Below are honest answers to the kinds of publishing questions authors ask. The aim of this ruthless honesty is to give authors realistic expectations.
Who prints your paperbacks?
Ingram Spark /Lightning Source.
What is print on demand?
Common misconceptions about print on demand (POD), the method we use to print your paperback. https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/misconceptions-about-print-on-demand-pod
Where will my books be available?
Paperbacks are distributed worldwide by Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor. It will appear on Amazon, Book Depository, B & N and, a few weeks later, on most other online retailers. It will also be available for customers to order it from any bookstore world wide. It will not automatically appear on the shelves of a physical bookstore.
Ebooks will be available on whatever platform you choose. We suggest Kindle Direct Publishing, and if your want your ebook more widely available, Draft2Digital.
Do you secure copyright?
In Australia there is no need for copyright registration. Works are protected as soon as they are published. However, our books include a copyright page to make ownership clear, and we deposit our publications with the National Library of Australia and the NSW state library. US authors may also wish to register copyright with copyright.gov
Would my book be available for pre-order?
We do pre-orders for paperbacks, because it allows us and the author to do pre-publication marketing with a link to where readers can buy immediately. For authors with few followers, this maximises sales.
If there is no purchase link on pre-publication publicity, then a reader can see your post, think, ‘Oh, that sounds good,’ but then because they can’t act on that desire to read the book immediately, they’ll forget about it and you’ve lost a sale.
Other reasons for pre-orders on the paperback: it allows the authors to order paperbacks before the publication date and have them on hand for their launches. It also gives us time to check the physical paperback and make sure it’s all as it should be before the book is up for sale, and for the author to send print copies to reviewers. And if someone reads an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) and finds a typo, we can also fix that before publication.
The ebook is controlled by the author, so a pre-order set up is optional. And if an author really doesn’t want a pre-order for their paperback, we can skip it.
The problem with pre-orders on Amazon is that pre-order sales don’t count towards pushing the book up the Amazon sales rankings on its first day of sale. However, that’s really only a consideration for authors whose books have a chance of ranking well. For that to happen authors have to be able to mobilise several hundreds of sales in the first few days – either by having lots of engaged fans on their email list who will all buy in the first few days or by undertaking paid advertising from a variety of places that spans the first week.
An alternative to a pre-order for pre-publicity marketing is to use the product page on AIA Publishing’s website as the link in pre-publicity. There, readers can sign up for our mailing list and will receive an email on the publication date to remind them to buy it.
How much say would I have over my cover?
Though AIAP’s contract gives us the right to make the final decision on a cover, our cover designer works closely with our authors to create a cover with which they will be happy.
The way we work with author’s ideas is to ask the author to choose a selection of images they feel represents the book from the quality image provider that we use (Shutterstock), and then the designer will either choose one or more to use on the cover, or use those images as inspiration, depending on how appropriate the chosen images are for a cover design. The publisher also talks to the cover artist about the kind of cover that will best represent the book.
Why does my ebook not look like the paperback interior?
Don’t expect your ebook to look like your paperback. In most cases, it won’t. This is because ereading devices automatically default to whatever format settings have been selected for that device. Readers can change format settings such as the font, the font size, and the spacing between lines, so although our ebooks are formatted to look as much like the paperback interior as possible, the settings on the ereading device will override some of our formatting.
Some ereading devices have the option to set ‘Publisher Font’, and only if that option is available and selected on the device, will the book be sure to look like the paperback interior. In most other instances, the heading font (for instance) will not appear the same as for the paperback.
Ereaders don’t have set pages, so what appears as one page in the paperback could be half a page or 4 pages depending on how the font size is set. We don’t use drop caps in our ebook files because they often don’t display true to the formatting, so we change the drop caps to a large initial letter. This makes sure that the book will look good on all ereading devices. Simple formatting works best in ebooks.
Because there are so many different kinds of ereading devices and software, however, you can’t fully determine how any particular ereading device will display an ebook. We check our ebooks on Kindle Previewer and Adobe Digital Editions (for epubs) as well as on an actual Kindle ereader.
Can you put headers and footers on my ebook?
No we don’t do that because they are problematic and unnecessary. Adding headers, footers and page numbers to the ebook file can lead to the book’s title, author’s name, and page numbers appearing in the middle of the text on an ereader.
You don’t need to include a header indicating the book’s title in an ebook anyway because the title is automatically placed at the top of the ereader screen. On a touch screen Kindle, one tap at the top of the screen displays the book’s title.
Page numbers are superfluous in an ebook, as readers can adjust the text’s font and point size, and hence change how many words appear on a screen before the “page” has to be turned.
