Sunday, June 01, 2008

Making All the Mistakes

One of the great things about getting your book published by an established publisher is that they've already made all the mistakes and corrected them by the time they get to work on your title. At least I hope that's the case. Either way, by publishing books myself, I get to make all the mistakes myself. I'm dealing with a couple of them today.

The little one is the ISBN barcode on the back of the cover. When I pushed a cover change through on Emperor Dad to put the Darrell Award starburst on the front, the Lightning Source quality control people didn't like my barcode and re-did it. That's fine, but to avoid making the same mistake again, I am learning how to make cover images that match LSI's template. It's a minor thing, but it does take time, adjusting little positions all over the cover.

The other mistake is bigger, more painful. I misunderstood how LSI's discounts work. When you set up a title, you fill in the list price and the discount at which LSI sells the books to distributors (Amazon, Ingram, B&N-online, etc.) My mistake was thinking that this was the same as a bookstore's discount. I was originally pleased that I could set a 40% discount just like the bookstores wanted, and yet set my list price at $12.95 which was a couple of dollars cheaper than the other books I found on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. I should have realized I was mistaken.

But blind to the reality that I should have set the discount to 55% so Ingram could take their cut and pass 40% on the the bookstores, I started churning out books and distributing my advertising materials with the $12.95 list price. It was disturbing and embarrassing when talking to bookstore people in New Mexico when they told me that Ingram was only going to give them 20%.

So after several emails to LSI and finally getting the real information, I am faced with the distasteful reality that I need to raise the price...after advertising the books at the cheaper rate.

It is tempting to stick with my existing rate, and give up on bookstore shelves – maybe just give the 40% to stores that deal with me directly rather than going through Ingram. But that would give mean fewer people (a lot fewer people) who would ever discover the books in the first place. Nothing online matches browsing a bookstore shelf.

But if I raise the price and offer the industry standard discount, then I have to find ways to make things right for everyone who saw the cheaper price. And I need to make my changes soon. Extreme Makeover is due out in one month. Better to have the price right from the beginning if I can.


Aaron Shepard said...

Henry, you might want to check out my book Aiming at Amazon, and my Publishing Page,, both of which have much info on working with Lightning Source.

Scott Cupp said...

Don't you hate finding out lessons by making mistakes. I find, though, that I don't make them again but, man, they hurt. Reading ROSWELL right now and enjoying.