The Wide Indie Author Part 6: Going Wide with Print Books

I have a confession to make.

Since going wide last month, I haven’t put nearly as much effort as I should have into my wide book marketing.

Which is why this section of the blog is a little sparser than I would have liked it to be by now. I was planning on writing a weekly update on my progress taking my books wide, chronicling my efforts to reach a wider audience and sharing tips along the way.

I do have a very good reason for this, and that’s that I’ve been busy writing. WordPress For Writers took longer to get ready for beta readers than I imagined (and is now about 20% longer than I expected), and I’ve been working on a novel too.

After all, writing has to take precedence.

Once the first draft of this novel is out of the way (the aim is for the end of May), I hope to be able to devote more time to taking my books wide and to growing my audience. So watch this space!

But in the meantime, today I’m writing about a form of wide distribution that I’ve been doing ever since I published my first book, which is wide distribution in paperback.

In a Facebook group for indie authors (in fact in two Facebook groups), I was recently chatting with authors who wanted to know more about how you can get your physical books out to a wider audience than just Amazon, and how you can get them into bookstores.

This post will aim to answer that question, and clear up some myths and sources of confusion. So let’s go.

Anyone Can Go Wide in Print

Before anything else, I want to start by dispelling a myth that’s prevalent among indie authors.

Quite a lot of people worry about distributing their print books outside Amazon if they’re enrolled in KDP Select (i.e. if their books are available via Kindle Unlimited).

If your book is in KDP Select, it’s true that you can’t sell the ebook anywhere else. But this doesn’t apply to print books.

If you are exclusive to Amazon for your ebooks, you can still sell your print books wherever you want. There is no restriction and no exclusivity requirement for print books.

This also applies to anyone who has their book enrolled in KDP Print. Which includes me: I have my books in KDP Print, and I also have them wide.

So that’s that myth cleared up.

KDP Print vs CreateSpace

Here’s another source of confusion.

When you’re researching the options for getting your print books into the sweaty hands of your readers, you may find that a Google search will take you to CreateSpace.

The same search may also take you to KDP Print.

CreateSpace no longer exists to publish books. It’s Amazon’s legacy platform, and has now been superseded by KDP Print.

So if you want Amazon to print your books on demand (and they’re very good at it) and sell through their channels, you now use KDP Print.

KDP Print, for my money, has some real advantages over the old CreateSpace platform.

Firstly, your print and ebooks are in the same publishing dashboard, and when you set up the print book, you’ll be able to use the metadata from the ebook you already set up, saving you some time.

Secondly, sales and income reporting are in the same dashboard, allowing you to compare sales of the two formats easily.

And third, you can buy author copies and proof copies via your Amazon account.

But KDP Print has its limitations:

  • You can’t print hardbacks or large print editions.
  • Bookstores generally won’t buy print books from Amazon.
  • They only distribute in certain territories.

There is a way round this, and that’s to go wide with your print books!

Using IngramSpark to Go Wide in Print

The best way to make your books more widely available is to print your books with IngramSpark as well as with KDP Print. This is a division of Ingram, which prints books for traditional publishers, and has print works all over the world.

There are plenty of benefits to using IngramSpark:

  • Their books are better quality than KDP Print (although KDP Print’s are much better than they used to be, and perfectly adequate).
  • They let you publish multiple editions of a print book, including hardback and large print. Both these formats are popular with libraries.
  • Your books will be available via the mainstream distributors such as Gardners, in the same way as a traditionally published book would.
  • …meaning that bookstores will be much, much more likely to stock them.
  • Libraries will have access to them.
  • You can buy author copies in bulk and have them sent wherever you want at discounted prices (great for book launches or signings).
  • In countries where KDP Print doesn’t distribute books, Amazon will sell the version printed by IngramSpark.

That’s a lot of advantages!

Now for some myths and commonly asked questions.

Isn’t printing via IngramSpark expensive?

There is a charge for uploading your books, and for making edits to your files.

But if you join the Alliance of Independent Authors (something I recommend), then you get a code that lets you do this for free.

You can also get a code if you take part in NaNoWriMo.

For me, this benefit of being a member of ALLi pays for itself after a couple of books, and then there are all the other benefits of being an ALLi member on top.

What about ISBNs?

To print your book via IngramSpark, you need your own ISBN.

This isn’t necessary for KDP Print, although it’s something I recommend doing with KDP Print anyway. If you use your own ISBN, your book will show up on Amazon as published by you (or your own imprint), while if you use KDP Print’s ISBN, it will show up as published by KDP Print. I don’t think this looks as professional.

You only need one ISBN for each edition of your book, no matter where it’s being printed. So for your paperback, you can print via KDP Print and IngramSpark and use just one ISBN. You don’t need two ISBNs.

If you publish hardback and/or large print, you’ll need an ISBN for each edition, as they are different books.

Does printing via IngramSpark automatically get my book into bookstores?

Er, no.

Just as publishing your ebook via KDP, or Kobo, or anywhere else, won’t automatically get your book in front of people, your print book won’t automatically be in your local Barnes & Noble or Waterstone’s.

But there’s another way of looking at it. If you don’t print via IngramSpark, you have virtually zero chance of getting into bookstores.

Bookstores hate Amazon, and they don’t want to bung any cash their way by stocking their books. KDP Print also doesn’t give bookstores a discount, which means there’s no profit in it.

Why do I have to discount my book?

Let’s say the recommended price for your paperback is $14.99. Your printing costs might be something like $6, depending on the number of pages and your printing options.

This means you have some profit margin. On KDP, Amazon take a cut, then deduct your printing costs from what’s left.

When selling to bookstores, it’s bit different. If the bookstore bought your book from you (via IngramSpark) for $14.99, they would have to sell it for more than the cover price to make a profit. And readers are unlikely to pay that.

Which is why IngramSpark encourage you to offer a discount to bookstores. The recommended percentage is 55%, although if that’s too high for you, you could go down to 40% without it causing a problem in my experience. Any less than that, and you’ll put bookstores off stocking your book.

This means that the store buys your book for 60% of the recommended price. IngramSpark then deduct the cost of printing and shipping from the remaining 60%, and the rest is yours. It isn’t as much as if you’d sold the book at full price, but it will compare with what you’ll get via KDP Print once Amazon have taken their cut.

If you want more advice on getting your book into stores, I recommend the guide from ALLi, How to Get Your Self Published Book Into Bookstores. It’s free for ALLi members or you can buy it from all the usual book retailers.

Will I need a different cover?

You won’t need to use a different cover for IngramSpark, but you will need a different version of the same one.

This is because IngramSpark use slightly thicker paper than KDP Print, meaning your spine will be a little thicker.

It isn’t a lot of work to create an extra file with a wider spine, and most designers will include it in their fee for a paperback cover.

Or if you’re doing your own covers, you can get templates for KDP Print and IngramSpark online and use those to create two versions of the file. If you start by creating the narrower-spined one for KDP and then stretch your spine a little for IngramSpark, you will still be able to fit any text etc. on the spine.

(I’m not an expert on cover design: you might want to check out the creativindie blog for some more specialist advice.)

Going Wide in Print Is Well Worth Doing

I’ve been wide in print from the beginning. I don’t sell vast numbers of books via bookstores, but there is a steady trickle, and it’s similar to the numbers I sell via KDP Print.

It also means my books are available in libraries, and that if I have a book launch in a bookstore (which I did for my second novel), they can stick my book.

Which is why I recommend printing via IngramSpark and KDP Print, and using ALLi to get yourself a discount. Happy publishing!

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