Only a fixed-format style ebook can have headers and footers that display properly on a page. However, such ebooks have limitations – see ‘the problem with fixed-format files’ in the next section.
Why do you recommend not including photos, tables and illustrations in the ebooks?
Ebooks with many images need to be formatted as a fixed format rather than reflowable text in order for the images to sit properly on a ‘page’.
The problem with fixed-format files is that they can’t be read on some devices and the font size can’t be changed, which means that the font may be too small to be readable on some devices for some readers – if they’ll load at all. Have you ever tried to read a pdf on a Kindle or a phone? It’s like that.
Fixed format is only suitable for books sold specifically for reading on computers and tablets – such as children’s picture books and text books. Fixed format ebooks look great on a tablet, but terrible on a phone and are problematic on ordinary ereaders – if they will read them at all.
Regardless of which type of file is used, fixed format or reflowable, photos can’t be enlarged on ordinary ereaders, and so they are hard to see. This makes their inclusion more of a frustration than an illustration. They also only appear in black and white. In the usual reflowable ebook format, they may also appear as just one tiny photo on an otherwise blank page or with the text in strange positions.
This quote from an Amazon reviewer explains the reader’s frustration with images in ebooks:
‘My Kindle’s screen is 6 inches (measured diagonally), and I found all of the screen captures, examples and exercises extremely difficult to read, even with a magnifying glass. The screen shots are simply too small, and there’s no way to increase their size on my Kindle. After viewing several exercises with various magnifying glasses and lenses, I eventually skipped them.’
Also images make the files very large, and Amazon charge you to download large files. Every time someone buys and downloads an ebook with a large file size, such as when photos are included, Amazon deducts a fee from what they pay you. This means that your book will need to be priced higher than a book with no or few photos.
In addition, formatting images for an ebook is a time consuming business, and so it will add to your costs. The more images, the higher the cost. Given the issues above, we don’t think it’s worth the cost.
But remember, we don’t have to publish an ebook. If your book won’t make sense without the images and there are a lot of them, then we advise just publishing a paperback.
How much will I get for each book sold?
Use this tool to work out how much AIAP will get for each book publisher compensation (royalties) calculator. You will receive 90% of the publisher compensation amount. And, of course, this will vary according to the price we charge. We choose prices that are competitive with similar books in the marketplace, but you can tell us what price you want.
You can’t use the above printer tool precisely until we know the number of pages in your book – after the interior formatting is completed. But the settings we usually use are a 229x152mm trim size (9×6″), black and white interior on cream paper with a perfect bound binding. For small books we use the 203x133mm trim size. The wholesale discount we use is 30% in the USA and 35% elsewhere.
How much will it cost me to buy books for resale?
To find the cost for author copies see the Ingram Spark book cost and shipping calculator, and add the $20 order fee. This fee is not charged on an initial proof copy if the author requests it.
Print on demand books are more costly to print per book than books printed by off-set printing, which is what mainstream publishers do, (it usually requires a minimum run of 2000 books), and so your books will be a little more expensive to print than a mainstream book. Offset publishing, however, requires a large upfront investment and you have to store the books.
Different bookstores are showing different prices. How is their pricing determined?
We set a recommended retail price (RRP) and then the book stores decide what they will charge based on that. They can charge more or less as they wish. We have no control over what they charge, but they have to pay us our set price whether they charge more or less.
Will you tell me how many sales I get from the different book stores?
AIAP doesn’t deal with the bookstores. We deal with Lightning Source/Ingram Spark, the printer and distributor, and they only tell us from which countries the sales are made, not which bookstores.
However, since you set up the ebook yourself, you will be able to see how many ebooks you sell on Amazon by going into your KDP account.
What can I expect in the ways of book sales?
That depends on genre and how well you market your book. Popular genres like thrillers, mystery and romance sell better than other genres. Fantasy and science fiction need to deliver exactly what fans want in order to sell well – strong plots, lots of action and heroic characters. Metaphysical and visionary fiction sales are relatively small. Books that are a mixture of genres are harder to sell.
We don’t manage our author’s ebook sales, so I can’t give figures on that, but in paperback sales, we have authors who have sold only about 30 in their first year and others have sold 1000. Authors whose books sell well have written in a popular genre and put effort into marketing.
Where would most sales be generated?
Amazon. But you have to actively market it to get the sales. Amazon and other book stores don’t market your book at all. It’s just up there, and readers won’t see it unless you advertise it in some fashion. The more sales and the more good reviews you get, the more your book will be seen and the more sales you get, but you have to actively market to get those initial sales.
