What are the Industry Standards for Paperback Books? Other Questions Answered by Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn; Plus, News with Dan Holloway: Member Q&A & Self-Publishing News Podcast

What are the Industry Standards for Paperback Books? Other Questions Answered by Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn; Plus, News with Dan Holloway: Member Q&A & Self-Publishing News Podcast

What are the industry standards and best practices for paperback books? Our #AskALLi Member Q&A is hosted by Michael La Ronn and ALLi Director Orna Ross, and this month they’ll be answering this question and more.

Questions include:

  • What are ALLi’s best practices for producing a book in print?
  • What are my options if I’m not satisfied with the current print on-demand options for my book?
  • Should I pursue paid reviews?
  • Should I join organizations like Romance Writers Association?
  • What are the best time management tips for indie authors?
  • What are resources to help publish a children’s book?

And more!

Also, News Editor Dan Holloway updates us on what indie publishers and authors are doing in conjunction with the worldwide spotlight on #BlackLivesMatter.

Listen to the Q&A: Paperback Books and More

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Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to the Q&A: Paperback Books and More

Orna Ross: This is the Alliance of Independent Authors Member Q&A, a monthly Q&A run by myself, Orna Ross, director of ALLi, and Michael La Ronn. Hi Michael.

Michael La Ronn: Hi Orna. Good to get to see you. I owe you an apology, sorry I couldn’t make it last month. I saw you holding down the Fort by yourself last month. So, that was really cool.

Orna Ross: It was not easy to manage without you my friend, but we got there in the end.

Michael La Ronn: Yep. We made it. So, well, good morning to everybody who’s joining us. Dale Roberts, Robin Phillips, and Jane Steen. Welcome.

Orna Ross: Hi everyone. Yes, and it’s been quite a while since we saw each other last and a lot going on in your country. And, of course, coronavirus continuing to change people’s lives and author’s lives as we now begin to return to new things. And the whole Black Lives Matter movement, yeah, which I’m sure has been at the front of your mind.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, it has, and I can tell you that over the past few weeks I have gone through a range of emotions. There’s been some nights where I haven’t been able to sleep, you know, the George Floyd murder really, really bothered me and disturbed me. And it’s been really encouraging to see solidarity from people all over the world. It was extremely humbling. I watched the funeral yesterday and that was really, really tough.

But again, really encouraging and I’m just really proud of the way the world has rallied around the black community. And it’s very humbling. And so, I actually have a video that’s going to be dropping on my channel tomorrow on Author Level Up. If you’re interested in hearing more about my thoughts on it, feel free to watch that.

Orna Ross: I definitely will be watching that.

I was watching the funeral and I’m very concerned about how we can ally, in a broader sense to our usual sense of ally, and I’m very interested also in publishing, and who gets to speak and all of those things that are very core to our mission. And so, we will be doing a special on that probably next week as soon as we can get it together on our news channel.

But yeah, we would reach out, especially to members, anybody who’s particularly interested in this issue, if you are interested in working on either being an ally or on leading, we need to be led, I think, by our black brothers and sisters on this one, please do get in touch because it is something that’s important to us.

Okay. So, on to our questions.

Should I take my print books back from a self-publishing company and market them myself?

Michael La Ronn: Yes. So, our first question is from our member, Laurie. Laurie wrote us with an issue that she was having. Just to kind of summarize it and set it up for us to answer, Orna. Laurie had had some family issues. She had a relative that she was taking care of and she was working with a self-publishing firm to get her book out into the world.

And, while she was handling those issues, she was pleased to find out that readers really liked her book and they were giving five-star reviews. But the problem that she has is that the self-publishing company that she’s working with needs to know what she wants them to do with about 200 books that they have in their warehouse.

Does she get the book shipped to her so that she can do some marketing, or does she allow them to be destroyed, and maybe there’s only a couple of copies left? She kind of wants an answer because the firm is pressing her to make a decision here pretty quickly. So, what are your thoughts?

Orna Ross: Yeah, she wasn’t in a position, I’m taking it, to actually do the marketing that would move the book because of the family issues at the start.

So, first thing I would say is always keep your copies and use them. So, definitely don’t have the books destroyed, do take them back from your publisher. And I think the most important thing to say, Lori, is that, you know, one of the best things about being a self-publisher is that the opportunity to market is always there.

So, in traditional publishing it’s a window. That window of opportunity that you get in traditional publishing is all set up around what they call the front list, which is the books that they are actively promoting in that season. Everything else is on the backlist and backlist books don’t get a lot of juice.

