today, I'm going on holiday.

Michael La Ronn: Are you really? Where are you going?

Sacha Black: We're just going to turkey for a kind of cheap and cheerful, let's literally do nothing other than lie down, and potentially have our heads in a book for two weeks, and maybe play in the pool. I don't think I have ever needed a holiday more than I have needed one right now.

Michael La Ronn: That sounds amazing. Yeah, turkey is a really fun part of the world. So, that will be fun. Lots of sun. I'm sure the food is amazing too.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I love that area of food. What about you? Where are you? What are you doing? How are you?

Michael La Ronn: I'm doing good. So, for people who are watching live, you don't see my face. I'm in a hotel room. I'm traveling on business this week, and so I brought my travel mic with me, and I've got a jerry rig set up right now. So, yeah, I'm living the dream, Sacha, in a hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. Yeah, exactly.

Sacha Black: Hey, but the show must go on.

Michael La Ronn: The show must go on. Like I said, I've got to keep going. I woke up at five o'clock in the morning, so I am here, and we are good to go.

Sacha Black: That is some dedication. I don't think I could do 5am, sorry.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I mean, I'm usually up pretty early anyway. I mean, if I wasn't doing this, I'd be writing. So, I see it as just something else to do. It keeps things interesting.

Sacha Black: Yeah. Okay, and hey, you get to speak to me.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, of course, I get to speak to you, and we get to answer these burning questions that our members have. It was funny, when I started this show, I completely messed up the title. It's the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspiration. I still have the AskALLi title in my head, just because I've been doing this for so long, that it's really hard to just take that out of my brain. So, if you hear me say AskALLi, it's out of a bad habit more than anything else.

Sacha Black: I think we'll forgive you.

Michael La Ronn: Still getting used to the new show titles.

Sacha Black: We'll forgive you.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, forgive me this week, and I'll earn my forgiveness through our questions.

How do I unpublish my self-published book?

Michael La Ronn:  So, our first question is from Anka, and the question is, how do you unpublish your book from the various selling platforms?

Sacha Black: So, I've done this once, when I shifted from wide into KU. I just trialled it for a 30-day period. 30? 90-day period.

I literally went into my dashboards and clicked unpublish, and then they usually give you a warning that it will take X-many weeks to guarantee that all the books are down, and then it's just worth doing a search online, because if you are doing it to go into Kindle Unlimited, they can get very upset if they do find your book anywhere else. So, it's just worth doing a double check to make sure that you aren't on any stores before you then load your book to KU.

But otherwise, you literally, I mean I did it a long time ago, but I went into the dashboards and just clicked unpublish.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Actually, I've been doing that this week. I have a series where I made an egghead decision, and I published the series with the free ISBNs that they give you, and I realized I need to go back in and republish them with a true, proper ISBN.

So, I actually went and unpublished the original version and then published a new version with the correct ISBN, and everything you said is accurate. I think it doesn't take that long now for books to be unpublished. In fact, with the exception of the Amazon paperbacks, those are going to be up for pretty much forever, and there's really not a whole lot you can do about that, but Kobo is almost instantly, like within a few hours, your book is removed. Apple is pretty fast. Draft2Digital is usually pretty fast, although some of the places that they distribute to aren't as fast to move your book down.

Sacha Black: That's the ones I was thinking of. So, when I unpublished it was D2D, I think, that I was having to wait for, but not because of them, but because of the partners that they partner with.

Michael La Ronn: It's the partners yeah, and honestly though, for the big retailers, they're pretty fast. So, the ones that I think you would be concerned about from a KDP select perspective, they tend to be pretty fast. Within two or three days, most of my stuff was removed. So, I think it's a lot faster than it used to be. I remember, I unpublished books a few years ago and I remember it felt like it took, I don't know, a week, maybe two weeks.

Sacha Black: Oh no, it was much longer for me. I think it was like three weeks before I got everything down.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. So, I think things have gotten a little bit better, but yeah, if you're doing it for KDP Select that's one thing. If you're doing it just to unpublish a book so you can republish a new book, it may be less of a concern that some of those older titles are out there.

