The most common questions The Book Reality Experience gets asked about Independent Publishing and how we help you to self-publish your book:
Do you accept all manuscripts sent to you?
No. We do assess all manuscripts (free-of-charge) that are sent in and if we think it is interesting, a genuine story, shows enough skill and merit for it to see the light of day and much more importantly, is good enough for us to help it into the world under our umbrella, then we will proceed. However, unlike a traditional publisher, we do not judge your manuscript on any commercial likelihood of success, nor do we insist it is “on trend” or “in fashion”. We are here to help you realise your dream of seeing your book published. Unlike traditional publishers, we are not weighing it up against profit and loss margins. If it is a good story and well written, then we will help you publish it, but we are not a clearing house for all manuscripts. If we recommend a certain level of editing to make your book as good as it can be and you choose not to undertake that, then we shall bow out. We also accept all genres of book for review but we retain the right to not proceed with projects we find are inflammatory, racist, sexist or otherwise offensive. Any decision to not proceed is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
Your quotes are valid for 30 days – If I wait to see if I get interest from a literary agency before saying yes to Book Reality, might my opportunity with you disappear?
No. Absolutely not. In fact our advice to all authors is try, try and try again to get a traditional deal. The “Trad” companies pay for everything and have distribution reach, marketing budgets and advertising clout. They are still the “Golden Ticket” for an author, so take your time and keep trying with them. However, look at some of the books they choose to publish and look at the famous anecdotes of those they have rejected. Trad deals need two things. One, you do need to be able to write a decent story and two, you certainly need to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right publisher looking for the right fit. Whereas previously if you didn’t have that luck you were stymied, now Independent Publishing offers a pathway to see your book out into the world even if the Trad gatekeepers reject it. Indy means doing all the marketing and promotion yourself and Indy needs you to foot the bill for the editing and design etc. So, Trad still holds a stacked deck. Therefore, take all the time you need to pursue them. Your opportunity with us will still be there. The 30-day time limit on quotes is merely because some of our costs may increase or situations alter, such as a tax increase and we may need to revisit the quote.
Can I use selected bits of your service?
Certainly. If you want us to format the interior or provide a cover, or both, or hook you up with an editor in isolation, then we are happy to do that. You can bring your book out under your own ISBN within your own accounts and we will simply work on the files you wish us to. If you are still pursuing a traditional deal, you can contract our editors to help you get your manuscript into shape. We are dedicated to helping independent writers become independent authors in whatever manner you feel best suits you. All of our services are quoted and agreed in advance so you have no surprises with regard to costs.
If I wanted to provide front and back cover art, would you accept this?
Yes. The files would need to be of a suitable density, definition and format for our designers to use within a cover. The easiest way to talk file formats and requirements is to put your artist in touch with our designers and then they can talk “arty stuff!” and leave us mere mortals out of it. If the file is not of a sufficient quality though, we will not be able to use it. Most importantly, you MUST be able to provide proof of copyright ownership or a valid use license for the artwork you provide.
How does the whole Print on Demand work? Is it true that if someone makes a purchase via Ingram Spark or Amazon or another online retailer, a single copy is printed on demand and delivered?
Yes. It all happens in the background with no input from you and the royalty from that sale gets paid by the selling company (Ingram, Amazon, etc ) about 90 days after the sale of the book. As well as that, you can also sell the book direct from your own website, or you can have copies printed and take to local bookshops and ask them to stock it on a sale or return basis. Note that with sales through Ingram, Amazon and bookshop sales, the vendor expects at least a 40% discount off the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) – hence you end up with less royalty than you might have first thought. For example – let’s say a book retails for $20 and costs $8 to print. If it sells through a retail outlet, you might think you would get the difference, but of course you don’t. The retailer needs their cut, (after all, they do have a shop and staff, rates and electricity and the rest of the business expenses that go with that) so they expect to buy the book for at least a 40% discount, meaning they will likely buy it for $12 (or less). Your royalty rate is then that $12 minus the cost of printing $8 – so total net royalty might be $4 (or less). Selling some yourself in person or from your own website will of course maximise your income as there is no one in the middle needing a 40% discount.
Will my book be available for stocking by real bookshops in real high streets?
Yes. BUT – You need to be aware of the reality that accompanies Print on Demand. The Ingram Spark distribution that we use means that, yes, your book will be listed in the major book supply streams so it can be ordered by most bricks and mortar bookshops around the world. However, you need to know that whilst it sounds fantastic, it is unlikely to happen. Over to Ian Andrew for this one…
Indulge me if you will with a quick, and overly-simplified, whirlwind tour of publishing…High street retailers can order your book. If someone knows about your book and walks in and orders it then that should be a “done deal”. However, high street retailers will usually* not stock books unless they are on a sale or return basis. Traditional publishers print thousands of copies (thereby lowering their print costs considerably, but paying out a lot up front) and have mechanisms to cope with sale or return. *(Some retailer will take books on firm sale, but it is rare).
