Book Publishing A to Z: Part 2 (Re-Air)
How can you make sure your self-published book reaches those who need to read it? What should you watch out for when signing a contract with a publisher? And does it really matter what genre your book is classified under?
In Part 2 of the Book Publishing A to Z series, Coach Tam addresses what you need to know about distribution, publishing licenses, and more, as we continue through the alphabet of publishing jargon. Be sure to tune in — this episode is packed with tips and processes that you need to understand if you want your book to have maximum impact!
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- Why you should consider more than just Amazon for distributing your self-published book
- Language to watch for when signing a publishing contract
- A look at Amazon’s KDP Select program, and what it means for your book distribution rights
- Three options to ensure your book gets formatted correctly
- The service that genres provide to both the writer and the reader — and how to research yours properly
It’s easy to be really passionate about the writing process and about wanting to share your story with the world and, at the same time, also be really lost to how the industry actually works. But if you don’t understand how the industry works before you publish, it can actually hurt your book’s success and impact.
If you missed the previous episode with the first set of terms, you can check it out here!
Here are the next set of publishing terms you need to know.
Distribution is a very important topic, because it’s an area that is often missed or misunderstood. You see, distribution is all about making your book available to the people who need it. When you think about publishing and getting your book into the hands of readers, chances are good that you’re picturing the reader who goes online to Amazon and searches for a book to solve a particular problem, answer a question, or meet a need (like being entertained).
Those readers are absolutely important, but here’s the deal: It’s not just the end user reader who’s on the internet that you need to think about. There are also other players like retailers and wholesalers who matter, too.
When you land a traditional publishing deal, meaning a publishing house is leading the effort to get your book published and out in the mainstream, they’re going to make sure your book is available in the appropriate markets. But if you self-publish, it is up to you to figure out how to maximize your distribution.
So many aspiring authors don’t understand that if you only publish through Amazon KDP, you will not get the maximum distribution — which means you miss out on sales. And because sales equals impact, you also miss the opportunity to impact more people.
Now, make no mistake about it, Amazon is a major player in the book business. As a matter of fact, 10% of Amazon’s revenue is estimated to be generated from book sales. That’s huge! So yes, there are a lot of books being sold on Amazon. But if you want to reach more readers and make more money, you need a distribution strategy that includes not just Amazon KDP, but also another huge player: IngramSpark.
Amazon is really for that end user who’s searching for books on the internet. The benefit of publishing a paperback with Ingram Spark, however, is that the book goes into their massive distribution network that reaches beyond the internet.
If you want to see your book in brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries, then you need to understand that those outlets don’t leverage Amazon to get their books. They have relationships with IngramSpark. So to get your self-published book in those places, you need to work with IngramSpark, too.
This means you’ll need to follow some extra steps. You’ll need to submit your book to two different platforms, and you will have to pay some fees to get your book set up on IngramSpark. But if your goal is really to impact the maximum number of people and turn your book into a business, it makes sense to include IngramSpark in your strategy.
Often, when we think about exclusivity, we think of it from a traditional publishing standpoint, which involves a contract. But while that is one side to exclusivity, it can also apply to the self-publishing world. So let’s look at both.
In general, when you publish to Amazon KDP, you’re not granting an exclusive license. But there is an exception: Amazon’s KDP Select program. This is an opt-in program, which means it is optional. But if you select the box to opt in, you are giving Amazon KDP the right to exclusively distribute your book for a 90-day period.
Here’s what that means. If you check that KDP Select box, then you can’t publish your book on any other platform, including your own website, for a 90-day period. It means you are licensing exclusive rights to Amazon to publish your ebook during that time.
Essentially, for 90 days, Amazon will be in the driver’s seat for your ebook. So yes, you will be giving up some independence. Amazon has their own algorithms and such that you can’t control, which means to some degree, your book’s exposure will be dependent on Amazon and their strategy.
But there are some benefits for you, too. Amazon will of course reward you for opting in to KDP Select, because it helps them with their goal of increasing subscriptions for Kindle Unlimited. This program allows readers to pay a fixed price per month and then borrow and read an unlimited number of books.
When you opt into KDP Select, you also get the benefit of that audience. Your book is easier to discover and has the potential to get more exposure. Plus, authors who opt in to KDP Select can get some perks like a free promotional period to attract reviews, Kindle Countdown deals, and more.
So exclusivity is not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s important that you understand what is happening and that you cannot promote your book on your website during the established period of time. After all, you don’t want to get in trouble by violating the agreement you have entered into with KDP.
If you have one book and you’re just starting out, Amazon KDP may be worth a try, at least for the first 90 days. That way you can see how it works and learn from the experience. Just make sure you know what you are getting into.
