AMG
Authors Marketing Guild, LLC
A Member Based Owned Company

As we begin a new year, there is clearly a lot of crap left over from last year, and possible headaches for the year ahead. Many financial experts are saying we are heading for a recession. Legal experts say we may be heading for an impeachment of a sitting President. Global warming, and so much other heavy negative stuff.

No matter what your position is, the one fact remains…YOU are an Author with books to sell. While on a personal level you will address each of the above items in your own way. Even with all of the other stuff going on, the fact remains you need to plan your marketing to help sell your books so you can become a great Authorprenuer!

You DO want to be planning your marketing for the new year now. Map out every step for a new book, or for continued promotion of your current works.

With another 100,000 authors being added to the publishing world this year, you have more and more competition for readers. Therefore, it is imperative you do it right and not by the seat of your pants.

Big publishing houses and movie companies plan their marketing well in advance and that is why in most cases they succeed. You too must consider this, so you can succeed in your genre or particular release.

Part of this planning is also seeking out how to make more profit from your books. Is it cost advantage to sell your books on Amazon? Does your book get lost in the millions of other authors and books? Is it worth the temporary thrill of getting a ‘Best Seller’ listing that can fizzle in hours or days? Is it worth it that you may do decent on Amazon, but yet the world still doesn’t know about you?

Let’s face it, no matter if you love Amazon or not, they are there to make money and their ONLY concern is how to squeeze out every penny from you so that they can make billions. And that is the American Dream!

But, it is also the American Dream for everyone to have an opportunity to reach new levels in their career or style of living. To reach for every star of success and achievement that can be had. I created a bookstore to help you do exactly that.

Indie Lector is designed for YOU to make more money and to get more publicity then you may otherwise get in other stores. The choice is yours, have more money to promote your book so you can succeed or give more money to the large corporation that doesn’t care about your success.

Yes, we know Amazon has made it easy for people to buy books and we too are continually working to achieve that goal. And while everyone thinks of Amazon to buy books, by you educating them that there is a better place to buy books, then both authors & readers succeed. They still get great deals and you make more profit. A win win for each party.

You can be part of the Authors Revolution and claim your RIGHT to earn a fair living from your books or roll over and allow companies to take advantage of your work and make billions off of you and others without giving back.

For eight years we have been promoting authors and helping people learn more and more about them and we have seen success for those authors that want to succeed. We will continue to create programs, events and opportunities for your success. Will you take advantage this year of these opportunities, or simply roll over and play dead?

Now is the time, not later. Not when you have more money. Now….2019 is the year!

 

At the end of this article is a link to give us feedback about this concept.

 

To re-fashion the experience of a bookstore and discovery of a book, an outlet in Japan curates a collection of high-end cultural titles.

By Porter Anderson for Perspective Publishing Jan 4, 2019

 

‘Immersion and Relaxation’

Having opened on December 10, a concept bookstore in central Tokyo is getting novelty-press attention primarily for its admission fee.

It costs 1,500 yen (US$13.89) to enter the 460-meter Bunkitsu, which is set in a location known for bookselling, formerly the site of the Aoyama Book Center. The name reportedly translates roughly to an idea of consuming culture, and to that end the store features a firmly curated collection of some 30,000 books and magazines on topics “from humanities and natural sciences to design and art,” according to the company’s promotional messaging.

The entry area in the Roppongi Electric Building features regularly changing exhibitions and a focus on the 90 or so magazines featured as part of the offer. There also are areas designated as a library, a reading room, a “laboratory”—a kind of meeting room for group discussion—and a tea room.

Some of the services offered include personal curation: give the store three days’ notice and the staff will choose some books to match your interest and have them ready for your visit. When you arrive, there’s a locker for your things and free wi-fi and power. While the emphasis is on the curated collection in-store, the company accepts orders for books not on the shelves. if your book or magazine costs more than 10,000 yen (US$92.63), shipping is free.

The venture’s heavy emphasis on design is driven by Smiles, the “lifestyle value” retail company that’s also behind Soup Stock Tokyo; second-hand stores called New Recycle; a necktie branded boutique called Giraffe with an inventory divided into four body temperatures; and 100 Spoons, a family-focused restaurant.

The bookish element of the new store is handled by two companies. The bookstore called Morioka Shoten was opened in the summer of 2015 and is known for its “single room with a single book” approach (the featured title changes weekly). And Yours Book Store is behind several bookselling business locations and events. Operation of Bunkitsu is being handled by Nippon Shuppan Hanbai.

