Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Distribution Channels | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Distribution
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about how I formatted my ebook and print books. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process—how to get my book out there so that people could buy it, namely what distribution channels I used.

But before we do that, let’s address one of the key decisions I had to make first.

Decision Point 1—Amazon exclusive or wide?

One of the first big decisions I faced was whether I wanted to be exclusive to Amazon in terms of ebooks or “go wide” and distribute via other retailers. I chose to go wide, which I’ve talked about in more detail here.

If I had decided to be exclusive, that would have made everything about ebook distribution much simpler because there would have been only one retailer to worry about—Amazon, or the big ‘Zon as some people affectionately refer to it.

But because I decided to play the field, that led me to my next big decision. . .

Decision Point 2—Go direct or use an aggregator?

There are some great aggregators out there who make things simple. They’re one-stop shops where you can load up your ebook and they take care of distributing it to the various eretailers, like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Google Play.

The upside is that they make it easy-peasy. You just have to do everything once and you get consolidated reporting and payments. The downside is that they take a cut of your royalties as compensation for their service.

The alternative is to go direct with each retailer. The downside is that you have to open separate accounts, fill out separate tax forms, upload things multiple times, and deal with multiple reports and payments. The upside is more money for you.

I chose to do a take a hybrid approach. Direct with some, via aggregators for others.

My hybrid distribution approach

So, here’s what I did. Keep in mind we’re just talking about ebooks right now.

WHO I WENT DIRECT WITH

1 – Amazon

This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I found Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to be really simple and straightforward to use, both in terms of publishing my book and in using the reporting.

2 – Kobo

This is another easy to use platform. Simple to set-up and manage. In addition to selling my books to people who have Kobo e-readers, I also use them to distribute to Overdrive (a library distribution service which they own) and participate in their Kobo Plus subscription service (kind of like Kindle Unlimited, but with a focus on the Dutch and Belgian markets).

3 – Barnes & Noble (Nook)

This platform is also user-friendly, however, it can take a while to get a vendor account set up. Something to factor in if you go down this route.

WHO I USE AN AGGREGATOR FOR

1 – Draft2Digital for Apple iBooks and Others

Unless you have an Apple computer, it isn’t easy to publish directly with them. Sure, there are workarounds (like renting time on an IOS system), but it really wasn’t worth it to me.

Draft2Digital makes it easy to distribute to Apple in exchange for 10%. They also provide a great, free, formatting system to turn your Word document into ebook file formats (MOBI and EPUB).

You can pick and choose which stores you distribute to via Draft2Digital. In addition to Apple, their current partners include Amazon, Kobo, Overdrive, Barnes & Noble, Scribd (subscription service), Bibliotheca (another library service), and Tolino. Because I don’t know much about the latter three and/or don’t think the time would be worth it to figure out how to go direct with them, I happily let Draft2Digital take care of them for me.

2 – PublishDrive for Google Play and Dangdang

I’d heard that it wasn’t possible at this point in time to go direct with GooglePlay, so I went direct with PublishDrive for them in exchange for 10%. I’ve since found out that GooglePlay is accepting applications to partner with them. I put my name down on the waiting list and the wait turned out to be less than 48 hours to be approved.

However, their user interface doesn’t seem all that simple and I don’t sell a huge amount of books on Google Play, so I think I might stick with PublishDrive for the forseeable. Plus I also like the fact that PublishDrive manages the discount issue with Google Play. Google Play likes to discount books they sell. The consequence of this is that Amazon will then lower the price of your book on their site to price match them. Publish Drive automatically increases the retail price of your book on Google so that any discount they apply never reduces your book price below what you have on Amazon.

Another factor playing into this is their new partnership with Dangdang, a Chinese ebook distributor. Who knows, maybe the Chinese love cozy mysteries?

PublishDrive can also distribute on Apple iBooks, but because I was already signed up to Draft2Digital for them, I passed on that option.

But what about print books?

I’ve been surprised how many paperbacks I’ve sold, including a few large print ones, so I’m really glad that I opted to go down the print book path. Unlike with ebooks, I’m only dealing with two companies for distribution—Amazon and Ingram Spark.

AMAZON

There are currently two ways into Amazon when it comes to paperbacks—Create Space and KDP. Create Space has been around for a while, KDP is the new kid in town. There are rumors flying around that Amazon is planning on shutting down Create Space and migrating everyone to KDP.

When I was ready to publish Murder at the Marina, KDP had just been introduced. I decided to go with that platform because I liked the idea of having my Amazon ebook and paperback reporting all in one place.

It was super easy to set up my print book on KDP, review proof copies (both online and physically), and get my paperback out for distribution on Amazon.

INGRAM SPARK

Some people use the extended distribution option on Amazon to sell to other stores. The upside is that you’re only dealing with one platform, the downside is that Amazon’s competitors really don’t want to buy books from Amazon.

I decided to go with Ingram Spark instead to distribute to all other online stores, such as Barnes & Noble (print only, I go to them direct for ebook), Books-A-Million, and The Book Depository.

I wish I could tell you that it was a simple, straightforward, user-friendly experience. It wasn’t. You’ll need a glass of wine or some chocolate (maybe both) to get through the whole process. But persevere, it’ll happen, even if you might have to finish off that entire bottle to keep your sanity.

The other downside of Ingram Spark is the reporting. I know people have bought paperbacks via them, but I have no idea where. They don’t provide reporting at a store level, just how many units you’ve sold.

So why bother with them, you might be asking yourself? Well in addition to the whole issue of retailers not wanting to buy from Amazon, I also get a better cut from Ingram Spark than I do from Amazon. That’s down in part to the fact that I’ve applied the minimum wholesale discount that I could, which is related to the fact that I’m not focused on selling my book in bricks and mortar stores. But that’s a huge topic for another day.

