Jul 29

Self-publishing is here to stay.

According to Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Bowker Market Research: “What was once relegated to the outskirts of our industry—and even took on demeaning names like ‘vanity press’ — is now not only a viable alternative but what is driving the title growth of our industry today.” (source)

The landscape has changed, but rumors still abound about self-publishing. Here’s the truth about this rapidly evolving market.

Myth #1

Self-publishing isn’t mainstream. Estimates are that more than 400,000 titles are being self-published this year. If that isn’t mainstream enough, what would be? However accurate it may once have been to accuse indie publishing of being a fringe market, it just isn’t true anymore.

Myth #2

My product will be second class. If an author takes the time to work with competent editors, designers, etc., they can create a quality product—and publishing companies no longer have a corner on book design professionals. Beyond that, the writing is what matters: A well-written book can be successful, no matter how it is published.

An intriguing cover sells a book the first time, but quality writing and editing will sell it again and again.

Myth #3

I can’t get traditionally published if I self-publish. Quite the opposite, in fact: self-publishing can prove to traditional publishers that an author has what it takes to create a platform and sell books. As Jane Freidman, the former publisher of Writer’s Digest, says: “no agent, and no publisher, is going to turn away a project where they see potential to make money.”

Self-publishing, instead of being the nail in your career’s coffin, might actually boost it.

Did the book make an impact? Did it increase your tribe? Did it sell well, or gain the attention of other opinion leaders? If the author can quantify these questions, then so can publishers and marketers at the traditional publishing houses.

Myth #4

I can’t get my books into bookstores if I self-publish. National distribution is available for those who want it and can create the demand it takes for books to move through traditional retail stores. The bigger question is whether or not national distribution is right for you.

Myth #5

Self-publishing is too expensive. Compared to what you might give up with traditional publishing, self-publishing is not expensive or hard. It does have a learning curve, but there are resources available in abundance — and many are free.

For more information about how BelieversPress helps authors navigate the self-publishing world, visit www.BelieversPress.com.

 

Dave Sheets is the president of Christian Writers Guild, BelieversPress and BookPrintOnDemand, all services dedicated to helping authors. We believe at the core of every person is the need to tell a story, teach a lesson, make a difference.  Our purpose is to teach authors how to write well, craft a book, and get their message in front of people.

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Jul 22

Authors often ask me, “Can you get my book into Barnes and Noble?”

They’re really asking if I can put their book on the shelves. The simple answer is no.

What distribution does for any author, whether published traditionally or independently, is provide access to retailers. For some traditional publishers, a sales team takes their book list straight to retailers. If they have a reputation for high quality, the books land on the retailer’s shelves.

Other publishers’ only method of getting books in front of retailers may be through catalog listings. Unless these publishers have a trusted brand, retailers may wait to order a title until consumers ask for it.

In every case, the author or publisher must create demand to pull a book through the retailer. Without demand, the book will not appear—or stay—on the shelf.

Most authors coming to BelieversPress want to publish their first or second book. I consistently ask about their platform. Where are they speaking? How many people follow them on social media? Do they have a following that will help create national demand? Without that demand, why pursue national distribution?

Still, if authors build their platform and brand recognition at the local and regional levels, retailers in these areas are more likely to take them seriously if their books can be sourced through a distributor. At Christian Writers Guild and BelieversPress, we coach authors through this process.

Seven Things to Assess Before National Distribution

  1. Do I have local demand for my book?
  2. If I don’t have local demand, how many local retailers can I work with?
  3. What local and regional organizations can I network with? Do these have national reach?
  4. Can I create other local and regional demand?
  5.  Can the local publicity opportunities lead to national exposure?
  6. Am I positioned to create national demand?
  7.  Should I even try to sell my book in stores?

For authors, selling books is essential. Some accomplish this through local retail. Others have a national platform and can sell on a larger scale. But for many, traditional retail is unnecessary. The challenge for each author is to look at their goals and match them with the right sales tools.

Dave Sheets is the president of Christian Writers Guild, BelieversPress and BookPrintOnDemand, all services dedicated to helping authors. We believe at the core of every person is the need to tell a story, teach a lesson, make a difference.  Our purpose is to teach authors how to write well, craft a book, and get their message in front of people.

Jul 15

In the past few weeks, BelieversPress has been contacted by authors who want or need to move their files from other publishing organizations. To save you time, we’ve listed some of our information here.

BelieversPress Distinctives:

  1. We offer a complete independent publishing service track, from teaching and training all the way through printing and retail distribution. All our services come a la carte — so authors pay only for what they need.
  2. We do not take a percentage of sales. We only charge for the services we provide.
  3. We do not own the content or the finished files. The author owns them.
  4. We do not mark up our print prices. We use strategic alliances to keep costs down for our author partners.