The entry fee is meant to correspond to the cost of a cinema ticket or museum entry charge, and the store carries a very limited stock of each book in its collection. (The company’s site says that customers can reserve a book they want to examine.)

 

‘Deeply Fitting Books’

At Asahi Shimbun, Yusuke Kato writes that browsing is strongly encouraged: “Although the books are arranged according to genre, they are not put in alphabetical order according to publisher or author.” Bunkitsu’s site says that the reception desk on the first floor does offer an inventory search, however.

A book of the day is featured by the staff. Recent selections include:

  • Thursday of this week (January 3): Right Hand and Brain by Peter Springer (Mitsubosha)
  • December 30: The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglissi (JADD Publishing in English, Film Art Company in Japanese
  • December 27: Semi-God by Hagio Osamu (Shogakkan)
  • December 18: Telephone, Sleep, Music by Kawakatsu Tokushige (Lydo)
  • December 13: Still Life by Irving Penn (Bulfinch)
  • December 10, opening day: Moon Palace by Paul Auster (Shinchosha)

A book marked with pink indicates a staff favorite, a “first love” in the store’s lingo.

And lingering is the idea. In the café, visitors can spend as long as they like with books, taking meals from the kitchen or nursing free coffee and tea.

While reporting to date on the new store is uneven, most journalists refer to Japan’s depressed book retail environment as the impetus for the new effort. at The Times of India, Chelsea Ritschel writes that the goal is “to create a bookstore that has lasting potential amid threats from online retailers such as Amazon.”

Other reports mention closed bookstores in Japan, as well, but it’s hard at this early stage to know if whether a store that invites customers to spend all day reading from a niche selection of books—with no requirement to buy—is sustainable. In one way, the business model appears to reverse the idea of a bookstore with a café: Bunkitsu is a café with a bookstore, the restaurant area having the most space, a 90-seat capacity. Coffee and tea are free, meals and desserts are sold.

 

‘Chance Encounters’

Suffice it to say that the experience is the pitch here.

“Enjoy culture, a bookstore,” says the store’s promotional copy. “Play with books in your own favorite way. Chance encounters, instances of love at first sight, developing relationships with captivating books.

The term the store is using for the entry fee translates a bit unfortunately to “funeration” in English, which may entice no one beyond funeral directors. But that’s a linguistic hitch that won’t concern a Japanese clientele.

And what makes this experiment as interesting as it is, finally, is–for lack of a better term and without prejudice—how precious it is. Someone looking for a lawn mower repair manual may run screaming out into the Tokyo night from Bunkitsu, but those who embrace the idea of books-as-lifestyle—and whose interests lie in the arts and humanities of the store’s collection—may well love it.

A prominent part of the come-hither copy on the store’s site is a poem the title of which is “A Bookstore for Meeting Books.” The poem stresses serendipity, an elegant dalliance in which “at the end of the day you will find a book on your mind.” Other phrases serve to heighten the sense of fashion in the appeal: “I spend my time carefully with coffee” and “Immersion and relaxation come and go.”

While nothing in the company’s literature says this specifically, of course, this is a decidedly upscale appeal—a high-end culturally themed collection curated for people who seek, as the poem has it, “relationship with deeply fitting books.”

Many will keep an eye on Bunkitsu, not yet a month old, to see if this confluence of ambiance and a club-like atmosphere can woo a profitable turnout to wear the entrance badge that admission fee provides.

Here’s one line in which the store cinches its pitch, by putting the experience of discovering a read on a par with the read itself. Bunkitsu, its messaging says, offers “the encounter with an unprecedented book.”

 

We would love to hear what you think about a concept like the one above working in Texas or somewhere in the USA. Please click here to give quick response. Thank you!

In Feature Articles for Publishing Perspective on January 7, 2019

In Russia, a government plan to provide lower-cost retail sites to independent booksellers at state cultural facilities may help smaller bookstores survive.

By Eugene Gerden

Retail Sites at Theaters, Museums, Libraries

According to statements from officials of Moscow’s science and culture ministry, independent bookstores in Russia can anticipate new levels of support this year.

