Comparing the Ebook Submission Process: Self-Publishers v. Publishers

I recently wrapped up a freelance project with a small publisher, where I uploaded/submitted ebook files and metadata to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google. In the process, I thought about the similarities and differences between how a self-publisher would go about distributing an ebook versus a publishing company that is submitting files themselves instead of using an intermediary such as Ingram.

One of the biggest differences is that regular publishers have the option of also distributing and selling enhanced ebooks. However, currently only Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble accepts and sells enhanced ebooks. For this particular project, I worked with standard ebooks and enhanced ebooks which contained video files.  Continue reading


Freebie Strategies for Indie Authors

UPDATE: Author David Gaughran has also kindly answered a few additional questions. 

Using free as a tool can be very beneficial to authors. When Amazon first started their KDP Select program, many authors were able to take advantage of the five freebie days offered during every 90-day exclusivity period, and shoot to best-selling status. However, Amazon has since changed its algorithms, and as CJ Lyons pointed out on Jane Friedman’s site, KDP Select is not the same tool it used to be.

Now, some authors are using other freebie strategies to promote their books, including making some of their titles permanently free (permafree). One way to do that is to price a book free on Smashwords, and wait for other distribution sites to price match.

Inspired by a student in my Udemy course How to Create Beautiful E-Books who asked some excellent questions on how to set e-books free on multiple sites, I reached out to a few authors to ask them about their experiences.

Three authors, Keith RobinsonSusan Kay Quinn, and David Gaughran shared with me. Keith Robinson is the author of the sci-fi/fantasy Island of Fog series for ages 9+, Susan Kay Quinn is the author of YA sci-fi Mindjack Trilogy, as well as the Debt Collector series, and David Gaughran is the author of Let’s Get VisibleLet’s Get Digital, and A Storm Hits Valparaiso, among others. Continue reading

Inside Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble in Union Square

Last week I got to go to Barnes & Noble before the store opened and listen to two of their book buyers discuss how they decide which books to buy for which stores across the nation. Not going to lie, it was pretty sweet (even if I did have to be out of my apartment by 7 a.m.).

Here’s a list of some of the more interesting things I learned:

  • Just because a topic is a current affair, doesn’t mean the book will sell in stores (ex: recent crisis in Egypt–more people wanted to read about it in the news)
  • There are not enough diet cookbooks out there. Said one buyer, “I could buy 95,000 diet books and not have enough. It’s a subject born for the business.”
  • Cookbooks in general are always in the top 5 bestseller categories
  • The key to buying memoirs is making sure the author has a platform, whether it be a TV show, or some sort of access to publicity
  • The biggest drivers in the U.S. history category are the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers
  • When it comes to history, the topics that are home-based sell the best. For example, the original 13 colonies buy the most books about the Founding Fathers
  • The biggest driver in the military history category is WWII, though sales have been declining lately. The second biggest driver in the category is the Iraq/Afghanistan War (journalists covering the political/military situation and soldier memoirs)
  • Sociology books tend to be more academic, and not that popular, with the exceptions “Orange is the New Black” and “Jim Crow”
  • Buyers are more likely to purchase a book if the publisher is heavily invested in the book and is willing to do a lot of publicity
  • The personal relationship between the bookstore buyer and the publisher’s sales representative is important. The sales rep is the first one to convince the buyer to make a book nationally available, so it’s important that they know a lot about the book
  • Sales people were the first ones interested in “Seabiscuit
  • 30% of a bookstore’s business in the health section is done in January (new year, new goals)
  • Cookbooks are strong for Mother’s Day and the 4th quarter
  • Summer is for beach reading (genre fiction, narrative paperback, etc.)
  • Father’s Day and the 4th quarter are good for selling history books
  • Packaging matters a lot to a book buyer. A good jacket is colorful and vibrant (at least for health books). For some, the key is to be clear about what the book is and communicate a promise. For others, the bottom line is, will this book sell?
  • On average, people spend 3-5 seconds looking at a book on a table in the store
  • Most people go to bookstores looking for fiction. The front of the store yields high traffic and sales, but deeper in the store is reserved for dedicated readers
  • An author’s hometown is very important when determining which stores to stock with which books
  • Book prices are apparently climbing; health books on average cost $25. Still, the e-book competition for narrative books is significant (e-books tend to cost $10)
  • E-books are the “big x factor right now.” When it comes to fiction/genre fiction, e-book sales account for up to 50%, and in non-fiction, e-book sales are up to 10%. However, this will probably change as ereaders get better
  • Rarely do book buyers purchase non-returnable books (unless they are very confident about its success). Bookstores lose money when they return books, and with non-returnable books, they can only put them on clearance when they aren’t selling
  • Optimally, bookstores have 15-20% returns. If a book sells out in a month, it means the buyer missed potential customers. By not buying books, a bookstore could potentially put a small publisher out of business
  • In some towns, bookstores are the only source of entertainment. Therefore, quick changes in the industry, which this year led to Borders going bankrupt, are very difficult.
  • Interestingly, Barnes & Noble wants Borders to succeed. Said one buyer, “Bookstores are not going anywhere. Publishers are not going anywhere. If one of use becomes a dinosaur, we all go down.”