With self-publishing authors, anything can be brought out to be front list at any time. So, you can decide now, if your family situation has resolved itself and I’m guessing that it has, and that’s why you’re in touch, you can now begin to put together a campaign as if that book was launching in six weeks’ time. You lose out maybe a little bit of juice that you get on the algorithm sometimes for being a new book.

But honestly, it’s such a small thing in comparison to dedicated energy behind your books that I wouldn’t even worry about that. The thing is, get your books back and get a plan together, that’s the most important thing. Get a plan together for how you are a.) going to get this book moving and ,while you are getting that book moving, how you’re going to produce the next book that will come in behind it, because one book isn’t enough, ever.

You need to keep it and I think I read somewhere in the question that you have plans for trilogy. So, you know, while promoting one, start writing the other, and that’s the balance for all of us constantly juggling the writing and the promotion. Were always writing one thing and promoting another, and that requires us to wear two different hats.

But yeah. Great that you’re back in business. 

When publishing wide, where should authors distribute?

Michael La Ronn: Alright, and our next question is from member, Michael. That’s a great name by the way. And the gist of his question is, when an author goes wide, where should they distribute their work? And what book formats does each retailer allow?

Orna Ross: Okay. So, that’s a big question in terms of a decision. So, there’s no absolute rule on this and different people are comfortable with different outlets, and there’s no one thing that I can say every single author should do. There are general principles that we kind of recommend and it depends, a lot of this depends on whether you are time rich or money rich. Hopefully, you’re one or the other. Going wide will require you to, if you can, that you would publish to what we call the big five, directly. So, that will be Amazon KDP, Apple Books, Google Play, Michael, I’m going to forget some of them, Kobo Writing Life and…

Michael La Ronn: Barnes and Noble.

Orna Ross: Oh yeah, and Barnes and Noble. That’s your big five eBook distributors. A lot of people say, why Barnes and Noble, they’re failing and all the rest of it. That company still has a lot of, you know, a huge mailing list alone, but it still has a lot of value in the company. So, don’t be distracted by that.

That’s your big five for eBooks, and then there’s IngramSpark for your print and Amazon KDP Print, those two together. And then audiobooks, Michael will speak in terms of distribution of audiobooks in a moment, perhaps, but let’s just stick with eBooks and print books for now. Having said all of that, this is the way that you will…and then you use, sorry, you use an aggregator either, you know, somebody like Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, StreetLibs or Smashwords. There are a number of different aggregators that you can use to reach smaller stores outside of those big distributors. The thing about the big ones is they really do reach a lot of the world, but they don’t reach the whole world, and particularly the emerging world in, you know, where e-reading has taken off in a big, big way, and that are hungry for content in a way that perhaps the overly served markets of the US and the UK are not. So, it’s a good idea to be with an aggregator.

If you’re short on time you might want to let that aggregator take every distribution outlet, and they prefer to do that. They like to have some of the bigger movers, like Google Play and Apple, and they would ideally like you to have your Amazon account run through there as well. We recommend that everybody goes directly to Amazon, preferably to Big Five and uses an aggregator for the rest.

But if you’re strapped for time, perhaps Amazon plus the aggregator. The difficulty with the aggregator is that there are certain promotions and things that you’re not available for if you don’t go direct to the services, like for example, Kobo, Apple, and so on.

Michael La Ronn: Yep, exactly. And just a quick word on audiobooks, Audible is the biggest player in the house. So, if you wanted to get your books into audiobook, you would go through ACX, I would recommend that. And then, what I would do is, use other audiobook aggregators to get to other markets that you can’t get to. So, ACX will take you to Amazon, Audible and iTunes, and then you can use like, Findaway Voices is one that I use, I like them quite a bit. They’ll take you to all these other little places that you can’t get into otherwise. I think Author’s Republic is another one that people use quite a bit. So, those are just some options for audio.

Orna Ross: Both of those are partner members and we can highly recommend them and the thing, I think, with all of these, audio, print and eBooks, is to get out of an exclusivity mindset.

So, you’re asking about going wide. So, clearly, you’re thinking about getting beyond having an exclusive arrangement with any one person. So, you know, ACX offers an exclusive arrangement. KDP offers an exclusive arrangement. You may decide to use that strategically on one book, but not to put all your products and all your things in those baskets is what’s recommended.

Jane, Jane Steen, is saying here she uses Draft2Digital, a great aggregator, for Apple and Barnes and Noble, because she just finds those two to be a complete hassle, and I totally understand that, though I will say, Apple is improving and reconnecting with the Apple Books platform and looking for good content. So, just to put that out there as well.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. It’s a lot easier to publish on Apple than it used to be. In fact, I think they just sent out an announcement, maybe last month, that now they’re trying to make it easier. You don’t have to have a Mac computer to publish on iBooks.

