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Writing Articles And Short Stories For Magazines; Other Questions Answered By Orna Ross And Michael La Ronn In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Writing Articles and Short Stories for Magazines; Other Questions Answered by Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn in our Member Q&A Podcast

The business of writing articles and short stories for magazines 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:

  • If I submit an article/short story to a magazine, who owns the copyright?
  • When assigning an ISBN, is a cover required
  • Do I need a writing coach?
  • Does ALLi help authors with taking down pirated books?
  • Where can I find ALLi's Service Ratings Directory?

And more!

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

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

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

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Listen to the Podcast: Writing Articles And More

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Watch the Q&A: Writing Articles And More

On the #AskALLi Member Q&A #podcast, @OrnaRoss and @MichaelLaRonn discuss the business of writing articles and short stories for magazines, and answer other listener questions. Click To Tweet

Show Notes

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 Transcripts: Writing Articles and More

Orna Ross: Hello everyone, hello again to the Member Q&A, Alliance of Independent Authors, where you send us your questions, members, and we do our very best to answer them.

I'm here as ever with Michael La Ronn. Hi Michael.

Michael La Ronn: Hi Orna, how are you?

Orna Ross: I'm good. I'm very well, thank you. And you? You're recovered? I know you have been unwell.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, unfortunately I caught COVID since the last time we podcasted, but it was perfect timing, because I caught it right after our show, and now I'm better.

Orna Ross: Perfect timing for us.

Michael La Ronn: So, got to give the people what they want. Got to be here to answer the questions.

Orna Ross: We wouldn't be able to do this without you, that's for sure. So, yeah, perfect timing for us. Not such perfect timing for you, I'm sure, but I'm glad to hear you're okay and live to work another day.

Alrighty. So, you are the man with the questions. As ever, our members have sent questions in this month for us to answer here publicly in this public forum, and we're really grateful to them for doing that.

So, I believe there is some slightly unusual questions this month, so what have we got?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, we've got some different questions coming in, or different questions that came in for this batch, which is always a great thing to hear.

Who owns the rights if I write an article for a magazine, and can I republish it?

So, this first question is from Lorna, and she asks, I am approaching several magazines and offering to write an article for them. If my article or piece is published by one of these magazines who owns the rights to the article, is it me or them, and am I allowed to reproduce that article again exactly or in another publication?

Orna Ross: Great question, because we know that a lot of our members do supplement their income in various ways, you know, books can take a while to get your business up and running, and in fact, just to draw people's attention to last Monday's guide on the Self-Publishing Advice blog, there is a guide to the creator economy, which is a look at all the alternative ways in which authors are earning money these days. And one of them is this, it's submitting articles to newspapers, magazines, online forums, indeed Medium now and Substack, and lots of different ways you can get short form writing out there.

So, the rights question, the short answer is that when you submit to any publication, you need to get a rights clearance form from them so that you're both clear about the rights. Technically, what they are entitled to, if there is no form between you, usually is first serial rights. So, what you're doing is you're never selling your rights, the rights are always yours. You are the author, the creator, the producer of the work. What you do is you license your rights to various people, and that can be anything from, you know, TV, film, translators, to this kind of short form lease.

So, typically the rights agreement between a newspaper, magazine, or so on, was first serial rights, but like most publishing rights it kind of dates from the time pre-digital, pre-electronic, and so in those days a magazine or a paper got first serial rights and if, unless there was a special agreement between you, you were then totally free to send it off anywhere else after that.

Today, because when they publish your piece, it's likely to not just go into print, but to also go online, the concept of first serial rights is less and less relevant, because once it's up there, that's the original piece, and if you reproduce it and send it somewhere else and they put it up, then there's a Google conflict and blah, blah, blah, and publishers, magazines, newspapers, media outlets of all kinds don't want to get into that conflict. So, they are looking for more rights in the sense that they're looking for probably the electronic rights as well.

Technically again, more rights means more money, and so you should be paid more than you would have been for just the first series of rights of old. But in actual fact, what is happening is that payment for short form is going down and down and down in the traditional media world. So, that's the short answer. They have the right to publish. It's unlikely that anybody will be interested in publishing it again once it's up and out there on the internet. If by any chance you are dealing with a print-only publication, then you are free to publish again. So, hopefully that's covered all the different eventualities for you.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I would add to that as well, because I've been published in magazines, so I've worked with those contracts. Basically, what Orna said, you get first serial rights, or you're licensing first serial rights to the magazine. What that means is, when they published the article, the rights revert generally back to you upon publication. Generally, though, if it's a more professional magazine or generally with literary magazines, the rights revert to you on upon publication. If it's for a non-fiction magazine or a technical magazine, it's going to be 30, 60, 90 days, maybe six months after publication, you have the rights revert back to you and you can do whatever you want.

