Bourgeois has posted many blogs over the years that help guide authors. We will be selecting ones that are still current and of value and adding them to this website soon. Come back often and see what he has to say about the publishing world as it continues to change.
While I want to write that COVID19 has created some issues for Authors to sell their books, the reality is that this pandemic has shone a blinding light on what already exists for authors and small presses. That is the unfair practices that Amazon and the big five, soon to be the big four publishing houses have established to keep control over the indie author and small presses.
Let’s start with the issue of Retail Prices
With both Amazon and the Big 5 controlling the general retail price of books sold, indie authors and small press have been faced with the challenge of not able to adjust their retail price to accommodate the ever-increasing print increases. Which over the past five years has slowly ebbed away at an author’s profit margin. If an author increases their retail prices to adjust for printing charges, then they price themselves out of the market. Who after all can order 100,000 copies of a book to compete with a large publishing house?
Now let’s talk about Distribution
Ingram which is a part of Lighting Source has a monopoly on distribution for small press and indie authors. With their ability to have books printed in most continents, it’s a good avenue for POD/self-published books. While the Big 5 can afford the warehousing of their books with distributors like Baker/Taylor and others, small press and indie authors can not afford the high fees they would be charged with the distribution companies. This then forces authors to work with IngramSpark for POD and distribution. Amazon is not a distributor, only a POD for their system.
But Authors Need Book Sales
This now leaves us with the option of bookstores. We as authors count on them to generate sales and opportunities for us to get a chance to do readings and other programs at these bookstores. No matter if it is Barnes & Noble, or an indie bookstore. The more chances we have of being able to get face time with readers, the greater chances we have of sales and hopefully success. But, to have the bookstores sell our books, we need to have a distributor that will accept the book returns and at a price rate that is appropriate for the store to purchase the book and make some money from it. This brings us back to a distributor like Ingram that prefers but does not require indie authors to sell their books at a 55% discount off the retail price. You can opt to do a lower discount, but if you do, then there is a good chance that you will not get picked up by bookstores as it then prices the book out of their profit margin. Most bookstores need to make a 40% profit margin. When you choose a lower rate with Ingram or any other distributor, then they cut into the rate the bookstores can purchase the book, thus cutting you out of the store due to a lack of potential revenue.
Confused? Wait it gets better.
Let’s do an example. I will keep it very simple with a $10 retail price book (a 6x9, 125 pages, perfect bound, glossy cover). You have it available on Ingram at the 55% discount. The book is then valued at $4.50, your printing cost as of the writing of this essay is $2.73, leaving you a profit of $1.77 before their handling fee and shipping cost. If you were lucky to order 100 copies at one time would come to a cost per book with printing to $3.52, leaving you with a profit of $0.98 per book. Starting to see the challenges?
If you are with Amazon Select, then you may make a little more money for each book sold. But the downside is that you are missing out on over 30-40% of the customer base (bookstore sales). Is it worth it if you can’t reach the readers?
It should be noted that eBooks and audiobooks were not discussed as examples, as that too has many unfair practices that both Amazon and the Big 5 have put into place that have harmed the indie authors and small press. This is for another essay of its own.
The sample is a perfect example of the cycle of frustration that the authors experience constantly and why the Big 5 and Amazon are making more money than the author. The monopoly that both of them have is not fair, but because they control the majority of book sales, they get away with it. The adage of controlling the market is to buy up the competition and price everyone else out of the market. Thus why the big 5 is soon to be the Big 4.
What is an author to do?
The key factor is for an author to learn how to market themselves, not just through bookstores or by buying Amazon ads, but through other sources, that yes, do take time and money. Authors must reach out to readers through social media, book festivals, podcasts, and any other events they can find. It’s not just about doing these events; it’s is about doing this smartly. Thinking outside the box and creating events and concepts that draw people to the author and give the reader a reason to learn about their books and a reason to buy them. Editing, proofreading, cover design, are also key elements that authors should always invest in to be competitive and to offer a product that is of high quality. The major mistake authors make is not investing in these key elements and looking like a poorly rated novel.
What COVID19 has done is to bring these unfair issues to light and force authors to think outside the box on ways to market and sell their books. To find partnerships that help them to succeed, as well as support their fellow authors. As a community of one million authors, it allows indie authors and small press to change the unfair practices and shape the future that is worth supporting them.
It is up to an author to find organizations, events, and programs that help them to be cost-effectively market their books so they can succeed. This also includes working with bookstores like IndieLector.Store an online bookstore that pays authors up to 80% of their book sales, while also teaming up with an organization that teaches authors how to better market and sell their books; AuthorsMarketingGuild.com.
By working through these programs, authors have a greater chance of success and at the same time, can educate readers on the value of buying books from places that help them to earn a fair living.
