Choosing a Print on Demand/ebook distribution service- Part Three

I never planned to have a third part for these series. You probably realized that I had Part one: Choosing a Print on Demand Service and Part Two: Choosing a Print on Demand service. And the result from both posts was choosing Lulu.com. The plan was that Lulu would be my chosen service for print books and also for ebook distribution. Of course, I wanted to keep it all in one single place. In the end, I had to withdraw my ebook from Lulu and choose another service. Let me tell you what happened:

  • I uploaded the Print book, ordered a proof and had it sent to me (that took me almost 6 weeks but that is not on Lulu’s side but the terrible shipping service to Bolivia, even when paying a more expensive one. It is not even the service to blame, but an ongoing issue with all shipping to Bolivia.)
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  • I contacted Lulu support and asked: “Is there a way for me to plan a launch date?” Everything about book marketing is about having your launch date. You plan ARCs, reviews, etc for the launch date. The short answer from Lulu was: “No”. They give you a 2-4 estimate for ebooks and 4-7 weeks for printed books. That is the time that you have to wait until the book is on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • I contacted Lulu support and asked “Will I know when the book is listed on a service?” Short answer. “No”. We suggest googling your ISBN starting on week 2. THIS IS annoying. Imagine yourself googling your ISBN every day to know when the book is already listed somewhere.
  • While the printed proof was on the way to far-away Bolivia. I thought that it was time to upload the ebook. I was trying to time both of them given the estimate of weeks that I was given for each version.
  • While I still waited for the printed book, 4 weeks had already passed since I submitted the ebook AND it wasn’t on Amazon. It was everywhere, even platforms I didn’t they existed, but not on Amazon. And to be honest for an ebook, the Amazon kindle version is the most important for your book’s official launch. Even reviewers ask for your Amazon link.
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  • The printed book finally arrived and I can admit that quality was really good. I was happy with that. I approved the book the same day. And guess what? the printed book was already on distribution and on Amazon the very next day. What was going on then with the ebook? Why wasn’t it listed? It was already one month after its submission.
  • I contacted Lulu and they gave an explanation of them having submitted the book to Amazon and not knowing why it wasn’t listed. Great answer! Sigh… They told me to wait a bit more.
  • I waited 2 weeks more. Meanwhile, the printed book was already online, and worst of all, it had been launched with the date when I ordered the proof, 2 months ago. September. That didn’t look good. I was telling people and reviewers that I was waiting for the books to be listed to announce the launching date and the printed book was already there since September 😦
  • This is the part when I got annoyed with Lulu. I contacted them at least 3 times more. I got autoreplies! from people not available, going on vacation, etc. Horrible customer support. That is when I thought. Do I have to use the same service for print and ebook? Therefore, I went back to my list of considered services and I knew there was one that had strucked me with good support service but was only doing digital: Draft2Digital.
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  • I decided I was going nowhere with Lulu. I thought that at this point I couldn’t wait forever for Amazon to list the ebook. I decided to retire my ebook from Lulu. I submitted it with Draft2Digital and:
  • It turns out that Draft2Digital helps you get a launch date. They tell you when your book is approved and listed with a platform. They tell you everything. They are good with customer service. It took around 3-4 days to have my ebook finally listed with Amazon. If they had the printed service, I would definitely move over with them. Another advantage is that you can select to be paid with PayPal and Payoneer (this is the only option that lets me cash out the money.) Besides their take on sales is lower than Lulu. I already knew this. Lulu’s take is 20% (aside from Global distribution fees) and Draft2Digital is 10%.
  • Funny fact to finish the story? After I retired my ebook from Lulu. They had the nerve to reply to my emails and say they were so sorry about this issue. It turns out they had been having problems with their platform and submissions to Amazon for many ebooks. I work with customer service. It would have made sense to mention that to their customers that in first place.

Conclusion: Why did I think that I had to use one single service for both versions? The ebook and the printed versions are considered different versions because they have their own ISBN. There is no rule anywhere that says that you have to use the same platform for both versions. For any new writers out there, looking into self-publishing, I hope this post helps with an additional option: publishing different versions with different services. What works better for you.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t checked my latest Editorial Review from SPR:

Do you want to get a copy of The Last Families?