So, who knows, you know, they’re coming along. It’s taken a long time, but they’re coming along.

Orna Ross: They are, and we have, just going up actually, it will be in the Member Zone, should be next week. We have a guide that we’ve worked with them on, especially for our members, about how to use Apple, you know, going direct, and some of the promotional thing tools and stuff that you can use on the platform that are helpful.

So, yeah, keep an eye out for that. Ill remind people of it next month when were back on.

Can I re-watch the Monthly Q&A?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, and Mary asks, Orna, a question for you, can we see this chat later?  Is this something that, you can see the chat when you re-watch?

Orna Ross: Always. Everything we do is always available on replay and it will also be played in audio form. So, the Friday after we go out live in this chat, we produce the podcast, and that goes up on our blog, selfpublishingadvice.org, and you can catch the podcast there which will have a full transcript and the show notes and everything. So, always available for replays.

Can I join an indie author co-op to help market my books?

Michael La Ronn: Once it’s out, it’s out forever. You can always watch it. So, all right. Our next question is from Esther. She says, I’m an elderly woman, 74 years old, slowly making my way to self-publishing. Nothing on the market at present, but I really don’t want to reinvent myself as a publisher on my own. Is there some model of indie authors collaborating and forming a co-op so that they can help each other with their marketing, and how would I be able to find the participate in such a service?

Congratulations, Esther. That’s awesome, 74 and jumping into self-publishing,

Orna Ross: Kudos, definitely. Fantastic, Esther. The short answer is yes, there are lots of very successful author collaborations and people doing precisely what you’re talking about.

So, you know, perhaps people who have editorial experience getting together with people who are designers also and sharing the skills. Triskele is one company that jumps to mind that has been doing that successfully for a very long time. It’s important that you get, I think, if you are collaborating with authors in this way, that you collaborate with people who are in your own niche and your own genre, rather than cross genre, I think that’s very helpful.

And, in terms of how you actually make it happen, one way would be to put a call out on the forum, if you’re an ALLi member, which you are, of course, because we’re answering your question. If we could put a call out on the forum to see if there was somebody interested in forming a collaboration with you in your particular zone, if you’re on Facebook, if not, drop us an email about that, and we’ll see if we can make something happen for you. But there is no short answer to that question that I can think of, you’d have to go to where the authors are, and reach out to people who were doing the kind of work you admire and people that you’d like to collaborate with, and see. And then you need to make a written agreement, which puts down in writing everything that you expect from the collaboration and, you know, the terms and conditions on which you are collaborating, that’s very important.

So, author collaboration’s a big deal in the indie world at the moment. I think authors are really catching on to the power that we have, you know, to help each other together. So, you’re definitely on trend, Esther, so yeah, be in touch about it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and just for everyone’s benefit, that company that you mentioned at the beginning of the answer?

Orna Ross: Triskele.

Michael La Ronn: How do you spell that?

Orna Ross: T R I S K E L E. There’s a little about them on the blog actually, we did a post on author collaboration very recently. So, I’ll get the link to that and put it in the show notes for the podcast, which mentions Triskele and a number of other successful author collaborations as well. So, yeah, you might Google that, Esther or take a search on the blog. If you just put “author collaboration” into the search box on selfpublishingadvice.org, you’ll find the Ultimate Guide to Author Collaboration, sort of a 3000-word post with different examples as well.

Can ALLi help me find a Christian book marketing agency?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. All right, our next question is from Colon. Colon has written a very specialized book for the Christian market. And his question is, does ALLi know of any Christian marketing agencies to help market Christian books, or are there any additional resources that maybe he can invest in to help him market his book?

Orna Ross: We don’t do genre-specific recommendations because we’re not on top of all the different genres that are available. So, I can’t, off the top of my head, say to you, you know, a Christian service, a service that works within this field, in this genre. But you definitely should search on the member database and just see if there is somebody in marketing who is specializing in that genre.

Also, have a look in the directory, but I think the best way to find anything like that is always to look at other authors books, look at the acknowledgements and see what other people are doing. Essentially, turn up to where other authors are, and to where the readers are. In whatever genre you’re in, find out where people are and become part of that community become part of that conversation.

What are ALLi’s best practices for producing paperback books?

Michael La Ronn: Yep, perfectly said. So, our next question is, kind of, the subject of the episode today, and that is from Steven and he asks, what are ALLi’s best practices for producing a book in print?