With any growth process, it is a matter of educating people that there are alternatives that help everyone grow stronger and better. It takes people to get angry at the status quo and be willing to change it. Are you angry enough? Are you tired of not earning enough money from your book sales to make a fair living? You can be part of the change, or you can stay comfortable where you are and accept the results. It comes down to how much you value your work.
B Alan Bourgeois is the founder of several organizations and nonprofits designed to help authors to succeed in a variety of ways. He is an award-winning author and speaker on the subject of marketing for authors. You can learn more about his careers, writing, and speaking at BourgeoisMedia.com
I have a special treat for followers today! I’m chatting with B Alan Bourgeois, leader of the Authors Marketing Guild, based in Austin Texas. We have known each for several years and I wanted readers and authors to get a chance to meet him and learn about his passion for authors. Alan, I would like to have you share some information on you.
Alan, I know you are a published Author. How many books have you penned? I have 10 books published, with two books in the works. I also have several short stories that have appeared in anthologies over the past few years. Over the years, I have won one award for a book, four awards for short stories, and one award for speaking.
Do you have a favorite genre to read? I’m happy to say no. When I find time to read, I like to venture out on a variety of styles and genres.
Alan, do you have a preference for writing in a specific genre? Like my reading style, the same applies to my writing style. I have written in a wide range of genres. With me, it’s about the story, the message I want to share, thus I find myself writing in a variety of ways. With that said, most of my books have a thriller style to them.
Have you always been an Indie Author, Alan? My first book was with a small press, but they failed in business, so I ventured out on my own. It was this experience that led me to be a small press myself and where I was able to get 60 books published for authors around the world. It was this growth process that led me to do what I now do for authors.
What was the driver to get you into creating associations and how long have you been dedicated to helping authors? As a small press, I learned a lot about the financial cost of getting books published, and sadly, I failed my authors in helping them to get the exposure they needed to succeed. Even though we were set up to give authors a voice and an opportunity to market themselves, it wasn’t enough. The lack of book marketing and the lack of funding was the most valuable lesson I learned. Big publishing houses really do control the market on many levels. This wasn’t fair for those authors like myself that wanted to share their great stories and ideas in the written form. It was from this growth process that I became determined to help authors to succeed.
When I first met you it was through your Texas Authors Association, can you share how and why you first when in this direction? As a small press and an indie author, it was clear that authors had to have deep pockets to compete with the big five publishers with marketing. Yet, like so many authors, I didn’t have deep pockets. I had spent everything I had on my small press that I was left with nothing when I closed up shop. I felt what many authors feel, frustrated, and a bit angry at how the game is played in the publishing world. Even today, I continue to see how the game continues to hold indie authors and small presses down. This wasn’t right or fair.
Just like many times in my life, when I saw something that wasn’t right or fair, I spoke up and tried to do something about it. I love being a writer and I love helping people and while writing books does help, it just wasn’t enough for me at that time. So, I created an organization that started with Texas authors and grew over the past ten years to help authors around the world. All of it is focused on helping authors learn how to better market and sell their books. I had no idea back in 2011 how this would lead to everything that I have created to support authors.
The event we met at was focused on a marketing training event. I believe this is now under the Authors Marketing Guild, defined as the Author’s Marketing Event. What do these events provide to authors? The Authors Marketing Event (AME) was born out of our annual book contest gala that we held each year to honor the winners from the annual contest. It was great to see authors get together and share ideas and look for more ideas on how to succeed as indie authors.
In 2016, I created the AME by bringing professionals to the gala event and creating a weekend program where the authors could learn how to better market and sell themselves as true professionals. It has been a pleasure to bring a wide range of pros to this event each year and to see the authors who attend grow stronger and wiser. Their success continues to motivate me to keep on doing this annual event. The community that also grows from this event, as you know Rox, helps everyone grow stronger and more successful.
Each year, I strive to bring something new and exciting to the event to help authors expand their knowledge base. We have even recorded the sessions and have them available for authors to access for a small fee throughout the year so new authors can learn and succeed. The AME Campus has recently gone through some growth and changes to make it easier for people to see these sessions that were recorded live at the event.
How does the Authors Marketing Certification, which can be earned through your events help get authors taken more seriously and by whom? In 2017 I did a survey of small press and some larger publishers to see if what we were doing would have value in helping authors to get traditional contracts. I was thrilled to learn that nine out of ten publishers would give a contract to an author that was certified in marketing vs an author that wasn’t certified. Even if the manuscript and writing were the same. What the publishers told me was that it is tough to market books these days, much for the same reasons I saw when I was a publisher. Having an author go the extra mile and learn how to market themselves meant they were serious about their career and their future. Thus, the Certification was created.
