Building a book, part II

Building a book, part II

Well hello! It’s been a little longer than I had planned, mostly because you would not believe how many endless little details need your attention when you’re publishing your own book. Meaning that – yes – my book is now out!! Also, I now have an Amazon Author Page. Huzzah!

So, this will be my third post in a row about the publishing of my book and I promise it will be the last [in a row]. I know I could go on ad infinitum about how amazing and wonderful I think it is that authors no longer have to grovel at the feet of the gatekeepers to have their voices heard, and that “vanity publishing” is outgrowing its stigma, and “indie publishing” is morphing into something respectable and even hot, and that the publishing world has changed for ever and for good, and all the other things that make up this exciting new world of book publishing.

But I won’t. 

Last time I talked about Writing, Editing, Publishing, Formatting and Cover. This time: Pricing and royalties, ISBN numbers and Distribution.

PRICING AND ROYALTIES

When I published my first eBook, it was priced at USD 24.99. Some people felt that was really steep for an eBook. In fact, a reviewer for a certain English-language publication here in Iceland spent literally half the review sounding off about the price [even though he seemed to like the book]. In his view, if I’d kept the price lower, I would have sold more copies. I begged to differ. From my perspective, I had to factor in the hours I spent working on the book, and the size of the market I was likely to reach. The first figure was large, the latter figure small. I would have had to reach a very large market to break even, and I didn’t see that that was going to happen. And so far, I haven’t, even though the book served its purpose – it provided much needed information, taught me a helluva lot about eBook creation and publishing, covered the cost of distribution via e-Junkie, and allowed me to buy myself a few cups of coffee.

My second eBook carried the same price as the first. It has sold quite well, and was eventually picked up by a traditional publisher, where it has continued to sell well. The price was no detriment to the success of the eBook – but even with exposure far greater than my first book, I very much doubt that the eSales have covered the cost of the hours put into creating it. The combined eSales and traditional sales might, though.

This time I have decided to take a different approach and publish Unraveled on the Amazon Kindle platform, and also as a printed book through CreateSpace. As before, I don’t expect to reach a huge audience. It would be nice if I did, but I’m realistic.

When you publish with Amazon for Kindle, you get a choice of pricing your book between USD 2.99 and 9.99 and keeping 70% of the royalties, or charging more and keeping 35% of the royalties. I have chosen the former option, hence my book is priced at USD 9.99 even though it is approximately four times longer than my last eBook and therefore took me about four times as many hours to create. In other words, from a purely commercial perspective it is highly unlikely that I will come close to recouping my investment – and yet I look at this as an experiment, and definitely something I wanted to try.The Kindle platform is in many ways an interesting platform, and I am curious to see how the book performs.

As for pricing the printed book, the great thing about CreateSpace is that there are no costs up front. They simply take a cut of your royalties. There is a calculator on their site where you can see how much you will make from each sale – it is subject primarily to the length of the book, i.e. how many pages they have to print. In my case it looks like I’ll earn around 30- 40% on each sale, which is considerably more than I would earn with a traditional publisher.

In the end, though, if I was only in it for the money, I would have picked something else on which to spend my time. Meaning that the amount of royalties I get isn’t my ultimate concern. Enjoying the creative process and getting my book out there is.

ISBN NUMBERS

Publishing on a platform like Kindle or CreateSpace, you come up against the question whether you want to a) have an ISBN number b) and in the case of CreateSpace, provide your own or use an ISBN provided by them [because for a printed book you must have one]. Reading up a bit I learned that if you choose the CreateSpace ISBN, which note bene is free, you are effectively tied to their platform, meaning if you wanted to take your title elsewhere at a later date, you would run into problems. A title with two separate ISBNs can be a pain in the ass, it seems, and is not popular with booksellers, for example, as it makes it more difficult for them to track sales.

In the US you have to purchase your own ISBN numbers [and, incidentally, each version of a book needs its own ISBN – the Kindle version needs one, the printed version one, and so on]. Here in Iceland [as well as in some other countries] they supply them for free. Obviously, then, it was a no-brainer for me whether or not to supply my own ISBN. I sent an online application form to my local ISBN agency one evening, and the following morning I got a call from a very nice lady who was incredibly helpful. An hour later, I had my ISBNs. It ran incredibly smoothly and was definitely one of the high points of this whole endeavour!

DISTRIBUTION

As everyone knows, the great thing about eBooks is that you can easily reach an audience all over the globe. The world is your oyster, and in the oyster, Amazon rulez. This is the first time my books have been available via Amazon, so as I said before I’m really curious to see what happens with that. CreateSpace is an Amazon company, so as orders for the printed book come in, they are sent out via Amazon. [Actually I believe Amazon always keeps a few copies in stock.] That applies to all the Amazon online stores across the world, from the USA to India and Japan. This is important, obviously, since if the books were only sent out from the US they would carry hefty shipping charges, plus tariffs, taxes, etc. if they were sent to other countries. The fact that they are printed and shipped locally [or semi-locally] is AWESOME.

CreateSpace also offers something called Expanded Distribution. That means that your title is not only sold to individuals through the online Amazon platform, it is also available for bulk orders from brick-and-mortar book retailers in the US. Again, I have no expectations that a real book store in the USA will ever order my book … but never say never. Expanded distribution costs USD 25 up front, whether any orders come in or not. Also, the royalties are quite a bit lower, since retailers are given a wholesale price from CreateSpace. Even so, I think it’s AMAZING that anyone – even little ol’me, who sits and writes books on the edge of the inhabitable world, has the opportunity of having her title distributed by the largest book distributor in the US to thousands of retail outlets in that country. In theory, at least.

So that’s it! If you have any question or comments, feel free to ask.