Orna Ross: Ooh, and again, a big question and I think you’ve done some prep on this, but I’m going to treat the question in terms of that it is talking about the production end of things, and we’ve already touched on distribution.

So, in terms of distribution, best practice is to distribute on Amazon for the Amazon ecosystem and IngramSpark for the rest of the world. That maximizes your options as a POD publisher, and I know we have another question on that in a little while but, in terms of best practices, in terms of putting the book together, first of all, you need to become aware of things like fonts and page layout design, cover design, which is different, and so on.

So, did you have any more sort of sense, Michael, of what is meant by best practices, specifically?

Michael La Ronn: No, not necessarily. Just best practices to help them create a quality product.

Orna Ross: So, I think with print, there are two options, really. First of all, you have to decide, are you going to put the time and effort it takes into doing page layouts and stuff?

Before, there was a fantastic software that I now use called Vellum, and I highly recommend Vellum software for compiling print as well as eBooks, having gone there and used it for that. Before vellum, I paid somebody to do my page layouts and stuff for print, because it’s a lot of work.

It takes a lot of time and effort. It’s meticulous close work, as well, and there are lots of things that you need to know and learn if you haven’t done it before. So, it isn’t even possible to just say what are best practices for print books, because so much depends on what genre is the book in, what trim size and stuff are you using, you know, what kind of cover and format do you want? Is it going to be hardback, softback, you know, there are so many things to be taken into consideration.

I can highly recommend thebookdesigner.com, Joel Friedlander, our advisor with regard to print books. And if you had specific questions yourself about your own formatting, Joel would be delighted to answer those.

But I think there’s a lot of thinking, a lot of research, a lot of work to do, in order to learn how to format. Unless you use a software like Vellum, which makes it very easy, I would say, get somebody else to do it, which isn’t possibly the answer that you’re looking for. So again, it really does depend on how much you fancy doing that work, I think.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. I mean, you have two options. I mean, you can do it yourself or have someone else do it. If you’ve got a Mac, the $300 you spent on vellum will be well spent. There’s also a program called Affinity Publisher. I think it’s $50. It’s like a slimmed down version of Adobe InDesign. And you can use that to publish or to create quality paperbacks as well.

There’s also, this is a little bit of an inferior option, but it can work for you, you can use paperback formatting templates. There are places that sell those where they basically give you a template and then all you have to do is copy and paste your book into it. It’s not as simple as that. There are some formatting quirks that you have to do with Microsoft Word. I highly recommend people avoid Microsoft word for print formatting, but if that’s all you got, that’s all you got. And, you can hire a typesetter, you can. The only problem with typesetters is, if you have to make a change or a typo change in your book later, they’re probably going to charge you for it.

And, you know, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of that. So, I understand why they have to do it, but that’s going to put a barrier between you and getting changes to your book, if you ever need to do that. So, that’s one of the major downsides to a typesetter, unless, you know, you’re using a typesetter for something very specific.

Like if you have a certain type of hardcover or a certain type of special feature that you want to have in your book, then maybe that makes sense. But those would be my two options. I would recommend Vellum first, but if you can’t do that, $50 isn’t bad to spend on something like Affinity Publisher.

Orna Ross: Yeah, Affinity, that’s a good tip. And again, be in touch. On the forum there are people who have been through these very challenges that you are facing. So, with print formatting in particular, it’s a place where we very often have members coming on asking really specific questions. And you might think nobody knows the answer to this, and suddenly you see 25 authors who were there before, and they have worked out answers for you. So, if you are going to tackle this big job yourself, do bring your questions to the forum?

What are my options if I’m not satisfied with the print-on-demand options for my book?

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. Okay. So, our next question is from Karen.

Karen has a 96-page comic book, and she’s realizing that, as she does the math and looks at IngramSpark, she’s going to need to price her book at $19.90 to make a $2.84 commission, and that’s a lot for a 96-page comic book, and she’s trying to find a print-on-demand service that meets her needs.

So, the gist of her question is, what are my options if I’m not satisfied with the current print-on-demand options for my book?

Orna Ross: Yeah. I mean, this is an issue, there’s no doubt about it. So, I think it’s important for us to realize that the tools that we’ve got, these new tools, they didn’t exist before. So, print-on-demand, as we can now do it through KDP print and IngramSpark, a little over 10 years ago now, nothing. Well, yeah, 10 years ago, it just wasn’t available. There was no way of doing print-on-demand at all, and it’s absolutely fantastic that we have it, but it doesn’t work for every single book. Print-on-demand is great for the straight fiction, you know, straightforward, nonfiction, non-illustrated, 70,000 plus kind of book. There, your price points make some sense, they’re still more expensive than a consignment run will ever be. And the economies of scale that a big publisher can put behind a book, you’re never, as an indie, going to be able to meet those. Print-on-demand is our best option, it doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

So, for a book like this, a 96-page comic book, you know, it’s very niche and it’s very particular. And there aren’t actually any perfect options for your kind of book, unfortunately. There is no better POD option than Ingram and Amazon, reason being, they’ve got this distribution network attached to them.

