Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Self-Publishing Authors Should Be Looking for More Distributors - and Bundles and Affiliates



Self-Publishing Authors Looking for More Distributors - and Bundles and Affiliates
(photocredit: covs97)

What's missing with most book distributors is the ability for indie authors to bundle their books into packages.

It's not rocket science: the more books you sell, the more you earn. Indie authors without bundles are missing income.

Fans who like your book (and like to save money) would probably opt for a bundle of them. J.A. Konrath, a pioneer in this area, long ago paid someone to convert his site so he could sell books directly. Included in this is bundles of his books, which you can download directly.

For any entrepreneur, the ebook publishing scene has long been profitable. Amazon (and particularly almost any book about how to publish on Amazon) has long been bringing money to the table for Indie Authors and others.

The difference between the "get rich quick" people and the real bread-winners is whether they are on more than just Amazon.

Why I've always sold to as many eyeballs as possible.


I started out as a indie author/self-publisher making more money on each of several other distributors than I did on Amazon - testing a dozen titles I had already published via Lulu (PDF's and paperbacks) in the last decade. So that made me profitable from day one. (Hat-tip: This was Mark Coker's advice - it works.)

Now I concentrate more on publishing than writing. (Every blog post will probably later become part of a book - but that's another story...)

Recently, one of my books started to take of with Amazon, and today I get more from them than the rest of my distributors combined. (While the others have been steadily improving their sales as well. This basically means I doubled my income over a couple of months by doing nothing except adding more books everywhere but Amazon. Read that paragraph again - slowly - if it doesn't make sense: earn more by working smarter.)

Bookselling isn't a zero-sum game. There are more ebook buyers created every second of every day. Getting your books bought is a matter of having your content in front of multiple eyeballs at different times and spaces. There is no real limit to how many readers can be reached to potentially buy your book. No one distributor has them all, however Amazon may want to claim...

Each of the major ebook distributors also has different algorithms and audience preferences. Some  books I sell on GooglePlay don't do as well on Kobo or iTunes, and vice-versa. Kobo sells more internationally, and GooglePlay just got into selling books seriously earlier this year. Amazon doesn't like PLR or public domain books (without extensive editing) and with this business plan, I only have a couple dozen original books on Amazon, while I have 137 on Google Play. Google (Android) and iTunes (IOS) have the bulk of the smartphones and tablets sewn up to sell books by default, so it's income insanity to just and only sell on Amazon.

This is why I can tell who's actually serious about earning income compared to Kool-Aid-drinking "get rich quick" types. Serious money follows authors who are serious about their distribution. One ebook which doesn't sell on Amazon doesn't mean it doesn't work - it just means you haven't worked hard enough at it. That same ebook may sell on Kobo or iTunes quite well. You will never know the income you've been missing if you go KDP only.

(And I tell exactly how to publish in such a high volume with "Just Publish! Ebook Creation for Indie Authors." And don't get all bent out of shape - it's taken me over a year to get all that amount published. The trick is in finding good content and assembly-lining quality production.)

Yes, as you can guess, I'm financially free and no longer have to work for anyone else.

Now I'm working on my first million-dollar income year.

Which brings up how to improve book sales by bundling.

The long and short of it is that the 6 main distributors (Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Lulu, Kobo, GooglePlay) do not allow you to bundle. They reserve this for themselves (people who bought this also bought this package - you save $___).

Sure, you can put several books into one as an anthology and sell them that way - but I would think that people want to keep their books separate on their ereaders, plus the marketing is better if you list out the descriptions and show the individual covers.

[Sidebar: There is also a relative newcomer to online booksales - Scribd.com, who has recently gotten into the subscription business. But they also don't like PD or PLR stuff and reject it with what seems to be a duplicate content filter. So that would make 7 main distributors. Smashwords would make 8, but are harder to submit to in general IMHO - they also forbid public domain and PLR.]

[Update: Another entry - which would bring our total distributors to an even 14 - would be DocStoc. You can sell your books here, and also promote yourself and your brand. They have courses and packages, but their documentation sucks on whether these are even possible for a self-publishing author/business could create these. From searching the docstoc blog, it appears their packages are internally curated, and their videos are shot in-house (Santa Monica, if you can get an invite.) But at least you can sell your books here - preferably non-fiction, it seems. Oh, and they share income from adsense they run next to your books...]

The Reason for Bundles - More Sales, More Income.

This post really is about a review of additional places to sell books.

