Add More Sales Channels - Resolutions - Indie Pub It
This is part of a continuing series on small changes you can make throughout the year, instead of sweeping, scary New Year resolutions that tend to crash and burn long before you read this post.
Each suggested task is a year-long adjustment to your indie business that could reap some very nice rewards.
Indie publishing is a game won by increments. Most of us write in small doses because we don’t have the luxury of full time writing. We squeeze production into our spare time. We don’t hit best seller lists the first month out but (often) end up selling more over the long term than last month’s #1; a copy here, a copy there.
Check the intro post from January for more on this idea, if you haven’t seen it already.
Here’s the on-going list of tasks:
January: Review Your Backlist
February: Strengthen Your Sales Pipeline
March: Improve Your Hourly Word Rate (Prolificacy, Part I)
April: Write More Words This Year Than Last Year (Prolificacy, Part II)
May: Refine Your Production Process
June: Refine Your Production Schedule
July: Schedule Your Promotions
August: Improve Your Product
September: Add More Sales Channels and Formats
If you’re new to indie publishing, just the hassle of getting your book uploaded to Amazon seems overwhelming. If you’ve been in the game for a while, you’ve probably mastered the other retail outlets, too – Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple.
But there are many, many more channels besides on-line retail stores, and more are being developed and opened up all the time. I will not be adding a complete list of possibilities to this post because by the time you read it, it will be out of date.
But I will mention a few areas where you may not have considered as possible distribution channels.
The same applies to formats. If you think “ePub, Mobi, PDF and print,” when I say “formats”, then you haven’t considered the big picture.
Why mess with channels and formats?
Adding new channels and formats is a strategy for indie authors who are established and have a measure of control over their careers and work methods. If you’re still trying to get a handle on how Kobo’s Writing Life works, then you should concentrate on mastering the big four retailers before branching out.
Each time you add a new channel to your distribution roster, you will have to spend a lot of up-front time getting to know that channel’s peculiarities and demands and setting up your publisher account. Plus, if you have an extended backlist, you will have to spend a lot of time converting books and meta data and uploading to the new channel.
The same time-intensive effort is involved with adding a new format. Often a new channel and a new format go hand-in-hand (Audible.com is one example), making the set-up that much more work-heavy.
Once the new channel or format is established, though, the level of work needed to maintain them is minimal.
So why bother?
Outside the four main retailers, any other channel and format can be considered a “secondary” distribution mode. They will deliver far less sales and revenue than your primary sources and you might think that the time you need to invest to get up and running with them just isn’t worth the returns.
On the face of it, no, they’re not worth the time. Only, they are, if you’re thinking long term rather than return-on-investment. This is another reason why adding channels and formats works better for established Indies – when you’re first starting out, immediate sales are critical, and time is your rarest commodity.
Consider the legacy publishing model for a moment. The traditional publishers cite their far-ranging “wide and deep” distribution of print books as what differentiates them from the standard indie author or on-line bookseller. And this is absolutely true. But these publishers have spent decades setting up their distribution systems, and tweaking them along the way, to the point where they now offer a network that no one who stepped onto the playing field a few years ago can possibly build overnight.
Those distribution networks and systems are the reason why legacy publishers can sell thousands upon thousands of print books. (It is also one of the reasons why legacy publishers want to only sell print books.)
As an indie author, you can do the same with your ebooks and other formats. Think of it as building your own distribution network.
You may only sell a few copies at one of these channels, but those few copies add up across the network, so that you’re selling wide and deep just like the legacy publishers— only you’re selling ebooks and other formats as well.
Having your books listed with a channel means one more place where readers can discover you and access the metadata for your books. It’s also much easier to be a big frog in a little pond, and stand out.
Plus, building up your own distribution network means you’re not relying 100% on one retailer to pay your light bill. Retailers have closed up shop, changed their algorithms and destroyed indie author revenue streams overnight. A wide distribution network gives you a genuine independence, not just a nominal one.
Adding Sales Channels
So what does “Adding Sales Channels” really mean?
It means being aware of all the places where ebooks are sold and distributed, and adding them to your roster. Here are some ideas and alternatives you may not have considered:
Your own website. Add shopping cart software and PayPal, and you’ll be earning instant money.
Mediators such as Smashwords and Draft to Digital, who distribute to tiny channels for you.
Subscription book services. Scribd has left a bad taste in many readers’ and authors’ mouths, but they are not the only subscription service out there. Oyster is another, for example. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited is the most successful service, but their insistence on exclusivity is a stumbling point. Subscription everything is going to become a standard model in the next few years. Even if you don’t add subscription services to your roster right now, keep them in mind for the future.
Book-oriented social networks. Goodreads were selling books directly from their site, but the practice stopped when Amazon bought the site. However, there are other social networks who do sell books to their readers. In the Romance genre, there are reader sites like Coffeetime Romance that run their own bookstores. There may be other sites in your genre or specialty that also sell direct.
Specialty on-line bookstores. These are the little independents of the Internet. All Romance eBooks is just one example. ARE also have a sister site, OmniLit, that caters to non-romance titles. These little booksellers come and go just like their brick and mortar versions, with a few well-established stores surviving with shoestring budgets, because they just love books and so do their loyal customers.
Libraries. This is perhaps one of the most complicated channels to set up, because each library and library system has to deal with each publisher (that’s you) separately as there is no centralized distribution system (yet). Overdrive sort-of fills the role, but many libraries don’t like to use it, and authors get no revenue from it. Sooner or later, this lack will be addressed (and may already be in the works – check Joe Konrath’s newest project, for example). Try starting with your local library system, and find out how to cater to their buying model. Then branch out.
Supermarket distribution. There are companies that distribute ebooks into supermarket chains (the customer buys a card with the cover, blurb and a download key, go home and download the book), but many of them won’t deal with indie authors. Keep an eye on this one, though. It will soon change, if it hasn’t already. You might need to deal with more than one company to reach the widest distribution.
You’ll discover new potential sales channels simply by keeping your eyes open and noticing where ebooks are sold, and following up.
Adding New Formats
If you’re not even distributing a print edition yet, this isn’t for you. Not yet. But print editions are just one type of format. There are many others beyond the standard three ebook formats, including;
Audio editions. Audible is the easiest one for Indies, but there are others.
Big Print editions. If your target market ranges into the older generations, this could be a good one to add.
Foreign languages. Amazon will sell your book across Europe, but only in English. If you’re writing in a genre that does well in certain foreign countries (steamy romances, for instance, going over very big in Mexico…as long as they’re in Spanish), then finding a good translation service might be worth the expense.
Add one new language edition at a time, and shore up the distribution system before adding another.
Also, once you have that foreign language version, there are all the same secondary sales channels you can exploit in those countries, too.
Braille editions. A highly niche market. This is one where ROI is a factor.
PG13 Versions. This is a new idea that is being trialed in some genres, such a romance, but would also work for other R-Rated genres like Horror and some Crime books. A “tamed” version of the book, with all the gore, sex, and swearing glossed over or turned way down or omitted altogether might just find you new markets, including school systems.
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes paranormal, urban fantasy and science fiction romance, and romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published over 50 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.