Our Services for Authors Switching Providers

With the recent downfall of Winepress, many authors have been left with unfinished projects. Whether you’re an author recovering from that, or are simply trying to find a better deal, BelieversPress can help.

  • Authors with a finished book but no print-ready files (because the book is old, or because of debacles with publishers) can send us a physical copy to be scanned. We can provide the book with a new ISBN and low cost, on-demand printing.
  • Authors with finished files can get a new ISBN and barcode positioned on their existing covers, along with modifications to the copyright page. These files can be loaded into our in-house Print-on-Demand service with a low cost per unit — but all file uploads are free.
  • Authors with files ready for long-run printing (500 units or more) can take advantage of our strategic alliance with Bethany Press, which prints for all of the major publishers in the Christian book industry.
  • Authors with inventory in a warehouse that cannot be accessed can use their print-ready files to print short runs of ‘gap’ stock. We also have retail distribution for any titles that need a warehouse, sales team, and shipping line.

Other Services

This is not an exhaustive list, but may help authors in the transition process.

  • Design – We provide a single package through our designers that include two comps and three rounds of changes. We provide barcodes and ISBNs as needed. Custom art or photos are additional. Illustrations are also available, but are bid separately.
  • eBook Conversion – We use a proprietary eBook conversion tool, which formats both EPUB and MOBI at the same time; real people direct and approve every step of the conversion process, including seeking author approval for layout.
  • eBook Distribution – We have an automated distribution system which places eBook files with 30+ global retailers (with more to come) and tracks the sales online. We do not keep a percentage of the revenue; 100% is delivered to the author/publisher.
  • Retail Distribution – Retailers want one box/one invoice/one return solutions. Our partner, Anchor Distribution, is one of the largest wholesalers in the Christian publishing industry. Coupled with the contract distribution services (publisher owned stock and third-party logistics), it makes a powerful combination serving authors and retailers.

If you find yourself with questions, please contact us at 866.794.8774, or email us at info@believerspress.com.

Dave Sheets is the president of Christian Writers Guild, BelieversPress and BookPrintOnDemand, all services dedicated to helping authors. We exist because we believe at the core of every person is the need to tell a story, teach a lesson, make a difference.  Our purpose is to teach authors how to write well, craft a book, and get their message in front of people.

Jul 09

A week doesn’t go by when I don’t hear from an author who has been suckered into a poor self-publishing package. By the time I talk with them, they have spent thousands of dollars and are not happy with anything they have seen. The covers are amateurish, the editing is poor. Promises have been broken.

A few months ago, WinePress, a prominent self-publishing company, went out of business. Many authors were left with partial projects or finished projects and no files. Many other self-publishing companies stepped in with similar services — some legitimate, some less so.

Many of the former WinePress authors just wanted to get their books back in print and had no idea which service would meet their needs. I recently talked to an elderly author who was getting emails and phone calls from various self-publishing organizations claiming they could get her book back into print. Some might have been worthwhile; most were likely not a great choice for her.

If you are an author, whether or not you have worked with a self-publishing organization in the past, please be cautious about your publishing partners. Try these three tips for telling the legitimate self-publishing companies from the scams.

Ask Away.

A good company to work with has the patience to answer all your relevant questions. Ask:

  • What will it cost for you to possess all the files for your book?
  • Are you free to do as you please with those files?
  • Can you print your book with someone else, or are you locked into a print contract?
  • Can you sell your book through other online stores, including your own?
  • What will copies that you sell cost?
  • Who sets the retail price of your book?

Don’t Get Suckered.

Companies who paint a rosy picture but downplay hard questions are not serving you. Independent publishing is hard work. Not everyone should take on this challenge. Don’t get suckered into purchasing expensive self-publishing packages if you are not gifted in personally selling and marketing your own books. Especially beware the limited time offers. Many times these are bait-and-switch tactics which involve high costs on other services.

Watch Out for Spam.

If you’ve worked in any sort of office environment, you’ve probably been exposed to advertisements coming off the fax machine or via e-mail. Many self-publishing company’s packages include worthless marketing services that sound great, promising “Bookstore Marketing Blasts” or claiming “We’ll get your book in front of thousands of bookstore managers.” It’s safe to assume that those faxes will end up with the rest of the junk mail stores receive.

For additional hazards to watch out for, download our free guide to the hidden hazards of self-publishing.