A broad list of planned support measures has been discussed, the most important being to provide booksellers with special properties at which they can open new retail locations. According to state plans, these sites will be designated inside the facilities of state theaters, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. They’re to be made available to booksellers at deeply discounted rental rates.

Government statements indicate that support of independent booksellers this year is one of the state’s priority targets in the field of book publishing, a recognition that large chain bookstores are creating formidable competition for independents. As Publishing Perspectives has reported, bookstore chains have announced major expansions and many are under the ownership of some of the country’s largest publishing companies.

Alla Manilova, deputy minister of culture, tells Publishing Perspectives that the rental rates offered to independent booksellers for the new retail sites will be based on the costs of janitorial services, housing, and communal expenses.

Several publishing observers are welcoming the new initiative, particularly in recognition of its placement of bookselling outlets near other cultural hubs.

Since 1989, the number of independent bookstores in Russia is reported to have been in steady decline. Despite the expansion of chain operations, the country is said to have one bookstore for every 50,000 people, while comparable European Union estimates are of one store for every 5,000 citizens.

High rental rates are frequently cited as a major problem, the cost of retail space accounting for some 35 percent of a bookstore’s budget, something independent store owners say is a major impediment to opening additional locations. Since 2008, average book prices in the country have already grown by some 40 percent, suggesting that price increases aren’t an option.

Speculative figures attached to the statements of intent for the new year estimate that as many as 10,000 jobs could be created by the anticipated expansion of independent retail sites.

Booksellers Welcome Promises of New Aid

Lyubov Bialiatskaya, co-founder of a Vse Svobodny, a bookstore in St. Petersburg, calls the idea of new retail sites in cultural centers “beautiful” for readers and critical for booksellers operating outside of the large chains. She agrees with assessments that high rent is among shop owners’ most daunting challenges.

Nevertheless, there is criticism, too, of the announced state initiative.

Elena Yampolskaya, chairperson of the committee on culture for the Duma, says she believes that the latest state proposal in its current form, may contribute to a growth of corruption in the industry, and will not provide any help to independent booksellers.

Yampolskaya tells Publishing Perspectives that there are no guarantees that these preferential retail areas at cultural facilities won’t be snapped up by bookstore chains or by companies affiliated with them.

Her concern, however, isn’t shared by Boris Kupriyanov, co-founder of the publisher Phalanster, who says that even the occupation of the specially allocated premises by large bookstore chains will contribute to the overall development of the book industry and its sales sector.

In addition to the announced intention of the government to make new retail sites available, there are to be special grants and tax benefits extended to local publishers, funded by regional budgets and provided to booksellers, as well.

Aggregators Comparison Chart and FAQs

by | Feb 9, 2019

This article will cover the following items:

  • Should I make My eBook Available in other stores?
  • Who to choose?
  • What to look for
  • Why?

eBook distribution options in 2019 have expanded greatly the past two years. There are scores of online eBook retailers around the world and eBook aggregators abound to help self-publishers easily make their book available for sale.

Highlights of market developments in this 2019 round-up post include:

  • At least 3 services now claim to distribute your eBook to more than 150 online retailers.
  • One company, PublishDrive, offers a choice of fee or commission-based payment.
  • IngramSpark greatly scaled back their eBook distribution network.
  • Bookbaby has integrated KDP Select management into their publishing portal.
  • At least 3 companies in our directory of eBook distributors also offer some form of audiobook distribution.

In other words, despite Amazon’s continued domination of the market for eBooks there is no shortage of third-party services intent on competing. In fact, I see the next battleground as audiobook distribution since the EU forced Amazon and Apple to dissolve their partnership.

This 2019 eBook distribution round-up of aggregators tells you what you need to know to navigate these sometimes-tricky waters:

  • Definitions of key terms
  • An explanation of aggregator vs. direct distribution
  • A decision guide
  • A comparison chart of 11 established eBook aggregators
  • And finally, frequently asked questions

Keep in mind that this round-up is meant to help self-publishers, especially self-publishers of eBooks. Larger publishers and self-publishers with lots of print titles have other options. The market for digital media distribution gets more sophisticated every year so there are service providers serving different market niches.

If after reading this you are still confused about what to do, drop your question in the comments box.

Definitions

Unlike the Byzantine world of print book distribution, eBook distribution is an outgrowth of the modern digital media distribution put in place to handle music, apps and other types of digital products that came before modern (non-PDF) eBooks.