My eyes were opened to this when Matt Stone from Archangel Ink contacted me about converting my Amazon hit over to an audiobook. Since I didn't know a lot of what he was saying, I was forced to do research on it. This area is changing almost as fast as regular publishing. And the lights went on with the work I now was inspired to do in order to promote this new book version.

My earlier experience in building websites and Search Engine Marketing said that the best way to do this was to get multiple points of contact for every book, and this includes multiple formats - and multiple distribution points.

Of course, this also means that you are building a wealth of content - which can be gathered together to sell in bundles - discount or otherwise.

With this website, I am looking at a series of 4 ebooks, with both paperback and hardback editions, audio books for each one, plus video-enabled ecourses which can be produced. Meanwhile, the books are also available as PDF's - just about every way these can be published, they need to be. (The doc-sharing and video sites all give link-love off the same content, with different descriptions and tags.)

Obviously, a full study package of all these books in the series, and individual bundles for each single book, would all be possible now. Each chapter of the audio book could be downloaded individually, as well as every version. (And the out-takes and cutting-room floor material would create some nice BitTorrent marketing...)

But there are people like me who would like to have the paperback version so I can dog-ear the pages and highlight it, the hardback so I can read it with some heft and store it in my reference library for later use, and also having the ebook and MP3 (and video) versions available on my smartphone and tablet for the odd scratches of times where I can pick these up to further my reading or study - or listen to on the road.

From an income view, this means actually creating more distributors for your works. Particularly if said distribution points had affiliates who could push your work for you. Like audio books, this would be sales you couldn't get otherwise.

The questions are: how-to? and where?

Finding Bundle Providers

This search, as I said, ran through these guys making my audio book (as I write this, we are still in the contract phase, but they have everything they need to start.)

Research lead me to Podiobooker (a way to serialize your blog-book by podcasting it), and their submission guidelines led me to Leanpub - which is another distributor who converts your book for you, much like Lulu or Smashwords. With them, it's a 90% royalty and they make both the epub and Kindle version. (I'm checking these guys out - they may be a replacement for my use of LibreOffice/Sigil/Calibre. [video link])

Main point is that this is yet another distributor - meaning "more eyeballs."

It was Leanpub which brought up bundling again. They allow you to do it directly on their site. There's videos on that linked page which will help you make your own decisions.

The income flow on this is that you usually - in Search Engine Marketing - will have a landing page with all the various distributors so they have a choice of who to go to.

Now on that page, you'd also have your Amazon and Lulu links so they could buy your hardcopy versions in addition to the ebook versions.

And you'd have an Audacity/Amazon/iTunes link to get the audio version.

Finally, you'd have bundles of related books so they could buy them there.

Every time you blogged about your book, they'd get this link to your book page, and so the search engine link-love builds and builds. As you add more distributors, you simply return to add update the links on that page.

What about Affiliates?


Obviously, encouraging your readers to promote your book for you and get paid for it is a no-brainer. Yet another reason for any of them to become an evangelist-fan.

Somewhere in all this, I found yet another place who will sell your digital products for you - Distribly. There's another site like them: Scubbly.

What these guys can do is to host your digital files in bundles so people can download them. They each have their own affiliate sales section (everyone becomes an affiliate) and so you start attracting sellers out of your loyal fans.

This of course brought up earlier research on Clickbank alternatives. A sidebar here: I'm not a big fan of Clickbank, as they have a whole structure of fees you have to pay and endure when you put products on their site. They've been around a very long time and have been stung more than once, so they have built in several defenses. They do a good job at what they do.

What I feel is that I shouldn't have to pay to put my product up, wait to get it approved, pay to get it sold, and pay each month to get it hosted, etc.

Distribly and Scubbly take the view that you shouldn't have to jump through these hoops. They host for nothing (or very little for huge 100MB files) and incorporate affiliates to sell them for you. Both have 10% or less commissions, so you wind up publishing for 90% royalties in most cases.

That older research found two affiliate programs which also host your digital products: PayDotCom and JVZoo.com - these will host your digital products (and PayDotCom say's they'll deal with the physical as well...) They are both mainly Affiliate sites and so each have fairly large numbers of people going there to find products to pitch.

The Big Boys - Getting Physical


One other I found recently is AsSeenOnPC.com - which has it's own fulfillment center, so you can create whole physical packages of goods and they'll create and ship them for you, as well as handle returns.

There is another company which is another old-hand at physical product fulfillment, which is Disk.com - but they also don't do sales or affiliates. Most of the various affiliate centers will link to them, so this is a logical extension.