So, take that for what it's worth. Super scientific answer to the question.

Where do I get the ALLi discount code for IngramSpark?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from member, Lee, and the question is, what is the code for IngramSpark? How do I access that?

Sacha Black: Okay. So, the codes have changed because IngramSpark is now waiving upload fees. You have to pay a revision fee if you want to change the files after 60 days, post having published your book. But you can get the ALLi codes to waiver those revision fees.

So, the best thing to do is to log into the member website, which is allianceindependentauthors.org. Navigate to discounts and deals, and then you can search in there, and the codes do change every month, I believe. So, it's always important that you check each time that you're wanting to upload something.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely, and we get this question all the time, so we answer it all the time, and if anybody has any questions just reach out to us via our contact form.

Where should I sell my self-published books?

Michael La Ronn: All right, next question is from Elizabeth, and the question is, I sell my books through Amazon KDP and IngramSpark now. Where else do you recommend me to start selling? Where else can you sell your books?

Sacha Black: So, Amazon KDP, I'm assuming is digital because they didn't say KDP Print, and IngramSpark, most indies use it for print, although you can use it for eBook, but ALLi doesn't recommend that. So, my advice would be to upload to KDP Print as well as IngramSpark because you get the benefits of being with Amazon Prime, things like that, where Amazon, if you're using KDP print, they will print and ship your books faster than if you're using a third party, like IngramSpark, but IngramSpark has the expanded distribution.

So, in terms of eBooks, ALLi typically recommend the big distributors, so going direct with Apple, Google, Kobo, Amazon, help me out.

Michael La Ronn: You said Google Play?

Sacha Black: I think I said Google.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, those are the big ones.

Sacha Black: Those are the big ones.

Michael La Ronn: Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes and Noble.

Sacha Black: And then, of course, you could sell direct on your website. Of course though, that is something that will require additional marketing, because you'll need to drive traffic to your website in order to garner those sales.

Then the other thing that you can do is use an aggregator. So, aggregators typically give you access to other book sellers that you may not get access to by trying to sell directly with them in the same way that you would with Apple and Google Play. So, for example, we've got PublishDrive, who have a big network of Asian bookstores that you can go into a lot in the Chinese market. You've got Draft2Digital, who have merged with Smashwords, and so they have a huge repertoire of sellers. I'm losing the word. It's distributor, right?

The distributors. Retailers, thank you. What are words? I need more coffee. Yeah, retailers, thank you.

A large network of retailers, and then, I'm trying to think who else. There's also StreetLib, which is another one, and that has access into a lot of more nuanced countries that you might not normally see in some of those other aggregators. So, that would be worth looking at as well.

But really it's, what is right for your business? What are your goals? What are you trying to do? What are you trying to achieve? Because all of these things give you access to retail, they don't necessarily find you the customers. So, if you're wide, it can't hurt to be on any of these, all of them, really, but each one has different costs associated. Draft2Digital in particular, they don't earn unless you earn. Whereas organizations like PublishDrive have a fee. I forget how it works, they have fees anyway, which you will pay before you earn.

So, it's important to look at the terms and conditions. It's important to look at where you're getting access to retailers, what the percentage costs are going to be per sale, and things like that.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, all good, and I don't have anything to add to that. So, all good.

What is the best way to get reviews for my books?

Michael La Ronn: So, the next question is also from Elizabeth, and that is, what is the best way to collect reviews?

Sacha Black: Do you want to have a go at this one first or shall I?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah sure, the big thing with reviews, I guess if this is your first book, then you probably don't have much of a community of people to harvest reviews from, right? So, services like BookSprout and BookSirens, I think, are good ways to get those reviews, because you pay a fee to post your book on their website, and then I think you pay when readers download the book, and they can choose to leave a review.