Dave Sheets is the president of Christian Writers Guild, BelieversPress and BookPrintOnDemand, all services dedicated to helping authors. We exist because we believe at the core of every person is the need to tell a story, teach a lesson, make a difference.  Our purpose is to teach authors how to write well, craft a book, and get their message in front of people.

Mar 22

Writers need to read just as much as anyone else, and Mary Keeley, agent with Books & Such Literary Agency,  has compiled a great list of books for writers. What other books would you add to the list?

Mar 07

Retailer’s needs aren’t all that different from traditional publisher’s needs. Retailers rely on the author to have a platform and followers, or a tribe. What is a tribe? Seth Godin has written a powerful book about tribes and our affinity for them. These tribes define the way we think and interact, and more and more, how people buy. People want to connect so they join groups. You see this all the time with clubs, churches, charities, etc. A tribe is that group of people who are passionate about you. You belong on the same team. They are your blog followers. They are your workshop audience. They are your current readers. They are your Facebook and Twitter followers.

The power tribe: the power of 1000 true fans

According to a popular theory, a creator, such as an artist or author needs to acquire only 1,000 ‘true fans’ to make a living. A true fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive miles to see you sign a book or read a story. They will buy the box set even though they have individual books. They have a Google alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They are true fans.

How do you build a tribe?

First, you need to build your platform’s foundation. According to Brian Jud, author and consultant, a platform “is a series of career-long relationships with people who find it beneficial to communicate the word about your book, introduce you to influential people who can endorse your book, or get you on major media. As third-party references, these people give you more credibility among those in the larger segment of your platform. Platform building begins with cultivating relationships with a core selection of credible sources in at least five groups.

Good friends. They could be your classmates, fellow employees, relatives and neighbors. This is probably the weakest category in terms of their desire or ability to spread the word about your book.”

How can you find people who might promote your book?

  1. Centers of influence. Do you know people that can influence the purchasing decisions of large groups of your target readers?
  2. Professional associates. Are you writing to a specific group of people, and do you know people who have a following in that specific niche can spread the word among their constituents.
  3. People in your affinity groups. Find and participate in groups of people with similar interests or needs and who know you personally.
  4. Fans. These are people in your target audience who have read your previous material or have heard you speak on your topic. They believe that you know what you are talking about and are willing to put their reputations on the line by becoming your advocate.
  5. Network – you are only five people (six degrees of separation) away from just about anyone.
  • Associations
  • Presentations in front of various groups/tribes
  • Trade shows
  • Seminars
  • Social media
  • Publicity (free advertising)
  • Blogging
  • Write articles – become known as a subject expert

Encouragement for the journey:

  1. Building a tribe takes time – you have to be persistent
  2. Building a tribe may mean being ‘different’. Sometimes it is a completely unique or non-conforming idea that people are attracted to. It could mean that you have to be a little weird.
  3. Building a tribe takes effective communication – you are writer after all. Communicate well.
  4. Building a tribe takes passion – be sold out about your topic/niche/story.

Authors, what did I miss? More on this topic next week.

 


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Feb 25

Last fall, I attended the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Dallas Texas, and had the opportunity to present a seminar titled: ‘Authors and Retail – How does it all work?’ During the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of author’s groups at industry events about the ‘business side of publishing,’ which is a subject that most authors do not understand.

Publishing, after all, is a business. Authors whether or not they are getting the opportunity to publish through a traditional publishing contract,

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or are choosing to self publish their work, need to understand how the business works, especially when it comes to retail. Authors have the opportunity to dramatically affect their sales by working with retailers and understanding their needs. I will write about this topic in next week’s post.

While at the ACFW conference, I had the privilege of hearing Michael Hyatt address a room full of authors, and his topic was encouraging. I recently ran across my notes from Hyatt’s session where he shared five reasons why TODAY, is the best time to be a writer.

  1.  It is easier than ever to do the writing. More than ever before, there are conferences to attend and books to read, that teach writers how to craft their projects. Word processing and other computer programs have made is easier to get the words on paper, and go back and edit and polish without have to start over.
  2.  It is easier than ever to do market research, and engage with readers. The internet has provided a virtually limitless supply of research tools, and Google has made it possible to find almost any information a writer might be looking for. Social media, through platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have made writing and engaging with other writers and fans, a personalized experience.
  3. It is easier than ever to get into print. Traditional publishing with its royalty advances, editing schedules, marketing cycles, and traditional distribution channels, is no longer the only option. Self publishing is a viable and thriving industry for writers who choose to go this route. Self publishing is not the best option for everyone, but the same can be said for traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is also far from dead, however, the model must continue to change with the times rather than run from new ways of doing things. Both of these models are providing writers with new opportunities, which translate to more readers in more places.
  4. It is easier than ever to build a tribe. Authors can talk to their fans and have direct access to them through blogs, websites, and social media. Reading has now become a social activity and people engage around content like never before. Authors are engaging readers around their book platform.
  5. It is easier than ever to build a business around author content. This is only true, however, if authors take the time to understand the industry, and how to build their business model. The first step in the writing process, before outlines, character development, and research, must be a business plan that helps an author identify a sustainable market (group of buyers), where they can be reached, and what they are looking for.