The best way to maximise income is to sell your book at local events where you sell direct to readers. Authors usually manage to sell 40 books at a book launch or author talk, and get twice as much or more selling direct as they do through shop sales.
Will I make my money back?
That’s depends on:
- Your actual costs (which vary depending on how much editing the book needed);
- What time frame we’re talking about;
- The book’s genre;
- Whether or not you have other books published and how well they sold;
- How successful the book is in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the genre;
- How large your network of friends – both online and off – is and whether or not they are likely to be enthusiastic in helping word get out about your book:
- Whether or not the book has a theme of interest to a community of which you are part and how big that community is, and, of course, how much marketing you do and how well you do it.
I advise authors to think of their publishing as a hobby, and approach it as a keen golfer approaches their golfing equipment. They want professional-level clubs and shoes and are prepared to pay a lot of money for them, but they don’t expect to get their money back on them if they sell them at some point. The point of buying top-of-the line equipment is not to make money; it’s to help the golfer play their best game. For an author, the point of engaging our services is to produce a professional product of which the author can be proud – one they know their friends and work colleagues won’t cringe over. If they cover costs and make money, that’s great, but it’s not their main concern. In both golf and publishing, it helps to have a professional product, but it’s how you play the game that determines how high you score.
The way to make money as an indie author is to keep producing books, find a niche that works for you and build up a following of people who are always keen to read your next book. But building a following takes time. Many authors can’t be bothered with the work required for marketing and so don’t concern themselves at all with how many books they sell. Even so, some of those same authors have made back their money or are well on the way to it, especially if they keep writing new books in the same genre. Best not to have expectations, then you won’t be disappointed or feel under pressure to put a lot of effort or money into marketing.
Publishing questions on AIAP & the hybrid publishing model
What sets AIAP apart from the scores of other publishing services?
- We aren’t a self-publishing service; we’re a hybrid publisher that only publishes books that meet mainstream publishing standards of quality and fits with our publishing vision;
- We’re concerned about quality and we produce quality;
- We’re highly ethical. We’ll never rip you off;
- We’re an Alliance of Independent Authors’ partner which means we’re an ethical, reliable company that does good work. We stack up well in their research on author satisfaction for various services. See https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-service-reviews/
You say that as a hybrid publisher you differ in that you are selective in what book you take on. What does that mean in practice?
It means that we’re really fussy about what books we publish and reject the majority of books submitted to us. We won’t publish anything that doesn’t meet mainstream standards of quality in terms of the writing, but we’ll publish niche books with a small readership that mainstream publishers won’t. We reject 90% of submissions outright and offer around 10% the chance to work with us to improve the book. Of those books, most will eventually reach what we consider a publishable standard. We’re highly respected in the Indie community as a publisher who reliably publishes quality books and gives authors a fair deal.
Are reviewers more likely to review the book because I’ve published with you?
Depends on the reviewer and whether they’ve heard of us or not. If a reviewer looks us up and sees that we’re selective, they’d be more likely to review. With us, you’ll be able to submit to those reviewers who say they don’t review self-published books (and they’re often the reviewers with the most active blogs). Whether or not they review, however, is due to how well you write your request and whether the subject matter of the book interests them.
Are bookstores more likely to stock the book?
Book stores only stock Indie books on their physical shelves if the author can visit the bookstore and convince them to stock it. You have to have a willing store owner and be able to sell them on the idea, and it’s the authors responsibility to do that. If you tell them that your book is not self-published, however, but has been published by a selective indie publishers, they are likely to be more willing to stock it. However our books are available by order through all bookstores worldwide.
Are readers more likely to consider a purchase?
Not unless they’re someone who either knows about us, or looks up the publisher and recognises that we aren’t a self-publishing service. I don’t think most readers do that, though. Most readers simply buy if the book interests them and the reviews are good. I do know of readers who look at the name of the publisher and if it says ‘Amazon Digital Services’ or the name of the author, they won’t buy.
Miscellaneous publishing questions
My book has been pirated! What do I do?
Once the ebook is out, it’s possible for people to pirate it, or they could buy a paperback and scan it, and we cannot stop that happening. The general agreement about pirating amongst the Alliance of Independent Author members is that trying to stop pirating is a waste of time and that the best way to handle it is to be pleased that they think it’s worth pirating and people are reading it. If people can actually download your book – rather than being sent on a wild goose chase that throws all kinds of scam offers at them, which is what those websites usually are – the people downloading from pirate sites are never going to buy your book anyway.