So, to sum up, “A book that doesn’t sell feels like a failure to everybody.”

Twitter News: Borders Files for Bankruptcy


Image from Publisher's Weekly

Last week, Borders filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It had been a long time coming, but at least they avoided a Chapter 7, which would mean they basically would have been liquidated. About 200 stores of the 600 Borders stores will be closed. I imagine the bankruptcy of Borders worries many publishers. Borders and Barnes & Noble are still major outlets and one of the main channels publishers use to turn a book into a bestseller. Now that Borders is bankrupt, I think digital will become an even more important outlet. Funny thing is, at the end of last year Barnes & Noble was in a lot of trouble, and Borders was considering acquiring Barnes & Noble. To see an enlarged map of all the Borders stores in the U.S. that will be shutting down, click on the image above.

For more information on how Borders’ bankruptcy affects publishers, read Borders Bankruptcy to Ripple Through Industry

This Week in Publishing

People in line for a Harry Potter book. Photo by Zack Sheppard, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. judge dismissed a lawsuit that claimed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series infringed upon Adrian Jacobs’s “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard No 1 Livid Land,” which was published in 1987. Scholastic, the U.S. Harry Potter publisher, said, “Judge Scheindlin clearly agreed… Scholastic will continue to vigorously defend any such frivolous claims challenging the originality of Harry Potter and the brilliant imagination of its author, J.K. Rowling.”

AFP: US judge zaps Harry Potter plagiarism suit

Movies based on books are not a new concept. But these days, the turnaround seems to be faster than before. The movie, “I Am Number Four,” will be released in one month, but the book it’s based on came out only five months ago. How did this happen? Well, turns out there was a bidding war for the film rights before the book was even written. And, elements of the movie script made it into the paranormal novel.

Movie Alert: ‘I Am Number Four’

Over the holiday season, Barnes & Noble made more money than Borders, the bookstore that late last year was considering buying Barnes & Noble. Borders, like many bookstores, continues to have financial problems, and lost $74.4 million in its third quarter last year.

Barnes & Noble Up, Borders Down

Lastly, since we’re in our first week of the new year, here are 10 predictions for book publishing this year. Predictions include memoir as an expanding genre, more people become authors, YA will become more popular, and books will not have a minimum number of words.

10 Biggest Predictions for the Future of Book Publishing

Barnes & Noble

Rumor has it that Barnes & Noble may no longer exist one year from now. In the meantime, I can enjoy their stores and Christmas decorations.

And I can also play around with their Nook. The new color Nook was recently released. It uses LED like Apple’s iPad, but it’s formatted similarly to Amazon’s Kindle–with a twist. There’s an interesting feature that shows book covers, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I’m a Kindle fan.

12/06/10: This Week in Publishing

It has finally happened! Google launched the Google eBookstore on Monday. The bookstore is an extension of Google’s book project, “an effort that began in 2004 to scan all 130 million books in the world, by Google’s estimate.” Because it is cloud-based, it is an “open-ecosystem,” which means consumers can buy their books once through the eBookstore, store them in a “central, online password-protected library and read them on personal computers, tablets, smartphones and e-readers” (except on Amazon’s Kindle, at least not yet).