And as Orna mentioned, that's when you can go seek republication, it's called reprinting rights. So, basically once you give away or once you license the first serial rights, those are the most important rights you can license. You're never going to make as much as you make on the first serial rights, but you can resell the article, maybe even with modifications, to another magazine that will reprint them. But more importantly, probably what you would want to do is republish the article in a book, or republish it on your website, or find some other creative way to leverage the copyright other than just seeking it out to magazines, because, as Orna said, there's a limited number of places that are going to want to take it after it's been published in the first place. So, just think about that.

But also, another thing I just wanted to hit is, if you're approaching magazines that's different than a magazine approaching you, because if the magazine approaches you, you have a little bit more leverage in the negotiations. If you're approaching the magazines, then you just have to make sure that you're reading the contracts very carefully. You have to read the contracts for carefully anyway, but just kind of the common laws of negotiation, the person that makes the first offer always is in the weakest position.

So, just remember that too, because that's another important part of licensing that doesn't always get hit.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and you should have a sense of how much you charge per word or per day. It's always good, when you're in a negotiation around payment, to be very clear about your own minimum, because as I said, payment is kind of going down and down. You're not as badly hit by this in the US, I think as we are in the UK, Europe, Australia, and so on, you know, I actually began my writing life as a freelance journalist. All I did was send short form work to newspapers and magazines, and that was enough to earn a really good living back in the day, you know, the very distant olden times, but it's much more difficult now. So, be sure that you understand your own minimum and repurposing, yes, a plan and a strategy for that as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yes. In fact, I just had a magazine article published and once the rights revert back to me, I'm going to include it in one of my fiction books for writers, but I can do that because I read the contract and understand the rights.

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

When assigning an ISBN number, do I have to submit a cover image?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Jean, and the question is, in assigning an ISBN number to my book on the Bowker website, so I'm assuming Jean is in the US, I'm required to submit a cover image. Does this mean having the title, author name, et cetera, as already printed on the photo, or do I just have to submit the cover image alone?

Okay, let me rephrase that question, I got over my skis here.

In assigning an ISBN number to a book, are you required to submit a cover image?

Orna Ross: So, yes, you are required to submit a cover image, and to address what I think was being asked, I think the distinction that was being made, yes, it needs to be exactly as it appears in publication form. So, not the kind of cover pre putting on your title and your author name, it needs to be the exact cover.

Your ISBN is linked to your metadata, and your metadata once fixed on Bowker, or any other ISBN outlet, it's quite serious in publishing terms. That's fixed, that goes out there. It doesn't mean it can't be changed, things can be changed in second editions and in other ways, but it's important not to bring that process in too early. So, if you haven't fixed your cover yet, if you're not quite sure and stuff like that, then don't assign anything that isn't already kind of set for you, because you're just giving yourself an administration headache that you could do without.

Michael La Ronn: Agree, and then another thing to think about, I don't know if it has as much to do with the cover, but I actually just bought, I finally got around to buying ISBNs last month, or in December. So, I've been going through this first-hand and I'm kind of learning about it myself, is that when you put your ISBN an Ingram spark, for example, it actually pulls in all of the data that you reported to Bowker or to Nielsen. So, if any of that data is wrong, uh oh, you've got to fix it. So, you don't want to have to go through that, especially if some of the data that's wrong is the title or something. I don't know what that would involve, but that would probably be a major pain.

Orna Ross: It's a pain. It's not the end of the world, so we don't want to frighten you too much, but I do think that a lot of authors think an ISBN number is just like an Amazon identifier, it's just a number, but it's not. It's much, much more than that. It is the number that tells everybody in the book trade and in the book business, including libraries and everybody else, everything they want to know about this particular edition of your book.

