Book Expo 2018: What’s Trending for Independent Publishers

Javits Conference Center, where Book Expo 2018 took place!

A few weeks ago, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City.  It was my first visit in two years, having missed the Chicago show of 2017, and I was struck by the size and quiet on the floor.  The Expo may not have the same value as it used to for traditional, mainstream publishing. However, in the continuously emerging indie publishing industry there is a lot to see and learn.  Here are some of the things I brought back to share with the indie world—authors, publishers, and those who serve them.

1.BISC Book Expo 2018 Bar Codes:  I recently heard from some book professionals that it was imperative to have a price in the bar code on the back of a book.  I took the question to the highest authority on the subject at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group).  His answer was that the bar code is the identifier for the book, generated off of the ISBN and nothing else should be displayed in or on it. He mentioned that there is discussion in the industry about not putting prices on books at all.  What other product comes with a price engraved on itself?

2Independent Publishers Group Logo Book Expo 2018Distribution:  POD (Print-on-Demand) is used by many businesses in the indie publishing world, but this method often makes distribution to brick-and-mortar stores difficult to achieve.  I spoke with several different distributors at Book Expo 2018, including IngramSpark (a POD distributor) to find out how an indie publisher might be able to work with them.  In general, distributors are looking for publishers who release at least ten titles per year.  While there are exceptions to every rule, the increase in small publishers has encouraged companies to be more efficient and choosy about which ones they represent.  A few distributors to mention are: NBN; Consortium; Independent Publishers Group; and Baker and Taylor.

3. Fulfillment Options: Many indie publishing companies are selling books through multiple channels.  IngramSpark/POD is one channel, but you can also order copies in quantity and set them up for fulfillment by a third party.  One of these is Amazon Advantage.  The shopping cart on your site can link to your Amazon Advantage account, which allows you to have copies stored at an Amazon warehouse.  Customers will click the “buy” link on your site and Amazon will fulfill the order behind the scenes. You can still sell on Amazon through the POD channel, and also set up an Advantage account to sell direct.  Amazon Advantage also allows you to utilize many advertising opportunities that can help move copies.

Check back in the coming weeks as I go through my notes from Book Expo 2018 and bring you more insight into what’s going on in the indie publishing world!

Publish, Release, Launch: Some of The What and When of Book Publishing

james pattersonI will let you in on a secret: no one, not even the big publishers, know exactly when to publish a book.  Yes, there are some givens, like making sure you are able to get into holiday and other promotions like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Then there are books by authors that consumers are trained to buy in a certain month based on its availability.  I’m talking about Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and others who write at least one book per year.

I should also mention the reason a book is usually published on a certain date is because of marketing and publicity reasons.  We try to get books out there when they will be featured most prominently and when the media are interested in what the titles and authors have to say. 

For self-published authors I recommend that they publish the book as soon as it is ready.  I call this a “soft publication.”   Your “media date” or “hard publication” can be  whenever you think the stars are going to align with media coverage and the success of your marketing—or when you think you can sell the most books!

I’m going to try to break down what the norms are in terms of publication months, but first I need to address some lingo that is tossed around and needs to be clarified.

Publication: This means that your book is on the market and available for sale via any and all distribution channels.

Release: This usually means the date that books are shipped from a distribution center to online and retail stores.  However, I’ve seen it used interchangeably with “publication” but for some people it means something different.  I’m not saying you are wrong for using the word, but knowing that there are other meanings out there might help clear up some confusion.

Launch: This term is a pet peeve of mine, because using this word implies there is some kind of event attached to the publication of your book.  If you are a celebrity or famous person and/or your book has breaking news that is going to dictate an entire news cycle, then perhaps “launch” is a good word to use.  But I caution people about calling publication a launch, because I think there are inherent expectations associated with using the word that can potentially be cause for disappointment.  

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Having said all of this, here are some monthly breakdowns that I have generally experienced as the accepted publication patterns:

January (Or “New Year, New You”)

Self-help; diet; inspirational; business—if you fit into this category, this is what the media are generally interested in, and it’s what consumers are thinking about.

February 

Self-help associated with relationships; debut authors; business; fiction—if you are a debut author, this month is not as full of new titles and there may be more promotion and media opportunities for you as a result.

March

Debut authors; mysteries; fiction

April

Women’s fiction

May

Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing

June

More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or other non-fiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day

July

Quieter month better for debut authors; more of what you saw in June

August

Debut authors; education related titles; narrative non-fiction by lesser known writers

September

Public affairs and politics; serial authors in fiction and non-fiction; cooking; highly publicized titles by debut authors

October

More politics; cooking; big non-fiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher end photography books; art books

November

Photography; art; gift books; big names; and anything else you can think of that will sell in the current budget year

December

Good month for lesser known authors.  A variety of books are published including late comers for Christmas or those titles that people want to get a jump on for January

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You may notice that the categories are not always dictated firmly in one month or another—this is what I mean about the secret.  In the end what everyone wants to do is get the book out there at the best possible moment.  But you need to consider what you can control and what you can’t.  After you make your best educated decision, you have to go with it and plan as if it will be the biggest “launch” you’ve ever seen! 😉