Google Opens Doors to E-Bookstore

The Google eBookstore is great for independent bookstores and publishers. It’s opening is seen as a way to level the playing field for them, since it will now be easier for people to find books on the Internet (all they have to do is use Google’s search engine and relevant books will appear). So a lot of indie bookstores are on board and selling their books wholesale on Google’s eBookstore.

Independent Bookstores Selling Google eBooks

But will Google’s cloud-based bookstore completely change publishing? James McQuivey thinks so. On his blog, he argues that “the ultimate effect of Google eBooks, if Google knows what’s good for it, will be the creation of an ad-supported publishing model.” He thinks eventually there will be ads in all the free sample chapters people can read, which will help writers and publishers make more money. But he also thinks they will be angry and reluctant to agree to ad-supported publishing. He’s probably right.

Google eBooks Paves the Way for Ad-Supported Publishing

In other Google news, Google kick-started its week by introducing the Nexus S with Gingerbread (Do you think they named it Gingerbread because we’re in the holiday season?) Gingerbread is the latest, and fastest, version of the Android platform, and the Nexus S is the newest Android device, and will be available starting Dec. 16.

Introducing Nexus S with Gingerbread

Big day for publishing today. Jacob Lewis and Dana Goodman unveiled Figment today, which is “an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site.” The idea sprung from the invention of the cellphone novel, which originated in Japan but came to the US in 2008. (For more on the cell phone novel, read “Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular“)

Web Site for Teenagers with Literary Leanings

Callaway Digital Arts recently opened its office on Fulton Street in New York. The company plans on creating apps and morphing from a book publisher to an apps publisher. Next year they will also open an office in San Francisco. Smart, since that’s the current center of all things digital. One of their apps will be “The Monster at the End of this Book,” which will be interactive. Since that was one of my favorite books as a child, I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

An App Studio On Fulton Street

WikiLeaks Updates: In addition to hackers and the US government’s attempts to shut down the site, PayPal, which WikiLeaks used to get funding and donations, froze their account. And of course Amazon withdrew from hosting WikiLeaks, so it is now hosted outside the US. Meanwhile, there are lots of mixed opinions about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Is there a conspiracy? At the very least, there’s speculation that Assange will be Time Magazine‘s 2010 Person of the Year.

PayPal freezes WikiLeaks account

Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”

Who Will Be TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year?

Barnes & Noble has put itself up for auction, and there’s a chance that Borders will acquire it. William A. Ackman, the man who is the biggest shareholder of Border’s, “has offered to finance a $960 million takeover bid for its larger rival, Barnes & Noble.” He would pay $16 per share, which is “a 20 percent premium to Barnes & Noble’s closing stock price on Friday.” Borders is only one of eight to ten companies bidding for Barnes & Noble, but some people are wondering if this buyout would be a good idea. (As a side note, earlier this year, Barnes & Noble successfully kept billionaire Ronald W. Burkle from owning the majority of shares in the company and changing the way the business is run).

Ackman Offers to Finance a Borders Bid for Barnes & Noble

Borders could acquire Barnes & Noble under shareholders proposal

Borders’ Buyout Bid for Barnes & Noble Will Awaken Sleeping Giant Riggio

This is a mix of publishing and social science, but there is a new study, conducted by Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs of George Mason University, that will search through literature published during the Victorian era for key words that will provide more insight into the mindset of people during that time.

Analyzing Literature by Words and Numbers

Again, this isn’t directly related to publishing, but Facebook and social networking plays a large role in publishing, particularly in marketing. Last night, Leslie Stahl interviewed Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes, and Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s profile design.

Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes

And lastly, because who wouldn’t want to end on an Oprah note, Oprah “went ‘old school'” for next week’s Oprah Book Club pick. She chose Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities (one of my favorite books). Apparently, she has never read Dickens before. Wtf Oprah?

Oprah Picks ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘Tale of Two Cities’

Date with Charles Dickens

11/29/10: Publishing This Week

California, as a way to save money and improve education, is going to use open source, free textbooks (yay!). Since there’s not enough money to give every student a laptop, there’s some skepticism as to how well this will work. But it’s the first state to try this and something is better than nothing (California K-12 education was ranked 49th in 2009). As a side note, Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public School Systems in Washington, D.C., was the guest on The Colbert Report on Dec.1. She said that in the 1950s, California was #1 in education. What happened?

