I am pleased to welcome a guest to my blog today to share some important information with you.
B. Alan Bourgeois has been in the business of helping authors learn new and innovative ways to market themselves and their work for many years. It’s no secret that there are over a million new books uploaded to Amazon each year. It makes our jobs as amateur marketers even more difficult as we struggle to get our books seen, read and reviewed.
I’ll turn the blog over to Alan and let him share some important facts about marketing your work.
COVID-19 Shines A Light on Inequities for Authors.
While I want to write that COVID-19 has created some issues for authors to sell their books, the reality is that this pandemic has shone a blinding light on what already existed for authors and small presses before the pandemic. And that is the unfair practices that Amazon and the big five, soon to be the big four publishing houses have established to keep control over the indie author and small presses.
Let’s start with the issue of Retail Prices.
With both Amazon and the Big 5 controlling the general retail price of books sold, indie authors and small press have been faced with the challenge of not being able to adjust their retail price to accommodate the ever-increasing print increases, which over the past five years, has slowly eaten away at an author’s profit margin. If an author increases their retail prices to adjust for printing charges, then they price themselves out of the market. After all, what indie author can order 100,000 copies of a book to compete with a large publishing house?
Now let’s talk about distribution.
Ingram, which is a part of Lighting Source, has a monopoly on distribution for small press and indie authors. With their ability to have books printed in most continents, it’s a good avenue for POD/self-published books. While the Big 5 can afford the warehousing of their books with distributors like Baker/Taylor and others, small press and indie authors cannot afford the high fees they would be charged with the distribution companies. This then forces authors to work with IngramSpark for POD and distribution. Amazon is not a distributor, only a POD for their system.
But Authors Need Book Sales!
This now leaves us with the option of bookstores. We, as authors, count on them to generate sales as well as opportunities to do readings and other programs at these bookstores. The more chances we have of getting face-time with readers, the greater chances we have of sales. But in order to interest bookstores in carrying our books, we need to have a distributor that will accept the book returns, and at a price rate that works for the store to purchase the book and make money from the sell. This brings us back to a distributor like Ingram that prefers, but does not require indie authors to sell their books at a 55% discount off the retail price. You can opt for a lower discount, but if you do, then there is a good chance you will not get picked up by bookstores as it then prices the book out of their profit margin.
Confused? Wait, it gets better!
Let’s do an example. I will keep it very simple with a $10 retail print book (a 6×9, 125 pages, perfect bound, glossy cover). You have it available on Ingram at the 55% discount. The book is then valued at $4.50, while your printing cost as of this writing is $2.73, leaving you a profit of $1.77 before their shipping and handling fees. If you were lucky enough to order 100 copies at once, the cost (including shipping and handling) would come to $3.52, leaving you with a profit of $0.98 per book. Starting to see the challenges?
If you are with Amazon Select, then you may make a little more money for each book sold. But the downside is that you are missing out on over 30-40% of the customer base (bookstore sales). Is it worth it if you can’t reach the readers?
It should be noted that eBooks and audiobooks were not discussed as examples, as those too have many unfair practices put into place by both Amazon and the Big 5 that have harmed the indie authors and small press. That’s for another post of its own.
The sample is a perfect example of the cycle of frustration that the authors experience constantly and why the Big 5 and Amazon are making more money than the author. The monopoly that both of them have is not fair, but because they control the majority of book sales, they get away with it. The whole approach to controlling the market, is to buy up the competition and price everyone else out of the market, which is why the big 5 is soon to be the Big 4.
What is an author to do?
The key factor is for an author to learn how to market themselves, not just through bookstores or by buying Amazon ads, but through other sources, that yes, do take time and money. Authors must reach out to readers through social media, book festivals, podcasts, and any other events they can find. It’s not just about doing these events; it’s about doing them smart. It’s about thinking outside the box and creating events and concepts that draw readers to the author by giving them a reason to learn about the authors’ books and a reason to buy them.
Editing, proofreading, cover design, are essential key elements that authors should always invest in, to be competitive and to offer a product that is of high quality. A major mistake authors make is not investing in these key elements and ending up with a poorly written novel.
What COVID-19 has done, is bring these unfair issues to light, and force authors to think outside the box on ways to market and sell their books. It encourages authors to find partnerships that help them to succeed, as well as support their fellow authors. As a community of one million authors, it allows indie authors and small press to change the unfair practices and shape the future.
It is up to an author to find organizations, events, and programs that help them to cost-effectively market their books so they can succeed. This also includes working with bookstores like IndieLector.Store, an online bookstore that pays authors up to 80% from their book sales, while also teaming up with an organization that teaches authors how to better market and sell their books, AuthorsMarketingGuild.com.
By working through these programs, authors have a greater chance of success and at the same time, can educate readers on the value of buying books from places that help them to earn a fair living.
With any growth process, it is a matter of educating people about alternatives that help everyone grow stronger and better. It takes people getting angry at the status quo, and being willing to change it. Are you angry enough? Are you tired of not earning enough money from your book sales to make a fair living? You can be part of the change, or you can stay comfortable where you are and accept the results. It comes down to how much you value your work.
B Alan Bourgeois is the founder of several organizations and nonprofits designed to help authors to succeed in a variety of ways. He is an award-winning author and speaker on the subject of marketing for authors. You can learn more about his careers, writing and speaking at BourgeoisMedia.com
Thank you, Alan, for this important message!
If you are interested, Alan has a book, “Authors Revolution Workbook,” which gives a step-by-step guide to successful marketing.