So, not only will it tell them your title, and name, and your book description, and all that kind of stuff, it will tell them whether it is your audiobook, your hardback or paperback, your eBook. So, it's a big deal filling out that form, in terms of it needs to be meticulously done. I have somebody who actually does it for me because I've made so many mistakes over the years with these flipping numbers. If you're not of an organized disposition, it can be quite easy to get it wrong. So, just be aware that it's an important number. It is the identifier of your book, and it is linked to every piece of metadata that you put into your ISBN provider. For some of us that's the companies, like Bowker or Nielsen. For some of us, it might be the national libraries in our countries. Some of us have to pay for this. Some of us get it free, but it's an international convention throughout publishing the world over, and an important little piece of writing on your book.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Just remember, your archive of ISBNs is like a data wall. Like, if you have bad data, then you're sending that bad data all over the world, and you don't want to do that. So, to get back to the question, which is the cover, just make sure that your book is ready to publish before you assign your ISPN. Like, for me, working it into my process, I've kind of figured out that, I guess, the ISBN is just the first thing that I do when I start to publish. So, I've got this little workflow where I'll open up all the different dashboards where I publish, and I just made the ISBN the first one that I do. So, I'll go in and I'll fill out the ISBN, get that done, then I'll go publish on Amazon. Then I'll go publish on Barnes and Noble. Then I'll go publish on Apple. So, just make it part of your regular process and workflow, and then follow up a couple of days after just to make sure it gets approved, and you're good.

If you're not ready to publish your book, then don't get an ISBN assigned. I think that's the easiest. I know some people who will assign an ISBN before they even start writing the book or something like that, I think that's a mistake.

Orna Ross: Yeah, you're just confusing yourself.

And just to say that we have the ultimate guide to ISBNs on the blog. So, we will include that in the show notes, but if you go to selfpublishingadvice.org and just search ISBNs, you should get that. And we have everything, it literally has everything you need to know about the careful and proper best practice with ISBNs.

Michael La Ronn: And if you want something else to read as well, the book that we wrote, 150 Self-Publishing Questions, also has a pretty comprehensive ISBN guide resource.

Orna Ross: Yes, lots of questions in there because I don't think we've ever had a Q&A, Michael, where we didn't get an ISBN question, did we?

Michael La Ronn: No, I don't think we have. It's some of the most common questions we get.

Orna Ross: Yeah, they do confuse people at the start, without a doubt. So, yes, we're always delighted to get those questions, because you're feeling it and so our hundreds, thousands probably, hundreds of thousands of indie authors are feeling your pain at the precise same moment. So, thanks for the question.

How can a writing coach help an indie author, and where can I find one?

Michael La Ronn: I agree. All right, next question is from Jeremy, and Jeremy is asking, I'm wondering if you could speak about writing coaches? In particular, can you speak about the ways they typically help authors and where to find one?

Orna Ross: Well, where to find one is the easy bit. We have a directory in ALLi for our members, and you just can go into the searchable database in the member zone, just key in writing coaches and you will get a list of vetted and approved coaches. So, that's one place where you can find one, if you are a member, Jeremy.

So, just to talk through what coaches typically do, it really varies, I mean like everything in writing, there is no one thing, but I find that most people turn to a coach when they're stuck, and usually it's a productivity issue, they can't get the book finished for whatever reason. So, I'm presuming, you're talking about writing, we're talking specifically about writing coaches here. So, usually it's a case of being blocked or stuck at some level, not being able to get the book to the point that you need it to be to send it to an editor.

So, what a writing coach will typically do is ask a lot of questions and find out a lot about where you're at, and it's in the questioning process. So, coaches don't tend to be didactic, or they don't tend to tell you what to do, so much as enable you and facilitate you to take your next steps, and they're kind of one step ahead of you all the time, leading you along the line to getting to where you want to go.

So, they'll do a lot of questioning at the beginning, a lot of working out what your definition of success is, what you want to achieve from the coaching process, what your end game is, and then a lot of questions around your writing process, but probably also, because writing is a kind of personal development, it's not possible to write a book without growing and expanding in some ways. So, there may be personal development, sort of questions in there as well, or questions around your routine, the time, and the space that you allocate to writing, how and when you manage to write. Sometimes it's very practical things that are at stake. Sometimes it's deeper and it's more emotional, but they can guide you through that process and get you where you want to go. So, it does vary widely from author to author, because it's built around your needs.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I would also just say, just use extreme caution if you're going to hire a writing coach. Start with ALLi’s directory. There are some unscrupulous folks out there who will take your money, give you bogus advice or advice that's not really helpful, and then you're really not in a better position than when you started. And that's not to say that writing coaches are bad in general, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, just use caution, because the money you spend on a writing coach could easily be spent in other areas of your business. I would just make sure you spend time vetting whoever this is, that you want to help.

