Ep. 03: How to Self-Publish: FAQs and Self-Publishing Tips

Join us as we discuss what authors and indie publishers ask us most frequently about the self-publishing process.

Book marketing, metadata, pricing your book, discounting, ISBNs, and more. We’ve identified several questions indie publishers ask more than any others. Get answers to what inquiring self-publishers want to know to inform your book publishing from the start, and create an account if you’re ready to publish today.


Robin Cutler [00:00:06] Hi, everyone. Welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. This episode is sponsored by 1106 Design, a full-service solution offering top-quality cover design, typeset interiors, editing, and consulting to authors and publishers. IngramSpark publishers receive an exclusive publishing package at a 10% discount. Hi, I am Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:33] I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquistions Manager for IngramSpark. Hi, Robin

Robin Cutler [00:00:37] Hey, Justine! As you know, Justine, we're really happy today to welcome Jenna Hall, who is one of the key people on our Customer Support Team. Hi, Jenna.

Jenna Hall [00:00:52] Hi, Robin. Hi, Justine.

Justine Bylo [00:00:53] Hi, yes we have the wizard behind the curtain with us today.

Robin Cutler [00:00:59] Jenna, one of the things that we always get asked when we're out on the road and attending events is, "How do I get started with IngramSpark?", and I thought it'd be good for you to talk about, you know, some of the things that especially new customers, come to our support team to ask for help about.

Jenna Hall [00:01:20] Absolutely. I want everyone to know that when you're getting into self-publishing, if you've never been in this industry before, there's a lot to learn. There's a lot of information out there. I'm going to share some of our most frequently asked questions and answers to answer some of the questions that you may have. What I find a lot of times is that if you're new to the industry, you don't know what you don't know. So hopefully, this will answer all of the questions that you have. If we don't answer any of your questions, we have so much information on our website that you can find.

Robin Cutler [00:01:56] That's really great. What's the number one thing that people always come to you to ask about?

Jenna Hall [00:02:04] The question I get asked about the most, and this is from new customers, existing customers, people who have been in the industry for years, they always ask, "How do I market my book?" It's really a great question, because you could have the best book out there, but if nobody knows about your book, you're not going to have any sales. Marketing your book is really important because it provides exposure, it builds a fan base, and it really just promotes sales. And what we recommend is, before you start publicizing your book, spend some time brainstorming a detailed marketing plan and that can include anything and everything. Print advertising, reading events, advertising through your local publication, and even social media is a great tool nowadays to share information about your book and reach those readers all across the world.

Robin Cutler [00:03:01] I always say, and I've heard you say this, too, Justine. The beginning of marketing your book is even why you're creating your book and talking about your life as a writer to whoever will listen to you, right?

Justine Bylo [00:03:16] Yeah, exactly. I always say that social media is social, and you know, writing might be solitary, but if you give your readers a peek into your life, you're giving them, you know, a look into what your whole world is like and you're letting them in and letting them get to know you a little bit more and that's so important to building your reader base. That's really the first step, even before the book is done, into finding your people, finding your base. That's really, deeply important.

Robin Cutler [00:03:52] Yeah, and one tip I would offer, if you've never heard of MailChimp, it's a free service you can go to. You actually can start collecting email addresses, which is like your number one thing that you want to always collect. Use MailChimp and you can store those, I think up to 500 emails-

Justine Bylo [00:04:16] Yeah, 500.

Robin Cutler [00:04:17] …for free before you have to start paying for that service. That's a beginning of marketing, is every time that you go out into the world, you get on a plane, or you know, go to a cocktail party, make sure you got your elevator pitch about yourself as a writer, as an author and also about your book.

Justine Bylo [00:04:37] Yeah, and I always say that it's great to market your book, but also if people can't find your book on websites or e-retailers that, you know, it's all that marketing time that you’ve put in is not going to do anything for sales. Metadata is hugely important, too. Do we get a lot of questions about metadata, Jenna?

Jenna Hall [00:05:01] We do, absolutely. I know metadata kind of sounds like a scary word, but it's really not. Basically, metadata is just all of the information about your book. That can be things as basic as the title of your book, the author name, if you have an illustrator, the illustrator name, your book description. But then we also have metadata that kind of gets deeper into your book when we talk about BISAC codes, keywords, famous subjects, all of these things are really important in making your book discoverable and as Justine said, it leans into that marketing piece a little bit. The more metadata that you have, the easier it is for bookstores and libraries to be able to find your book and then order your book through Ingram.

Robin Cutler [00:05:53] Your metadata should be something that you're consistently refreshing. So, say you get an endorsement on your book by James Patterson. That might be something that you want to refresh.

Justine Bylo [00:06:09] Oh, absolutely, if you get James to endorse your book.

Robin Cutler [00:06:14] Or you get a great review, right? Not only in that case would you update your metadata and put that in your description, but you also want to put it on the cover of your book. I'm sure people maybe don't know that they can upload new files like whenever. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Jenna Hall [00:06:34] Sure, absolutely. Anytime, like Robin said, if you have a review, that's always great to have. One of the beauties about IngramSpark is that if you do need to update your cover file or the content of your book and include those changes, you can do so at any time. It normally only takes us about 24 to 48 hours to process your new file, give you an electronic proof, and then as soon as you approve it, we begin printing those books with your new file, which is really amazing.

