Below are honest answers to the kinds of questions authors ask in regards to publishing. The aim of this ruthless honesty is to give authors realistic expectations.
How much say would I have over my cover?
Though AIAP’s contract gives us the right to make the final decision on a cover, the way we work with cover design is to ask the author to choose a selection of images they feel represents the book from the quality image provider that we use (Shutterstock), and then the designer will either choose one or more to use on the cover, or use those images as inspiration, depending on how appropriate the chosen images are for a cover design. We also run the design by the author for approval before it’s finalised. Authors can then request changes if they wish.
Mostly authors only request small changes, and even that’s fairly rare. The only time I had to pull rank on an author was when they wanted to use their own cover design and it was pretty awful.
Also, you don’t have to use our cover artist. You can engage any professional cover artist you want so long as we approve them; we just check that they are a fully professional designer used to providing files for Lightning Source.
How much will it cost me to buy books for resale?
The cost of books wholesale to you depends on how many pages the finished product runs to, but usually it’s around USD $8.50 per book for a 100,000 word book to get to you, including postage, if you buy a box or more at a time and live in Australia, the UK or USA. (Usually there’s 20-22 in a box). Outside of those countries postage will be higher.
What can I expect in the ways of book sales?
That depends on genre and how well you market your book. Popular genres like thrillers, mystery and romance sell better than other genres. Fantasy and science fiction need to deliver exactly what fans want in order to sell well – strong plots, lots of action and heroic characters. Metaphysical and visionary fiction sales are relatively small. Books that are a mixture of genres are harder to sell.
We don’t manage our author’s ebook sales, so I can’t give figures on that, but in paperback sales, we have authors who have sold only about 30 in their first year and others have sold 1000. Authors whose books sell well have put effort into marketing.
What would be the sales price?
You set whatever price you want on your ebook because you upload the ebook files yourself on your own account. Unknown authors usually price their books at USD $2.99 for a 70-90,000 word book and $3.99 for larger books, and Amazon takes 70%. For the paperback, we set prices in accordance with other print on demand books of the same size. For an 85,000-100,000 word book, that’s around Aus – $22; US – $13.99; UK – GBP 10.99; Canada – $18.85; Spain – 12.50 Euros. At these prices, you would earn – after AIAP’s 10% is taken out – roughly USD $3.00 a book. You can change the prices by requesting a price change.
Where would most sales be generated?
Amazon. But you have to actively market it to get the sales. Amazon and other book stores don’t market your book at all. It’s just up there, and readers won’t see it unless you advertise it in some fashion. The more sales and the more good reviews you get, the more your book will be seen and the more sales you get, but you have to actively market to get those initial sales.
The best way to maximise income is to sell your book at local events where you sell direct to readers. Authors usually manage to sell 40 books at a book launch or author talk, and get twice as much or more selling direct as they do through shop sales.
You say that as a hybrid publisher you differ in that you are selective in what book you take on. What does that mean in practice?
It means that we’re really fussy about what books we publish and reject the majority of books submitted to us. We won’t publish anything that doesn’t meet mainstream standards of quality in terms of the writing, but we’ll publish niche books with a small readership that mainstream publishers won’t. We reject 90% of submissions outright and offer around 10% the chance to work with us to improve the book. Of those books, most will eventually reach what we consider a publishable standard. We’re highly respected in the Indie community as a publisher who reliably publishes quality books and gives authors a fair deal.
Are reviewers more likely to review the book because I’ve published with you?
Depends on the reviewer. Indie BRAG assessors and Underground Book Reviews should know about our reputation, but I don’t know about others. If a reviewer looks us up and sees that we’re selective, they’d be more likely to review. With us, you’ll be able to submit to those reviewers who say they don’t review self-published books (and they’re often the reviewers with the most active blogs). Whether or not they review, however, is due to how well you write your request and whether the subject matter of the book interests them.
Are bookstores more likely to stock the book?
Book stores only stock Indie books if the author can visit the bookstore and convince them to stock it. You have to have a willing store owner and be able to sell them on the idea, and it’s the authors responsibility to do that. If you tell them that your book is not self-published, however, but has been published by a selective indie publishers, they are likely to be more willing to stock it.
Are readers more likely to consider a purchase?