If you go to another POD publisher, you might get a slightly lower cost per copy of book but it’s not going to bring it down into the kind of prices that a commercial publisher can charge for a book like this. It’s not going to bring it down to where, you know, the kind of price you can get if you do a consignment run.

But then you’ve got the distribution headache, some of the POD services outside of Ingram and Amazon do have connections to distributors and do have a network behind them, but on a POD model, this book is going to be an expensive book and really nobody can do much about that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, especially with comics, there’s just no, that I know of, self-publishing platform that would be able to help. So, it’s kind of one of those unfortunate, sorry, we’re kind of in a gray area for you, but hopefully-

Orna Ross: You could try blurb. Blurb.com, which is good on illustrated books. But again, it’s not going to reduce the price hugely.

So, it’s really about the kind of book that you have decided to write. The other thing is, if I were in your position, I think what I would do is make it premium. I would go, I’d put a hard back on it. Id talk about signed copies. I’d look at some way of actually making the price commensurate with the experience.

So, maybe some kind of add on to the book where you can actually charge $25 and get some sort of decent return yourself, while still offering value to the reader. Trying to do it on the straight commercial model is not going to work for you.

Michael La Ronn: All right, our next,

Should I offer a trade discount for bookstores?

Orna Ross: Sorry to just hop in there because Jane has this kind of connected question, before we go to the other question, which is also on POD distribution.

For years I’ve been offering the usual trade discount, which is 55%, on IngramSpark so the titles can be ordered by bookstores. But let’s say I don’t exactly get the impression that bookstores are rushing to order, smiley face. I’m starting to think of changing my tactics. Any thoughts? Yes, I would say, again you’re in this situation with most bookstores that the average book is not priced in such a way and is not getting big orders.

Unless you have an actual campaign to shift your book through the bookstores, then there’s not a lot of point in having the 55%. You’d be better off with a different discount. They don’t sell by themselves. There needs to be something behind them, the bookstore needs to know. So, they’re in the Ingram catalog and can be ordered at any time, but that doesn’t mean that they are being ordered.

So, a reader would have to specifically go in and ask for the book. So, you need a campaign that is built around bookstores and then, why would you do that? Because you can actually get them to buy directly on Amazon, online at home and, it’s more likely to work for you that way and for the readers.

So yeah, I would rethink it on this as a campaign.

Are paid book reviews worth the cost?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Our next question is from member, Janet. The gist of Janet’s question is, she’s got a book that she’s trying to get off the ground, trying to do some marketing and her question is, is it worth it to pursue paid reviews?

Orna Ross: Okay, the first thing I would say is download, we have a 10,000-word book about how to get your first 50 reviews and there is a section in there about paid reviews, which you can take a look at.

There’s no easy answer to this question. There’s a kind of sniffiness about paid reviews in the self-publishing community and in the publishing community, but, you know, reviewers need to be paid, and authors need reviews, and so paid reviews exist. So, they are very different opinions along the way. I’m not going to get into any of that. Just address how useful is a paid review. So, the most commonly pursued paid reviews are from people like Kirkus or Publishers Weekly, which is a review you can then use in the editorial section of your Amazon page and, you know, put out there as a review, just like you would if you got a review in a newspaper. So, they’re seen as different from customer reviews and they can carry some weight with librarians, perhaps, or other people who might be purchasing decision people, who might be looking at your book.

If your model is selling your books online to readers, I’m not sure that those editorial reviews matter all that much to them. I think they’re much more inclined to look at other reader reviews and see. Because those reviews up at the top, the editorial reviews, we’ve seen so many books that have so many great editorial reviews, and it’s easier to read through reader reviews than it is to read through paid reviews.

So, the answer to your question is it depends on what you’re using that paid review for. If it’s just purely to get a review, it’s not a good way. There are better, easier ways to get reviews and they’re all covered in that download which you can get it in the member zone. There are lots of other ways. Getting reviews though is not easy. Getting your first 10 reviews is the hardest. When you have 10 reviews on a book, it gets easier after that, but it takes time. It takes trouble. You’ve got to reach out to people. You’ve got to put the book out there. You’ve got to hustle a bit to get reviews and it needs to be built into your marketing.