Want to know more?

Reedsy has a very comprehensive guide to ebook distribution. I found their aggregator comparison spreadsheet to be particularly helpful.

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about expanding her book distribution on PublishDrive and StreetLib.

Interested in a comparison of Create Space and Ingram Spark? Check out this article on Kindlepreneur and Jenna Moreci’s video. {Warning: she sometimes uses language that may offend people.}

Jane Friedman has a self-publishing checklist and a list of self-publishing resources which includes information ebook distribution.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Where do you like to buy ebooks and print books? If you’re an author, where do you distribute your books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Formatting eBooks & Print Books| Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Formatting Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to publish both ebook and paperback versions. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process once my manuscript was finalized—formatting. This is one of the areas where “ugly” really reared its head.

Programs

Before I get started, let me just mention what programs I used. I started off writing in Scrivener. Once I had a decent draft completed, I compiled the document and then finished editing in Open Office Writer (a free open source alternative to MS Word – you can easily convert files back and forth between the two programs as required).

Once the ebook manuscript was finalized, I used Draft2Digital‘s free service to convert into mobi (for Kindle) and epub (for everyone else) files. Once my paperback manuscript was finalized, I converted it into a PDF for uploading for print-on-demand on Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

I’ve heard great things about Vellum when it comes to formatting, but it’s not compatible with PCs (only for MacOS). Plus it costs quite a bit, whereas my approach cost nothing, except time and frustration.

Here’s how things should have worked

If I had been more patient, these are the steps I should have taken. Note that there would have been celebratory chocolate and pats on the back. Instead, the process I took involved banging my head on the table and eating chocolate to make myself feel better when things went wrong.

1 – Lock down the manuscript before beginning to format ebook and print versions.

2 – Get the manuscript ready for conversion to ebook files. (This mostly involved stripping out unnecessary formatting and making sure chapter breaks were distinctive and consistent). Make this version the master document.

3 – Convert into epub and mobi files using Draft2Digital.

4 – Check the epub and mobi files and do one last proofreading round. (You might catch things when looking at a manuscript on a Kindle, iPad, or tablet that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the computer.)

5 – Go back to the master document and fix anything caught during the final proofreading.

6 – Make new epub and mobi files.

7 – Do one last check of the epub and mobi files.

8 – Have some chocolate because things are going so smoothly.

9 – Upload to the various ebook distributors / aggregators – in my case, Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital (for Apple iBooks), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Publish Drive (for Google Play).

10 – Paste and copy from the master document into the print book template in Open Office Writer.

11 – Complete the print book formatting.

12 – Convert into a PDF file and upload to print-on-demand distributors – in my case, Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

13 – Pat yourself on the back for a job well done without any hiccoughs.

Here’s how it really went

1 – Got excited that the edits to the manuscript were finished and wanted to see what it would look like as a print book, cause you know that makes it more “real.”

2 – Started copying and pasting like mad into my print book template. Dove into formatting, which turned out to be quite involved and revealed what a total newbie I was to this sort of thing. Things like checking margins and gutters (even and odd pages are different), making sure section breaks were working correctly, ensuring consistent font size and placement for chapter titles, fixing hyphenation (don’t want them breaking across pages or stacking up with several lined up on top of each other in a paragraph), looking for widow / orphan issues (don’t want just a few words being orphaned by themselves on a page), and checking indentation (none at the first paragraph of each chapter and scene).

3 – Have a stiff drink cause it’s all a bit overwhelming.

4 – Wonder if you have a migraine coming on.

5 – Question your decision to do your formatting yourself rather than outsource it.

6 – Realize you need to download fonts into Open Office Writer that MS Word has, but you don’t. Make sure all fonts are copyright free.

7 – Finish formatting the print version, then create the ebook version.

8 – Discover a couple of small changes that need to be made. Realize that you don’t have a master document, you have to fix things in both the print version and ebook version. Chocolate required.

9 – Decide to keep your print version as the master document, make changes in that one, then strip out the formatting in order to convert it back into an ebook version.

10 – Discover that somehow everything got messed up in the new ebook version file. Italics have disappeared. Capitalization issues in the first sentence of each chapter. Tear your hair out. Have more chocolate.

11 – Finally get back on track, finalize files, and upload.

12 – Go to have some celebratory chocolate only to discover someone ate it all. Hmm…who could that have been?

So, was a DIY approach a smart idea?

Sure, it would have been a lot easier to outsource formatting to someone else, especially for the print version. However, I’m still glad I went with the DIY approach. Obviously, I saved money, and when it’s your own money you’re investing into publishing your books, saving money is a good thing, at least it is for me. More importantly, I learned heaps in the process and it will be so much easier next time. I’m also not dependent on anyone else if I need to update my manuscripts at any point.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was to stock up on more chocolate.

Want to know more?

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about using Draft2Digital’s free templates to format your ebook.

The Alliance for Independent Authors shares 6 tips for indie authors to format print books using MS Word.

Joel Friedlander has lots of useful resources from articles about print book sizes, how to check your book proof, and dealing with widows and orphans, as well as offering book design templates for sale.

L. Diane Wolfe at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers tips and tricks on ebook formatting.

Reedsy explains the difference between epub and mobi files.

A useful list of 10 ebook conversion tools on Bookworks.

Amazon KDP Paperback Manuscript Templates—choose from blank MS Word templates and those with sample content; select your trim size, download and away you go.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Have you ever formatted your own ebook and/or print book?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.