by Will Viharo
So you’ve started your own imprint and you’re publishing your own line of books, whether you’re the sole author or you’re taking on the extremely significant challenge and responsibility of other authors’ books, too.
Time to spread the good word(s)…
The Wikipedia definition of “imprint” (in this context):
An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which a work is published. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, with the different imprints often used by the publisher to market works to different demographic consumer segments.
I’ve already covered the reasons one might decide to publish via one's own imprint, as well as technical stuff like ISNBs and trim sizes, as well as the proper presentation of the product page.
Now I’m taking a step backward in the process to address the matter of distribution, which will come up when you’re deep in the CreateSpace series of publishing prompts.
There is some controversy raging in the community about whether indie publishers, whether individuals or collectives (small presses), should opt for publishing their books via IngramSpark, which is more bookstore-friendly, since retailers can return unsold copies and get their money back, unlike CreateSpace.
Plus, frankly, many brick-and-mortar stores resent Amazon’s monopoly on the industry, and will refuse to order from them directly. The parent company, Ingram, is easier for bookstores to deal with since they have a long-standing relationship already, and they don’t come with the same baggage. In either case, your books will be available for sale via Amazon.
Since I’ve had books published by small presses that worked directly with Ingram, I know from experience that the extra costs associated with bookstore distribution aren’t worth the hassle, financially speaking, since this very small pie is being cut into way too many slices for anyone to truly profit. Other than Amazon, of course.
On the plus side, an author's ego gets a big boost from seeing his or her books on an actual store shelf.
Your call, but consider this fact: The fewer “middle men” in the way of your book and its target audience, the more money you will pocket. I’ve learened this the hard way. Hence, Thrillville Press.
Start Spreading the News...
On each of your CreateSpace title pages, you will be offered six channels of distribution. The only way to access all six is to get a free CreateSpace ISBN number, so your books are available to libraries and academic institutions as well as bookstores and most importantly, the online marketplace, since frankly that’s where the bulk of book sales take place these days.
As you can see from the screenshot below, for my own Thrillville Press titles, I am not eligible for the sixth and final distribution channel, since I purchased my own “unique” ISBN from Bowker (via CreateSpace, you'll see that option too), so that my books can be found via merchant searches under my own publishing banner.
Since the only novel I’ve ever written that is suitable for children is my very first, Chumpy Walnut, a Damon Runyonesque fable about a guy only a foot tall, I don’t promote myself as a family-friendly writer. I do make Chumpy available via Kindle only – after pulling my flawed Lulu print edition from distribution – but as part of my three volume Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, it comes with a variety of short stories spanning my 35 year or so career, and most of them are not for kids.
So I really don’t need my books stocked in libraries, given these restrictions. Additionally, I made sure to select the proper age range for my target audience (you will notice that step in the prompt process as well).
Choose wisely, since you don’t want to incur any reader backlash by marketing an adult title to all ages, when it clearly is not.
You will also be asked to select genres for your book when you choose the fifth distribution category and are automatically assigned a free BISAC number, in addition to your ISBN, to help retailers properly categorize your book. This way bookstores are able to look and special order your book customers, though for reasons already explained, it is doubtful they will order several copies for regular stock, even at the author’s personal request.
For Volume Three, Chumpy Walnut and Other Stories, I chose “fantasy,” “magical realism,” “satire,” and “erotica,” since several of the later stories are pretty explicit sexually. So I’ve got several demographics covered, but the “erotica” selection excludes anyone under 18. They can still purchase it, but since I posted that warning, my job is done.
Volume One in this series, A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge and Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room, I designated as “noir,” “horror,” and “erotica,” while Volume Two, Lavender Blonde and Down a Dark Alley, was put in the “crime,” “noir,” and “erotica” categories.
This kind of control over your own creative property can be downright exhilarating. It comes with limitations, since you have to do all the work yourself and not all of it will pay off exactly the way you hope it will, but at least you’re rolling your own dice.
Why Can't We Be Friends?
Once your product page is up and running, you should create a Facebook fan page for your imprint, and possibly each of your books. I would recommend consolidating them, though, just so it doesn’t look like you’re spamming all your friends. (I already have pre-existing pages for my books, since these are all reissues in definitive editions, so once again, I recommend you do I as I say, not as I do…)
Start posting not only links to the product pages, but anything relevant to the books themselves, whether they’re reviews or interviews with you or simply chats about movies, music, and other books that would appeal to the same audience, just to give your readers a good idea of what you’re selling, and for whom.
Then you begin sending out tweets with those product page links. Not every day, but as often as possible. There is a fine line between over-exposure and under-exposure, and you will need to find it on your own, based on feedback from your followers and friends. The problem is even if you carpet bomb the Internet with news of your books, most will simply get absorbed and swallowed up in everyone’s busy daily feeds.
It’s all trial by error, and on the job training. But if you do it right, it will be the most fun and rewarding “job” you’ve ever had.
Next: Inventing your own series character
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO (COVER ART BY DYER WILK)