So, basically your book will be available on a database, and they do a really good job of going off and finding readers who are interested in books of all types. So, if you write a science fiction novel, for example, you can post it up on BookSirens or BookSprout as a science fiction novel, and readers can browse it and see if they're interested. If they are, they can choose to leave a review or not leave a review, and the great thing about these services is that the way that they operate does not violate Amazon's terms of service, which is that you cannot pay for reviews. Because you're not paying for reviews, you’re simply paying for access to reviewers.

So, I think services like that are a really good way to get those first reviews, whether you've got a book published or you've got a hundred books published. I think they're a good starting place.

Now, if you have more books out there, and you've got an audience of people who are willing to buy your books when you release them, then I think a really smart way to handle it is to email your list and let them know that you've got a new book coming out, and that you're willing to give them a book in exchange for an honest review.

So, I think those two things combined are pretty good ways to find reviewers.

What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Yeah, I love that. I mean, there's a couple of other things that you can do. So, you can have a look on things like Facebook, where there are often genre reader groups. So, one of the things that I did for my new Ruby Roe books was I had a look at specific sapphic fiction groups, and there was like a les-fic ARC group where readers were actually specifically looking for advanced reader copies. So, I got quite a lot of reviews from that.

The other thing that you can do is, I know people don't like hearing this, but you could put your book free for a day, literally one day, two days, and put some newsletter promo blasts up, and then you will get a ton of downloads and you will inevitably get reviews from that.

You mentioned BookSprout. NetGalley is another one. It's considerably more expensive, and I do find that they're a little bit harsher reviewing. But also, if you do get good NetGalley reviews, then obviously the weight is there for that. Another thing that I did is that I went on to both Bookstagram and TikTok, and I hunted down reviewers in my genre, and I just pitched them. It was laborious. It was very hard. But it does work, and you're going to get a lot of rejections doing that, I did, but you will also get people who will say yes, and if they say yes, and they've got big audiences, that's more than just a review that you're getting. So, it is worth the time and effort to do that.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that when you're more established, but when you are establishing a new pen name, it's a great method. Another thing is to build a mailing list before you launch, and the way to do that is to do a reader magnet, and then you can join things like StoryOrigin, BookFunnel, and have a look when they're doing promos in there. So, I did one of those as well and collected about, I don't know, a couple of hundred mailing list people which was new people who hadn't read my first book, but they'd read the freebie, and then you can then ask them if they'd like an advanced copy of your book one.

So, lots of hard work, but lots of opportunities and avenues for how you can find readers.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I like to tell people not to stress out too much about reviews. Sometimes it's better to just write the next book, because if you've got, okay, so there's two ways you can approach this.

The first way is that you have a standalone, your first book is a standalone book. It's going to be harder to get reviews if that's your first book. It's also going to be harder to get reviews if your first book is a book one in a series, because there are some readers out there that just won't take a chance on your book until there are multiple books in a series. Like me, for example, I like to see at least three to five books in a series, or the series be complete, before I invest my time in it, because there's some authors out there, we're not going to name them, huge authors that haven't finished very long books, and people have to wait for several years to find out what the next book is.

You all know who I'm talking about, but we're not going to name names, and there've been some other authors out there that, maybe they abandon a series mid-series because it's not selling very well, and so readers have been burned. So, yeah, it's just something to think about.

Sacha Black: But then there are also readers, like me, who very rarely read sequels in a series. I love standalones. I want a complete story. I just don't have the patience to read a whole series. So, you will find people out there who will be willing to read your book one. But I do take your point. I wouldn't say I was a normal reader; I would say I'm on the periphery; most people prefer a series.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I'm not saying it's impossible. It's just that it does make it harder when that's your only book out. It makes it a lot harder, and that goes for sales, it goes for reviews, it goes for marketing. Things get a lot easier once you've got a few books under your belt, and I think a lot of people would say that as well.

Can ALLi recommend a book formatting service?

Michael La Ronn: All right, next question is from Trevor, and Trevor asks, I am currently in the process of having BookBaby print a limited number of hard copies of my novel, and the question is he, Trevor is needing some PDF conversion help. Are there services that ALLi works with or recommends for PDF conversion or formatting?

