Our authors’ books are available as ebooks, and as paperbacks using print on demand technology. Both technologies mean the books will never go out of print, unless the author specifically wants them to.
With print on demand, books are printed and bound as they are needed. There is no need for a large up-front investment to pay for a print run, and no need to store hundreds of books. But there is a less obvious advantage which I’d like to discuss here.
When a book is always available, it can benefit from unexpected interest in a way that isn’t possible otherwise. If something creates interest in your book, anyone that wants a copy will be able to buy it if it’s available as an ebook or print on demand.
Where demand comes from
You might be able to drive interest yourself. In an episode of the AskALLi podcast, Orna Ross talked about promoting one of her older books to coincide with the centenary of an event in the book. This is likely to be a potential marketing hook for historical fiction and non-fiction authors, but there are possibilities for other authors too.
Perhaps someone else will cause a flurry of interest. It’s well known in publishing circles that a celebrity endorsement of a book can drive book sales. The Oprah Effect, named after Oprah Winfrey because her book club always generated a lot of interest and sales. Other celebrities also have book clubs. Reese Witherspoon has one with the stated goal of elevating female voices. The Richard and Judy book club is big in the UK, and Emma Watson has a feminist book club.
Book clubs aren’t the only things that can cause sudden interest in a book. In 2020, a podcast released audio readings of a book titled The Cauldron, written under the pseudonym Zeno. It had been published in 1966 and was out of print. Demand from podcast listeners pushed the price of second-hand copies up from a few pounds to over £100. Had the book been available as an ebook or print on demand, the listeners would have been able to buy copies at a sensible price. The publisher and author would have received their usual share of the sale, too. Second-hand sales at hugely inflated prices benefit the seller, but no-one else.
Sometimes it won’t be obvious what caused the interest. In 2021, libraries in the Philippines suddenly bought lots of ebook copies of Jen’s children’s book. We couldn’t find out what had caused this burst of sales. But it was available via the libraries’ supplier, so Jen was able to benefit, even without knowing where the interest came from.
This is the less obvious, and rarely discussed, advantage of print on demand and ebooks. If something provokes interest in your book, or with non-fiction, your book’s subject, readers can find and buy your book immediately, and at a sensible price. You get your standard royalty from those sales. Everybody wins.
When done well, a reader doesn’t notice a book’s interior formatting. The purpose of the formatting, after all, is not to draw attention to itself, but rather to allow the reader to concentrate on the words in the book and the author’s message. When the interior is not done well, on the other hand, the reader is drawn out of the story. The reader notices the imperfections, and these will lead to a poor impression of the book as a whole.
There are many elements to a book’s interior. Authors are readers first, but as stated earlier, good formatting is invisible and doesn’t get noticed. Consequently, we don’t notice all the little things that make a professional interior. That makes it difficult to create an interior that will live up to a reader’s expectations.
Ebooks add an extra layer of complexity. The interior of a print book is fixed, but with an ebook, the reader can change almost anything. An ebook can be read on a tiny phone screen, a large monitor, or anything in-between. The interior formatting has to be able to adjust elegantly to all these possibilities. The elements of the book (cover, start position, epigraph, dedication, etc) must all be specially coded so that the reader device or software to identify them. It should also contain a metadata table of contents that can be displayed by a menu item or similar, in addition to the standard table of contents at the start of the book.
An ebook file should conform to the ePub standards. If it doesn’t, many vendors will refuse to accept it. A professional formatter understands all these requirements. They will be able to create a file that looks good on any screen, and passes the validation checks performed by vendors so that it will be accepted for sale.
Large print books have their own set of rules and expectations, to make them easier to read for people with limited vision. Some of these contradict the standard rules, so it’s not enough to simply increase the font size.
It’s possible to learn to do this yourself, using online resources to learn how to format a print book interior and an ebook. But these require an investment of time and possibly money, which is unlikely to be worthwhile for most authors. There are also converters online, some of which are free, but the results are unlikely to compare well to the work of a professional.