What is eBook distribution?

eBook distribution is the process of making an eBook available for download from an online retailer. Distribution can be made directly to an online retailer (assuming they have a self-service portal), or via an eBook aggregator, or some combination.

What is an eBook aggregator?

An eBook aggregator receives an eBook, and distributes that file to more than one online retailer (e.g. Amazon, Apple, B&N). They make money by charging fees, or keeping a percentage of sales. Services and capabilities vary, as do the online stores each eBook aggregator will service. eBook aggregators typically specialize in markets, such as self-publishers (authors) vs. traditional publishers.

What is direct eBook distribution?

Direct eBook distribution is when a publisher or self-publisher submits their eBook directly to a store for sale online. Examples of stores are Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble (links in the second table below).

What is the best eBook distribution method?

This depends on five considerations:

  1. Cost
  2. Convenience
  3. Royalty payments
  4. Book metadata* management
  5. Ease of making changes

This table and the video that follows illustrates the 5 considerations used to evaluate going direct vs. using an eBook aggregator.


*Metadata: information that describes your book such as title, price, ISBN, description, categories, etc.
Consideration Using Aggregators Going Direct
Cost Fee and/or percent of sales. Free
Convenience One account to learn and manage. Must learn and manage each account.
Payment Delays. Stores pay aggregator, aggregator pays you No delays.
Metadata* “One size fits all”; no ability to customize for each store, or take advantage of marketing features offered by a store. Customize for each store.
Changes Delays. Aggregator tells store, store makes change. Possible charges or limits. No delays, no costs, no limits.
Showing 1 to 5 of 5 entries
   

 

How to decide the best way to distribute your eBook

It’s not as hard as it seems. Begin with this bottom line consideration: which store or stores sell the most eBooks?

Think of it this way: if 100% of sales were with one store it wouldn’t matter how many other stores there are, right? Following this logic, you want to go direct with the store(s) that sell the most books and use aggregators for the others. It simply isn’t worth your time to chase (currently) measly sales from stores that won’t provide a return on your investment.

You also make more money since aggregators charge a fee or take a percentage of your sales as payment.

Here’s a plan that applies to virtually all one-book authors, and perhaps many multi-book authors.

  1. Go direct with Amazon. I can’t think of a situation where an author would use an aggregator to reach the Kindle store. You get full control, maximum available royalties, and besides, they sell most of the eBooks.
  2. Are you comfortable using online tools and websites, and interested in maximum control? Also go direct with B&N and Kobo.
  3. Same criteria as number 2, and do you have a Mac? Go direct with Apple. (The software Apple supplies for uploading your EPUB file only runs on a Mac. Once uploaded, you can access reports and make metadata changes using a web browser.)

These four stores control approximately 90% of the US eBook market, likely higher.

How to pay? Fee or commission?

The next question to ask yourself is: would you rather pay a flat fee, or give up a percentage of sales in the form of a commission? Note that this percentage is in addition to the sales commission that each store takes before paying your aggregator, who then pays you.

This one is tricky. If you sell a lot of eBooks, the percent of sales can exceed a flat rate arrangement and eats into profits. On the other hand, paying a flat rate and then selling 5 eBooks can be an expensive proposition.

One school of thought is that a distributor that works on commision is incentivized to help you sell books (they make more money). But this makes no sense! Aggregators simply automate the process of distributing your eBook to a store. Distribution isn’t the same as marketing.

Complicating your plans, some on my list below charge a fee and charge a commission.

The good news is that there is one company that leaves it up to you, PublishDrive. They offer you a choice of paying a fee or a commission. And best of all, allow you to switch between the two options anytime as your sales go up or down.

Choosing an aggregator

I suggest visiting each website to get a feel for how they work, their fees and the stores they support. Read their policies and look at the features important to you.

  • For example, if you write more “edgy” books, Smashwords has a thriving online store that competes with the best of them. They also have terrific sales tools.
  • Others have extensive reach to international retailers.
  • A few also offer services.

The Bottom Line

Go direct where possible, add one aggregator for the balance. You can always change things around later as you get more comfortable managing your accounts. Btw, be sure to read my FAQ about using an ISBN provided by an aggregator.