How are you actually going to get the book reviewed?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t done this, but those paid reviews, typically the people that pay for them are authors that have no platforms or they’re just starting off in their career because they think that the review will help supercharge their book, where I haven’t seen any evidence that that’s true.

If my book was selling a lot, and I was making a lot of money, then maybe it would make sense because then you could use that as a marketing expense. If your book is selling a lot, then you could add, you know, some of these paid review services that have a little bit of luster on them. Maybe that would look better, but that’s the only circumstance for me personally where I would consider paying for review from a place like that.

Orna Ross: Because if you think about the cost-

Michael La Ronn: Oh, it’s so expensive.

Orna Ross: It’s a good $100, generally speaking, for any of them that are worthwhile that have any, I love that word, kind of, luster.

If you look at that amount of money and you think about what that amount of money can do for you in terms of marketing your book in other ways, and there is no contest. You know, as Mike said, most of the authors who are doing best are not authors who are using those services. So, yeah download the booklet and then come back if you have follow-on questions from that.

Should I join a writer’s organization?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Well, one more question, just so we can kind of get through them, because we have a lot of questions to get through in our queue. Peter asks, okay, I’ll just summarize the question. Should I join an organization like the Romance Writers Association, right now?

Orna Ross: Short answer, without knowing your circumstances, is probably. I’m a big believer in associations, but I would be, wouldn’t I? I think an association can, you know, by talking to other authors who are in a similar situation to you, be that as ALLi members are on the indie front, or in your genre, like something like the Romance Writers Association, you’re going to pick up a lot of stuff and you can’t say for sure whether it’s worthwhile or not, but it’s always worth a year. And I think what happens with most associations, and definitely happens with us in ALLi, is authors join but they don’t use the resources. So, my second answer is, if you’re not going to really get stuck in there and avail of everything that being a member affords you, then the answer is no.

Join an association if you want to really draw on what that association can do for you. And I think it’s well worth being a member of both ALLi and your genre association. I think those two marry very nicely together. And perhaps also your local writers’ organization, like here in London, The Society of Authors, or in the US, The Authors Guild, or the Australian Writers Association, whichever, you know, wherever you are.

I think they have distinct and different things to offer. You might not want to be in all three, but it’s certainly worth giving it a look and seeing which is the best value. The problem, the downside for self-publishing authors, but not in the Romance Writers Association because they are actually leaders and pioneers very often in self-publishing, but a lot of the traditional trade author associations, the national associations and some of the genre associations, is they don’t have a clue about self-publishing.

So, actually, Michael and I are on a mission now. We’re going to change that because we’re going to be working with the organizations to actually work together so that their understanding of self-publishing, we can bring everything that we know from our experience in ALLi, and then bring the genre people more closely into ALLi.

So, I think that that is going to change over time, but right at this moment, unfortunately, some of the traditional organizations don’t understand self-publishing and you’ll be an expert, you will know more than a lot of the authors in there will know, but still there’s learning to be had, I think.

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. Yep. It’s worth pointing out that Romance Writers Association is doing a little bit of soul searching right now. So, if you do join them, just kind of understand that, just given the light of all the recent events that have gone on, worth pointing that out, if you haven’t seen that in the news. But yeah, I think joining associations makes a lot of sense and it just helps you connect with people, which is so important early on in your career.

Orna Ross: Absolutely. Thank you for that. Good point.

Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely. So, that is our last question, but I did have a public service announcement. So, the book that Orna and I are working on, Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered, I know that you guys have been asking questions about it. So, the title is Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered, and it’s 150 plus writing, publishing and marketing tips that every indie author and poet needs to know.

And so, we are very close to the point where we’re going to be launching it next month. And we are ready at this point, in the next couple of weeks, to start distributing advance review copies. So, if you would like an advance review copy, we’re going to put a link in the show notes, but you can visit that and just fill out a quick form at authorlevelup.com/qaadvance. All right. So, that’s authorlevelup.com/qaadvance. So, there’s two A’s in the middle of the thing here. I probably could have done a better short link, but that’s what I came up with at six o’clock in the morning. So, authorlevelup.com/qaadvance, and the really cool thing about this is that we’ll give you an advanced review copy. We would love it if you left an honest review, just to help us out. If you found value from the show it’s helping your favorite nonprofit organization for self-published authors, right. But we will also make the audiobook available for advanced listen as well, and the audio book is narrated by me.

Orna Ross: And rather brilliantly, I might add.

