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POD Math


coins-72714_1280A number of you have asked me about how the math works when you go to IngramSpark for POD.  Here is an example:

A 204 page POD paperback book costs $4.98 to print. (.02 a page plus .90 for the cover)

The book is priced retail at 16.99

Ingram will purchase the book from Ingram Spark at 55% discount off of the retail price.  That will leave you $7.65

Ingram Spark will take the $4.98 out of that total due for the printing and send you $2.67.

Ingram will then take the book that they bought from  you (through Ingram Spark) and sell it to bookstores and libraries at a discount of anywhere from 20% – 42%.

You make $7.65 but have to pay for printing out of that.

Ingram Spark makes $4.98 for printing

Ingram Wholesalers make $2.21 – 5.95  but they have to pay for shipping and handling out of that.  (FYI-If you choose the short discount and only let Ingram offer a 20% discount, you are severely limiting the number of places that will take your book….)

The bookstores and libraries make between $3.40 – $7.13 but they have to pay for employees, rent, lights and the rest out of that.

Does that make more sense?

A number of authors have questioned why they only get to “net” $2 or less in some cases.  I would argue that once the stores and wholesalers pay THEIR expenses, they make a LOT LESS than that!

As long as you are making 11% of the retail price as a net before taxes, you are in good shape! (most established publishers would be thrilled with that)


How To Do Your Own eBook Distribution – UPDATED


Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Sony, Blio…. UPDATED FOR MARCH 2014

Here are some questions that keep authors up nights:

1. What is the best way to get my ebook up on all the major platforms?
2. How do I get set up?
3. What files do I use?
4. Do I use Smashwords? BookBaby?
5. Do I need to pay someone a cut or a fee to do my ebook distribution?


Here are the answers:

1. The best way to get your ebook out up on all major platforms is to spend an hour setting up accounts with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Googlebooks and iTunes. The rest can wait. Seriously. Kindle alone is over 90% of ebook sales; so with Nook, Kobo, Googlebooks and iTunes included? You are ALL SET.


2. How do I get set up? EASY! Here are the links you need to set up your own accounts:




iBOOKS   (make sure you have a MAC for this one… they do not let PC’s upload files)



3. The files you will need are .epub and .prc. Most ebook platforms use .epub, but Kindle needs a .prc (or .mobi) file to look really good.

If you don’t know anyone who can turn your word document or pdf into a .epub or .prc file, email me at and I will get you hooked up. DO NOT pay more than $1 a page for this service. Too many authors are paying WAY too much!


4. You CAN use Bookbaby and Smashwords to do your book. They are both great companies, but they take a cut of your sales and very often the look of your ebook is not as professional or as top line as it should be. If you don’t mind giving up a percentage of your sales, they are a good option.


5. For about an hour of your time as an investment, however, you can EASILY set up your own accounts.
(At this point, I want to remind you all of something we here at New Shelves OFFER EBOOK DISTRIBUTION. We do it every day. I am telling you, you DO NOT NEED US to do your eBook distribution…. You can do it yourselves and save yourself the 50 cents a unit we charge or the hefty percentage that our competition charges. You can do it.)


6. As for the AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH portion of the process? Here is a eBook account set up worksheet that will allow you to pull all of the information you need into one place before you start and that way you can move easily through the set up process on each platform.


Call me if you need any help.



So You Think Your Book Belongs in a Store?


It is every writer’s dream to see his or her book in the front window of the local bookstore. It is fun to imagine tall, colorful stacks of your books surrounded by throngs of curious readers flipping through the pages while others rush to the cash register with their copy. Feel free to continue this fantasy as you pound the keyboard, but if you’re interested in turning the vision into reality, then stop writing for a moment and read on.

The Four Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before your Finish your Book:

1. At what retailers do your readers shop?
Are you SURE? (Don’t guess – go to those places and make sure.)

Too often, I find myself assuming that I know something to be true because I believe it to be true. Things that used to be fact a few years ago may not be anymore… but I forget to take that into account. I have learned the hard way that before I make any plan that involves other people or money, I need to CHECK to make sure that what I THINK is actually SO.

2. Do those retailers buy books like yours?
Are you SURE? (See above)

3. How many of your types of books sell each week?
If you are going to be looking for a publisher or publishing yourself, you need to know what books like yours sell for. You also need to know how many units sell each month. That data will be KEY when presenting your book to an agent, a publisher, or a retailer. “I want to sell a million copies” is not a sales plan.  It is a fantasy.  If I told you that business books helping managers become better leaders only sell 23 copies a month at one of the major airport bookstore chains, what does that do to your financial plan?  You NEED the facts to make a solid plan… data, not wishes makes for a successful book.