I would also offer an alternative, you know, you don't have to get a writing coach. You could also find a writing mentor. So, you could find somebody who is further along than you in your journey. Write them, ask them, you know, hey, can I get some time on your calendar, 30 minutes, and send them an agenda and tell them what you're struggling with, and they might be able to offer you advice that's better than a writing coach.

I know I'm a little bit contrarian here, I'm just a big believer in standing up for yourself and standing up for your work. Just because you're stuck in something that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you, it just means you've got to figure out how to get through that. And a coach is one way to do it, but it is not necessarily the only way to do it.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and I think there is a danger as well, I'm in full agreement with everything that Michael is saying here, there's a danger as well in becoming dependent, which I think is what you're pointing at there, Michael, to becoming dependent and needing the coach to move forward.

So, the idea always with a coach would be to get beyond a knot and then to do whatever it takes to integrate the learning and be able to stand on your own two feet. Another option to a coach is a critique group, joining a critique group of writers who are at the same level as you and you swap each other's work, and you help and lead each other along in that way.

I have seen authors stuck, sometimes with coaches, sometimes too with courses, you know, they do an MA in creative writing or something, and while they're on the course or with the coach, they're fine, they're producing and they're able to do it. But when they're on their own, they're not, and the idea is always to be able to get to the point that you're able to do this on your own because writing is a solitary act at the end of the day. You can get these supports and there's absolutely nothing wrong with getting support when you need it, and the right support, obviously it has to be, and you have to do a very careful job of making sure that it is the right support for you. Even if a coach is brilliant, and we recommend the coaches that we have obviously vetted and approved, that doesn't mean all of them are right for you. So, it's like an editor, it's a very personal relationship and you've got to make sure that the fit works.

So, there's a lot to think about, and my coaches have always been books. I've learned to write by reading books, books about writing, but also books that were just brilliant in my genre that I wanted to emulate, and I would also offer this, you know, there's a technique whereby you read as a writer. So, first you read the book as a reader in the normal way, and you love it, and blah, blah, blah, blah. And you can go back then, and this is a good thing to do with books that you've loved for a very long time and that you remember with great fondness and affection, and you know you love them. But to go back in and look at them as a writer and really, really break it down. Now there's work in this and it takes discipline to actually do it, but to look at those books and look at how they're structured. If it's fiction you're writing, the characterization, the plotting, everything that you need to know, and particularly, whatever it is you're stuck on, and looking at how that author that you really admire, handles that particular issue.

That's how I've always coached myself, if you like, through the writing process.

Michael La Ronn: Agree, and just remember too, and I love all of that and that's something that I do as well, Orna. It's a great money saver, spend $20 on a book and glean its secrets, as opposed to spending money on a coach.

But I would also say, another important thing is that with coaches, a coach is just one person. It's one person with an opinion, and that opinion more often than not is based on something subjective. So, if it's how to finish your book, that's one thing, but if it's writing craft or something like that, that's one opinion and you don't necessarily know that, that opinion is correct for your situation. So, that's another thing.

You mentioned becoming dependent, writers, we're sensitive people, and sometimes we don't always take feedback the best way. And so, if you're one of those people, maybe you don't want a writing coach because it might actually do more harm for you than good.

Orna Ross: So, lots to think about there. Ultimately, you're the only person who can make the decision as to whether a coach is what you need. But at the end of the day, I think what we're both saying very strongly is that you've got to build your own creative confidence, and if a coach helps you to build creative confidence, great, but if a coach is going to actually interfere with that process, which is possible, then find another way.

Can ALLi help with removing pirated books?

Michael La Ronn: Agree. Okay. The next question is from Christina, and she asked, does ALLi provide any support with dealing with pirated books? Can authors flag sites to ALLi for take down attempts?

Orna Ross: No, is the short answer. We don't do a take-down service. We have an arrangement with the Publishers Association here in the UK, and they have a take-down department, and they charge for that service, and we have a discount on that service, which you will find in the discounts and deals area of the member site.