Michael La Ronn: Oh, thank you. So, I’m wrapping up the finished copy of the audiobook as we speak. So, we’re going to launch the book with eBook, paperback, and audio. So, that’s going to be a really cool thing and we would love your support. If you would like to check it out, it recaps all the questions that we talk about every month on this channel.

But it’s organized by the seven stages of publishing. And so, we would love to be able to share it with you and any support you can lend us with this launch would be greatly appreciated. So authorlevelup.com/qaadvance.

Orna Ross: Brilliant, and we will have that in the show notes. And if I might say that Michael has done a really fantastic job in terms of both highlighting and picking out the most salient and important questions and giving really deep dive really great answers. So, yeah, any support we can have, we’re not going to say no.

Alrighty. So, that’s it for another month. Please do send your questions in for next month’s show if you would like to publicly air them and have us consider them here. You can have any question answered any time under the AskALLi campaign by going to the forum, the Facebook forum, where you’ll also get advice from other advisors and members, or if you’d rather keep it private, just drop us an email at [email protected]

So, that’s it for another month. We will see you again next month. Bye, bye.

Michael La Ronn: Take care everybody.

Self-Publishing News

Howard Lovy: And now for Self-Publishing News with ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway, who I feel like I know a lot better now, since I featured him in my last Inspirational Indie Authors podcast. He’s a poet, an editor, a powerlifter, an advocate for the disabled and too many other things to list in this introduction.

Hi, Dan, how are you?

Dan Holloway: Hi, Howard. I’m good. How are you?

Howard Lovy: I’m hanging in there. I’m good. Lockdown is slowly starting to lift, and we managed to survive it. And you, before we go any further, you must mention your new book and I have a copy myself and I’m reading it right now.

Dan Holloway: Yeah, it’s called, Our Dreams Make Different Shapes.

It’s a book about creativity, creative thinking, sort of based on the brain scans of battle rappers and the memory systems of medieval monks.

Howard Lovy: Right. And only you can make those kinds of connections and so, that sounds brilliant.

You know, as for me, I’m using lockdown to try to do what all these great indie authors I interview are doing and transitioning my career to one that includes writing.

Because, it’s funny, yesterday for the podcast, I interviewed an author who wrote a book on procrastination, which is the one thing that I’m really good at.

Let’s move on to the news, I am totally amazed at how conversations have been changing across the United States and around the world as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests.

It’s tragic that these kinds of conversations and real results can only come after a tragedy like the killing of George Floyd, but here we are. And the publishing world is reacting as well.

Dan Holloway: Yeah, I think I would say the book world rather than necessarily the publishing world, the publishing world always seems to follow everyone else.

So, the main thing, the main drivers have come from authors. So, in particular things like the #publishingpaidme, which has been very interesting. It’s on Twitter and it’s designed to highlight the disparity in advances between black authors and everyone else. And it’s raised some eyebrows and probably made the book publishing industry feel somewhat uncomfortable in a way that it should be feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

Howard Lovy: Now, are people are tweeting their advances or their pay, is that how that’s working?

Dan Holloway: Yeah.

Howard Lovy: Oh, okay.

Dan Holloway: Yes. People are tweeting their advances and so very, very high profile authors like, N. K. Jemisin, who’s won more awards than you could ever have a mantel piece big enough for, tweeted that she gets routinely $25,000 as an advance for her books in science fiction, which is one of the highest selling genres in the world.

And then you compare that with, in particular, white male authors who are routinely getting six figure advances and, it’s a real eye opener. Michael La Ronn has a very interesting post on this week’s self-publishing news, and he talks very candidly about the decisions he had to make about what name to publish under.

So, I definitely don’t think readers are color blind. I think it’s a real issue about having to think about whether to publish under your own name, because someone is likely to skip on past your book if they think that you are publishing under a black name.

Howard Lovy: Right. Right. He’s got a very powerful video. Yeah.

Dan Holloway: It’s an incredibly powerful video, and these are decisions that a lot of us just don’t have to make. And I think that’s the case, whether you’re indie or whether you have a publisher. So yes, I would recommend everyone to watch Michael’s video. I’d also recommend everyone to buy his books because he’s a fabulous author, as well as a great person.

Bookstores have been doing a lot as well. There are some great campaigns by black owned bookstores to get people buying from them. There are also bookstores running great reading lists. Then we’ve had bookstore come publishers, like, in the UK, there’s a publisher called Knights Of who also run a bookstore, and they have been running an inclusive indies campaign, they raised 175,000 pounds to publish and promote minority writers. So, there’s been a huge amount going on and there’s going to be more going on. So, I would recommend everyone again, go to this week’s news column and look up the events that are going on for Windrush day on the 22nd of June.