4. Is your book as good as the ones already there? (Be honest and really LOOK at what is on the shelves already)

  • Is your cover as good as the ones on the shelves?
  • Are your priced competitively?
  • Does your book offer something new to the market?
  • Do you have the amount of reviews and endorsements that the books on the shelves do?
  • Are you going to spend the same amount of money on promoting your book that their publisher did?
  • Do you KNOW what the author and publisher did to promote their book and are you able to give it a similar amount of time and energy?
  • Do you have several good reasons why a buyer should risk their profit margin on an unknown author or book when they have proven successes already on their shelves?

Prepare and Budget for the ENTIRE Life of Your Book


Most authors budget their time,money, and energy for the life of their book, but they forget that the book’s life span does not end when the book is printed… that is when it starts. A book’s life starts at it’s birth (the launch) and needs to be budgeted for.

Here is a video of my most recent talk on the Life of Your Book.  We will be covering this in more detail on Mentoring Mondays with Judith Briles starting June 3th.




Which PR Efforts Turn Into Book Sales Take two…


—  By Amy the Meanie —

For several years now, I have watched authors focus their PR efforts on TV and Radio.  TV and Radio are wonderful tools for advancing the author’s name and message. They are a great way to get the author “out there” and help them become an acknowledged expert in their field.

But very little TV and Radio turns into book sales.  Local morning shows are perfect for the author trying to get national media and speaking engagements.  Local morning TV and radio shows showcase them beautifully.

But in my experience, they do not sell many books.

Readers read.  If you want to really move books, go where folks are reading. Magazines, newspapers, newsletter, online, blogs, news sites, etc.  These are the sites where a reader sees an author’s potential and message, can write down or click over to the book mentioned and either buy it or file it away for a future purchase.

How many folks in their cars on the way to work can write down an author’s name?

There are exceptions of course!  Imus, NPR, Ellen, Oprah… but let’s take a look at some numbers.

Below are some stories and numbers in my recent experience that support my opinion about print and online vs. TV and Radio.  Each of the books mentioned below are beautifully designed, appropriately priced for the marketplace, well written and professionally edited non-fiction books.  They look like any other book on a bookstore shelf.  They are all published by micro-publishers or self-published.

Last year, a New York Times bestselling author/client in my distribution company roster self-published a non-fiction book.  He had the pedigree, the press.  He was on 60 MINUTES.  That week, he sold 113 books.  He was on NPR.  That week, he sold 121 books.  He was in the New York Times and sold 567 books.

Another client of mine was on the 700 Club last month.  She sold 3 books.  3.  Two months before, another 700 Club guest who was an author in my distribution company sold 6.

I have had over a dozen clients on local morning talk shows this summer. None have sold more than a 21 books that week.

This is not to discourage you from hiring and working a strong PR plan.  Just the opposite!  Let’s look at a few other numbers.

An author with a personal finance book was in the Roanoke newspaper a few months ago.  Sold 57 copies THAT DAY.

Another author (business leadership book) was in the Louisville Courier last week.  She sold over 40 books that day.

Readers read.  If you are trying to launch your media and speaking career, than please focus on TV and Radio. But if you trying to sell books, please consider an on-line and print heavy focus to start.

Readers read.  You’re reading this aren’t you?

For more information and guidance on how to affect book sales, please visit or email

See how that worked?  Couldn’t do that on the TV!


Go buy Kiana Davenport’s Kindle Book Now


I have read the stories of Penguin cancelling Kiana Davenport’s upcoming book because she published a Kindle edition of some of her older stories. Stories that had already been REJECTED by Penguin.

It seems to me that Penguin is foolishly trying to intimidate all of their authors by making such a loud, scary fuss over Davenport’s decision. It looks like they are trying to scare the rest of their authors from ever trying to do the same thing.  I wager that they will soon see a huge backlash that will make them sorry they ever tried that.

First – GO BUY Kiana’s book!

Second – Published authors? Go publish all of your unpublished and out of print work yourself as eBooks. Run, do not walk. Make sure that PENGUIN is the one that gets the message…. publishing is not the lofty realm of the privledged NY houses and has not been for a long time. You have the right to publish what you have created.

Time to scare the hell out of Penguin….


Your Spine Is Your Cover


Here’s one of the dirty little secrets in book publishing. Publishers spend countless hours and dollars working on their covers, but they often miss the point.  With the exception of online retailers, your book spine is your cover.

Brick and mortar stores are packed with books. New releases. Backlist books. Series. Gift books.

