Friday, March 21, 2014

The World Beyond Amazon: An Indy Bookseller's Perspective for Authors

Therese & Morgan say: In April 2013 we interviewed our favorite independent bookseller, Debbie Burke owner of Jan's Paperbacks. That interview turned into two posts on POP marketing and how authors can better work with indy booksellers. (You can find those posts here and here.) Since we last chatted with Debbie, she has been BUSY! So, of course, we asked her to fill us in on the things she has learned over the past year. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing your insights and wisdom.

Debbie Burke says:  I know that Amazon is good for selling books, but is it good for books [the publishing industry] and authors? 

I have learned a lot of things since I was asked to do this blog the first time so we thought it was time for another post to pass on the things I have learned.  I had the opportunity to go to ABA Winter Institute in January.  Booksellers' School, what could be better?  Here is a summary of some of the things I’ve learned.

There are many ways to get your book reviewed, besides Amazon. Kirkus Reviews will review your book for a nominal fee.  A professional unbiased review can be a HUGE help in selling your book to readers and in getting bookstores to stock your book.  Kirkus also offers editing and other services and the price is based on what you need done. 

Kobo does a great job of getting the book onto ereaders.  Did you know Kobo is the biggest purveyor of e-books in the world?  That’s right, Kobo, not Amazon.  Kobo ereaders are in more countries than all e-reading companies put together.  Books in English have long been big business in countries where English is not the first language.  I sell a lot of my Kobo E-readers to customers who are taking them home to whatever country they live in. They can download ebooks without waiting for foreign rights and all the other business transactions that have to happen for the latest and greatest print books to come to them.  You can also pay to have your books translated but I know a lot of people use books to improve their English.  Books in the English language have been big business for far longer than there have been e-readers. Through Kobo, self and indy pubbed authors now have access to international readers.

The best thing about Kobo, beyond their reach to readers around the world, is their dedication to Independent Bookstores.  They stepped up and said hey, this is a partnership made in heaven.  Well, maybe they weren’t that sappy, but the result is a true partnership.  Their commitment to helping indie and self-published authors, and their willingness to work with Independent Bookstores, this is how publishing should be, everyone working together to get the printed word into the hands of the readers.

Amazon loves exclusives and secrecy; did you know there are alternatives to publishing your book? I learned of a new option for print books.  Createspace is no longer the only option.

Ingram Spark was launched last year, a version of Lightning Source created for Indie Authors, where Lightning Source was created for publishers now it takes care of everyone in one easy to use package.  Spark provides physical and digital content management with print-on-demand and e-book technology in the same interface.  For $49, plus an annual access fee of $12, authors are able to set up their title and have access to Ingram’s print and e-book distribution services.  Self-publishers have a number of options, including creating their own branding and setting a returnable status as well as wholesale discounts. 

There is a lot more I could say about Kirkus, Spark and Kobo, but go check it out.

What self-published authors need the most is a marketing plan.  
I know you thought you could just write a book, I thought I could just buy a bookstore and read as much as I wanted.  We were both wrong.   There is marketing and distribution and advertising and networking and on and on and on.  Even if you are traditionally published you still have to do all of the above, the publisher might give you some materials but you still have to do the legwork.

So look around, find the alternatives, Amazon has made the US believe that there is one ereader, one ebook, one source for self-published authors.  They have done an amazing job of making everyone believe these things.  What, and who is best for you and your book.  Independent Bookstores will be more willing to work with you if are not on the Amazon Train.  We will help you distribute, we will hand sell your books, we will hold book signings for you and we can give you shelf space in our stores, with shelf talkers.  In my store we also have a featured author table and we rotate all the local books, two weeks of your book(s) spotlighted.  We will put free ads in our newsletter.  We have an author of the month in our newsletter and best of all, if your books are on Kobo, Kobo will offer your book for free with the code from our store.
Morgan says: Because Kobo processes their free read coupons as part of the checkout / purchasing process on their site, Kobo free reads register as a sale which helps your book's sales numbers. For more information on Kobo Writing Life, check out this article and video: Maximizing Your Sales at Kobo by Mark Lefebvre (Director of Kobo Writing Life & Author Relations.)

So try the pros and cons list.

What does Amazon do for you and compare that list to what your local Indie bookseller and Kobo do for you?

About the Author:

Debbie Burke is the owner of Jan's Paperbacks in Aloha, OR. She was the RT Book Reviews Magazine Bookseller of the Year in 2012. Debbie continues to be an ardent supporter and advocate for authors and independent booksellers. 

You can purchase print books, Kobo eBooks, and Kobo devices on her Jan's Paperbacks website. You can also buy a signed copy of our book from Debbie. Just state that you want a signed copy in the order notes on her site.

 NEVER complain or blame the store if you don’t have good sales. Smile about it. Make a joke. Tell them you’ve done worse. Offer to try again sometime. But nobody likes a complainer. If you gripe about it, you’re not likely to get invited back.


  1. I'm glad you've pointed out this option. I love the idea of my book being on a bookstore shelf and had pretty much given up on the idea since choosing to go the indie route. I'll definitely be checking out Jan's Paperbacks.

  2. Interesting post! I've believed in putting my eggs in many baskets from the start and will continue to do so. Thanks for the info, Debbie.