California Embraces Open Source Digital Textbooks

Sesame Street this week added a monthly subscription option to its e-bookstore. Now users can pay either $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year and gain access to over 125 cloud-based e-books, including “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book” (one of my favorites when I was a kid!)

Sesame Street Adds Monthly Subscription Option to E-Bookstore

Are scammers taking advantage of Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle? Supposedly there are people selling free books through these e-readers. For example, one person has been selling The Brother’s Grimm fairytales, even though they are no longer copyrighted and therefore in public domain. (And you can download for free at Buyer beware!

Barnes & Noble letting users sell free books on the Nook?

Google is launching its own online bookstore, and here are five reasons why this will change the e-book industry.

Five Reasons Why the Google ‘Editions’ Bookstore Matters

Groupon is becoming a big deal, even in the publishing industry. Simon & Schuster now offers Groupon promotions for any of their 35,000 titles. And now Google is trying to buy Groupon. What will this mean for publishers? Some people think Google will evolve to control everything signifiant on the web. This may seem bad, but I don’t think it will end up changing Simon & Schuster’s strategy, so long as it continues to work. I once had a professor who said that big conglomerate media companies are actually good for consumers. He admitted that sounded counterintuitive, but he explained that the less competition, the better, because then the big companies can focus on providing products and services for smaller niches and can keep costs down. Since they’re not worried about competing with themselves, and they’re making all this money just from being huge, the products and services don’t need to be expensive to keep the company afloat. I’m not sure I totally agree with this—I’d have to do my own research before I came to a conclusion—but it is a different way of looking at things.

Google in talks to buy Groupon deals site

UPDATE: Sources: Groupon rejects Google’s offer; will stay independent

Richard Branson has developed an exclusive to iPad magazine, Project. Seems to go with the line of thinking that exclusivity and coolness will sell, so we’ll see how it works out for him.

A Peek Inside Richard Branson’s Project iPad Magazine

According to Barnes and Nobles second quarter, it’s the Nook and digital content that is supposedly helping them. They plan on launching more digital devices next year.

Nooks and Digital Content Drive Barnes & Noble

The e-reader market is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. More people are expected to buy e-readers over the holidays, but a recent survey shows that the iPad is expected to beat the Kindle this year.

Impact of the Apple iPad vs. the Amazon Kindle on the e-Reader Market

iPad Beating Kindle This Holiday Season, Says Survey

Next Tuesday, Dec. 7, Digital Book World will sponsor a one hour webcast devoted to what recent developments in electronic publishing (such as color in e-readers and new apps) will do to children’s book publishing.

Webcast Set on the Impact of Digital Developments on Kids Publishing

This is related to book or magazine publishing, per say, but it does have some legal implications for publishers in general. On Sunday, Nov. 28, WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of leaked United States embassy cables. Some people claimed this was a terrorist act, though I read somewhere that most of this information was already out in the public, and it was just the shock of seeing it all together. However, there are claims that this potentially damaged the U.S.’s relationship with other countries. I read one or two of the cables, and it sounds like gossip to me. But to the point. The founder, Julian Assange may have already been secretly indicted by the U.S., for violating the Espionage Act. I’m currently taking a publishing law class and so far there haven’t been too many cases involving the Espionage Act, but I am concerned about what this means freedom of speech-wise. I understand security is important, but I am also an avid, liberal supporter of the First Amendment.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:  Has US already indicted him?

On another note, I mentioned the Bad Sex in Fiction Award in my post, “Writing Sex.” Well The Guardian wants to know why there isn’t a good sex in fiction award.

How about a good sex in fiction award?

For would-be first-time authors or excited writers such as myself, Amazon and Penguin are once again having their Breakthrough Novel Award Competition. Two grand prize winners will be published by Penguin Group. Good luck!

Amazon and Penguin Announce Fourth Novel Award Competition

And lastly, Simon & Schuster announced on Nov. 30 that they have “sealed a book deal with God.” You can learn more about the book on the Twitter Feed, @TheTweetofGod.

Simon & Schuster Cuts ‘Book Deal with God’