Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sales, profits and time

If every author, self-published or not, were to tell the truth it would be no secret the dream of being a best selling author is universal. Best selling status of course is somewhat relative. A best selling history book probably does not sell the same number of copies as the latest block buster trashy vacation novel or spy thriller. It sells well in its niche.

The truth is most books are never best sellers. To be honest, for self-publishers, it is probably not wise to attempt to jump through the hoops the experts suggest jumping through to create a best seller. I will go one step further, it is very wise to not pay large sums of money for marketing programs designed to create best sellers such as the scheme to rig a brief peak in sales on Amazon to generate a quasi-truthful claim of Amazon best seller status.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to have a best seller, even a best seller in a niche market. But for me, a more successful long term strategy is to generate steady sales each month for each title I have in print. Adding titles to my catalog and working to build steady sales each month that are sustainable is more realistic and creates a steady cash flow for my business. I also believe that as my sales increase and my catalog expands, satisfied customers will purchase other books in my catalog, generating additional sales.

I do believe an author must work hard to promote and market his or her books in order to generate those initial sales that help generate word of mouth, and for authors who guide sales to Amazon, to engage the Long Tail of Amazon. Self-publishing expert Aaron Shepard estimates it takes one full year for a book to hit its stride on Amazon if it is a book worth buying.

Steady sales figures, sustained over time by a well thought out, sustainable marketing efforts preferably with low to no cost, should be a major goal for self-publishing authors. 

Patience helps too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What does a self-publishing author need to know? My latest project.

When I decided to enter the realm of the publishing world, I knew almost nothing about the industry in general and even less about the "sub-industry" of self-publishing. I was well versed in the subject matter of my first book and had reasonable writing skills. Once I decided to not use a traditional publisher, the learning curve really took off. After investing several hundred dollars in books on a wide range of subjects that related in one way or another to my publishing efforts and my overall small business, I found myself somewhat overwhelmed by everything I felt I had to learn.

Given the complexity of starting even my tiny business, I made the decision to "pay to publish" using Dog Ear Publishing. Dog Ear did a marvelous job with my first book, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball: Bench Coaching for Success. I was able to see my book in print, it is selling reasonably well on Amazon (I need to work harder to market it!) and was able to learn a tremendous amount about the self-publishing industry.

I still had a lot to learn and continued to make mistakes as I continued to go through the learning process in discovering how to be a self-publishing author. This led to my most recent project, the manuscript of which is now finished and waiting to be edited, etc. It is written in what I hope is an easy to understand format of 301 questions and answers about things an author needs to know in order to self-publish. 

The book is based on what I have learned. I do not claim to be an authority about the entire field of self-publishing, but I have learned a great deal. I would like to share what I have learned with other neophyte authors considering self-publishing, helping them avoid wasting large sums of money and time like I did in the learning process and to steer the reader to the best source of information for in depth research when more information is needed.

I am sure it will have some revisions done to it between now and the time it is actually published and ready for sale on Amazon. But, the cover is being designed, the ISBN for it purchased, copyright, etc, and it should be ready for sale by mid-June at the earliest.

If anyone would like to see a proof copy delivered electronically, please e-mail me at, and I will be happy to send you a draft in return for helpful and constructive criticism.

Friday, March 19, 2010

CreateSpace versus Lightning Source - Payment Schedule and Cash Flow!

I have spent the afternoon of my day off reading Aaron Shepard's new POD for Profit, an excellent guide to using Lightning Source as your POD printer to self-publish. I do want to say this book is for self-publishing authors even if you don't use, or intend to use, Lightning Source for your POD printing and distribution through Ingram. This book has moved onto my list of must purchase books for anyone considering self-publishing.

In reading the book though, I did pick up a fact that makes me glad I have used CreateSpace as my POD printer and distributor.  The very first book I authored I used an author services company, Dog Ear Publishing, to get my book into print and distributed. Dog Ear was great to deal with. I felt like I more than got my money's worth from the services they provided. Dog Ear has always communicated well with me. If I  ever use an author services company again, it will be Dog Ear. What's more, Dog Ear rectified one of the two issues I had with them. They now provide a means to track actual sales numbers through your account on their website. The other issue I don't think Dog Ear will ever be able to change and that is the 3-4 month wait to get paid from the previous quarter.

For example, I am still waiting for payment from Dog Ear for sales of my book during the 4th fiscal quarter. I am happy to say the check is going to be sizable and will fund my current business projects that are waiting to go but just need funding. I could have used the money two months ago and would have been able to launch another book and another business project with the money. Dog Ear is not really to blame for the delay, Lightning Source does not pay Dog Ear for nearly three months after the quarter is over and then Dog Ear has to process payment to its authors. If you publish with Lightning Source, you will be paid four times a year, several months after the end of the fiscal quarter you are being paid for!