So, there are some great events going on there. The publishing part of the picture has maybe done what publishing usually does, and what institutions usually do, is making noises. Whereas, there’s been a lot of real action that’s come from other parts of the book, which has been really positive to see.

What else is happening in the indie book world?

Dan Holloway: It’s the time that people are starting to reflect on the differences they’ve had to make to their events. So, a lot of events have gone online. The first one to really do so was Bologna Children’s Book Fair. They went online and they did very well with 600,000 online visitors. BookExpo followed suit. They’ve also reported they’ve done very well.

And in the UK, we’ve had, not just book fairs, but festivals are starting to go online. So, Hay, which is one of the world’s biggest festivals has gone online, and they’ve been very successful, but one of the things that has emerged as an issue in particular with festivals, as opposed to fairs is the potential impact on sales.

I know that when we have Oxford Literary Festival, I spend a lot of my time in a really large marquee, which has books by festival authors and they are piled high to the ceiling, and a lot of people who give talks at the festival will sell well into three figures, in terms of numbers of copies, and because of the timing of festivals, these usually hardbacks.

So, these are large numbers of books and one of the things that people have been thinking about is whether this not only affects sales, but because it’s affecting hardback sales, this is affecting its chart positions where we’re a few hundred sales at a festival could make all the difference to getting you into the charts and then perpetuating that cycle of visibility.

So, online festivals might work really well as events for spectators, but there seems to be some debate at the moment as to whether they actually work.

Howard Lovy: You know, from what I know about book fairs, they aren’t very indie friendly to begin with, except for a few exceptions, including the London Book Fair. So, I’m wondering, are indie authors really missing out?

Dan Holloway: I think on book fairs, you’re right, they’re probably not, and there are lots of fabulous online events as well. And ALLi’s always done online events to go with book fairs.

Howard Lovy: It wasn’t much of a pivot for ALLi, we’ve been there all along.

Dan Holloway: Yes, quite. But I think it is the festivals where people really will miss out, and as more and more festivals are opening up and having indie authors alongside everyone else, that’s something that we might notice. Even if we’re driving sales, it’s driving sales to eBooks, and I don’t know that people have necessarily even found a really nice way of doing that.

It’s not a way of replacing people queuing up at the table to get things signed by the author they’ve just heard talk.

Howard Lovy: So, now there’s some other news about, and we’ve talked about this in previous months, about the so-called Emergency Library, that’s not really a legitimate library with the Internet Archives. Is there some new news there?

Dan Holloway: Well, I think even since we last spoke, they were sued by the big five publishing companies, and my understanding is that the issue is actually fizzling out because they they’ve agreed to close down at the end of this month. So, that seems to have kept everyone happy.

Well, not happy, but it’s stopped things escalating. So, they were sued for copyright breach.

Howard Lovy: They actually do perform a good service. As a journalist, I can go back and look at clips of mine from the early age, early days of the internet, where the website no longer exists, but I can see my work from 1995 back in the stone age.

So, the Internet Archives isn’t all evil, but in this case, I think they seriously misjudged.

Dan Holloway: And the Wayback Machine is an essential search tool. We saw that recently in the UK for political journalism, people have been able to call out government misinformation about the timing of events simply by doing a search on the Wayback Machine to see when blogs were changed.

Howard Lovy: Right, yeah. Wayback Machine, good. Emergency Library, bad.

Dan Holloway: It did cause me some concern, we’ve just announced in Oxford a very similar sort of arrangement, our Bodleian Library, with a massive repository of copyrighted archive material that they are making open access for as long as the Bodleian isn’t open.

But I see that they are sticking very strictly to what Open Library calls, controlled digital lending, which I know has a lot of critics, but has a lot fewer critics than the free for all of the National Emergency library. So, you can lend out a book as many times as you have the physical copy of that book on your shelf.

Howard Lovy: Right, and that’s how libraries do it. Yeah. Yeah. So, somewhere along the line in the early age days of the internet, the phrase, information wants to be free was misinterpreted as free of charge.

Dan Holloway: Yeah. I know this is something that people are constantly reminding people is that information wants to be read, rather than wants to be not for sale, as it were.

Howard Lovy: And people who create the information want to get paid. There’s the fine print there. Okay. Well, I know you have to go, so we’ll say goodbye for now. Take it easy over there and I hope you’re doing well and stay strong.

This isn’t over yet, even though people are pretending it’s over, so we’ll leave it at that happy note.

Dan Holloway: Stay safe everyone.

Howard Lovy: Yes. Thank you, Dan.

Dan Holloway: Thanks, bye.