Each year, the attendees can be certified in two levels; 101 – Beginners and 201 – Intermediate, we are adding level 301- Advance for those authors that keep coming to learn more and more. We list the authors and the year they are certified in each category so they can get extra exposure on the internet and use the certification logo on their website and when reaching out to agents or publishers with a new manuscript. We are the only organization in the world that does this. We look forward to adding more to this program in the years ahead.
How can authors take advantage of the taped sessions to gain some great nuggets to help them get the word out about their books? And, how many years of these events do you have online? The Authors Marketing Event Campus (AME Campus) has videos from 2017 forward. Not every session that we have held is available due to technical issues over the years, but 45 video sessions are currently available for any author to access for a small fee. They can check it out at http://Campus.AuthorsMarketingGuild.com and determine which sessions are of interest to them, and then enjoy learning from them.
Your passion for Texas and Authors resulting in you forming Texas Authors Institute of History. What is the goal of this organization? The Library of Congress has millions of books and other artifacts in it. It’s overwhelming the amount of material they have. It was this concept of saving the history of authors that motivated me to create TAIH. I wanted something that continued to give life to the authors from Texas over the past two hundred years. We estimated that over a million books have been written by Texas authors and most of these are lost in the wind. That’s a huge shame on many levels. Also, I wanted to create something that allowed current authors to set the record straight about their works.
Alan, I know that you have a passion for promoting literacy starting as young as 6th grade. Tell my readers a little about this event, please. Yes, writing is a great form of communication for a variety of reasons. Our nonprofit, Texas Authors Institute of History, has created a Short Story contest for Texas Students grades 6 thru 12. We are in our fourth year of the contest. Entries are accepted each school year from Aug 15 to Jan 15, with the winners being announced by April 1st. We have had some great stories sent to us over the years and we believe there could be some great authors in our future. Any student, homeschool, private school, or public school can enter by going to http://TexasAuthors.Institute and selecting on Programs to learn about the rules, story guidelines, etc. We give cash prizes along with other prizes each year.
Many professors and historians try their best to figure out why an author wrote a book. Sometimes they may be right, sometimes they may not be correct about the reasons or thoughts that guided the author. Through our museum, we allow authors to write a short statement as to why they wrote the book. This now leaves future generations a personal glimpse into the mindset of the author which adds more to the storyline. It is our goal to create a multi-million-dollar facility that houses as many books by Texas authors as we can find and create a library for future generations to learn from. Our storage facility currently houses about 10,000 books, a far cry from what we know is out there. Authors are always welcome to complete our online form at http://TexasAuthors.Institute and then send a copy of their book to us for prosperity. Donations are always welcome too.
One of my favorite organizations that you oversee is the DEAR program (Drop Everything And Read). How does this program help make a positive impact on literacy and who does it help?DEAR was created many years ago in schools to help children quiet their minds a bit and improve upon their reading skills. Over the years, due to specialized testing and financial cutbacks, DEAR has slowly been removed from schools. We wanted to not only bring that back, but also to help children and to remind adults of the great pleasure they get from reading books on multiple levels; skills, education, creativity, and inspiration to name a few. Besides, we recognize that many schools and libraries just can’t afford to get new books due to financial concerns.
Thus, through our literacy program, we raise money to get books from our members into schools and libraries. We of course use donations to help this process, but we also use a short story contest to help raise funds and to give new authors opportunities to get exposure through schools and libraries. Each year from March through July we accept entries into our two events: Texas Authors and Indie Authors short story contest. The winners get published into an anthology and then we get books distributed to schools and libraries through various events and programs.
This helps the author gain new followers, and It helps get books into the hands of those that love to read. The money raised from the sale of books also helps us get more books into schools and libraries. Each year, our goal is to get one-thousand books distributed. We sadly struggle over the past couple of years to do this for a variety of reasons, but we continue to do our best and we know it helps.
You also have a Bourgeois Media & Consulting business. What services can you provide?Thanks for asking. One of the key factors that have been suffering over the years is the promotion of myself and my books as I am so busy helping hundreds of authors each year. It was in the last few months thanks to COVID19 that I finally understood how important it was that I practice what I preach in my personal business life as I do for the organizations I run. Thus, I have re-established BMC to help authors one on one and to have a portal that helps promote my books and speaking sessions. Whether I talk with a writer’s group or help an author one on one, my years of experience and knowledge on many levels are available for direct consulting help to any author who wants to grow and succeed.
You created an online bookstore where Authors get to keep a higher percentage of the book sale price. How does this work and where do authors sign up? One of the key factors for an author to succeed is to earn their fair share from the sale of their books. Bookstores, publishers, distributors all want a piece of the pie and indie authors feel that pie shrinking year after year. The cost of marketing is not cheap, even after we teach them a variety of ways to do things at little to no cost, there are still some things you have to pay for. But you can’t pay for it if you are not earning your fair share.