Comparison of eBook Distributors

As noted earlier, there are 5 considerations when evaluating distribution: cost, convenience, royalty payments, ease of updating metadata, and how easy the service is to use. And some features and capabilities change from year-to-year. Rather than try to classify every difference, I’ve zeroed in on the core features and then link you to that service for more details.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to cost + convenience vs. control + reach (who they distribute to). There are trade-offs. Just don’t forget that most sales will be on Amazon, and to a lesser extent Apple and B&N. See below for my caveats about potential sales.

eBook distributors vs. publishing services companies

A final note about this table. Many publishing services companies offer eBook distribution. However, with the exception of Bookbaby it is not a core service and in fact they may require you (or hound you!) to buy other services such as eBook conversion, print book design and distribution, or book marketing. Examples of these companies include Blurb, eBooks2go, Fastpencil, Lulu, and Outskirts.

Is eBook distribution with these companies a “throw in” or loss leader? This can be good or bad depending on your requirements and preferences. There is no free lunch! (These companies are not profiled below.)

Instructions for using the table

  • Click the green dot with the + sign for more details about each aggregator.
  • BYO for ISBNs means you can Bring Your Own ISBN.
  • The major eBook sellers named at the top of the table link to their self-service publishing portal.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need an ISBN to distribute an eBook?
The requirement for an ISBN is up to the store or aggregator service you are using. The major stores with self-service portals do not require an ISBN. All the aggregators in the above list do require an ISBN because it serves as sort of a SKU—stock keeping unit—to track sales and do reporting. If you already own an ISBN, my advice is to use it. As always, owning your ISBN allows you to control your brand.
Can I use the aggregator’s ISBN if I leave or change aggregators?
No. Read the aggregator’s fine print and you’ll see you cannot “take it with you” if you leave, or use it if you wish to supplement distribution with another aggregator. For this reason, I strongly advise buying ISBNs (MyIdentifiers.com) if you plan to use an aggregator, and certainly if you are publishing more than one book.
How does print book distribution differ from eBook distribution?
Self-publishers will find they have far more options for eBook distribution than they do for print. That’s because there is a near zero cost to deliver and maintain an inventory and there is a modern and robust digital distribution infrastructure in place to serve other media such as music and apps.
Why is my book not showing in every store claimed by the aggregator?

In my experience it is up to each individual store as to whether they will sell your eBook. For example, IngramSpark used to claim support for 63 stores—points of distribution—but my client’s books were never “stocked” by all 63 stores. Now we see they have reduced their distribution to around 20 stores. Others that claim to put your book in 150 stores (eBookPartnership, Feiyr, Streetlib) may be hard pressed to prove this is the case.

What happens if I decide to change aggregators?
Read their rules. If they gave you a free ISBN, you will most likely not (legally) be able to continue to use it. There may also be waiting periods.
What happens if I want to join KDP Select?

This would require you to remove your eBook from the other stores. It may also require you to establish your own KDP account if you were using an aggregator for Amazon distribution. Again, read the rules before you sign-up. Update: Bookbaby says you can use their service to manage your KDP Select account.

Should I choose a company that handles both eBook and print book distribution?

There is no quick or simple answer. My general rule is to treat each of these independently whenever possible, but that’s because I value control over convenience. The only really serious offering in this regard is IngramSpark, and when I use them for eBook distribution, I always exclude Amazon and Apple from their eBook distribution.

Which eBook file (Mobi, EPUB, PDF) do I use with each store?
Easy: Mobi for Amazon (KDP), and EPUB for everyone else. None of these aggregators will distribute your PDF to be sold in their partner stores.
Is it better to pay upfront, or a percent of sales?
If you sell a lot of eBooks, paying up front will be less expensive in the long run.
Can I distribute a public domain book?
Read the terms of service for each company. In the early days of eBooks there was a rush to publish public domain eBooks but stores have since implemented limits on this.
How do I distribute eBooks for free?

The major eBook retailers—Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing/KDP), Apple (iBookstore), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Google (Play), Kobo (Writing Life)—have self-service portals that are free for self-publishers to use. You make the most money when you “go direct” with these stores because there is no third-party (aggregator) to pay.