Robin Cutler [00:07:10] I think that's magical.

Justine Bylo [00:07:10] It is magical. You don't have to worry about a whole print run or anything like that. It's really quite amazing.

Robin Cutler [00:07:17] What about pricing? You mentioned pricing as being important information for your metadata. Do people ask you about how to price their book?

Jenna Hall [00:07:27] Yes, all the time. If you have any questions about, "How do I price my book?" or "I'm not sure what my book should be listed as?". That's absolutely normal. We have a calculator on our website that you can use, and I use it all the time when I'm talking to customers. It's so easy to use, it's easy to find. You just go to ingramspark.com and you click on help, you'll see our publisher compensation calculator, and we ask you for the basic, basic information about your book, what's the trim size, how many pages is it, is it a black-and-white or color book. Then, what you can do is enter the list price that you're thinking about, your wholesale discount, and then we'll tell you what your royalties are for every book that you sell. I always recommend the publisher compensation calculator because it doesn't get much easier than that. But if you're still not sure what to price your book at, a lot of times, I recommend that publishers look at other books in similar genres and formats that are like yours. You can go to your local bookstore, you can look online and see how those books are priced compared to yours.

Justine Bylo [00:08:44] Keep in mind when you are looking at those books, to look at the list price and not the discounted price of the book. That's really important. A lot of retailers will sell those books at a discount to you. Look at the list price of those books.

Robin Cutler [00:08:59] I'm glad you mentioned discount, Justine. Let's talk a little bit about wholesale discount.

Justine Bylo [00:09:05] Oh, this is a big one.

Robin Cutler [00:09:07] I know you get a lot of questions about what discount should I…well let's talk about what a discount does and then how someone can decide what discount to put on their book.

Jenna Hall [00:09:20] Absolutely. You'll hear us refer to the discount as a wholesale discount and basically all that means is we're discounting your book to a bookstore. Now, the important piece of information to always keep in mind, is if you want a bookstore, a brick-and-mortar store, to be able to order your book, they're almost always going to require an industry standard discount of at least 53%. On IngramSpark, we give the option to choose between 53% and 55%. 53% is the absolute minimum, but we do give you that option. If you're interested in marketing your book more towards online retailers, you can set a lower discount at 30%. But 53% is what we recommend if you're really planning on marketing your book to bookstores or even to libraries.

Justine Bylo [00:10:18] Sometimes you'll hear this referred to as a trade discount, a full-trade discount amongst industry jargon. Lower discounts are referred to as a short discount, so those are some terms that you might hear thrown about when we're talking about wholesale discounts.

Robin Cutler [00:10:39] Just to reiterate what Jenna and Justine just said, if you think that your primary market and audience for your book is online, and not through booksellers, traditional brick-and-mortar booksellers, it's fine to place a lower discount on your book. The other thing I want to talk about, which I think is really important, and I talk about this a lot is ISBN. Let's talk about what an ISBN is and then where would someone go to get an ISBN.

Jenna Hall [00:11:12] The way that I think of an ISBN is like a social security number for your book.

Justine Bylo [00:11:17] Oh, I like that.

Jenna Hall [00:11:19] There's only one, it's only for your book, and it's never going to change. Bookstores, libraries, even online retailers, they all use an ISBN to determine your book and whenever a bookstore or someone at a library or even an online retailer is processing an order for a book, it always ties back to the ISBN. ISBNs are really important because you cannot sell your book in the marketplace unless you have an ISBN. The great thing about IngramSpark, is that we can sell an ISBN to you at a discounted price of $85.

Robin Cutler [00:11:59] …for a single. You need an ISBN for every format of the book. So, paperback has one, hardcover has another, eBook has, yet again, another. That's three or four ISBNs easily gone. You can go to a company called Bowker, B-O-W-K-E-R, in the US, and purchase a block of ISBNs for the best price. ISBNs also, for our listeners, so you know this, are country-specific where you get them. Here in the US, you purchase from Bowker, but in Canada, the Canadian government, provides ISBNs for free and there's a lot of countries around the world that actually do that.

Justine Bylo [00:12:51] Oh, Canada.

Robin Cutler [00:12:53] In our last moments here, Jenna, what advice do you want to leave our customers that are especially calling us with support advice? What would you like to leave with them?

Jenna Hall [00:13:07] Sure, well, one of the things that I think is really major and that I want to share with everyone is a lot of times, we get the question, "What's the difference between IngramSpark and everyone else?" Through IngramSpark, we offer a full-trade discount to our publishers, which is really hard to find if you go through other self-publishing platforms. We also allow your books to be returnable, which is a really big deal in the book world. Anytime a bookstore's going to order your book, they look at the wholesale discount that we were talking about earlier, but they also want your book to be returnable. And that's something that we can offer to you through IngramSpark that a lot of other platforms don't offer.

Robin Cutler [00:13:50] Yeah, those are really great points and I swear I did not pay her to say that. Well, it's been great to have both of you ladies today, and it's always great to talk to our support team and thank you so much for all the great work that you and your team do.

Jenna Hall [00:14:06] Thank you, Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:14:07] …to support our customers. Well, thanks so much for listening to Go Publish Yourself. We hope these episodes inspire you on your publishing journey. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, subscribe to our podcast and weekly blog or check out our free online self-publishing course available in the IngramSpark academy. Talk to you soon.

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