Oprah Has Done It. Again…

Good morning! Oprah has gone and done it again. She’s started a new book club — Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. On top of that, she’s already picked out 60 or so titles that will be a part of the club. I signed up because I love reading and it’s even better when you have folks to discuss the reading with. Now I will be reading at least 2 books each month — one for the Inspired & Independent Book Club and one for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

O’s new book club promises to be an interactive experience on top of the normal “book club” experience. She held up a hardcover edition of the book for this month — Wild by Cheryl Stayed — stating that she (Oprah) still believes in books. I agree — I much rather have a physical book in hand to read then read from an electronic reading device. However, the demands of time and travel have me reading most titles these days from my Kindle Cloud Reader on my iPad. It’s more convenient for me to read from my iPad during my commute to/from work then to lug yet another book along with me on the trip.

Oprah has provided her readers with notes and comments about her favorite and least favorite parts and passages of the book. These notes can be accessed through special “Oprah Editions” of the book being read if you purchase the electronic edition. If you are reading from a traditional book, the same notes can be accessed on Oprah’s book club site. It’s a great idea to incorporate the notes in the electronic book editions so folks who are reading from eReaders don’t have to stop and go online to get to the notes. A great added feature to the club and to the books themselves — keeps everything in one place for the readers. It appears that she is trying to provide the best of both worlds for her book club — staying true to the traditional book club while bringing it into the 21st century technology-wise.

I encourage avid readers to sign up for both the Inspired & Independent Book Club and Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. There will be a lot of banter between members and many many great reads. Looking forward to the discussions…

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Monday Morning Review: Facebook Contests

I read a great article over the weekend on running Facebook contests. It’s not as easy as one would think…

Not that setting up the contest is difficult, it is all of the numerous rules and regulations that must be followed in order to legally run a contest on Facebook. Facebook has left no stone unturned when it comes to protecting their liability with other company’s and individual’s contests. Because of this, their policies on running a contest for your business on Facebook can get pretty confusing.

Ideally, you cannot use Facebook to run the contest. You must use a third party application which can be used on Facebook. Any submissions — pictures, e-mail addresses, whatever you are collecting for the contest — must be collected via the third party application rather than through Facebook directly. I assume this is to take Facebook out of the liability loop. If the submissions are not submitted to Facebook, they can’t be held liable. It was submitted to some other site (Wildfire, iFrame, whatever app), and therefore the liability lies with the third party app for any missed or miscalculated contest results.

In the scheme of business, it is a wise move for Facebook to protect itself from any liability at all costs. At the same time, however, they shouldn’t make following policy a treasure hunt. The article stated that most contests run on Facebook are illegal and at risk of having Facebook shutdown the contest, page, account, or the whole kit-and-kaboodle. As authors, we must self promote whether we self publish or publish our works traditionally. We really need to get these policies down to a science to ensure that our Facebook promotion efforts are not foiled because of Facebook’s convoluted policies.

For a more indepth discussion of Facebook contest policies, read Social Media Magazine‘s article in their April/May 2012 edition of Fb+Business Magazine. Author Marketing Experts put out four magazines targeted at assisting authors — Fb & Business, LI & Business, Tweeting & Business, and The Big G & Business. They each contain some great information and articles to help the author build their business using social media.

Time to share…
What are your thoughts on using Facebook contests as a way to build business? Are FB contests an effective method for authors? What do you think about FB’s policies on contest — too restrictive or easy enough to follow?

Self Publishing Options Today

With the advent of the digital revolution and the de-stigmatization of self publishing, the world has opened up to a slew of self publishing options. Print On Demand (POD) services and companies have multiplied exponentially. Book distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have either implemented or greatly enhanced their self publishing arms, with Amazon’s CreateSpace being one of the most well known and highly used self publishing service. Many authors are no longer trying to break down the doors of the big publishing houses to get published and are opting to self publish. Today we take a look at a few of the services available and what they offer.

CreateSpace
This is Amazon’s self publishing service. CreateSpace allows authors to upload their completed manuscripts and book covers and have their books printed on demand through Amazon. Authors also receive an eStore for their book, as well as distribution through Amazon’s distribution channels. Your book will obviously be on Amazon’s shelves, but can also receive national and international distribution through the Expanded Distribution option. You have the choice whether you want to use an Amazon ISBN or use your own*. One word of caution: using Amazon’s ISBN limits your ability to take your book elsewhere for distribution. My advice is to always obtain and use your own ISBN if you are going to self publish, no matter which service you use. You want to keep as much control over your work as possible. However, you must use an Amazon ISBN to be distributed to their Library and Academic channels.

For books purchased through your eStore, Amazon takes 20% plus fees; purchased through Amazon.com and they take a 40% share plus fees; finally, if you use their Expanded Distribution option, when your title sells they take a 60% share plus fees. Let’s look at an example book, paperback with 250 black and white pages, printed at the 6×9 trim size:

eStore: 20% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page, these are CreateSpace charges. On a $14.99 book, that’s $3.00 + $0.85 + $3.00 for a grand total of $6.85 that Amazon takes out of your list price. This leaves you with a net royalty payment of $8.14, or roughly 55%.