Thus, B4R.store (books for readers) was created to help authors on two levels. First, they can earn up to 80% of their book sales through our store. Second, and this adds up to more value for an author, is that they have the opportunity to learn who is buying their books. No other bookstore does this for its authors! That human connection is one of the most important things we have taught our authors over the years and one that we are happy to support through the bookstore.
Through the B4R.store model, authors don’t have to worry about paying for their credit card processing system, or monthly fees on a mailing system, and much other monthly expense. They can sell their books through our site, and earn more money and learn who is buying their books. We have other options available for authors as well, and all of them support our free shipping that buyers get to enjoy when they buy a book. We are working on expanding our audio division so those books can also be sold on our system.
We have seen book sales increase over the past year at a nice pace, we expect our growth in 2021 with the new system to jump tenfold as we expand our author list. What is also nice about our bookstore is that it is tied to the Authors Marketing Guild. Thus, to be listed on B4R.store, you are required to have a membership in AMG which only costs $60 per year as of Jan 1st. Thus, helping the author to learn more about marketing and earning more from the sale of their books.
The Authors Marketing Guild was done to expand from Texas to Global support for Author. How has your program made a difference to Indie Authors Globally?I would love to say that it has helped tremendously, but we are only a year into this global expansion. We spend most of our money on our programs and not on advertising, but we know that word of mouth has been growing month by month and we are seeing continued growth in membership from outside of Texas. We expect our members to be about 50/50 at the end of next year. With this global outreach, we are now able to do more events in other states, and this year, even in other countries which have been a goal of mine for a long time. We are here to help any author around the world that wants to succeed and to get the word out about their books.
You provide a platform for authors to interview about their works and promote their books. How successful has this been for you and the Authors? As with every program and event I have created, I am never satisfied with its success. That’s not to say the programs and events are not successful, just not as successful as I feel they should be.
The Indie Beacon Show began in 2015 by an invitation from a small city radio station to promote an event we were doing in that city. Over the years, we grew from a radio show to an international podcast and then to Amazon TV and YouTube shows along with the podcasts. This is a free program for authors that are supported by our advertisers and community programs. Three times a week we broadcast a 30-minute show that promotes an author from around the world. Once we broadcast it, then we keep it in our library for viewing by readers throughout the years. Any author can of course view or listen to the show on their favorite system, or by going to our website http://IBS.AuthorsMarketingGuild.com Any author can also go to that link and request an interview for free.
What do you feel, so far, are your top accomplishments with the various groups? There is nothing more exciting than getting an email from an author full of enthusiasm as they tell me of their success due to something they learned from our program or from meeting someone that helped them make that connection to move them to the next level. Wither they win one of our contests that launches them to greater success or attend an event that inspires them to better understand that they are not alone, but part of a community of authors that all want to grow stronger and more successful. What you desire and draw to you, can and does come back to you. Each organization and event can stand on its own, but at this time, I need to find people who want to take over the events and continue to grow them stronger. My time on this planet grows shorter and shorter, so it is time for new blood to step up and help authors to succeed. This part will be the final touches to my success as a philanthropist and motivator.
What would you like to accomplish over the next year, and how can readers who are interested help? Each year I always wish for our membership to grow larger, for I know from experience when we have more authors growing together, then companies and others begin to see us in a different light. They begin to offer special discounts and savings that we pass on to our authors, which helps everyone grow. Thus, each year, my goal is to see us continue to expand our members that allows us to grow in programs and events. Which leads to more success for authors, that is my ultimate desire, to see more indie authors succeed and earn their fair share in book sales.
Upcoming events these days are virtual. How has your creativity for virtual events been leveraged in 2020? 2020 has been a challenging time for all of us in so many ways. While we have embraced the virtual book festival concept, I have seen where systems that are available to use are not strong enough for what we need and for what readers desire. This is one of those times that not being a billionaire sucks!
I can’t spend the money to create the perfect system for authors to still be able to reach readers in a more personal way. Until then, I look for ways to use what is available to help authors. Even after we have a vaccine for COVID19, I still want to embrace the in-person events with virtual programming to give more people opportunities to discover great books and the authors that write them.
Any final tidbits you would like to share with my readers? Authors Marketing Guild, LLC, and B4R.store are author owned organizations that are always looking for growth with investments, and membership. We work hard for authors to succeed if that is really what they want, no matter what concept that means for them. We are committed to helping readers find these great works of art and to leverage the works at a fair price, but in a way that helps authors earn their fair share. Earning a $1.00 per book is not a fair share for any author while the cost of marketing averages $3-$4 per book.
Alan, it has been an honor to listen to your history and viewpoints on writing/publishing today. I hope writers found elements of your story compelling. Often authors just want that extra help to find their way through the maze to let their voices resonated on the pages of their creation. Please reach out to Alan, if he doesn’t know the answer, he will try to help guide you.