Walk to any category (perhaps your own) and take a look at how many books are crammed on to the shelves.

What do you see? The spine, if you’re lucky.

All to often publishers make the mistake of not focusing at all on the spine of their book, not realizing that this is their number one marketing tool in brick and mortar stores.

What does this mean for you?

Spend some time on your spine.

Spine Size

Think about bulking your page count to make sure that your spine has presence. We’re not recommending that you fluff your book with overblown margins or blank pages. But we are recommending that you don’t cram in your text so tight to save a few cents on your printing prices.

Push it out a signature or two. It might make all the difference between getting lost on the shelf and standing out because you’re 1/8 of an inch bigger. Choose paper that bulks. You might be surprised at how easy it is to snag an extra 1/16 of an inch through paper weight alone.

Spine Color

Spend some time analyzing what the spine colors are in your category. This is extremely important. If every spine in your category is white, choose a vibrant color. Choose something that stands out. Choose something that practically leaps of the shelf and screams “pick me!” This is the time to buck the trends and be a little different. If you’re not sure what will work, grab some books that have different spine colors and stick them on the shelf where your book will go. Which colors pop to you? What do you see first?

Spine Text

Make it readable! Make it bold! Make it big! Make sure that the reader sees your spine and your text right away. If you’re standing 3 feet away from your spine, you need to be able to read what it says (see above about spine width – the bigger the spine the more room for bold text).

Take it to the Bookstore

Let’s keep this next bit between us…

The best way to really know if your spine works is to print out several versions, colors and copies true to size. Cut the spine out, getting rid of excess paper so you’re literally holding your book spine in your hands. Put a tiny piece of tape on the end of each option. Take your spine options to the bookstore and visit your category. Stick the various spines on the books that will sit next to you (usually alphabetical by author’s last name within category or subcategory). Which one works? Do any? What do you see? Can you read your title? Do you get lost on the shelf because you’re too tiny or you blend in too much?

Lack of attention to your spine can kill your book in the marketplace. Once you get in to stores, your spine really is your cover. When you consider the time, money and energy that you spend getting your cover right, promise us, do the same with your book spine.

P.S. Remember, be polite during any bookstore research. Bring your spines with you when you go and don’t interfere with bookstore customers!


Let’s Make a Deal – Setting Your Price


Just recently, we blogged about the importance of category research when choosing the right cover for your book.

Category research might be a theme for several posts from us moving forward. All to often, clients, potential clients, publishing friends and colleagues come to us with finished books (or book ideas). All to often, we come back to them with a myriad of questions – including, how did you come to that price, trim size, title, subtitle, cover, etc.?
For us, each of these “packaging” details must be dictated by the market into which we publish. While we always have an opinion, our number one goal is to ensure that our clients and colleagues are getting real-time feedback from the retail marketplace. In this case, our opinion doesn’t matter. The marketplace, however, does.
Which, for today’s post, brings us to price.
How do you choose the appropriate price for your book?
The first place to start is, of course, your P&L. Once you factor in your advance (for our publisher friends), your editing fees, copyediting fees, layout, design, printing prices and marketing budget, what is your profit margin?
As you know, a P&L is only as good as the person that creates it. For example, if I price a 196 page trade-paperback business book at $24.95, I’m most likely going to see a healthy profit margin in the end. The cost for editing, printing and producing such a book is often dictated at a per-word or per-page rate. Tiny book, tiny costs, big profit margin. That all sounds good, right?
The only problem with this particular analogy is that selling-in and selling-through a 196 page business book for $24.95 is going to be really difficult. People don’t have the disposable incomes that they used to. And, more importantly, this particular lightweight book may not scream “value” to your end customer. Especially if they can get a similar book on the same topic for $12.95.
So how should you really set a price?
Let’s work backwards.
Let’s say you’re publishing a book in Category X. Get on Amazon, go to the bookstore, peruse your bookshelf. Pull out all of the bestselling books in Category X. What’s their price point? What does the consumer get for their money? Is your category driven by a 336 page trade paperback for $14.95? Do “unknown” authors charge a dollar or two less for for their book? Does the price point reflect a big author’s name? A page-heavy book? Do some publishers actually charge less because price-point is their value proposition?
Here’s what you’ll discover through this simple exercise. The consumer is actually telling you, through book sales, the price they’ll pay for a book on your topic in Category X.
If, for example, it’s $9.95, $12.95, $14.95 or $19.95, then that’s the price you need to get to. It doesn’t matter that you’re convinced that your book is so extra special that you’re sure the consumer will pay an extra $10.00 for it. Research will show that’s most likely not the case.
Everybody’s on a budget these days. If your P&L shows that you have to sell 15,000 copies of your $5.95 book to make your money back, than that’s what you have to sell. Charging $15.95 for that same book just to make your money back, in a category that can’t sustain it, just means you won’t sell very many copies of your book.
What you need to do is go back to your P&L and take a look at real costs compared to a researched price point. Figure out how many books you need to sell and develop a sales and marketing plan to make it happen.
Like so many things in our business, strong market research can prevent you from making some of the simple mistakes that can have long term, adverse affects on your publishing program. Setting your price is just one area.
So, let’s make a deal. Next time you decide you need to charge $24.95 for that 196 page book to make your money back, rethink how – and why – you’ve gotten in to this business to begin with.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Color