Sacha Black: So, I'm not quite sure what PDF conversion is, but there's certainly a lot of formatting companies, and if you log into allianceindependentauthors.org, and go to services, then you can search by type of service in there, and you'll find a ton of services in there, and there will for sure be somebody who can help you because there's a load of formatters.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, we do have a lot of formatters in the database, so I'm sure that you will be able to find somebody who has heard of whatever issues you're dealing with.

How can I contact Amazon KDP for help with my books?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Richard, and Richard published his book in KDP and has been trying to get KDP to list his book in the seven preferred categories.

You can basically do three categories by default, but then you can get the book into additional categories by reaching out to customer service, and he's having some trouble getting, I guess, KDP to accept his request or getting in touch with folks. The question is not 100% clear.

What is the best way to resolve an issue that you have with KDP?

Sacha Black: Okay, so, the first thing that I would say is, I'm 99% sure that Amazon changed the rules this summer on categories, and I'm pretty sure that you can only have three now and you can't get additional ones, but don't quote me on that.

But I do know that when I have gone in to change things on my books, it forces you to pick three new categories. So, I've just had to go through and do that for a load of my books. So, I'm pretty sure the rules have changed within the last two months.

But the second thing that I would say is, if you're not getting any response in the KDP dashboard help system, go to Author Central, because Author Central often are more responsive and will sort some of the things that KDP won't. I don't know why. I don't know the difference. I don't know if they're the same department or different departments, or what. But I do know that sometimes Author Central will resolve issues for me that KDP Dashboard haven't.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I've had the same thing. There's no rhyme or reason to it, I don't know why that is.

But yeah, definitely the rules have changed. So, I would just encourage everybody to take a look at those and just make sure that what you're asking of KDP is in line with the current methodology.

Can I use a different imprint with IBSNs that are assigned to my main imprint?

Michael La Ronn: All right, next question is from Jonathan, and it's around ISBNs. So, ISBNs and imprints in particular.

So, just as I have different names for different genres, different pen names, can I use different imprints using the ISBNs assigned to my main publishing imprint?

Sacha Black: I actually don't know the answer to this, but it's something that I thought about when I started a new pen name, because I've got Atlas Black Publishing under Sacha Black, and I wasn't sure if I could change it with Ruby Roe, and I decided because it was an open pen name that it didn't matter. So, I just kept with Atlas Black Publishing.

So, my advice would be to email Nielsen, or Bowker if you're in the US. Check whoever you've brought the ISBNs from, that is probably the best place to check, because the thing is, you can assign anything in Amazon, you can just write whatever you want in the imprint name, but the question becomes, what have you put in to your, for example, Nielsen dashboard?

If you've assigned the publishing imprint to a set of ISBNs, then it's probably that those ISBNs are assigned, and you may have to buy a new stash of ISBNs. But like I say, I would go and check what the system is saying, because I'm not a hundred percent sure.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, when you start dealing with imprints, that's when I think things start to get a little complicated. I'm in my Bowker dashboard right now and I'm looking at the imprint section, and it looks like once you enter in your publisher, that field gets locked down.

Sacha Black: Yeah, that was my gut.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. So, I think you're right, Sacha. Once you register your ISBNs to a publisher of record, I think you do have to have a different. So, then it opens up another can of worms, because I think you can only, at least for Bowker, I don't know about Nielsen or other agencies, but I think you can only have one publisher or imprint per account. So, that's another potential thing to think about. Again, we would recommend that you reach out to the agency and lay out what specifically you're trying to accomplish. It could be that maybe there's a simpler way to do it.

For me, I find that readers don't look at the imprints, like they just don't look at the imprints at all. So, I publish all of my stuff under one publishing company, and I just do it that way, one, because it just makes things a little bit simpler, and I don't have to worry about paperwork like this. It just makes it more complicated, and it's a lot of work for something that readers aren't probably going to care about a whole lot. So, it's just something to think about.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I only ever look at imprints when I'm trying to find comp authors who are indies. That's the only time I look.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, at the end of the day, probably what matters more is the pen name and the author, and possibly how they're published, whether they're indie or traditional.