Your mileage may vary: 8 caveats to forecasting sales

  1. Regular readers of eBooks tend to be loyal to one store.
  2. Promotions and metadata changes can help with short-term boosts, but store sales rankings are most influenced by sales and reviews.
  3. A store can help by sending shoppers to your book, but they won’t keep showing them a book that isn’t selling.
  4. Authors with books that appeal to audiences in other countries should make sure their book is also in the Apple and Kobo stores. (These two companies have more country-specific stores than Amazon.)
  5. In my experience, the fewer the books an author has, the more their sales will be concentrated on Amazon.
  6. Unless an author has a broad platform of readers, they will do better by concentrating on a single store. At least until sales become self-sustaining or they begin store-specific marketing programs.
  7. Chicken and egg: If you don’t sell in numerous stores, you won’t increase your reach to new readers. At the same time, distribution is not the same as marketing. Sales outside Amazon happen when you focus on marketing programs that target the readers shopping in those stores.
  8. The above caveats may not hold true if you sell eBooks from your website (direct to readers). Your success selling direct to readers is a function of your website’s traffic, your mailing list, and your social media reach.

What aggregators have you tried? Have you had success you can share? What’s more important, convenience or control? Drop your comments in the box below.

 Photo by Josip Ivankovic on Unsplash

An Annoyed Librarian's Rebuttal

A public librarian explains why some titles don’t make the cut

By Linda May | Mar 01, 2019 - Originally Published in Publishers Weekly March 4, 2019

 

As the director of a small public library, I read the “Frustrated Patron” Soapbox—in which an author described his attempts to get his local libraries to order his book—in Publishers Weekly’s February 18 issue with a mixture of disbelief and irritation. As someone who ran marketing departments for reference, academic, and adult nonfiction publishers for over 30 years, my eyes rolled to the back of my head. This broadside epitomized the attitude of almost every academic monograph author I have ever met.

Public libraries serve their communities. That means that they always try to provide resources—both print and electronic—that residents of their towns want and need to enrich their lives. In addition to serving as gateways to the largest collections of e-books they can manage, libraries try to keep as many print books on their shelves as possible to meet demand. That last word is important: libraries respond to demand.

We librarians track circulation and interlibrary loan statistics to monitor trends and see what our patrons are calling for most. We read reviews and revisit what we already own to keep up with the best of what is out there, as well as to continue popular series and provide balance to the collection. We do all of this with no personal bias and only from a motive of service.

Just like bookstores, public libraries need to stock the latest bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction; reference books in gardening, cooking, crafts, and history; biographies; autobiographies; graphic novels; YA literature and children’s titles; and on and on. In addition, as much as possible, we try to always have the classics on hand, as well as the titles supporting the curriculum of the local schools. We curate our collections so that even as we acquire new titles from the huge number of books published each year, we retain older books that are of value to our patrons. We do all of this while constrained by budgets that have at best remained flat for years or in too many cases have been cut.

Libraries act as community centers offering makerspaces, educational programs, instruction, computer centers, speakers, and author signings. They subscribe to electronic databases as well as print periodicals. Librarians answer thousands of reference questions of all types each year.

So when an author who wrote a book titled Behind the Front: British Soldiers and French Civilians, 1914–1918 and priced at $107 drops in and tries to sell us his book, we may be courteous (librarians are always courteous), but we will have little interest.

The minute the author’s publisher put that title on his book, it was doomed to sales of no more than 150 copies to college libraries with a special interest in that very narrow topic. The publisher backed up that decision by pricing it at over $75, putting it out of reach of all but the biggest, most research-centric public libraries. Face it: this book—regardless of how well written it might be—is an academic monograph.

Further evidence of this can be found in the fact that it wasn’t reviewed by PW, Booklist, Library Journal, or any of the other review magazines serving bookstores and public libraries. It would be a waste for the publisher to even mail review copies to any publications save for academic journals and Choice, which serve college libraries.

For years, my marketing colleagues and I tried to beat this thought into the heads of academics who believed that they had created masterpieces that should be available everywhere and land them interviews on morning talk shows. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, in a public library, I have only confirmed the belief I held as a marketer: no way.

The author of Behind the Front, Craig Gibson, brings up the fact that he is a taxpayer and voter. Instead, he should be satisfied that his manuscript was published in the first place, by a company as distinguished as Cambridge University Press. He should be grateful that the publisher sent enough review copies out for it to get the reviews it got from Choice and the other fine academic review journals. And he should be happy that it is available in paperback for college classes and as an e-book for any interested scholars or researchers.

Maybe Gibson should give his local library a copy of his book. And keep paying those taxes so that it can keep meeting the needs of him and his fellow citizens in the many ways it is already.

Linda May, a former publishing executive, is director of the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library in Waynesboro, Pa.