When you work with a traditional publishing house, you always want to make sure you read the contract before you sign it, so you know what you’re getting into. There are many things to keep an eye out for when signing a publishing contract, but let’s look at a few that pertain to exclusivity specifically.
First is assignment. You’re likely to see this word in a section of the contract that talks about a grant of rights, license permission, or permitted uses. In this context, assignment means you are assigning, or transferring, complete ownership of your work over to someone else — in this case, the publishing house. That includes the copyright, royalties, and everything else. This is an extreme agreement that you probably won’t see. But do check your contract to make sure!
Other words you might see in this section of the contract are exclusive or non-exclusive licenses. A non-exclusive license means you can grant the same rights to multiple people. You’re not locked in or committed to just that one person.
An exclusive license, on the other hand, means you can only grant those rights to one person. In this instance, the publishing house that you are signing the agreement with has exclusive rights to the book. And let’s be very clear: that means you no longer have rights to the book.
Remember, a traditional publishing house is putting a lot on the line and investing a lot to get your book out there. So you can expect to see some reference to exclusive rights to the publisher in the contract. But you can often still negotiate the limits of that exclusivity. For example, you may not wish to grant exclusive rights to your audio books or to other translations.
Everything has the potential to be negotiated. So really think about how much exclusivity you’re willing to give up to get the publishing deal, and read the contract carefully so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
Formatting is so often neglected, but it’s so important if you want your book to be a success. Think about it this way: if your mission with your writing is to impact the world, then you’ve got to approach your writing as a business. But if you were to go into a brick-and-mortar store, and everything was strewn around, it was dirty, and it wasn’t well taken care of, you wouldn’t want to shop in that store, would you?
The same is true of your book. Your book represents you; it sends a message about who you are and the type of quality that you produce with your books or your products. So if you want your products to sell, you have to take into consideration every element of the process. And that includes the formatting of both the interior and the exterior of the book.
Formatting directly impacts the readability of your book. If a person cracks open your book, and they don’t feel that it’s put together well, more than likely, they’re not going to continue reading. Then your book won’t have the impact you want it to have. So you’ve got to make sure you get the formatting right.
You have a few options for doing this:
- Do the research: You can certainly learn how to format your book yourself. But you’ll need to do plenty of research and understand that it will be a huge commitment of time and energy.
- Hire a freelancer: Websites like Upwork and Fiverr make it easy to connect with freelancers who can format your book for you. Just make sure you carefully vet the person you hire and check out samples of their past work first.
- Use a self-publishing program: Self-publishing houses or programs aren’t really focused on the actual publishing side of things like getting your book on Amazon. Instead, they’re for helping you get your book ready for publishing and making sure that it represents you well.
Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t always mean it’s the best option for you. Consider how much time, energy, and money you’re willing and able to spend on getting your book formatted, and then choose the option that works best for you and also results in a high-quality finished product.
Think of genres as categories, or a way of organizing books. If you look online, you’ll see many of these different categories. But have you ever wondered why there are so many or what specific purpose they serve?
When you really think about it, genres help both the writer and the reader.
For the writer, genres help guide their thought process while putting the book together. For example, if you know you’re going to be writing a self-help book, checking out other books in that category can help you get a feel for how other authors have effectively communicated their messages. Or, if you’re planning to tell about an excerpt of your life (a memoir), you can look at ways other authors have told their stories so that they are impactful and relatable for readers.
Similarly, genres help guide readers. For example, people who enjoy romance are looking for certain characteristics — love, warm fuzzy feelings, getting swept off their feet, and so on. So when they look for a book with those qualities, they’ll look for one in a genre, like romance, that typically includes those things.
So genres actually provide a service. They help you, as a writer, make strategic choices about what to include and how to present your message or ideas. And, for readers, genres help them make strategic choices about what books to select.
So before you publish your book, do some research to make sure you understand what other books in your genre are selling well and how those authors communicate. That doesn’t mean you have to mimic or pattern your book after theirs, but remember that the reader — the market — is the one who ultimately decides whether your book is impactful for them. So why not get a preview of what readers might expect before you publish?
It’s tempting to just sit down and write what comes to mind. But if your ultimate goal is to impact people, then you have to make sure you’re taking them into account in the writing and publishing process.
Next Week on Book Publishing A to Z
We’ve covered some important terms this week, but there are still plenty more to come! Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect in the next installment of the Book Publishing A to Z series:
- The importance of keywords (especially for publishing on Amazon)
- Pricing and why it matters
- What a literary agent does and why you might need one
We’ll cover all that and more right here next week!
My name is Tamara “Coach Tam” Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) “get you”, 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.
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