If you want a professionally designed interior that will allow your readers to enjoy your story, contact us.
DriveThruFiction is a small site, and most indie authors don’t bother with it. But it has some very useful features, and if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. For Robin, DriveThruFiction and their sister sites are bigger than Kobo, Apple, Nook, or Google Play.
DriveThruFiction is just one of several sites under the OneBookShelf banner. Robin has been publishing and selling on OneBookShelf since 2011, primarily on Wargame Vault. When uploading, it’s just a few tick boxes to publish to any others that are relevant, so most of Robin’s books are also on DriveThruRPG and DriveThruFiction.
DriveThruFiction grew out of DriveThruRPG, which started before ebooks and ereaders were popular, and they originally focused on PDFs. Nowadays, they support mobi and ePub as well as PDF and a variety of other formats, including MP3, so you can even sell audio books there.
To get started, set up a publisher account. Once set up, you can add your books. Drive ThruFiction offer print on demand (hardback and paperback) as well as electronic formats. The print on demand option uses Lightning Source, Ingram Spark’s sister company, to handle the actual printing, but unlike Ingram Spark, there’s no setup fee.
Print & ebook bundling
If a book is available in print and ebook, you can set an add-on cost which is the amount charged for the ebook when bought with the print book. This can be zero, so that a customer that buys the print book gets the ebook for free. Or it can be a discounted price for the ebook.
DriveThruFiction offers an affiliate scheme, with links that are simple to set up. If someone buys within fifteen days of following your affiliate link you get up to 5% of the purchase price. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add your affiliate code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
You can split the royalties of individual titles, so that a fixed percentage goes to someone else. This was originally intended to allow automatic compensation of illustrators, but Robin has used it to split the royalties on a co-authored book.
Pay what you want
DriveThruFiction offers a “pay what you want” pricing option. This allows customers to get the title for free (or at cost for print on demand titles), or to pay whatever they wish. This can be a useful alternative to permafree.
Tracking where sales come from
DriveThruFiction uses “source codes” to track where sales come from. By adding a parameter to the end of a link, eg “?src=website” you can monitor how many sales came from that link. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add a source code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
Let’s be honest, many authors dislike the idea of marketing, but without marketing, books don’t sell. Fortunately, DriveThruFiction have a range of tools that will help. Most of them require expenditure of “Publisher Promotion Points” (PPP). It is possible to buy PPP, but they’re deliberately expensive to discourage buying. Every publisher is given ten PPP every month, plus an extra one for every $10 of sales they made the previous month.
The cost of promotions are variable, depending on how many publishers are already using the option. The more publishers that are using a given feature, the higher the cost in PPP to use it. If you can’t afford a particular promotion, it’s worth checking again the next day as the cost might have gone down.
There is built-in support for bundling several titles. Just create a bundle and add titles. Set a bundle price for each title, and the bundle price will be the total of them. Alternatively, you can set a price for the bundle, and each book’s bundle price will be set accordingly.
It’s equally simple to set up a multi-author bundle. Just set a password for the bundle, then give that password to the other authors. They will then be able to add their books to the bundle. When the bundle sells, each book’s author gets their royalty based on the book’s bundle price.
Email your readers
You can’t get the email addresses of your readers, but you can email them via the website. These emails may not contain links to outside sites, but they can contain links to your other books on DriveThruFiction. Readers can opt out of receiving these emails, and you can see a report showing how many emails will be sent before sending it.
DriveThruFiction has a simple interface to create discount links. The discount can be any amount, including 100%. You can limit the discounts to a certain number of downloads, or give them an expiration date.
DriveThruFiction runs site-wide promotions periodically. You may opt in to all of these sales, or only those that offer a discount of 40% or less. In addition, you can optionally specify that only titles over a certain age are included, so that new releases aren’t discounted this way.