CreateSpace on the other hand pays much quicker. For example, I am paid, by direct bank deposit, for sales in January at the end of February. In both instances, the reason for delay is so adjustments for returns, which I don't allow and other book keeping and accounting issues can be resolved.

Regardless, for my fledgling business, the cash flow is better getting a monthly payment instead of a quarterly payment. After the initial one month delay in payment, I will have funds from my book sales deposited on a monthly basis.

I am fully aware I can make more money per sale using LSI and setting a short discount than I can using CreateSpace with its 40% discount for sales on Amazon. But, and I desire to point this out, for some authors or businessmen, the cash flow issue might be more important for a variety of reasons than the amount of profit generated.

The sale of my self-published books are only part of my business and part of a long term strategy. In building the business I have fixed operational costs that are monthly, larger costs that are seasonal, and costs that are tied to specific projects. Other than the initial investment made in getting the business started, all costs, future projects and expansion of the business must be generated by income from the business, making cash flow an issue. In addition, the initial investment must be recouped as quickly as possible.

CreateSpace also allows me to track sales easily by simply logging into my Member Dashboard. One of the tracking features provides me a complete breakdown of the books sold, the cost per copy, the day the book was sold, my net profit for each book sold and totals to date. This is valuable information that updates ever few hours.

I will say I have a book I am working on with potential for good sales by any measure. Because I anticipate this book will be the most successful one I ever author in terms of sales, making the potential for profit the greatest of any book I self-publish, I will use Lightning Source to publish this book. By the time this book is finished the business should be in better shape financially making the need for monthly cash flow less important and the generation of more total net profit a more important issue. Until then, CreateSpace will be my POD printer and distributor.

I believe this is an issue self-publisher's should consider. If, like me, you do not want to borrow money to start your business, cash flow will be an issue. It will be an issue regardless if you plan to self-publish as a business and not a hobby. I consider the difference in profit like paying interest. In fact, that is a topic that someone with an accounting background should look into. Maybe a topic for a future blog post.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It arrived today! My copy of POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard!

My print copy of POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard arrived today in the brown truck! I had the good fortune to read an electronic advance copy of the book and let's just say Mr. Shepard made a lot of of changes! This book is worth every dime you pay for it and then some. As an advocate of using CreateSpace, in large part because CS is much easier to use, POD for Profit clears up a lot of the issues of dealing with Lightning Source.

It is probably not wise to trumpet LSI too much as it will probably hurt sales of my book Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace, but this book is just too good not to recommend to authors interested in self-publishing and making it a viable business enterprise.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aaron Shepard's Latest Book on Self-Publishing Is Available!

If you are new to the self-publishing industry, Aaron Shepard is one of the foremost advocates and experts on self-publishing, particularly in using Lightning Source as your print-on-demand printer and Ingram distributor. He is the author of Aiming at Amazon, the book detailing the business model of selling your POD book successfully on Amazon. In addition to Aiming at Amazon, Shepard is the author of Perfect Pages, a guide for using Microsoft Word to create the files needed to self-publish your book.

Shepard's latest book on self-publishing, POD for Profit, is now available on Amazon! Having been fortunate enough to have seen an advanced copy, I can tell you this is an excellent guide on using LSI to self-publish your book. Just as soon as you can, I suggest you order your copy from Amazon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Develop a business plan as you write! Part I of a Series

When I first started my venture into the world of publishing and writing books, I had no business plan. What a mistake that was! It proved to be costly in two vital resources for an author, financially and time. Still, I learned a great deal in the process and perhaps the "expense" of those first lessons will prove financially beneficial in the future, or so I hope.

Why have a business plan? Unless the sole purpose in writing your books is to entertain yourself or to provide copies to friends and family only, then a business plan is not necessary. But if you want your books to reach an audience and to be read and to make money in the process, you must have a business plan.

What elements must be included in a business plan? Based on my experience the following factors must be considered: who will want to purchase the book, what will book production costs be, how will the book to be delivered to the customers who want to purchase it and how will I make the consuming public aware of the book?

Ideally all of this should be considered before you start writing the book and certainly should be finalized before you are ready to begin production work for the book. Marketing efforts should be started while the book is still being written so a demand for it will be present when it becomes available on the market.

In the next edition in this theme I will discuss factors in book production and the costs involved.