But we don't do that work, we don't have the resources quite frankly. So, what we do is we put a lot of time and attention into thinking about best practice around piracy, because take down is one option, and it's an option that you will follow in certain cases. But a lot of the books that you're seeing that you might think are pirated are not actually pirated books, they are phishing sites that are just using your book as clickbait. They hoover up titles on mass and an author sees, oh my word, my book is for sale on that site at such and such a price, or free, and that's terrible. But actually, that's not what's going on.

Also, there is quite a substantial school of thought within the indie author community that it's not worth your while thinking too much about piracy. The challenge for authors today is not people ripping off their work half as much as it is getting attention from the readers who would like to read their work and pay for it.

And they're two separate worlds. People who are going to pirate books and people are going to download books for free, they're probably never going to buy your book anyway. They're just freebie junkies, and that's the route they're going to go, and you can't stop them, and thinking too much about them is actually a waste of your creative energy. Far more useful to put your energy into thinking about how you're going to market your books and take them to the readers who are proven to pay for books on bookstores, and who come directly to authors, who support also through Patreon and other ways, and who buy their books directly from them on their author websites.

So, yeah, you need to think about it.

Now, there are exceptions, there are cases where it's a clear violation of rights, and a takedown notice is the appropriate response, but I will go so far as to say that in 90% of cases take down is not the appropriate response. You're going to waste a lot of time, and it's a waste of time because as soon as you've dealt with that one, another one's going to have popped up over here. They move at a rate, and they're using machines. You're a human being. You can't follow them as fast as they're able to produce the stuff.

So yeah, our advice generally is to focus on your marketing and not focus too much on the piracy.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I'm just going to pose a rhetorical hypothetical question. If someone pirates your work and they become your biggest fan, would you go back in your time machine and stop them from pirating your work?

In my opinion, a fan is a fan, is a fan. I don't care how I get them. Some people may feel differently about that, but yeah, it's a whack-a-mole, you're never going to get rid of the piracy issue.

And as Orna said, a lot of it is algorithms and machines, and you only have so much time in a day, and you only have so much energy. Wouldn't you rather spend it, and again I'm leading the witness here, but wouldn't you rather spend that time doing something that's going to actually make income?

But there are legitimate times when you probably should engage in copyright infringement. Especially, if you know for a fact that it's a person on the other end of it that is pirating your work, you know, there are situations where maybe you do need to draw that line.

Orna Ross: Yes, we had a recent situation in ALLi, sorry, Michael. We had a recent situation in ALLi here where a non-fiction author's books had been taken by a school and they had basically just taken her books and taken them apart, and turned them into course material, and were certainly charging significant fees, and clearly had students and customers.

In that case, yes, absolutely, it was worth it. And this is where ALLi can help in those kinds of very specific situations where there is clear infringement, and clear profit gain by an individual or a company, an organization, you know, where it's all there and it's very obvious.

But we don't have the time and resources to play whack-a-mole, and neither do you.

And I suppose, that's ultimately what we're saying.

I mean, you had Paulo Coelho is the most famous, but you have a lot of authors. He attributes his success in Russia completely to pirates, and he now is a multi-million seller in Russia and earns loads of money in Russia because enough pirates pirated the work to spread the word.

So, yeah, attention is what you're looking for rather, than tightening copyright. Copyright is a very funny kind of law. It's very rarely actively applied. It's just the fact that it exists is enough. And so, it's there, and the tighter we get about measures and trying to make it a one hundred percent, hermetically sealed thing where nobody else can get at our work, that's not really how it works. We're protected by the fact that it is. It's very, very unusual for an author to take any kind of copyright infringement action, because again, the costs, the time and everything else, is just not worth it. But knowing that it's there means that business can happen.

It's because we have copyright law that we can actually upload our books to the self-publishing platforms, that we can make licensing agreements with rights buyers, and that's what we concentrate on, the positive aspect of it rather than the negative aspects of it.

Does ALLi have a list of bad self-publishing services?

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. Yep, I agree. All right, the next question is a very important question Orna. This is from David, does ALLi have a list of organizations who maybe offer unscrupulous services to authors?

Orna Ross: Yes, we do have a list. It's called the best and worst self-publishing services, and again, it's on our self-publishing advice website. So, it's an open service to the wider indie author community, it's not just a member service, anybody can Google it. If you just go onto the website at selfpublishingadvice.org, and navigate to the watchdog desk area, you will find there are two lists there. One is straightforward services of all kinds, editorial, design, production, distribution, but lots of multi-package services and marketing services.