Imprints are really a way for traditional publishers to delineate their books on the market. Indie authors, I don't necessarily know that we need to follow that path, but everybody has their reasons. So, I would just reach out to the agency and just see what they say.

Does ALLi offer group writer’s insurance?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, another question that's always after my heart. This question is from Scott and says, my wife and I are looking at swapping places as the breadwinner of the household for me to have more time writing and publishing. I was looking to see if there is a collective writer's service for group insurance plans through ALLi. Is there something like that through the ALLi network?

Sacha Black: Group insurance? What does that mean?

Michael La Ronn: It doesn't specify, but we could take this a couple of different ways. I think what he means is health insurance.

Sacha Black: Oh, okay. I'm out. As a brit, I'm out.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, so unfortunately, I’m not aware of any of any health insurance plans, because basically the way group insurance works is that you get lower rates because a bunch of people in a group are purchasing the policy, so the costs are passed on, the cost savings are passed on to the members. It's like when you, I don't know how things are, how cover works in England, but when you sign onto a job you purchase group health insurance, and you get it at a pretty cheap rate.

Sacha Black: Yeah, we don't have that here. We don't pay insurance at all. We just have the National Health Service. So, we pay tax, and it comes out of our normal tax. It covers the NHS. So, healthcare is free at the point of service in the UK.

Michael La Ronn: See, that's great. See, Americans had to pay for everything. So, for group health insurance, the short answer is, there's nothing that I'm aware of. You might check through an organization like Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, SFWA, or The Author's Guild, maybe they have something that they provide to their members that you could look into.

Now, if you're looking for liability insurance, like media liability insurance, I know that The Author's Guild has a pretty good deal with its insurance company based out of the States, but I think they're able to write in other countries as well, where you can purchase liability insurance, media liability insurance, for your books at a fairly low cost.

Sacha Black: Who would need to do that though, because isn't that something that you would more need to do if you were attending lots of events and things, rather than just working from home?

Michael La Ronn: Well, no, so I should specify. There are two types, and this is true as far as I understand for most of the world, there are two types of liability insurance that authors would care about. The first is what you reference, which is what you would call a general liability policy, and that covers you if you're at an event and you accidentally drop a box of books on somebody's foot, and they get injured. That sort of thing, or there's something arising out of your activities that causes injury or damage to another person or their property. That's what a general liability policy is for. Unless you're attending a lot of events, most authors are probably not going to benefit from that. Unless you have people visiting you at your place of business, and somebody slips and falls, that sort of thing. Most people are not going to benefit from that type of insurance.

The media liability insurance, that's another type of liability insurance, and that protects you from copyright infringement if you accidentally infringe on someone's copyright or make some sort of intellectual property gaff. That is what's intended for authors, and that's what I was referring to with The Author's Guild. So, hopefully that is clear as mud.

But yeah, the point is that insurance for writers is unfortunately, it's an every person for themselves kind of game, and if you do need some sort of insurance coverage, you're probably just going to have to get it on your own. I love insurance questions.

Sacha Black: It's almost like you have an expert background in it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, my trade during the day when I'm not doing insurance is liability insurance. So, I know a little bit about it.

Should I do a consignment with a local bookstore?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from member Craig, and the question is, should I do a consignment with a local bookstore?

Sacha Black: It depends on what your goals are. It takes quite a lot of effort to establish those relationships, and given the costs of print-on-demand books, you're only going to be getting a couple of quid really, per book, maybe three if you're lucky. They are slow sellers in bookstores, unless you are, for example, I'm thinking of somebody like Adam Croft who one, had an established audience, but two, did a very geographically local crime series which went gangbusters, because there'd never been a crime series set on in a police force in this local area, so those sold really well.

