Friday, January 24, 2014

Author Beware

A discussion between L.J. Sellers and Peg Brantley

L.J.: After two friends asked what I thought about a new service from IndieReader, I looked into it, then Peg and I had a conversation about it that we thought we’d share.

But first, to summarize: IndieReader is offering to list self-published book titles in the Edelweiss database for $399 per title, with the idea that them will give them access to bookstores. The main question: Is it worth it?

My first comment is about the headline on their blog announcing the service. This is how it reads: Want Your Book Sold In Independent Bookstores Nationwide? That shrieks hype! “Nationwide” is a huge—and probably ridiculous—claim. More important, it sounds like they’re going to actually sell your book to retail stores for you. Not even close. They’re offering a listing in a catalogue.

Peg: At CFC and other blogs (Konrath’s for example) there has been discussion about hand-carrying your books to bookstores to gain placement and even booksellers who would likely hand-sell your books. Aside from dealing with fear of rejection, who the heck has the time? So IndieReader’s offer sounded good to me. Except it’s just a catalogue.

L.J.: Not to mention, hand-selling to bookstores costs more money than it earns! But the listing could be effective for some authors. For example, those with a long-running series who have great covers and great review blurbs. Bookstores might notice the covers and blurbs and realize that carrying such a series could be a good way to bring customers back to the store again and again. I realize my Jackson series fits that profile, so I was briefly tempted to give the service a shot. However, because my series is published by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon), most bookstores won’t be interested.

Peg: And since my paperbacks are provided by CreateSpace (also Amazon), I’m pretty sure they’d be facing the same kind of battle. And then there’s the price.

L.J.: Indeed! For $399, you can buy a promo on BookBub and sell a ton of ebooks instead. Or for that price you could also run a full-page ad in Suspense Magazine for four months and sell ebooks and print books. Except for on a local level, I just don’t believe bookstores will stock indie authors who haven’t already caught their attention through media coverage. And what about quality control? Does it concern you that the offer is open to anyone?

Peg: Absolutely! At least BookBub has a level that must be met with respect to reviews. One or two poorly edited books and everyone is tainted. Each author is also paying for a review. How do you say, Conflict of Interest? And then there’s this, from IndieReader: Additional services—including various forms of bookstore outreach—are available for additional fees.

L.J.: And bookstore shelf space is shrinking. Barnes & Nobel is closing stores, and a million authors are cranking out indie books. No matter how much money authors spend, we can't all get space on the shelves. Even mid-list legacy published authors are complaining about not getting into stores anymore. I gave up on bookstores in 2010, and I haven't seen any developments that have made me look back.

Writers are looking for ways to get their work in front of more readers. We don’t think this is one of them. Do you?


  1. Nope. Looks like yet another scam to get authors to part with their cash :(

    1. Scams are out there. It's hard to be vigilent. Thanks for your input.

  2. When I first heard about this new initiative, I was excited. Then I saw the price tag - $399 per book, plus another $99 to get a universal ISBN - apparently the one CreateSpace assigned me won't work. So $500 per book. And the fact that there's no quality control, so high-quality books could easily get lost in the shuffle - the catalogue could be cluttered up with all kinds of boring or otherwise substandard books just because the authors can afford to pay for the placement. Doesn't seem worth it to me... Sigh... Maybe they'll revise it based on feedback, or someone else will jump in on a better version of this idea...

    1. I buy my own ISBNs, so that wasn't an issue. So, let's see... at "only" $400, how many books would you have to sell just to break even?

    2. That's the best questions. The profit margin on print books is very small, and I be surprised if anyone broke even on the listing.

  3. No, I don't believe it is a good deal at that price.

    1. Question: at what price would this interest you?

  4. Hi L.J. and Peg,

    I wish that one of you would have come to us with questions, as opposed to posting info that is incorrect.

    First, BookBub only deals in ebooks. IRIS is about getting self-pubbed paper books into stores.

    Second, the nationwide claim is correct. In fact, Edelweiss is used by booksellers internationally.

    Third, Edelweiss is not just a listing. It has replaced paper catalogs, formerly used by booksellers to order books from traditional publishers. And IR In-Store is the only listing in the Edelweiss database offering these stores IR reviewed titles (not a "conflict of interest, Peg. To the contrary, this lets booksellers know what they're getting).

    By the way, the listing also includes entry into the Edelweiss Digital Review Digital Review Copy (DRC) Module. Similar in function to NetGalley (which, I believe, charges $399 a title), it is a secure, controlled way for authors to share their DRCs with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, media, booksellers, wholesalers, etc.

    As far as there being no "quality control", Jodie, we believe that what constitutes a good book is subjective (can you say "50 Shades of Grey"?) and don't feel like it's our job to judge.

    And LJ, you’re right. Because your book is pubbed by Thomas & Mercer, you would not be able to sign-up with IRIS, altho Peg, the reason you couldn’t do it with a CreateSpace book is that they’re not available at the standard industry discount (40%) nor are they returnable, two things required by bookstores.

    Fact is, it was an independent bookstore buyer who first approached us about providing a way to help her find great indie books. And via ABA mailings that go directly to booksellers, we're able to provide that service.

    Look, we’re not saying that this service is for every indie. But as an author myself, I know that there is no better feeling than seeing my book on a bookstore shelf. I also know it’s not smart to put all your eggs in one basket (remember what happened last year when Kobo started pulling indie titles off their site and Amazon soon followed?).

    I'm happy to answer other questions.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Amy. Peg here.

      First of all, my hat is off to you for trying to find a way to make this happen for indie authors and bookstores. I'm just not sure this is the answer.

      I tried to find a place where I could contact you and ask questions. I didn't see one.

      I brought up BookBub simply because they have a threshhold of quality books must meet. From what I read, I didn't see any kind of threshhold.

      So, are you saying you will get indie books in every bookstore nationwide? That just doesn't seem possible.

    2. Amy, I wonder if you can give any examples of independent authors who have sold the 200+ copies through a listing in Edelweiss that would cost-justify it.

    3. I'd like to see that as well. It would probably take years to break even on the promo.

  5. I wish there were a "Like" button for blog entries. I would be pushing it on this. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. Great post. And no.... they aren't getting my money.

  7. This is both a marketing and a distribution discussion. I'm far from an expert on either, but even without a business degree, it seems there are a couple basic questions. Amy Edelman wrote, in reply: "But as an author myself, I know that there is no better feeling than seeing my book on a bookstore shelf." This focuses on the author's emotional response. Yet as the posters on CFC (and elsewhere) continually remind us, writing - and selling, marketing and distributing - is a business.

    As L.J. and Peg both noted, the ROI (return on investment) is not worth the momentary "rush" - especially since, as authors, we won't see our books on many bookstore shelves, unless we travel a lot.

    Independent publishing works only because of e-books and POD (print on demand) - reducing production, distribution and marketing costs. It requires a different kind of marketing - the kind of networking Peg has described to me, a networking that's an electronic version of the fanzines and fanfic of old.

    I'd also like to say something about the curative element - the "quality control." That bad books - poorly written books - are published, and even do well does not negate the need for "quality control." Whoever published "50 Shades" did so not because it had the literary merit of, say, "Great Expectations," but because that publisher saw commercial possibility - the book would sell. That, as well as quality of writing, is part of the curative process.

    Independent publishers develop their own reviewers as the QC folk.

    (as an aside, I like the dialogue format!)


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