DriveThruFiction offers two types of advertising. Banner ads are the type of short, wide advert that were a common sight on websites some years ago. Featured messages are a small thumbnail of the book’s cover, with text to the left.
Both types can be displayed on the home page or the book’s category page. Not surprisingly, the PPP cost of home page placement is usually much higher.
Deal of the day
Every day, one title is the deal of the day, and you can submit your titles for inclusion. Titles are chosen at random, but those that aren’t chosen are kept in the list, so you’ll get chosen sooner or later.
Robin has found this to be the most effective use of their PPP, especially when combined with discount links and emailing readers. When they get a Deal of the Day, they use the “Email your readers” functionality to email everyone that has bought their other books but not this one. They include a link to the book’s page and tell them the discounted price.
A week or two after the deal, Robin emails everyone that has bought the deal book, with links to related books, sometimes including a discount link.
We are very happy to announce that we now offer two levels of formatting for both print and ebooks.
Our standard formatting looks good, is properly laid out, and follows standard industry conventions. We offer several different styles so that you can choose the one that is right for your book.
But up until now, our interiors were somewhat limited. They’re stylish, classic, and are easy to read, but some of our clients wanted more than that. We’re pleased to announce that we have now partnered with a company that specialises in interior formatting to provide a premium interior formatting service. We still offer the standard interiors, but if you choose to use the new premium option, you will get a completely bespoke interior, beautifully laid out, and you have complete control.
So, if you want your book to look amazing inside and out, contact us for a quote.
I own a copy of a rather unusual book, Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words. It includes volumes one and two in a single book. Volume one starts at the front, but to read volume two, you turn the book over and start from the back. The two meet in the middle.
I started wondering recently if I could create a book like this and get it printed and on sale. This article will explain how I made such a book and put it on sale via Ingram Spark. KDP Print doesn’t support this type of book.
For my book, I used the Project Gutenberg text of Little Wars and Floor Games, both by H.G. Wells. I chose these because they are in the public domain, they fit together, and they’re books that I’m happy to have on my shelves but didn’t already own.
Create the Interior PDFs
First, I created the interior files. I used Vellum to create two interior PDFs, one per book. In my book, Little Wars starts at the front, and Floor Games starts at the back. I had to rotate the Floor Games PDF, so it was upside down, and the pages had to be reversed.
To do that, I used a program named pdftk. I used the command-line version, although I believe a version with a graphical interface is also available. The command I used was:
The resulting PDF looked normal for the first half, but the second half was upside down and the page numbers went down instead of up.
Since this was an experiment, I created a simple cover on Canva. Again, the back cover had to be upside down. Because the book is very short, it didn’t have a distinct spine for me to worry about. I allowed Ingram Spark to add the barcode, and they added it to the default location. Normally, this would be on the bottom right of the design, but when the book is turned over to read the second book, the barcode appears in the top left, and upside down. A professional cover designer could have moved the barcode to a better location, although the barcode would still be upside down in relation to the back cover design.
I uploaded the cover and interior files in the normal way. Ingram Spark approved it for printing, but KDP Print would not. I have approved it for distribution, so if you would like to see the finished product, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (ISBN 978-1-912680-29-0). I have set the price deliberately low, since it’s on sale mostly so that people can see the results for themselves.
This was an unusual project that I undertook mostly as an experiment, but I’m pleased with the results. If you have a project that would suit this sort of treatment, we’d be happy to help. Email us for more information and to get started.
When we first started Author Help, it made sense to create a complete publishing package so that authors could get everything they needed in a single off-the-shelf bundle. But every author needs something different.
We recognise that some authors may need help getting up and running on social media, some want their work only in paperback, and some have particular needs around images. Books of different lengths and complexities take different times to work with.
We have rewritten our package offering from the ground up. There are new services available, we’ve hammered out the calculations, and we’ve put together some internal processes.
By making our package modular, each author we work with can get the service – and the price – that’s right for them. Plus we’ve added a few little extra touches!