For an example, let’s say that Polar Bear Publishing of Death Valley, a traditional publisher that represents hundreds of mainstream authors, get their paperbacks printed at $0.50 per book. (Achievable with the numbers they have printed annually). They warehouse their stock and have armies of in-the-field sales agents who visit book sellers to convince them to take their new titles. The bookshop orders, say ten copies each of a range of titles at nil cost initially. (Yep, no money is paid by the bookshop – they just order and books get delivered). Subsequently, they sell all 10 of JK Bowling, the best-selling author that Polar Bear Publishing represent at $30 each. He writes fantasy novels about a girl witch… The bookshop also sells 2 of Fred Blog’s thrillers at $20 and 1 of Janet Jotter’s latest romantic comedy at $15. The bookshop pays 40% off the RRP price for each copy of the 13 books direct to Polar Bear Publishing and eventually will return 17. Polar Bear Publishing gets all the returns in from all the shops around the country/world and they make up a palette of mixed books (usually by the 1000) and sell them for just a little more than it cost them to print and ship the books originally. Say $2 per book. They are happy and the printer is happy as they have all been paid out and at least covered their costs. In fact Polar Bear Publishing is delighted as the global JK Bowling sales covered all their costs and more for the year and allowed them to take the risk on Fred and Janet… Meanwhile, the “remainder” buyer then sells the 1000 mixed books to a large discount retailer or a supermarket chain or a bargain bookshop for $2.50 per title – the remainder re-seller is happy as they just made 50 cents per book for little or no effort and they sell thousands and thousands of them each year. It all adds up. The supermarket, or giant retail chain sells the book in a bargain bucket of books at $3.00 – they are happy too. As are the readers who get cheap books. The authors are a different matter. They would, perhaps, if they are lucky, get 20% of the net profit of all sales made. It could be nearer 10%. JK is happy, he is off to buy a yacht. Janet and Fred are less happy as they probably never made enough royalty to even see their original advance paid out and so they may well have made less than a few thousand dollars for the whole adventure. They were however, traditionally published and therefore, in the eyes of so many within the Traditional world, “better” than indy authors. That last point is extremely questionable…
As an independent author you don’t have (nor do you want) a stock of a 1000 books in your garage. Therefore you pay the higher Print on Demand printing costs per book. You don’t have sales reps to “sell” your book to bookshops (well you do, it is you). You don’t have anywhere to sell your returned books that didn’t sell. (Well, you do, you can try to resell them to other bookstores or at events that you go to). You are therefore at a huge disadvantage… That said, you are your own force of nature, so you can go to local bookshops and you can get them to take your book. It takes a bit of bravado and a thick skin but it can be done. It is easier if you go to a bookshop that is passionate about books and knows both their stock and their customers. If they love your book they will actively sell it for you. However, initially, they will take your book on “Consignment” as in, no money is paid. If they sell some you will make money as will they (remember, they will normally want a 40% discount).
The bottom line is, bookshops and traditional publishing companies are businesses… If people are buying your product then other people will stock your product. For people to buy your book they need to know about your book… You will need to organise and do book launches, library talks, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, establish a social media presence and website presence – or you can do none of that. It is your choice. The more you do the more your book will be known. That’s a long answer to a short question – I hope it clarifies things a little.
Given all that, why would I bother?
Ah! Because as a writer, there is little to surpass the thrill of holding your own book for the first time. Also, that struggle to get into bricks and mortar bookshops is only one retail avenue. All the online sellers that list your book will do so without having to be convinced. Any orders made will be fulfilled direct from the distributors. A single sale to someone you do not know means your book is out there in the world being read and cherished by a stranger. Isn’t that a writer’s dream? Add to that, if your book is published for sale, you will also be legally required to deposit copies into your national library – to be held for posterity. Your own little piece of immortality, right there.
Will there be ongoing annual fees for the distribution platforms mentioned?
No. Once we agree the contract terms what you pay is fixed and final. If we agree that Book Reality will manage your accounts and book titles going forward then we will take an agreed share of any royalties in payment of our management fee. You don’t pay any more out of pocket expenses. If you sell books and we have to manage things, we get a percentage. If you don’t sell books, we don’t. Either way, you have no additional financial commitment from your own funds. In the event that Amazon or Ingram or any other Print on Demand provider started charging annual fees we would have serious concerns and would probably look to move our business elsewhere to protect us and our authors.
How long will it all take?
Mmm…That is a good question but almost impossible to answer. If your book is only in need of a final proof read. the formatting is straightforward and the artwork likewise, then from start to finish it could be done in weeks. If the editing is complex and lengthy, the artwork is contentious and the formatting is complex because the book is huge and the illustrations many and varied, then it can take months. We have turned projects around in 5 weeks. We have turned projects around in 14 months. Here’s the thing. Take your time to get it right. You are not under a commercial deadline. It is your book, your project. You are in control and we are here to help. No matter how long it takes, together, we can make your book dream a reality.
For a more comprehensive guide on how to self-publish check out Ian Andrew’s companion book: Self-Publishing for Independent Authors – A Beginner’s Guide