Not unless they’re someone who either knows about us, or looks up the publisher and recognises that we aren’t a self-publishing service. I don’t think most readers do that, though. Most readers simply buy if the book interests them and the reviews are good. I do know of readers who look at the name of the publisher and if it says ‘Amazon Digital Services’ or the name of the author, they won’t buy.
What really sets AIA apart from the scores of other self-publishing services?
- We aren’t a self-publishing service; we’re a hybrid publisher that only publishes books that meet mainstream publishing standards of quality;
- We charge only for the time it takes us to publish your book, plus costs;
- We’re concerned about quality and we produce quality;
- We’re highly ethical. We’ll never rip you off;
- We’re an Alliance of Independent Authors’ partner which means we’re an ethical, reliable company that does good work. We stack up well in their research on author satisfaction for various services https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-service-reviews/
Will I make my money back?
That’s depends on:
- Your actual costs (which vary depending on how much editing the book needed);
- What time frame we’re talking about;
- The book’s genre;
- Whether or not you have other books published and how well they sold;
- How successful the book is in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the genre;
- How large your network of friends – both online and off – is and whether or not they are likely to be enthusiastic in helping word get out about your book:
- Whether or not the book has a theme of interest to a community of which you are part and how big that community is, and, of course, how much marketing you do and how well you do it.
I advise authors to think of their publishing as a hobby, and approach it as a keen golfer approaches their golfing equipment. They want professional-level clubs and shoes and are prepared to pay a lot of money for them, but they don’t expect to get their money back on them if they sell them at some point. The point of buying top-of-the line equipment is not to make money; it’s to help the golfer play their best game. For an author, the point of engaging our services is to produce a professional product of which the author can be proud – one they know their friends and work colleagues won’t cringe over. If they cover costs and make money, that’s great, but it’s not their main concern. In both golf and publishing, it helps to have a professional product, but it’s how you play the game that determines how high you score.
The way to make money as an indie author is to keep producing books, find a niche that works for you and build up a following of people who are always keen to read your next book. But building a following takes time. Many authors can’t be bothered with the work required for marketing and so don’t concern themselves at all with how many books they sell. Even so, some of those same authors have made back their money or are well on the way to it, especially if they keep writing new books in the same genre. Best not to have expectations, then you won’t be disappointed or feel under pressure to put a lot of effort or money into marketing.
Do you secure copyright?
In Australia there is no need for copyright registration, nor is there a legal requirement to put a copyright notice on it. A work will be protected as soon as it is published. However, our books include a copyright page, and we deposit our publications with the National Library of Australia and the NSW state library. US authors may also wish to register copyright with copyright.gov
Why do you suggest using a pre-order setup for the ebook?
The ebook is controlled by you, so a pre-order set up is optional, of course. You can do the set up and publish it immediately on the publication date if you want. You can even do it later if you want to work it that way.
The reason I suggest it is for marketing purposes, so that every time you mention the book in the pre-publicity stage you can share a link to where they can immediately purchase it – though it won’t arrive until later. You want to capture people’s interest and get them to buy it once they’re interested. If there is no purchase link, then they can see your post, think, ‘Oh that sounds good,’ but then because they can’t act on that immediately, they’ll forget about it and you’ve lost a sale.
The paperback is automatically on pre-order after I’ve uploaded the files, so that can provide you with the purchase link without doing an ebook pre-order, but people who read on an ereader don’t buy paperbacks, so it is good to have both options available.
That’s my reasoning. People who don’t recommend it, say that because it doesn’t help your book get traction on the rankings. That’s because those pre-order sales are not added up on the publication date, so it’s better if you have a lot of fans that they all buy it on the publication date. A lot of sales on one day will push it up the rankings, but if you don’t already have a large fan base of hundreds who will all buy on one day, then really that doesn’t make a lot of difference.
The alternative is to use the product page on AIA Publishing’s website as your link in your pre-publicity and you hope that people will sign up for our mailing list so I can email them on the publication date to remind them to buy it.
The reason I do a pre-order on the paperback is that it allows you to order books before the release date and have them on hand. It also gives me the time to check the physical paperback and make sure it’s all as it should be before the book is up for sale. And if someone reads an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) and finds a typo, we can also fix that before publication.