The American Booksellers Association recently presented the final session in a series of three online Marketing Meetups focusing on topics related to IngramSpark, the print-on-demand book publishing service and e-book distribution tool.
The June 20 Marketing Meetup, hosted by ABA on Zoom.us, was titled “Offering Printing & Publishing Services to Your Local Community” and featured guest speakers Josh Floyd, manager of business development for IngramSpark; Paul Hanson and Annabelle Barrett of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington; and Haley Chung of Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.
Village Books has been offering an independent publishing program to its customers since the Espresso Book Machine was first introduced to the market, said Hanson; now, the store uses IngramSpark. Instead of offering solely printing services, Hanson said, Village Books supports authors through the entirety of their book’s lifecycle for a flat fee of $700. Currently, the program has 28 active clients.
“We like to support the life of the book and the journey of the writer from [idea] to publication and beyond,” Hanson said, noting that separate from its publishing service, the store has “a pretty robust program of writing groups that they can participate in, as well as writing classes that we offer in partnership with Whatcom Community College and a two-day writing conference.”
When writers are ready, Hanson said, Village Books partners with IngramSpark and a local printer. “Our publishing program is mostly project management, where we will bring on our clients and partner them up with a pool of freelancers that we’ve interviewed here in the community,” he said.
Barrett added that the freelancers range from editors and beta readers to illustrators and designers, and Village Books is also working on creating a team of freelance marketers. “We use that as a support system for [the authors],” she said. “We interview all of our freelancers so we know they’re comfortable with the process, and that way our authors know they have the best of what the community has to offer.”
She noted that the store has dedicated staff for the program because authors “feel like they’re being listened to. It’s not like another online site.” Said Barrett, “They come to us because they want to be able to talk to someone face to face. They want to feel like we’re hearing them and we actually care about the book, and I think it’s super helpful to have someone who’s there for the entire lifecycle.”
To start the partnership process, Village Books meets with authors individually and tailors their process to what they need, said Barrett. During the initial consultation, Village Books asks the author what they’re looking for in the program, how much independence they want, and how much support they want. “Some authors are confident and they just need us to point them in the right direction,” she said, “whereas other authors really need a lot of help and a lot of support.”
Additionally, writers who participate in the IngramSpark independent publishing program enjoy other benefits, Hanson said, including consignment, the ability to host an event in-store, and getting their titles displayed front and center in the store.
He added that one of the challenges of running a publishing program is managing time and expectations. Authors on consignment and in the publishing program, he said, “are a lot more demanding of your time. They’re doing this for the first time and you have to teach them what it’s like to sell the books.”
The store’s publishing coordinators split their working hours between the publishing program and bookselling. “We have to manage expectations and communication with our clients,” he said, which includes reminding clients that services are appointment-only.
Village Books also uses IngramSpark to produce its own publishing line, Chuckanut Editions, which publishes regional-interest titles and books that seem to have a long-term marketability and a known readership, Hanson added. “We really want to have long legs on it rather than a big splash,” he said. “Most of the ones that we have are local history, from children’s books to geology.”
Like Village Books, Politics & Prose also began its publishing program with the Espresso Book Machine in 2011, said Chung. The store transferred to IngramSpark once the machine began to break down in order to better meet customer demand. At any given time during the year, Chung said, P&P is working on 40 different titles. In a full year, the store works with as many as 150 authors.
P&P handles all the design and layout for customers, Chung said, and offers a consignment program. The store also has different packages that allow authors to create different projects, such as books meant to be solely distributed amongst friends and family and books meant to be sold in-store. The packages are priced based off what they offer; authors who come to P&P with a clean manuscript that is ready to be published are charged as little as $99, and prices rise from there. P&P’s publishing packages can be found here.
Authors can choose to complete P&P’s publishing program through IngramSpark, which allows them to consign the book with the store for a full year, she added, or they can bring their files published from different outlets and participate in a separate consignment program.
Chung noted that P&P also has a dedicated staff member for the publishing process because “it’s alluring to be able to work with the same people.” Said Chung, “For a lot of people, it’s their first time writing or producing a book in this way, and to have one point of contact to answer all your questions and to be there for the entire lifecycle of the book, from Word document to proof copy, it’s really useful.”
Chung also said that managing client expectations and creating boundaries is especially important. “Make sure they know how the process works and not to step outside of that,” she said.
Bookstores that offer publishing services to their local communities can consider instituting an in-store internship program for local college students, which can help ensure a dedicated point of contact for authors, Floyd suggested.
He also said that smaller stores that want to offer services to authors but might not have the means for a full-fledged program can implement the services in any way and to any extent that they’d like. “It can be as simple as just referring authors to IngramSpark,” he said. “You don’t even have to do printing and publishing, you can offer author education programs or author consulting.”
One of the things booksellers might find, Floyd said, is that authors coming in from the local community might not have any other way to get this information. “They’re coming to you because you’re a bookstore. They’re going in to talk about books, whether they’re buying them or creating them,” he said. “As a small store, just start by having an author education program, or just offer consulting.”
Booksellers can consult authors on the ins and outs of the industry, Floyd said, or simply walk them through opening an IngramSpark account. Said Floyd, “Use our program to generate money and consultations for your authors.”
Booksellers who would like to participate in the next 30-minute Marketing Meetup, which will be held on July 11 and cover marketing to romance readers, can sign up on BookWeb.org. All ABA members are invited to join. Meetups are held at 11:00 a.m. ET on two Thursdays a month.
Past and upcoming Marketing Meetups, along with recaps previously published in BTW, are available on BookWeb. ABA’s Marketing Meetups are part of the organization’s educational offerings for member bookstores; visit BookWeb’s Education Resources section for even more educational content.