One Book Nine Ways in Less Than 30 Days
by Gordon Burgett
I’ve just tested a process for getting a book into nine different selling formats quickly and very inexpensively, and it works. Even better, it’s as applicable for publishers who need to make their books profitable via a full print run as it is for authors simply interested in providing their written words to family and friends in book form.
Because I felt that this new arena of opportunity needed a name, I asked the 52 people in two seminars I run for suggestions. They were overwhelmingly in favor of the term ancillary publishing. I think it’s a great name too, so I’ve used it here and will continue to use and define it in the future.
Although this ancillary publishing is found gold for the beginner eager to put memoirs, family history, poetry, travel, and novels—any book—in print totally or almost free without having to physically produce and market their creations, the bound book is still where most of the money is for those of us who publish professionally.
E-books—which I’m defining as faithful reproductions of printed and bound books in digital form or modified versions for digital formats—now account for a very small percentage of publishers’ sales, maybe as small as 1–3 percent. So my process involves selling a book in four ways as a bound book as well as in five ways as an e-book. Seven of these nine ways involve working through other publisher/distributors, and some of them will let you have a book out for sale within days, if not hours.
It should take no more than 30 days to get a ready-to-print book into the standard selling mode, and have it sold by those companies. Three offer it in bound format, and four offer it digitally. All the books have the same content, identifying cover, and basic description. Your list price will be the same too, though a few companies may charge less. And all sell to markets that you aren’t going to have much access to otherwise.
Easy? In most cases, yes, although you will have to muddle through some cryptic instructions with little or no help finding your way. Here’s a quick walk through the process, as I myself have used it.
• I created a book specifically to test all nine formats. It’s a concise (110-page) how-to title: Administrators and Teachers: Getting Profitably in Print 75% of the Time. I began on day one of the 30-day test with the book completely written, proofed, and in ready-to-use layout form.
• I created a core manuscript in Word on a PC, in 6″× 9″ layout. (Or you can use a Mac and its word processing software.) What matters is that you do all rewriting, editing, proofing, and text and layout changes in that file before it is in final form and ready to print.
• Because my own publishing company will also sell the book directly to retailers and libraries, I gave it an ISBN.
• I got a simple but professional multicolored cover from a rather plain design I’d given my cover designer. He included the ISBN and barcode on the back and sent me the cover in four files—front cover only and total cover, each in JPG and PDF format. (Lulu and CreateSpace will let you create a cover with their software, but this is not easy, and options are limited.) Do it my way, and all the versions of your book will have the same cover. Don’t skimp.
• I wrote the book descriptions that the companies will request. This means creating good sales copy, full of benefits, reader/buyer-directed. Do two basic descriptions, one about 200 characters long, the other somewhere between 750 and 1,000 words. Then you can expand and prune as space requirements dictate. Also, create a list of keywords related to your book’s theme and contents.
• I sent the manuscript—in PDF, paginated for book printing—to LSI, Ingram’s Lightning Source division (lightningsource.com), to get it digitally printed. I needed 50 quick bound starter copies at the outset to send both to opinion molders for testimonials and to several niche associations with fast-approaching conventions or conferences, to gauge coming sales. I also sent the full cover to LSI as a JPG.
LSI sent me a proof in four days. It was perfect. I okayed it, and 10 days later, I had the printed books in my warehouse. That cost me a setup fee of $37.50 each for the text and cover, plus $30 to send the proof. The unit cost for 50 books was $2.45 ($122.50, total), with shipping costs of $22.36. The entire setup and book delivery cost $259.86.
Those first 50 books will be followed rather quickly by a 1,500-plus run on a web or rotary press, probably printed by McNaughton and Gunn, since I expect to need much larger quantities for sales of bound books to my niche market.
Let me expand a bit here. Because I have owned a publishing company since 1982, the initial 50 POD books are simply part of my usual publishing routine when I need some fast, early book copies. But the rest of the ancillary publishing system that I will describe here involves a new set of selling venues that anybody with a solid book to sell can pursue—one, several, or all of them—without having any established publishing structure. In fact, some people may well start with the ancillary markets, and then if their sales cry for the creation of their own self-publishing firm, use the LSI and POD route as the production bridge to help launch their own business.
