Way back in the halcyon days of, oh, April, 2019, I made a number of discrete choices regarding how to plan out the next few years of my writing career. They were as follows:
- write a standalone apocalypse book to sell to the publisher;
- plan and self-publish a new sci-fi series to fill in the time between the acceptance of that book and its publication, while at the same time;
- write and self-publish the last book in the Immortal series;
- reexamine the way I publish print and audio editions of my books, specifically for the new series.
I’ve taken care of 1 through 3. The Apocalypse Seven will be published in May of 2021 (and if you follow that link you can preorder it now), the last book in the Immortal series has been published, and Tandemstar is the new sci-fi series, with book one coming out in September.
Let’s talk about #4.
All about audio
My first thought on this matter pertained to audio editions, which are costly to make. All of my audiobooks to this point have been produced by ACX, which is the DIY interface to Audible, in the same way KDP is the DIY interface to Amazon’s ebooks. There are two ways to go about this, but only one way that makes any real sense: find a narrator, and pay them up front for producing an audiobook. (The other way is a 50-50 split, meaning the profits are split down the middle for the next seven years.)
For this approach to make real economic sense, an audiobook has to eventually earn back its up-front costs (return on investment, or ROI), and all of mine have…but it’s been taking longer for that to happen with each book.
In other words, as the audiobook marketplace has matured, the window of opportunity for ACX-produced books to succeed has gotten smaller. (The same thing happened in the ebook marketplace, not incidentally.)
I would very much rather be ahead of a trend than not, and the trend in audio is toward high production-value publisher-backed audiobooks. To keep up, I could either start spending a LOT more on each new audiobook, or I could find a publisher willing to take on my new titles.
The problem was that while I evidently have a pretty good reputation in the world of audiobooks, I don’t have any direct contacts with a publisher to leverage. I do have direct contacts with people in the traditional publishing industry, however, and so soon enough—thanks to a referral—I was talking on the phone with Stefan Rudnicki about Skyboat Media, and soon after that he was talking to Blackstone Audio about me, and in almost no time at all we had a deal in place.
Two side notes about this:
- the reason I said I evidently have a pretty good reputation in the world of audiobooks is that Blackstone very quickly said yes, as they have evidently heard of me before.
- There was an advance, and the deal is for three books. This is the first time in my writing career I have been paid for work that wasn’t already written (meaning books 2 and 3) and if you don’t think I find that terrifying you’re wrong.
The way this works is, Skyboat Media will produce the audiobook, and Blackstone Audio will distribute it. Blackstone publishes to all platforms, distributes to libraries, and even produces a CD, which will be a first for me.
The audio has already been finished; I just haven’t had a chance to hear it yet. (Book one has three POV characters and so, three narrators. This is another first for me.) Blackstone has also begun setting up placeholders for the book: you can preorder the audible version if you want right now. (They have the cover, it’s just not displayed yet.)
Meanwhile, I took some of the money I saved on not paying up-front for audio, and hired a high-end cover designer. I have nothing bad to say about my prior covers, but at the same time I think we can all agree this was a pretty good decision.
All about print
My reexamination of print options is a more recent thing. I’ve always used Amazon’s POD option (formerly Createspace, now KDP Print) for my print books for everywhere except B&N. (Barnes and Noble’s website has its own POD option, which is easy to use, and so I use it.) The problem is that regular bookstores just don’t carry Amazon-produced print books, in part because they can’t be returned and in part because it’s Amazon. Likewise, Amazon doesn’t distribute to libraries, because Amazon is kind of an asshole about libraries.
But that was the best I could expect without securing a print-only publishing deal, and I’m not big enough of a name to land that kind of contract.
Or so I thought.
I should have known this for a long time, and did not, but IngramSpark will do the same expanded distribution Amazon does, only they’ll allow for the % discounts bookstores need to have in order to consider carrying books, and they will allow for returns.
So, I’m in the process of setting up all of my titles on IngramSpark in addition to continuing to selling them direct on Amazon.
None of this probably matters much to you, except for one detail. When I set up Two Suns at Sunset with IngramSpark, I bought my own ISBN. Then I used that ISBN on Amazon to set the book up there. Then I saw something I’d never seen before: a print edition listed as available for preordering.
Yes, I did just expend 900 words to tell you that you can now preorder Two Suns at Sunset in both print and audio. But it was a fun 900 words, right?
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