So, I would ask you, what is your goal? Why are you doing it? Do you think they're going to sell? Because if the answer is no, there's no additional reason for them to sell, i.e., a geographically located book, then it's going to be quite a lot of time and effort to set it all up.

Now, that's not to say that you shouldn't do it. So, I can think of another member, Claire Lydon does this with her les-fic books in a gay bookstore in London. So, of course, because it's a niche bookstore for those niche books, it makes sense to establish that relationship. But yeah, really it's, what is the goal? Why are you doing this? Do you want to do a signing there? Are you trying to host an event there? Is it a niche store for your niche genre? If you haven't got quite a lot of good reasons for it, I would say to spend that time marketing your digital books, because you'll probably see a better return on investment.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I agree with everything you said. I have encountered coffee shops, and local bookstores, and just local businesses where they offer opportunities for local authors to consign their books there, and it's a pretty cool opportunity. It's pretty cool, and it's a great way to, I think, for businesses to support local authors.

What I have found though is that it often doesn't match up. It often doesn't help you out a whole lot. If the arrangement is, you print your books, show up to the bookstore, drop them off, come back in a couple of months and collect a check or the money, whatever, then that's great. But if you're wanting to build a business model around this, I just don't see that happening. It's pretty difficult.

I had a friend that did this and he consigned his books to a local coffee shop, and the books just sat and sat. So, like I said, I think your example, Sacha is a really good example. If you can find a genre bookstore, and you write in that genre, to me, that's a slam dunk. But other than that, you have to weigh your time with the effort that's going to be involved.

Sacha Black: Yeah, it then becomes the waiting game. For example, if you blow up on TikTok and all of a sudden paperbacks are selling a huge proportion, then it might be worth, but you're better spending the time marketing yourself, and your brand, and your books, and allowing your author ecosystem to flourish first before attempting some of those things.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, because unless they're going to be focused on selling your books, then it just becomes, I just don't personally think it's worth it. I haven't come across a situation where it has made sense for me personally, but other people can do the math and weigh out your options.

Should I use my own ISBNs for eBooks?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Kyle, and the question is that several platforms do not require ISBNs for eBooks. Some have told me that it's better to have one, others don't think so. What do you think?

Sacha Black: Well, Michael, didn't you just tell me that you went through publishing and unpublishing things? So, why don't you start with this question?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. So, where do we start? Okay.

Sacha Black: Oh, that was a big sigh.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Okay, so when I first started publishing, I did not use my own ISBNs. One, because they're just extraordinarily expensive. I'm an American, I have to buy my ISBNs. So, I had to buy the thousand ISBN block, and I just wasn't going to do that at the beginning of my career when you could do it for free. So, I published a ton of my books with ISBNs and stuff, or without ISBNs, and I found that it precluded me from seeking additional opportunities once I started getting success.

So, I can't say what some of those were, but not having an ISBN did shoot me in the foot a few times. So, at one point I said, okay, I'm just going to buy the thousand block of ISBNs. I'm going to go in the corner and cry for a little bit, then it's going to be okay. So, I did that, and so every book I published from that point on had an official ISBN.

So, if you can do it, I think it just makes your life easier down the road, to just use ISBNs. Now, the question is on do you need ISBNs for eBooks? I'm half dozen on one half, six on the other.

I think that eBook ISBNs are not necessary, and yes, you don't need them, but I think one of the issues that we have had in the indie community over the past decade, really, since self-publishing, as we know it, has come into form, has been the fact that we don't have accurate data around how many books actually exist in the marketplace.

So, if you look at all the places that are doing reporting, they're reporting based on eBooks that have ISBNs. So, I would probably say a vast majority of self-published eBooks do not have ISBNs, and so for that, it makes it difficult for us to get accurate data about what the actual market looks like.

So, if anything, to me, I think it does make sense to use ISBNs on your eBooks for that reason alone, but if you don't care about that, then you don't need it. Definitely use it for your paperbacks though.