My firm will sell the printed copy of my book to bookstores, libraries, associations, and other niche outlets both directly and through wholesalers, plus I will sell the book in bound form via my Web site and through Amazon Advantage (advantage.Amazon.com) and Barnes & Noble (bn.com). Through the firm’s Web site I will also sell books to our e-list, and I will use my blog, social networks, online associates, and other digital means, including AdWords (adwords.google.com), to increase those sales.
• I arranged for LSI to sell my print-on-demand book through major distribution companies, including not just Ingram but also Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, and others. LSI charges $12 a year total per book title for this service. When any customer orders the book from LSI, it simply prints a bound copy from the master that I just used to get my own copies. For each sale, LSI pays me the retail price minus whatever discount I offer and minus the printing cost.
In this case, the book’s cover price is $15.95; the discount I’m offering is 55 percent, and the printing cost per book is $2.35, so I receive $4.82 per copy sold. Sales are reported monthly; payment arrives in 90 days. That comes to about 30 percent.
All I had to do to get this service from Lightning Source was to check the right box in the POD section of the LSI Web site—no easy task, since the site is confusing. (Fortunately, the personal help is excellent.)
In a few weeks my book will be posted and available, without me lifting a finger. LSI reports, by the way, that it serves 9,000 publishers, and that it prints 1.4 million books a month, on average. When I asked whether the company passes judgment on the books it lists and sells, the reply was: “I don’t think so. I’ve not seen a rejection in the five years I’ve been here.”
• Once I had my 50 bound books, and that very same book was being offered elsewhere by LSI, I used the same PDF file to have bound books created and sold by both Lulu (lulu.com) and CreateSpace (createspace.com). Each of these companies walks you through the steps at their Web sites. Following their instructions gets the book for sale quickly in the popular Lulu world and also gets it Amazon distribution through CreateSpace.
Thus I have the same book in bound form being produced and sold by LSI, Lulu, and CreateSpace at nominal or no cost to me, the last two without setup fees. In fact, these “minimum-service subsidy publishers” (“ancillary publishers” is more appealing and accurate) are paying me to make my book available to millions of potential buyers! (I will receive from 22 to 47 percent of list from Lulu and from 32 to 52 percent from CreateSpace, depending upon who buys the book, resellers or the public.)
It sounds almost too good to be true, particularly to those simply eager to publish a book but unable or unwilling to take the traditional publishing routes.
• I had lots of initial questions. Some of the sites’ onsite documentation was confusing, but usually the only thing I had to modify was my basic Word text file for the volta face page (where you see the copyright) and sometimes a page number or two in the table of contents, which I then saved as a new PDF file. Using my own book cover file (usually in JPG) was fine with them.
You don’t need an ISBN with Lulu or CreateSpace (they will assign one of their own), but if you have one, or you’d like to be the contact for inquiries, use your own. (The same goes for the e-book publishers.)
Twice I asked specific questions by email about layout. I got fast, good, personal responses from CreateSpace. Lulu’s responses were also fast, but unfortunately they mechanically sent me to FAQ links that seldom applied. Both also provide paid services at each step of your book’s creation. (You can probably do the necessary yourself if you mix in patience, tenacity, and trial-and-error.)
• I got the files posted, and they sent my proofs by mail some days later. Lulu’s was disappointing (text was too small and poorly centered vertically). So Lulu’s bound book missed the 30-day deadline, since it had to be resent. (The second proof was fine.) CreateSpace, on the other hand, was ready to go with the first proof, although it didn’t use the title and author on the spine, as Lulu and LSI did. The bound book is now being sold at all three sites.
• I took the digital file and modified it a bit for various e-book markets. Most of the e-book intermediaries want my text in PDF format, which I prefer because I can include tables and they will remain intact.
Some of the digital books required my adjusting or removing page numbers throughout, including in the table of contents and the index. I also had to check the PDF files for page-break glitches. And because I could directly link references in e-books, I added links or changed the bound book www… addresses. I did this to a copy of the master DOC file, then saved it into a master digital book DOC file, and saved that into a PDF file, which became my master for all the digital versions to be sold through other companies.
• Bingo. I now had the core book ready to sell, both in print and as a download.
• I arranged to sell through the e-book division of LSI. Once you fill in the forms at the e-book section of LSI, it’s as easy as sending your e-book PDF text master and your front page cover file, in JPG. (All e-book publishers want the front cover only.) But don’t get excited. Selling an e-book through LSI probably means a very, very small bank deposit each month.