All our ALLi partner members are there, and obviously they get an excellent rating, but we also have those who get mixed ratings because there are problems with them and caution ratings, and some of those caution ratings will surprise you. They will be people like Archway Publishing, who's associated with Simon and Schuster, and there's some big brand names there that you would be surprised that they're not necessarily the author’s friend. So, yeah, you'll find that there. We update it as regularly as we possibly can, and we're actually currently doing a big job on making it more user friendly and easier to get around. So yeah, that list is there and it's important. We like to point up the good people, as well as pointing the warning signals towards those who are not so great.

And also know that at any time anybody can write to us and ask us about a particular service, and we would be able to, if we don't know them, if we're not familiar with them, we always welcome the opportunity to familiarize ourselves. There are new businesses popping up all the time and we like to stay abreast of the area.

So, feel free to email us anytime at [email protected], and we'll be able to do a quick search for you and an evaluation.

How long does it take for a print book to appear on Amazon?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Next and final question is a two-part question, Orna.

This is from Carmen and the first part of the question is, I published my book on IngramSpark, how long does it take to appear for sale on, let's just say Amazon?

Orna Ross: On what, sorry? Oh, Amazon. Okay. Well, our recommendation would be not to use Ingram for Amazon, to go directly to Amazon KDP print for your Amazon books. And in terms of how long the print book can take to appear on IngramSpark, there are delays at the moment. So, normally it should be a matter of a few days, but at the moment there are delays all over in the printing world. Some of these are supply issues, some of these are new laws and tariffs and things, particularly here in the UK with our Brexit.

So yeah, if you drop a line to the support desk at any time, they should be able to tell you how long it's going to take for your book at a particular moment in time to be there, but when things are going well and all is going as it should, it should just be a matter of a few days. It might be a bit longer now and go over a week sometimes, but hopefully shouldn't be too much longer than that now that Christmases is over. Obviously, in December delays are longer as well because it's the busiest time of the year for the book business.

Why does ALLi recommend people go direct to KDP instead of using IngramSpark?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, Orna, can you talk a little bit more about why you recommend people use Amazon directly, as opposed to IngramSpark for print distribution?

Orna Ross: Yes. So, it's to do really with how books from IngramSpark, or any other distributor, are treated in the Amazon ecosystem. So, if you publish directly on KDP, your book gets certain privileges, and this has nothing to do with being in KDP Select, we're talking print here and KDP Select is for eBooks. If you upload directly, your book becomes available more quickly on Amazon. It also is not marked as being out of stock, which is something that can happen when you use an outside distributor. So, the thing is, if you use IngramSpark to publish to Amazon, and you see this very clearly when Amazon doesn't have the formats, those of us who use IngramSpark for say hardback, when Amazon didn't have hardback books, you could see that all the hardback books are marked in this way. Basically, Amazon will have a message on it, it will either say it's out of stock or it'll say it's going to take a very long time to get the book to you. Whereas, if you upload through KDP, which is their own system, then the book is freely available and immediate, and doesn't have that kind of marking on it.

Also, it can be, you know, the sale on Amazon, you're using a distributor to get into Amazon. So, you're paying both ends, you're paying IngramSpark to distribute it to Amazon, and you're paying Amazon, their cut is included in that fee for Ingram, but it is often higher as a result of that. So, for those reasons we recommend that.

Why then, people say, well, then I'll just use Amazon and I won't bother using IngramSpark.

Well, IngramSpark has access to a huge range of outlets all over the world, and Amazon uses expanded distribution, as it calls it, to reach those same outlets. But essentially what it does is uses IngramSpark. So, if you tick expanded distribution in Amazon, essentially you are choosing to use IngramSpark, and then you've got it the other way around. Now you're paying Amazon and Ingram for the privilege, and also there are jags in the system that wouldn't be there if you went directly.

So, our recommendation as best practice is Amazon for the Amazon ecosystem, use KDP print, and IngramSpark for rest of the world.

How long does it take for an eBook to appear for sale on other retailers?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Second part of the question is, what about all other retailers?

So, publishing an eBook on Apple, Google Play, all of that. How long does that take for the book to appear for sale?

Orna Ross: An eBook?

Michael La Ronn: Yes.