Just yesterday, someone posted an interesting question to one of the discussion groups that we follow.

Basically, the question was “Does anyone have any idea what the “ideal color” for a business book should be?”

I was surprised by the number of responses that actually suggested a color! Blue, it seems, is the color people associate with business books. Apparently, content and subcategory doesn’t matter. It should just be blue.

To me, responses such as these are dangerously irresponsible. How can a group of people suggest a “sellable” color without doing the extensive research needed to choose a book’s packaging?

How can something as vitally important as a book’s cover be reduced to the simple question of: “What color should a [insert your own category here] book be?”

Below are some highlights from my response to the “color” discussion. I hope you find them useful:

Asking about the color of a business book doesn’t take in to account so many important variables. To come up with a thoroughly competitive cover design, you should do the following:

1. Research the subcategory – leadership, time management, ethics, human resources, business management, management, how-to business, marketing, etc.

2. Purchase (or at least go to the bookstore and look at) the top sellers in your subcategory. Identify the colors, fonts and images used.

3. Find out what’s working and why. Are they all the same color, same title treatment, same image pattern? I’m guessing not. Why not? Which of the books “popped” off the shelf most. Why? (the color could be why)

4. Pull out books in colors that you and your client like that are in your cover design. Put them in the shelf within your category. Can you see them? Why? Why not? Which colors will stand out on the shelf.

It’s important to keep in mind that cover design is ultimately driven by the consumer. We teach people what to expect when they go in to the business category in terms of look, feel, trim size and even price. So, you want to be sure that you’re what they expect. At the same time, it’s important to stand out. If every book in your subcategory is blue, you might want to try red, or green or muted purple. You might want to try something very bright that practically leaps off the shelf.

Most importantly, there is no set formula for choosing “a color” for any category of books. you need to thoroughly research the subcategory and find out how you can match up against the competition and get noticed on the shelf.


Advice for Self-Help Authors Looking for an Agent or Publisher


Yesterday, The Cadence Group received an email from an e-book Self Help author who wanted some advice. She says she will soon be looking for an agent and wanted to know where to start. My intrepid partner, Bethany Brown, offered her this great advice:

1. If your plan is to seek a publisher or agent in the near future, you need to start building your platform right away. In particular, if you’re writing nonfiction. It’s important to make sure that you – and your book – stand out in a crowd. A great way to do this is to start blogging, build a website, write articles for newspapers and magazines, and perhaps try to secure some speaking engagements and/or workshops using some of the ideas from your book.

2. Start thinking about your book proposal now. There are a lot of great books out there to guide you through the process. But a good book proposal requires a lot of research and planning. Mapping out the elements now will help you “fill them in” as you do your competitive research, build your platform and think about your marketing plans and strategy.

3. Get to know your category. Your book will only be shelved in one place in the bookstore. Make sure you understand your competition. How do you differentiate yourself? Is there a market for your book? Do you have a unique hook? Does your book “fit” with your category in regard to length, content and packaging.

4. When you’re ready to move on to trying to find an agent or publisher, might I recommend that your first stop be your local bookstores. Pull out books that are similar to yours and/or that you really like. Check the acknowledgement page. A good agent will often be thanked by the author in the acknowledgements. Look at the copyright page. Who published the book? Make a list of your top 10 – 15 agents and publishers and go home and check out their websites. Do they accepted unsolicited proposals? What format do that want to see your proposal in? Do they prefer a query letter as first contact? Pay close attention to their requirements and follow them – you don’t want to be discounted from the outset for a minor mistake.

5. Always make sure you research any agent and/or publisher before agreeing to work with them.

List of books we recommend for authors:

How to Write a Book Proposal, Michael Larsen

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write, Elizabeth Lyon

How to Get a Literary Agent, Michael Larson

Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, Jeff Herman

Writer’s Market 2008

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2008: Who They Are! What They Want! How to Win Them Over!