Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indie Publishing: Lessons Learned So Far

When I decided to indie publish my old backlist I didn't realize two things - how much there was to learn and how much I'd enjoy the process. Yes, process is quite an overused word these days but the language can be limiting. That's the only word that fits. 

The biggest adventure so far has been learning how to photoshop pictures. I'm not an expert, nor will I ever be, and that's okay. Sure the cover of a book is the first thing a reader sees. The second is the price. Well, maybe some folks see the price first and that's okay. I've been known to purchase a "try me" book for 99-cents, too. Anyway, learning to create covers is a lot of hard work but each new tool discovered ups my level of enjoyment with the software. 

Now comes the time to confess what I really like about going indie and something the naysayers might want to think about. Perhaps if I'd thought about it sooner, I'd have begun this new phase of my career a few years ago. 

It's a topic always discussed in private author circles. Is my publisher paying me for every copy sold? How do I know if they're not? It's an unfortunate reality the author doesn't know if she/he is being cheated. 

Yes, most (but not all) publishers are honest and most contracts have clauses that state the author can request an audit of her/his sales records but the author has to pay for it. Please believe me when I tell you only the lucky few are making enough money to pay for a forensic audit and those chosen ones are the few the publishers wouldn't dare fuck with because they do have the money. So what's one of the little people to do? Publish a few indie books.

When you become your own publisher you suddenly have access to sales reports direct from places like Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo - any online bookseller you hook up with. How does this help? Here goes. I'll try to make it simple.

Say I go to All Romance eBooks and search for Rayne Forrest. The results come up and I sort them by best selling and make a note of the day and the order of the books. Then I log into my publisher account and get the numbers of sales per book. Say I do this every day for the quarter and at the end of the quarter my indie book, which as been ranked as my third seller for the last several months has sold 100 copies. This means the two books above it have each sold more than 100 copies. I then get my royalty report from ARE. 

Books number 1 and 2 had better show sales of over 100 copies each, eh? Okay, they might only show 95, which would be close enough for me to know all is well. One thing I don't know is how many people bought a book and then returned it after they read it. (The practice of doing that is a blog for another day - after I learn a few more curse phrases.)

Is it a cumbersome lot of work to track sales this way? Absolutely. Will it give you enough money to pay for an audit, if necessary? Nope. It won't. But it might tell you it's time to look for another publishing house to handle your work.

And that's the bottom line here. Your books are your work. You license them to someone else to do the publishing end. You need to know if you're being treated honestly and an independent sales report is simply one more tool to that end. 


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