Amy Collins is the author of The Write Way: Everything You Need to Know About Publishing, Selling and Marketing Your Book. She worked as a Book Buyer for a large books and magazines publisher, selling to Barnes & Noble, Target, Costco, Airport Stores, Walmart, Books-A-Million and other major book retailers.
Amy used to be a musician. She needed Christmas presents one year and decided to take a part-time job at a bookstore. When the season was over she planned to return to her life as a singer but she was persuaded to stay on. A year later she became the book buyer for that store. Within a year she was promoted to book buyer for the entire chain of 16 stores. She was offered a job as a sales rep for Prima Publishing (now a division of Random House). Five years after that she became director of sales for a nonfiction publishing house in Boston.
Ten years ago Amy decided to start her own business and level the playing field for small publishing houses and independent publishers. She wanted to give them the same opportunities that the big publishing houses have to distribute their books to stores and libraries.
This interview was information packed!
We talked about how to develop marketing plans, productivity, various revenue streams that authors can receive, and how to get your book into brick and mortar bookstores and libraries.
There are several different revenue streams that authors can receive from libraries from direct sales to licensing deals and more. If you want to learn even more about Amy’s step-by-step process for getting self published books into libraries after you listen to this podcast, you can check out the free webinar with Amy where she walks you through the library distribution process for self published authors.
Here are some of the takeaways from the interview with Amy:
- The rules change every six months. You have to stay informed and know what’s happening in the publishing industry.
- Print-on-Demand (POD) is a business model that allows you as the publisher to take advantage of the technology of digital printing along with just-in-time ordering to create a print on demand program for your readers.
- If your book is 300 pages or less and black and white, or a children’s book that’s 48 pages or less, print on demand is a wonderful business model that allows you to earn $2 in profit for each book (which is all you should expect anyway) and take all the risk out of it.
- If you realize there is a mistake you can fix it almost instantly and all future versions of your book will be corrected. In the old days Amy would have to throw out the entire run of a book with a printing error in it. Now all you have to do is correct the book file, send it to CreateSpace or Ingram Lightning Source and move forward.
- It’s possible to get a print on demand book into libraries and the bookstore chains today, and Amy has helped hundreds of self published authors do just that.
- If you want your book in libraries and bookstores you need your book to be professionally edited and have a professionally designed book cover.
- If you have a quality book, the fact that it is print on demand won’t prevent you from getting into libraries and bookstores.
- Independent brick-and-mortar bookstores are a growing sector of the economy. In 2009, there were 1,691 independent bookstores. Today there are over 2,100 independent bookstores.
- If you want to get into independent bookstores, approach the American Booksellers Association. They have some wonderful programs that aren’t too expensive. Get your book into the White Box Program.
- The key to getting your book into bookstores as an indie author is to start locally. Start with your local bookstore and library. Go see the manager and head librarian and give them a copy of your book. Local businesses and libraries want to see authors from the area succeed.
- The big chains are different. To get into Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million you have to start by pitching to someone at their corporate offices.
- It’s easier to convince a librarian to give your book a chance. Librarians always want to see local authors succeed.
- Bookstores don’t like to give their money to Amazon. If you want to sell your book in brick-and-mortar bookstores sign up for the print on demand services at Ingram Spark a.k.a. Lightning Source.
- Barnes & Noble is now in the print on demand business. A link to sign up is in the resources section.
- Baker and Taylor is the largest wholesaler to libraries in the world. When you sign up with them they will charge you around $500 in sign-up fees if they accept you. The fees are definitely worth paying if you plan to distribute your physical books into libraries or bookstores.
- Before you start reaching out to bookstores and libraries, you have to create demand and solicit quality reviews. It’s important to get reviews at Amazon but you also want reviews from places like Booklist, Midwest Book Review, and Kirkus. These places may tell you not to submit your book. Do it anyway. Put together a nice package and solicit reviews from famous people, or people who are notable in the genre that you are writing in. Send them copies of your book or a PDF of the first chapter.