Amazon.com: 40% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page in charges. That’s $9.85 for them and $5.14 for the author, or roughly a 35% royalty rate.

Expanded Distribution: 60% + $0.85 fixed charge + $0.012 per page for a total of $12.85 to Amazon and $2.14 to the author. That’s just under a 15% royalty rate for the author. This service also comes with a one-time $25 per book fee to setup the service. *There are some limitations regarding using your own ISBN, so please be sure to read the information carefully.

This information is available on Amazon’s CreateSpace website and can be found here. This is their print services. To publish to Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader, you must go through a separate process with separate costs. Information about publishing to Kindle can be found here.

PubIt!
This is Barnes & Nobles’ self publishing platform.  This platform publishes your book in electronic format for the Nook — B&N’s e-reading device. According to their website, “PubIt automatically converts your digital files for viewing on NOOK, mobile, and computing devices.” Authors/publishers can upload their finalized manuscript to the PubIt service, which will format the book for publishing on NOOK. Their FAQ section has this question and answer:

  • Where are PubIt NOOK books sold? PubIt NOOK books are available for sale on BN.com, NOOK book reading devices and NOOK software for iPad, iPhone, Mac, Android, and PC.”

They have a two-tiered royalty rate:

  • For ebooks with a list price between $2.99 and $9.99, the author/publisher receives 65% of list.
  • For ebooks with a list price at or below $2.98 or greater than $10.00, the author/publisher enjoys 40% royalty.

This information is available on B&N’s PubIt website, which can be found here. If you would like to sell print books through B&N, that’s a whole different animal and process, which can be found here.

Lulu
Lulu is another well known self publishing operation.  For me, their website was not as forthcoming with information and pricing. In frustration, I finally gave up trying to track down true royalty rates — I’d never get this post written if I didn’t… However, I did learn that if you use your own ISBN, Lulu will then charge you a $75 fee for their GlobalReach distribution service. This gets your book on Amazon, B&N’s, Baker & Taylor, and other widely known booksellers shelves. It also gives brick & mortar stores the opportunity to order and stock your work on their physical shelves. Their other distribution service, which is free, — ExtendedReach — cannot be used if you use your own ISBN number. They only offer this service if you get a Lulu provided ISBN. Remember what I said about ISBNs in the Amazon paragraph…

With some digging, I was able to find a “How much will my book cost?” question/page. It can be found here and it lists Lulu’s production costs. Then, I was able to find their “Retail Price Calculator.” Here is where you go to price your book, but you need to determine the amount (in dollars) that you would like to see as your royalty. Input that number, the number of pages in your work and a few other key pieces of information and the calculator does the rest. Using $8.14 — the amount of royalty money you would receive using CreateSpace and selling through your Amazon eStore — Lulu then prices your title at $33.35. No, I didn’t mistype that: $8.14 author/publisher royalty, $2.04 Lulu fee, $6.50 manufacturing cost per unit, and retail markup of $16.68. Maybe I am misunderstanding how this calculator is used, but I don’t think I am…

* * * * *

I could go on and on listing possible self publishing services. There’s iUniverse and SmashWords, and a whole host of others… However, to give you just the tip of the iceberg should be enough for me to get you to put your researcher’s hat on and start comparing notes. If you are thinking about self publishing — print or electronic format or both — then you first need to do your homework. Don’t hop on the first bandwagon that drives past you. Weigh your options. Keep your goals in sight. What are you trying to accomplish by publishing? Will your book be best served in print, electronically, or both? What are your distribution goals — how far and wide of a reach do you want? Are you ready to sell books out of the trunk of your car, after paying manufacturing costs and buying your own books?

There is no “one size fits all” in the self publishing arena, just as there are none in traditional publishing. Each written work has its own merits and strengths to sell copies. Each work has a target audience and the author has thought about how best to reach that target (and if you didn’t, you better!). Not everyone has a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader; nor does everyone wish to read their books electronically. Most of what I read is in e-format, but I honestly would prefer a book in my hand. I purchase e-books for the travel convenience — I am a daily commuter… Do your research and don’t just run to Amazon because you heard they offer 70% royalty (that’s actually a Kindle royalty rate, and it comes with lots of “if’s, but’s, and and’s” before you can get that rate).

Self publishing can be a great alternative to the traditional publishing arena. The stigma of self publishing is not what it used to be. You can hold your head high and proclaim you are a self published author without people giggling in the background, thinking you’ve “bought” your way into being a published author. However, just like you have to do your research to be traditionally published — what publishers are looking for your type of manuscript, finding and securing a literary agent who is also looking for works in your genre, etc. — you have to do some to get the best bang for your buck in self publishing. Although most POD and e-book providers offer their services for free, it’s still at a cost. It takes your time and sometimes great effort (formatting, proofing, reformatting, resubmitting, etc.) which are dollars and cents. Every second you are not writing is another penny that you aren’t earning. Self publishing puts you in the driver’s seat, taking time away from your writing. Know which destination you are headed for and what their process is before your manuscript is finalized so that there is no delay in self publishing.