Both of these are upper-end, however. (Means initial set up fees, warehousing fees, etc. - not for the newbie or faint-of-heart-and-wallet.)

Splitting out non-bundle physical products

If you want to go simple, use Kunaki for your CD/DVD and then use some sort of shopping cart to send them the order details. They cover your alternatives on their site. I found they'd added the function of collecting sales for you based on a small percentage, plus manufacturing cost. Very easy to use. Just make sure you get at least one order every 180 days (or set up an alert to go and buy one regardless - which you can give away as a prize or use for other promotion.) Otherwise, they simply delete your file and you have to upload again. This isn't a bundle, but it gives you options for people who want a physical product.

Lulu.com has routinely out-performed CreateSpace.com in quality print-on-demand books. It also is readily accepted by B&N as well as independent bookstores, who can order through Ingram. (Amazon imprints often get banned in these stores, for obvious reasons.) That's where people can buy your hardcopy books directly.

I use Lulu to publish my ebooks (porting to iTunes and B&N) and then turn around and edit a version for hardcopy publishing. One digital file with a cover can produce probably a couple-dozen different hardcopy formats - so you can have a spiral-bound study guide as well as a case-wrapped hardcover just as simply.  They also give you free ISBN's for each version, which is much easier for indie authors to get started.

(Of course, you can get  into your own fulfillment scene by ordering large amounts of everything and shipping out of your garage... I'd rather be writing or publishing in the time it takes. Earns me more income.)

Seeing Further from the Shoulders of Giants


So you see how this goes. We've now added five more distributors to our publishing lines, and the four last have built-in affiliate systems, so you can get your fans to buy and sell your books (as well as non-fan, profit-hungry professional affiliate salespeople.)

The idea in earning income with published books is to get multiple products up there, on as many distribution lines as possible. You also want to create these in as many formats as possible and create bundling options for potential readers. Add to these sales by getting affiliates to push them for you, getting you additional eyeballs reading your books you wouldn't have otherwise.

The overall datum we are using is stated simply:

Write once,
publish as many ways,

in as many formats, 
to as many eyeballs
as possible.

- - - -

Whew.

Well, Good Luck with this.

And let me know how it goes...

PS. List of the 9 main ebook distribution outlets:
Bundlers:

(Top 7 have about 90% of the ebook market between them, if not more.)

[Update: There are many, many more bundlers out there. Some maybe better than Distribly and Scubbly - so you'll need to do your due diligence. What you are looking for is a site which has a substantial following of avid users and will a) sell your digital book for you, b) allow packages (that's just another digital product, actually), and c) enable affiliate sales. After that look for customizable, SEO-friendly sales pages, etc. Here's one site to get you going: http://www.bookmarket.com/eproducts.htm The key is finding sites which already have buyers and sellers frequenting them. After that is low-cost or free to use, and high royalties.

This leads off into a tangent that you'll become a digital publisher, instead of just an indie author. Another journey awaits, perhaps...]

[Update  Feb 21, 2014: This blog post by Hongkia.com list 20 websites to sell your ebook on. Many of them are covered above, some (anything that costs to get you started) I've already discarded. Watch your sign up fees and royalties - as listed below each distributor. Again, you're looking for well-visited sites that preferably have affiliate programs.]

[Update continued: Sorted these out. If you are already publishing to the above (I generate an epub through a LibreOffice plug-in Writer2Epub, and then check and tweak in Sigil, proof and write description in Calibre - then post to Lulu for an ISBN, which takes care of iTunes and B&N submission - then post to Kobo - then post to Google Play.) you already have most of the above taken care of. Here's a rundown of what's left of the free-to-use from that Hongkia list:

Unworthy:
Payhip - merely another landing page for your book, but without the also-bought suggestions. You're probably already blogging, so don't need this extra work.
Booktango - part of the disreputable Author Solutions - avoid.
myebook - closing down.
Blurb - looks to be iTunes-only.

Worthy:
Payspree - another affilate marketplace, like JVZoo and PayDotCom, useful.
Click2Sell - yet another affiliate marketplace, but some advanced features such as membership possibilities.

Add these last two under bundlers. My own advice would to be set up your packages and bundles with Leanpub and then port these to the other bundlers. This is after you publish all you can to as many of the 9 main distributors, then come back and expand your backbench with additional offers.

There's some more posts coming on email lists and upsell offers/sales funnel - so stay tuned: subscribe by email...]
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