By Mark Gottlieb, literary agent at Trident Media group

It's important for authors to hold themselves in high esteem, by making comparisons of their writing to success stories. That is why I like to sit down with the writers I work with and nail down what the comparative or competitive book titles to their manuscript might be, before making a submission to editors at publishing houses. We in the industry casually refer to this as asking what the "comps" are (short for comparative or competitive book titles). These are books in the current publishing marketplace that are similar and successful. It's not just about simply saying that a book or author is not unique—it's about celebrating how great a potential publication could be...

Why are comp titles important?

A literary agency receiving a query letter or submission from an author, or an editor at a publishing house receiving a pitch and manuscript from a literary agent, will need to know what the comps are. The literary agent and the editor will be trying to figure out where that particular book/author would fit within their list of authors: is it commercial fiction, literary fiction, or upmarket fiction? If it's nonfiction, then which category of nonfiction? A literary agent or book editor will ask themselves where the book/author would be shelved in a bookstore: is it mystery/crime, romance, science fiction & fantasy, or something else? Most important of all, an agent or editor will be asking themselves how well that book/author would perform in the marketplace: will this book go on the become a mega bestseller or garner highly prestigious awards?

In fully comparing apples to apples, a book editor at a publishing house will try to base their potential offer to publish, on the sales performance of the comp titles. They do this by running a profit & loss statement, or what we in the publishing industry call a "P&L" or "P&L sheet." Plugged into the P&L, which also accounts for the costs associated with printing and publishing a book, will be the sales numbers on the comp titles. A publisher can look up the sales numbers of a given comp title on Nielsen BookScan, where some of the most accurate reporting of sales numbers are given, so there's no lack of transparency there. That's why an author is a in a far better position by having their literary agent offer the author's successful comps to the publisher, over allowing the book publisher to come up with accurate comps of their own. This is especially the case if the publisher's comps haven't been all that successful. Then the publisher might not want to publish the book, or they might make a smaller offer.

An author that has assembled a good list of two to three comp titles will be miles ahead in the publishing process. When a book publisher is in the stage of getting their salesforce to place copies of the book among retailers, guess what question the publisher will be asked by the retailer: What are the similar books to this one? Having the comps handy can therefore help the book publisher in the actual publication process, by raising a book retailer's expectations. Maybe the book retailer decides to order more copies of a book for their stores, or they decide to recommend and prominently display the book, if they think the book will be a success.

 

What's a good comp title?

As much as possible, an author should make literary agents and editors think that their book has a good-looking, smart and athletic "twin" in each of its comps. A good comp title is a bestselling or major award-winning book. It's easy to know if the comp title is one of those two things by simply looking at the cover of a comp. If the cover states, "New York Times bestseller" or "National bestseller" then you know you probably have a bestseller on your hands. The same goes for major awards featured on the cover. If it says, "National Book Award-winner" or "Man Booker Prize-winner," then the same would be true. Looking at the number of reviews on Amazon (hundreds or thousands is impressive), and the overall Amazon sales ranking (the closer to the Top 100 the better), are other ways to know how well the comp title has been performing.

The comps should have been published within the last five years. Outside of five years, book publishing will have been a different industry, with books written and published in different ways. What is popular reading among book lovers also changes quite a bit over the years. Those are a few of the reasons why classic novel comps are not good comparisons, and will often garner eye rolls from editors. When a fantasy author tries to comp to J.R.R. Tolkien, or a mystery/crime writer tries to comp to Edgar Allen Poe, it also begins to look self-aggrandizing.

It's important to keep the comps accurate. We are comparing apples to apples here, rather than apples to oranges. So a comp title should also be of the reading age range and of the book genre. If an author wrote a young adult novel, then they shouldn't go and compare it to an adult romance novel; or if an author of wrote a nonfiction work of history/politics/current affairs then they obviously shouldn't refer to it a science/technology book. At the same time, only books make for good comparisons, since we're trying to figure out where a book belongs in a bookstore, rather than where a movie or a TV show fits on the shelf.

The process of assembling comp titles may seem small or insignificant at first glance, but it is actually a huge part of the publishing process and a key player in a book's success. The comp process ultimately helps readers find their way to an author's book.

 

Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors of fiction and nonfiction. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Since his time at Trident, he has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold numerous books to film and TV production companies. Mark is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.