- Create a marketing plan along the lines of the one above and spend 20 minutes a day for 60 to 90 days marketing your book.
- Almost 70% of book sales in the United States happen online and that number goes up when you go overseas. When you have to 2 – 3 months of good sales online, then pull the trigger on approaching bookstores and libraries.
- If you have written a 4-color cookbook, now is the time for you to go after bookstores and libraries. Cookbooks are the highest growing segment of the market today (fall of 2016.)
- Library budgets in the US are going way up.
- Library budgets in the UK are going down.
- Foot traffic in libraries in the US has doubled in the last three years.
- Foot traffic in Canada’s libraries has decreased 20% over the same time period.
- The audio book market has grown 40% in the last two years. If you want to really increase your bottom line look into audio books.
- ACX helps writers find audio book producers and distributors the audio books through audible. Audible and ACX are owned by Amazon.com
- E-Book sales are not declining. The price of an e-book is lower than in the past. The average price of an e-book today is $1.96.
- Overdrive is the big vendor of e-books to libraries. If you are an author with more than one book you should really try to create a direct relationship with overdrive because of their market reach.
- A book is like a baby. Nobody would give birth to a baby, stick it on a shelf, ignore it for 18 years and expect it to still be alive. You have to raise a baby. Likewise you have to raise your book. The way you raise your book is by creating a marketing plan and spending 20 or 30 minutes every day marketing your book.
- Don’t expect success overnight. But if you work hard and put in the time, success will find you.
- If you’re putting out a new book the best thing you can do is focus on Amazon and bloggers in your industry. Online sales are the easiest way to gain notoriety and respect for your book.
- If you do one small thing every day momentum will build and eventually it will become automatic. Assigning yourself a daily task is insurance against failure.
- However long you think this is going to take, it is probably going to take longer. However much money you think this is going to cost, it is going to cost more. But if you do it right, you will get far more out of it than you ever thought possible.
How to Get Your Self Published Book on the Bookshelves of Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million
In order to get into the big chain bookstores you have to contact the corporate office.
Send them a couple copies of your book along with a marketing plan and a cover letter. Tell them what you plan to do to drive demand. Tell them how many books you’ve sold so far (whether they are ebooks or printed books).
If the people at the corporate headquarters like your book and think it has legs in your hometown they’ll most likely test you in a regional market.
There are links in the resources section that give you detailed instructions and guidelines for submitting to Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
Ingram and Ingramspark.com
Independent booksellers and libraries don’t want to give their money to Amazon.com. They would much rather buy books from Ingram, a wholesaler based in Tennessee and owned by the same family that owns Ingramspark.com.
When you go to Ingramspark.com you don’t have to print any copies. You’ll want to check the box that says Yes I want to offer distribution to the book market and the box that says Yes I want to offer wholesalers a 55% discount.
Check those two boxes and Ingram will promote your book for you. They will even put up a number of how many copies you have in stock for your book. The number will be fake, but it gives your book legitimacy, and being print on demand that they can print as many copies as they need when orders come in.
Another benefit of using Ingram is that other smaller competing wholesalers have accounts with them.
Links and Resources Mentioned in the Interview
The Write Way: Everything You Need to Know about Publishing and Selling and Marketing Your Book — Amy’s book on publishing, selling, and marketing your book.
Learn more about the Real Fast Library Marketing program on the free webinar.
Ingramspark — You want to sign up for print on demand services here because it’s a more attractive place for bookstores to buy print on demand books than giving their money directly to Amazon via CreateSpace.
Baker and Taylor library wholesaler — The Largest Library wholesaler in the world.
Overdrive — the largest distributor of e-books to libraries
Axis360 — Another distributor of e-books to libraries. This one is owned by Baker and Taylor
ProQuest is ProQuest is a large e-book licensor that will bundle content together and license it by category. And you’ll get a passive income stream with no heavy lifting. They primarily distribute nonfiction.
www.newshelves.com — Amy Collins website
Email Amy at: email@example.com