Sacha Black: Yeah, there's one other reason for using one on your eBook, and that's if you've ever run into trouble having to prove that you own the rights to your book, or if you have to prove something to Amazon, I have found that nine times out of ten, showing my Nielsen account with my name, and my imprint, and the ISBN has resolved 99.9% of issues.

Michael La Ronn: Really? Interesting.

Sacha Black: Yes, because we don't have copyright in the UK in the same way that you guys have it, where lots of people apply for copyright. I have been told that I should be doing that, just because it does resolve all issues, but I have found the same thing happens if I show my account with my name, address, and all my details in it, with the ISBNs, it actually does resolve a lot of issues for me.

So, because some of my eBooks have them and some of them don't, and I am starting to use them more, just because I have run into a number of issues where I've had to prove certain things to Amazon.

So yeah, that might be another reason. Obviously, it depends on your country, perhaps you've got the copyright file instead.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, ultimately it boils down to your budget, and it boils down to if you live in a country where you don't have to pay for an ISBN. Then to me, it's a no brainer. I mean, why wouldn't you? But if you have to pay for your ISBNs, then I understand the budget constraints because I dealt with that early in my career.

But I'll also say that I don't know that I had my priorities set when I was starting. I spent a lot of money on stuff that didn't matter early in my career, and probably could have spent some of that money on ISBNs looking back on it, but hindsight is 2020, right?

So, the answer is, you can fix this problem down the road, but you will have to pay to do it. So, if you can afford it, just do it now, but again, I think you just have to weigh your situation. I think we both agree that ISBNs for your paperbacks is a good idea, but for eBooks, you just have to make your own decision on that. There's no law that says you have to.

Are two books better than one?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Okay, last question is from 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. I'm thinking that for marketing purposes, offering two books, one at a lower price, could be a benefit. What do you think?

Sacha Black: Two books is more money than one book, so I would always do the two books. I mean, there's no right or wrong answer. Some people like longer things, and some people like shorter. So, there's no right or wrong answer.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, 11,000 words is quite long for a short story. I think at that point it's not, I forget what the exact number is, but at one point it becomes a novella, and I don't remember it but that's probably pretty close to that limit.

So, if you've got five stories in your story collection and one of them is 11,000 words and then the other four are 2,500 words, then yeah, I think you need to pull that big story into its own book.

Sacha Black: Yeah, because also, it will give her marketing opportunities. You could discount the shorter book, the shorter story collection, as a lead magnet or as a doorway into the longer story. Put a link in the back of one of the books, or both of the books, to cross market and yeah, do some advertising, and job's a good ‘un.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I think you should also do branding. Make sure that the stories, that both books have similar branding, so that if they were right next to each other on a shelf, readers would say, oh yeah, that's a logical continuation, because that's, I think, one of the problems with short stories and novellas, is that sometimes we treat them like afterthoughts, and I know I've been guilty of this in the past where I'll publish my novels and I'll focus on my novels, but then the short stories get a lesser cover, it might not be as good of a cover, might be a different design.

So, you'll maximize your income if you make sure that the branding is similar.

All right. Well Sacha, that's another month.

Sacha Black: Amazing.

Michael La Ronn: Crazy, isn't it?

Sacha Black: I know, they just fly by these days.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, they do.

We will be back in our next episode, but in the meantime, if you have a question, don't be shy. You can submit it in the member dashboard. Log into your ALLi member dashboard. We take questions from our members. So, you just might hear your question on the show.

So, with that, we will go ahead and conclude for the month. Thank you for listening to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. We will answer your questions again in our next episode, and we hope you have a wonderful month.

Happy writing.

Sacha Black: Bye.

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/


This Post Has One Comment
  1. Useful information. Multiple books does seem to attract more interest over time. My second novel from 2017 has just got stars from Amazon. It maybe is that someone has read a more recent novel. Publish with one partner publisher. Have just published under own name and have received congratulations on publication of first book! I’m a new author all over again! Libraries have contacted as a first author, which is interesting that they know about my book.

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