Below are honest answers to the kinds of questions authors ask in regards to publishing. The aim of this ruthless honesty is to give authors realistic expectations.
Common misconceptions about print on demand (POD) https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/misconceptions-about-print-on-demand-pod
Ingram Spark/Lightning Source (i.e., the printer) print pricing information https://www.ingramspark.com/hubfs/downloads/pricing.pdf
Book cost and shipping calculator, and publisher compensation (royalties) calculator https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator
You can’t use the above printer tools 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.
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, the way we work with cover design 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. We also run the design by the author for approval before it’s finalised. Authors can then request changes if they wish.
Mostly authors only request small changes, and even that’s fairly rare. The only time I had to pull rank on an author was when they wanted to use their own cover design and it was pretty awful.
Also, you don’t have to use our cover artist. You can engage any professional cover artist you want so long as we approve them; we just check that they are a fully professional designer used to providing files for Ingram Spark
How much will it cost me to buy books for resale?
The cost of books wholesale to you depends on how many pages your book is plus the cost of postage and handling and a $15 order fee. If you live outside of either Australia, the UK or USA, where the books are printed, your postage costs will be higher. You can estimate the cost to you by using this tool. https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator
Print on demand books are more costly to print per book than books printed by off-set printing, which is how 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 requires a large upfront investment and you have to store the books.
What would be the sales price, and what will I earn per book?
You set whatever price you want on your ebook because you upload the ebook files yourself on your own account. Unknown authors usually price their books at USD $2.99 for a 70-90,000 word book and $3.99 for larger books, and Amazon takes 70%.
For the paperback, it depends on the number of pages and what Ingram Spark/Lightning Source charges to print the book. We set prices in accordance with other print on demand books of the same size, what suits the local market and we aim to make the publisher compensation – of which AIAP takes 10% – around USD $3.00 a book. More than that usually makes the books too expensive. We’ll let you know what prices we set and you can change the prices by requesting a price change.
You can see what you will earn by using this tool and taking 10% off the compensation amount. https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/PubCompCalculator
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.
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.
Why do you recommend not including photos, tables and illustrations in the ebooks?
We can do photos in ebooks if they are essential to the story, but because formatting them is a time consuming business, it will incur additional costs. The more images, the higher the cost. We don’t think it’s worth the cost to you because images don’t come up very well in ereaders.
On most ereaders, photos are black and white only, can’t be enlarged and so are hard to see – unless the book is being read on a tablet, but most ebooks, other than children’s books, are read on ereaders. Ebooks with many images need to be formatted as a fixed format rather than reflowable text in order to sit properly on a ‘page’. However, fixed format ebooks can’t have the text size altered by the reader and not all devices can read fixed format files. Other devices may read it, but the font size may be too small to be easily readable – like reading a PDF on a Kindle.
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, they deduct a fee from what they pay you.
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.
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. Indie BRAG assessors and Underground Book Reviews should know about our reputation, but I don’t know about others. 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 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.
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.
What really sets AIA apart from the scores of other self-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;
- We charge only for the time it takes us to publish your book, plus costs;
- 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 https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-service-reviews/
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.
Do you secure copyright?
In Australia there is no need for copyright registration, nor is there a legal requirement to put a copyright notice on it. A work will be protected as soon as it is published. However, our books include a copyright page, 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
Why do you suggest using a pre-order setup for the ebook?
The ebook is controlled by you, so a pre-order set up is optional, of course. You can do the set up and publish it immediately on the publication date if you want. You can even do it later if you want to work it that way.
The reason I suggest it is for marketing purposes, so that every time you mention the book in the pre-publicity stage you can share a link to where they can immediately purchase it – though it won’t arrive until later. You want to capture people’s interest and get them to buy it once they’re interested. If there is no purchase link, then they can see your post, think, ‘Oh that sounds good,’ but then because they can’t act on that immediately, they’ll forget about it and you’ve lost a sale.
The paperback is automatically on pre-order after I’ve uploaded the files, so that can provide you with the purchase link without doing an ebook pre-order, but people who read on an ereader don’t buy paperbacks, so it is good to have both options available.
That’s my reasoning. People who don’t recommend it, say that because it doesn’t help your book get traction on the rankings. That’s because those pre-order sales are not added up on the publication date, so it’s better if you have a lot of fans that they all buy it on the publication date. A lot of sales on one day will push it up the rankings, but if you don’t already have a large fan base of hundreds who will all buy on one day, then really that doesn’t make a lot of difference.
The alternative is to use the product page on AIA Publishing’s website as your link in your pre-publicity and you hope that people will sign up for our mailing list so I can email them on the publication date to remind them to buy it.
The reason I do a pre-order on the paperback is that it allows you to order books before the release date and have them on hand. It also gives me the time to check the physical paperback and make sure it’s all as it should be before the book is up for sale. And if someone reads an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) and finds a typo, we can also fix that before publication.
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.