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Do you really need publishing services when you are publishing on the web?

It’s a question I’ve thought about an awful lot over the last couple of years, if you’re going to be publishing on the web, do you really need the publishing services offered by the big publishers?

In 2007 when I began working with author and speaker Jim Clemmer, I was lucky enough to learn, first-hand, from someone who had sold hundreds of thousands of books using the traditional publisher route and several hundred thousand copies as a self published author the difference between working with traditional publishing services and going it alone.

The biggest difference was that when you sell books through a publisher you need to sell many more books to make the same amount of money you’d make selling less books as a self-publisher.

One of the first projects I worked on with Jim was his business-fable Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work.

Taking the book from manuscript to print was not a huge issue. But we hit a wall when it came to distribution and marketing.

At that point we were focused on getting the book into stores and getting the word out to the public to do this:

  • We scheduled webinars
  • Went on a cross country seminar tour
  • Created a website – www.mooseonthetable.com
  • Sent thousands of postcards to our mailing lists
  • Promoted the books in Jim’s monthly newsletter
  • Sent out targeted email blasts to the database based on what products and services contacts had purchased in the past.
  • Built a YouTube Channel and loaded it with chapter summaries and other videos
  • Created an iPhone Application
  • Hit just about every Breakfast Television show in the country

We were able to do all this ourselves.

In the end the book didn’t sell nearly as well as we’d hoped. And as best I can figure, it was because it was so completely different from Jim’s previous books, that it didn’t resonate with his core audience and it didn’t catch fire with the general public.

We did cover all our bases from a marketing perspective.

But distribution was a big hole. The book wasn’t available everywhere and we were trying to sell as many copies as we could through Jim’s main site – jimclemmer.com. The problem with this is that even with 500 unique visitors dropping by each day, most of them weren’t going to buy a book.

Jim’s next book was more in keeping with what he’d done in the past. Growing at the Speed of Change is, as Jim likes to describe it “inspir-actional.”

While we did many of the same things we did with Moose, this time we were able to remove one of the great barriers to self-published authors – distribution.

With GSC, opted for Print on Demand using LightningSource.com which immediately made the book available in Canada, US, UK and EU at local pricing and shipping through Amazon and other e-tailers. Better still – the books were almost always listed as “in-stock” and “usually ships in 24 hrs.”

While were were setting this up we added all of Jim’s previous books to the POD system – including a two books that had been out of print for over 20 years.

And guess what? They sold some copies as well!

Another avenue we explored was ebooks. Using Smashwords.com, we were able to create e-book versions of Moose on the Table, Growing at the Speed of Change and The Leader’s Digest, which are now available for the Kindle, iPad and other devices.

Distribution was always one of the major advantages of going with one of the major publishing houses. But with LightningSource this advantage disappears. Self published authors can now, for the first time, go it alone and keep most of the profits in their own pockets.

So you want to publish a book: distribution and website

This series was originally posted in 2008

It’s never too early to think about how you’re going to reach your audience. Don’t think for a second: “If I write it, they will read.”

Getting your book into stores isn’t easy. The big guys in the publishing industry have whole teams working the big chains constantly to get their product placed prominently in stores. As a self-publisher you’ll have to do a lot of leg work to get your book on the shelf. And even then you’ll probably find that your book will be lost in the tide of a an literary ocean as the big box stores have millions of other titles.

Additionally, you may find yourself faced with huge orders only to have those same books returned to you three months later, dog-eared and unsuitable for resale.

As luck would have it, in addition to being a fantastic editor, Don Bastian also runs a small imprint and we were able to negotiate a fair deal for distribution in Canada. Where he takes on the leg work of retail promotion and distribution.

But if you don’t have a distributor for your book, you can still send out copies to reviewers, library magazines and direct folks to a web site.

Website
The model for distributing books has been the same for hundreds of years. Authors write a book, sell that book to a publisher, who then gets that book into bookstores.

This really made a lot of publishers and bookstores very rich. But for a small author trying to break into the racket, you may find that you’re just not worth the effort for these guys. But the internet has chnaged things. It’s easy to get your book into the online booksellers. But the real way for a small author to achieve the maximum return on investment is to build a web site with an ecommerce component and sell the book online.

With Moose, I hired a fellow from Pakistan to do the work. The result is mooseonthetable.com.

If you visit the site, you’ll notice we’re selling the book through our site as e-book and audiobook. Both these methods are great opportunities to reach an audience online and save money on production at the save time.

The website is a great way to provide information about your book and you can make it as interactive as you want. Websites are also great because you’re not just releasing your book to a domestic audience. You have the potential to sell to anywhere in the world. Think about it. A person in Toronto can download an ebook or audiobook as easily as someone in New York, London or Dublin! How’s that for a distribution channel?