This is a great lead-in for next week’s topic on the publishing business. Would you add anything to this list?

 

Feb 18

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending time at Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild conference called Writing for the Soul. This is a first rate conference and my second time attending. As was the case last year, I was extremely impressed with the quality of the faculty and the speakers. Jerry is on record as saying that he wants the conference to be known as one of the highest quality events on the calendar, and it showed. The conference featured keynote speakers Liz Curtis Higgs, James MacDonald, and Steven James, as well as a cast of industry professionals teaching writers how to become published authors. I would highly recommend for anyone thinking of attending a writer’s event.

The purpose of the Guild is to train writers how to become authors. This is in their DNA. They offer three courses that take a new writer through training and mentoring, with the intent that they are ready to present their writing to agents and editors. I don’t know of any other programs quite like it.

A few weeks ago, Jerry announced a new, advanced course called PUBLISHED. This ‘masters level’ type course adds a fourth layer to his already successful program…with a new twist. For writers who finish the course, and follow their mentoring, the Christian Writers Guild will provide the author services (editing, typesetting, design, etc.) that it takes to craft a quality book for market. The new publishing initiative is called Christian Writers Guild Publishing (CWGP), and takes the best of both traditional and self publishing and combines them in a model Jerry calls ‘come-alongside publishing.

Unfortunately, as often happens in Christian community, the idea was blasted from a number of sides. Jerry had been on record earlier in his career as being against self publishing (see his announcement for his own admission to this), and many looked at this new initiative as an attempt to cash in on self publishing. It’s too bad that people have chosen to attack what is being offered without understanding the full picture, which is still evolving.

In a Q&A session, Jerry shared that the Writers Guild has always been a labor of love, and struggles to break even every year. This new teaching program is not about making money, but about providing opportunity for writers. He said that that his most recent experience has shown that 1 in 1000 writers makes it to a traditional publishing contract, and that many of the students in the Guild program have publishable material, but for whatever reason, can’t get the traditional deal. It is for these students, that this new program is built. PUBLISHED is not for everyone.

I applaud the commitment Jerry has to writers. I hope this new initiative creates opportunities for Christian writers, and give their voices a chance to be published. As with all new things, there are most definitely going to be changes and updates to the program as it matures. Jerry made a point of telling the conference attendees that the program ‘isn’t for everyone,’  but will be a good fit for some.

I am pretty sure the program will eventually include a robust set of marketing and publicity tools, eBook conversion and distribution to retail, even though the current information doesn’t include this.

I would love to hear what you think about it!

Feb 14

Not too many months ago, I would have never considered writing this sort of post. I believe in the printed word, and love traditional paper books. I know that eBook reading is growing and I know that eBooks are helping new authors get discovered like never before. However, my business was book printing.

But the readers have spoken. With more and more regularity, they are saying they want options. They want to be able to download books and read them on devices. They want the flexibility.

At the time, I wasn’t able to help. Now I can.

I want to introduce you to a new eBook company specifically designed to serve Christian authors and independent publishers, along with authors who want a family friendly place to publish their eBooks. ChristianeBookPublishing.com, is the culmination of the desire to offer eBook services with a distinctly Christian worldview and a world class eBook publishing system, now available to authors and publishers.

Authors might only need a file conversion. We offer a tremendous value along with a quality product that is hand crafted by experts here in the US. Other authors might need help with editing and design. We can do that too. And a whole other group of authors and publishers will want to consider the advantages and efficiency of having ChristianeBookPublishing.com distribute their files to more than 30 retailers. We collect the royalty checks and compile the reports, all for a modest upfront fee…and the best part is that we don’t take a penny of your royalties. You get to keep 100%!

We invite you to give us a try and see the difference our professional services can make.

Do you have your books available as eBooks? What has been your experience?

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Nov 19

I recently ran across a new magazine that is free for authors. Although new, the content seems to be getting better each month and provides authors with some good ideas and tools. I had the opportunity to write an article for the latest edition. Feel free to download your free copy.

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