• I went back to Lulu to post my e-book version, and I had an easier time there because I had already navigated Lulu’s Web site maze to get my bound book included in its offerings. (When you go to “Publishing” on the site, you’ll read that you can just add information about your e-book version to the information about your bound book. I couldn’t, so I went through the process again, this time inserting the e-book PDF file for the download.) At the cover page, I went directly to text—no background—and I supplied the front cover file only in the JPG version, which worked fine. The rest was easy.
I discovered at that point that I should have put a preview in with the bound book, so I selected “create your own” and typed out the book’s eight-page opening section by entering 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, to which Lulu added the cover before the “1.” I did this both for the digital download version, and (better late than never) for the bound book.
Look for very modest income, at best, from Lulu downloads, at least at the outset.
• I got the book set up for the Kindle. Amazon will eagerly offer your e-book—free to you (see dtp.amazon.com)—to add product for its Kindle reader. Because the Kindle has its own reader language, PDF won’t work, but Amazon will take your Word file and convert it. Use your final e-book DOC file.
Sometimes this works. About half our Kindle books have been converted without problems. But too often—and this book was no exception—goofy things happen: text is squished or twice as big (and bold!), or pages break mysteriously. And all tables and almost all images must be expunged; they are a disaster. The solution of sorts with the expunged data is to send Kindle readers to a Web site page of your own where they can see or download the graphs, charts, or artwork that appear in the original book.
If you encounter distressed Kindle copy, you have some choices, since Amazon’s directions for preventing oddities are pretty awful for the nontechie. You can tinker with the Kindle text and resend it again and again until it’s more or less right, or until you get it as close as you can make it; you can use April Hamilton’s free “IndieAuthor Guide to Using Amazon’s DTP with MS Word” (see aprillhamilton.com), or you can hire an elance.com helper to apply magic (for about $50–75).
Another very modest bank deposit. Kindle pays a monthly royalty of 35 percent. Don’t count on this income to pay the bills.
• I got the book set up at Smashwords (smashwords.com). At this writing, the Smashwords e-book format is still so new that it’s hard to know what results to expect, but its payment terms appear to be the most appealing—85 percent of net (book price minus PayPal fee times $0.85). Who knows whether such a high royalty rate will generate much income, but it’s no big deal to use the format, so why not?
Smashwords wants a Word DOC file or an RTF file, which it will then translate into nine DRM-free e-book formats for various readers and apps. It distributes on Stanza, used by 1.3 million people through the iPhone and iPod Touch. I wasn’t able to read all the converted files on my computer, but many of the ones I could read looked disordered, even tortured. Still, the PDF version looked fine—but without the charts and graphs.
I like the free Smashwords Style Guide by the CEO, Mark Coker—plus his vision of somehow using your books on YouTube as well as the coupon code system and the affiliate program, all available on the Web site.
You might also check scribd.com, blurb.com, and FastPencil as additional publishers that provide similar services.
Where Am I After Posting All These Files?
As a regular publisher, I have starter digitally printed bound books for my own firm’s use plus an LSI marketing arm to the major distributors of that same book. In addition, I have bound books being sold by Lulu and Create Space, and I have the same book with an identical cover now widely available as an e-book through LSI, Lulu, Kindle, and Smashwords.
These are all ancillary publishing selling outlets that I didn’t have before.
It may have taken me 15–18 hours total to post the same book in the various formats. For subsequent books, the time could probably be reduced to about six hours a book. The cost is minimal. Since I needed a cover and ISBN anyway, it’s virtually nothing.
How much might I earn? Maybe a hundred or hundreds of dollars the first months, maybe thousands if the book catches fire with those outlet buyers or finds fame through my promotion and is ordered from the ancillary providers. It’s far too early to calculate the bottom-line value now, and I’m too jaded to get my hopes too high. But what’s most important for an established publisher is that this is all passive, no-hands-on income.
Yet if I were brand new to the field, had a novel or another pet book keeping me sleepless at night, and I could get the book itself into first-rate shape, proofed, polished, and well titled, I’d be frothing with hope at this windfall of free book creation and marketing that could make a professional-looking book with my name on it accessible to all my friends, family, and maybe even a coming cadre of fans.
Gordon Burgett helps writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers with niche publishing and empire-building. The author of Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time, 37 other published books, and more than 1,700 published articles, he owns and directs two publishing firms. Contact him at email@example.com or 800/563-1454. For more information, a free monthly newsletter, and other free publications, visit gordonburgett.com and gordonburgett.com/free-reports.