Orna Ross: Typically, it's 48 hours. Sometimes it can be really quick, it can be just a matter of hours, but eBooks are much quicker than print, much less complex in every way. So, you shouldn't have to wait any longer than 48 hours for your book to be up and out there.

Michael La Ronn: I agree. I mean, I've published a lot of books and I've found that when I publish at like eight o'clock in the morning, by lunch, it's usually available almost everywhere. There's always a few, there's always one exception. There's always one holdout. I'm not going to name names. But for the most part, within 48 hours everything is fine, and you should have all your links that you need to be able to promote it.

Orna Ross: And do get your, as you just said that sentence, it's an opportunity to just jump in and say, do get all your promotional, what you're going to do and everything, ready before you publish, so that as soon as you hit that publish button, you've got your marketing plan in place and you're ready to go. A lot of authors, especially, I mean, it's not the end of the world because as an indie you can always fix things up afterwards. But new authors very often just go straight into the production and publishing, and then go, okay, my book isn't selling, and then they began to think about marketing, but it's actually much better to give your book. Your book gets a bit of grace on all of the platforms, we think, in the first number of weeks. So, if you have your marketing and promotion lined up for then, so that you give your book a good start, it makes sense.

So, you might have your book ready for a long time and be absolutely dying to put it out there, but it's best practice to wait until you've got your marketing and promotion strategy in place.

How can I plan for what happens to my books when I die?

Michael La Ronn: Yes, and that was our final question, but can I make a public service announcement, just really quick?

I published a book that I think people who listen to this show might be interested in. It's called, The Author Estate Handbook.

So, it's a book on estate planning for authors. So, I did a lot of research on what happens to your books when you die. So, how can you start to plan for that? How can you start to prepare the person who is going to take over your books, whether it be a daughter or a spouse, how do you get them prepared, because there's a lot of stuff that we have to deal with? All these things with ISBNs that we just talked about, you know, there's just so much of that, that I think would overwhelm a spouse or a child who's taking over your estate and having to manage your books and having no clue what's going on. So, this book basically will help you get organized, help you figure out your affairs and leave a legacy. So, it's called The Author Estate Handbook. You can pick it up at authorlevelup.com/estate.

Orna Ross: Fantastic, by Michael La Ronn, I presume?

Michael La Ronn: By ML Ronn, that's one of my pen names, it's the pen name I use to write non-fiction.

Orna Ross: That's a great service, Michael. I have to say, it's a question we get asked about a lot. It's something we're thinking about at ALLi, actually, we've been thinking about it for a long time, but it's a very complex arena. So great to have that guidebook. Fantastic, thanks for doing that. I didn't know you were working on that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I just decided, well, why not write a book on this? I was doing my own estate planning, so I was like, I'd better figure this out, so maybe I should write a book about it.

Orna Ross: And for those listeners who may not know, Michael has a legal background, so this is going to be good stuff.

I presume it's general principles, and will apply worldwide, it's not going to be just about American law?

Michael La Ronn: Correct. In fact, and I'm so glad you asked that, I actually did research in all the elements in the UK, Australia, and South Africa, as baseline. So, you know, I talk about wills and stuff, but I looked to see what I could find in Australia, for example. There was a chapter in the book where I talk about mail, like, what happens to your physical mail when you die?

I looked at what happens in the UK, you know, what does Royal Mail do? And I tried to figure all that out and put as much international spin on it as I could.

I can't guarantee that I'll be a hundred percent correct, but the good thing about estate planning is that the principals, for the most part, they apply internationally. It's just a matter of how you apply it in your area. So, if anything just use it as a starting point, and it'll at least point you in the right direct.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. That's great. All right. Okay. So, that's a good point, death, to wrap up the show.

We'll be back next month, as ever. So, do send your questions in. We have a form and that will be available on the podcast again on Friday, again at selfpublishingadvice.org. Unless you have a short link there, Michael, that you can give people to fill the form?

Michael La Ronn: I don't, I will take that away. We'll have one for next time.

Orna Ross: We'll have one for next time, but it's always there on the show each month, and it's always there also in our regular newsletters to members and in various places on our website, so it's not hard to find.

And if you would rather submit your question privately, not for this public forum, then just write to us anytime at [email protected] and we'll be delighted to answer your questions.

Thanks so much for being here and we'll see you next month. Happy writing and happy publishing.

Michael La Ronn: Take care.

Howard Lovy

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

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