Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update: The Distributors Discriminate (against your profits.)

In any book sales, it's bulk vs. originality. There's room for both.

(Photo Credit: Phil Roeder)

Viable book sales depend on volume of books first, quality second, originality third. 

But this isn't how the distributors see it. No reason for you to lose at this.

Yes, I've been busy and haven't kept up with keeping you informed. Sorry.

I've had some home renovations get in my way, which has kept me from publishing for a couple of months right before Christmas. The good news is some insanely cold weather allowed me to bundle up in front of my computer and play catch-up.

The Recent Book Publishing Project

I was doing yet another test. Just before I went into hand-on carpenter-plumber-electrician-builder-mode, I had been working up about 70 books to publish. These were all PLR (private license rights) or PD (public domain) books, along the lines of my interests, as well as harvesting any and all books I had sitting around on my hard-drive.

This was based on earlier tests a couple of years ago which gave me financial independence so I could publish books full-time and not have to work for anyone anymore.

The short-version results:
  • The good news is that it's still relatively easy to find, edit, and publish books.
  • The bad news is that it's not as easy as it used to be.
The bottom line is that aggregators punish non-original book submission. They simply won't send them on.

However, the individual distributors still readily accept all sorts of books (except Amazon, which needs it's own post.)

These 70+ books were submitted through Lulu, which used to forward PLR and PD books to iTunes and Nook readily. Since they got Amazon and Kobo on board, they don't. While only about a third of the books got through Lulu's conversion process (they all pass epubcheck) all were rejected in distribution. PD and PLR alike.

All of them.

Lulu has started to fail as an aggregator. 

Here's what they said in the reject:
  •   Our retail distribution partners no longer accept content that is freely available elsewhere, including but not limited to public domain material, content aggregated from online sources, and content that is identical to existing publications by other authors or publishers.

Their loss.

First, they have gotten lousy revenue deals with Kobo and Amazon - you receive less than 50 percent of your price if you go through Lulu to get to them. Individually, both Kobo and Amazon will pay you 70% revenue (minus VAT for EU sales). We've known for some time that the highest profits were from publishing direct and to as many distributors as possible.

Second, they are now refusing to distribute anything except original content anywhere (per this test, anyway.)

Third, a perfectly good epub usually won't get accepted (but you can get the free ISBN from them. The reason is the changes they had to make in their automated review script.

They still have a use in this process, though.

What is Lulu's best use? Publishing your hardcopy books.

Yes, still get your free ISBN's for ebooks from them. But back up your ebooks with hardcopy versions via their Global Reach. It's simple, cheap, and you'll get PD and PLR books into Amazon where you can't get them in as ebooks.

And revise your bulk-publishing plans.

There are only two distributors I know which will take a bulk of books:
  • Google Play/Books
  • Overdrive (yes I owe you a post on this one, but it's still in progress...)
Everywhere else, you have to submit your books one at a time.

But everywhere else (except Amazon) will accept PD and PLR books directly.

This then leads you right into a sensible marketing plan and out of any idea of building a deep backbench of titles quickly.  Yes, it's the end of an era, but a new door opens.

I have another project, which is taking the 100 all-time best-selling PD books and republishing them everywhere, including Amazon.  But instead of getting 100 ready, I have to do them about 5 at a time.  Because Lulu used to carry my water, but now won't.

Meaning you can make more money off each book, but have to work harder.

The good point is that you can adjust to the various distributor demands as you go. Better than having to go back to revise all your books based on yet another change (like Lulu just did for us all.)

And even better, your marketing can keep up with your publishing. (More or less.)

In an ideal world (like you write and publish original stuff) you'd take your few books, publish them everywhere individually, create spin-off promotion like PDF excerpts and video-trailers, then promote them on social networks, while building your audience from each release.

For PD, PLR books, my marketing has been short-changed, since I have been concentrating on getting a deep backbench built. So I've been missing sales as the books are not readily discovered other than the "also-bought" and "also by this author" algorithms. As well, I've been avoiding Amazon as they really don't like PD or PLR books. (In fact, I discovered that Amazon has created free versions of most of the commonly popular PD books. PD books simply won't get accepted there.)

Which means you are going to spend a much greater time editing and adding value to every PD book you post there. (Another post upcoming which expands on this...) The key is that when you find a valuable niche with PD books, you create a campaign from the beginning. Books are just one part of helping people improve their lives. Publishing is not the end-all.

The Full Book Marketing Cycle

What I've gotten worked out so far is relatively simple:
  1. Deep Bbackbench
  2. Multiple Eyeballs
  3. Social Proof Promotion
  4. Audience Velvet Rope
  5. Everyone Wins Better
Deep Backbench - profits are made from multiple titles in a series. So find and publish many, many books in your niche area. Add value to each one to make them distinctive and not a commodity.

Multiple Eyeballs - publish them to as many distributors and in as many formats as possible. ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, PDF's, videos, audiobooks, images. People prefer different versions of your book. Plus, all these link to each other and build authority.

Social Proof Promotion - get these versions known on social networks. If you can, get and use Synnd this. A new one, Pixxfly, is upcoming and will be a game-changer in this area.

Audience Velvet Rope - build your audience using a membership. Means you can now talk directly to them with emails. The Rainmaker platform seems the best for this right now.

Everyone Wins Better - incorporate affiliate sales into your mix, so people can promote your book and get a split of the income for themselves. Readers can become evangelists. This can also be expanded in to product launches, which point to "evergreen" launches as least time-consuming.

There's a whole book coming up as I build and test this scene for you. Yes, it's been years. Above is the short version of the strategy I'm working.

Even shorter:
  1. Publish lots of books.
  2. Promote them to search engines (lots of fresh content and social proof.)
  3. Collect email addresses with permission.
  4. Use launches and affiliates to expand sales.
Batch publishing is best:
Finding a niche,
finding helpful PD or PLR content,
editing these into acceptable and value-added shape
publishing them everywhere you can
promoting them via search engines and social networks
setting up a membership backend with ecourse on autoresponders
building evergreen launch systems, which encourage affiliates to help you (as well as your loyal fans.)
Obviously, working with around 5 books at a time would make the most sense - as you can them keep your marketing up to date.

My approach is to build the backbench first, and then market based on what has already proved to get sales - letting the distributors show me which books are worth my time investment (especially PLR books, but also long-tail PD books.)


OK, I've got more electrical to do today. So that's all for now.

Luck to us all...

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