You can also buy it at the following platforms:

I would greatly appreciate leaving a review if you decide to buy it.

Do you want to check out the book’s website?

Book Release “The Last Families”

I’m happy to announce the official release of my first fantasy novel “The Last Families”:

The book is available in paperback and ebook formats.


You can also buy it at the following platforms:

I would greatly appreciate leaving a review if you decide to buy it.

Do you want to check out the book’s website?

Understanding ARC and getting reviews

When I decided I was ready to publish my book, I never thought that getting reviews for the book’s launch would be that difficult. Everywhere you look for information, videos, and tutorials on what to do to launch your book, you get advice about getting early reviewers as part of your book launch “team”. We are not talking about reviews from your friend and family, but reviewers who do book reviews, have a platform of their own (a blog or social media), and can provide their honest review and have it on their platforms. The idea is to have some people talking about your work by the time the book gets launched.

There are many services that help you with this, meaning that you subscribe to get access to their reviewer database, but they don’t promise reviews. Then there is a more organic way to do this, i.e reaching bloggers or people with a platform and asking them to review your book.

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For any people out there in the process of self-publishing a book, I would like to tell you about my process and struggles with getting reviewers:

  • It won’t be easy. I thought that getting an agent for traditional publishing was difficult. No, getting reviewers is more difficult.
  • You can start requesting reviews before publishing your book. This is a review on your ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). There are services like Booksprout (with accessible prices), NetGalley (expensive) and others. My book is currently submitted in Booksprout in this link. I haven’t received any requests yet.
  • You can also use similar services like Reedsy Discovery to access their reviewers database and get a review by your launch day. The idea is to submit your review request on this platform around 1 week before the launch. It is paid service as well. One thing to take into account that these services clarify that the payment is only for access to their database but reviewers are not paid. Paid reviewers is a no, not only in Amazon, but also ethically.
  • Then there is the organic way to do this: search for book bloggers and social media people that do book reviews. This is like jumping into a sea of never-ending information. I was lucky enough to find this Reedsy list of Book Bloggers where you can find more than 200 bloggers. I went through each blog, read the review policy (where you can see if the blogger takes self-published books, if they read your genre, if they need a printed copy, etc) and emailed around 50 bloggers that read Fantasy and were open to reviewing books at the moment. Like Literry agents, book bloggers are sometimes open and sometimes not. I’ve starting getting some replies already that they are sorry but they won’t be able to review my book. Sigh…
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  • Then there is Blog Tours. I learned about them only a couple of months ago when I started this self-publishing project. Usually book bloggers with a high outreach will have their own people (followers) that are part of their network and will get them to either do a review on your book, publish an excerpt about it, do an author interview, or simply upload the book cover and info in their Bookstagram (more about this on a later post) and other social media. These tours are paid and are not very cheap. They usually last in between 1 to 2 weeks, and their packages will offer in between 7 to 15 book bloggers to talk about your book in the time you selected. I’m actually considering the cheapest ones and still thinking of its the advantages. If anybody out there has done a blog tour, please let me know your experience. Blog tours are not specifically reviews, but some participants might choose to do a review on your book, that is why I included it in this post.

In a next post, I will broaden on other book promotions that I found out there from $5 to the hundreds $$.

Has anybody had experience with book reviewers? Is there any other tip that I’m missing?

Receiving the first copy of my book

It took around one month for a copy of my printed book to get here. If you remember my previous post where I made a reflection of who I chose a Print on Demand service, you will remember that Lulu was the chosen one.

In order to start distributing paperback copies and have your book listed under services like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, Google Books, and others, they send you a printed copy of your book for you to approve it. It makes sense, especially when you design the interior and take care of all the formatting needed for the book. You want to make sure that the book is printing well, and the format and design you uploaded are showing correctly before it is distributed to other websites.

So after uploading my PDF (with all the needed formatting that I had to learn) and uploading a cover file (which was designed by a friend), the paperback copy was ready and therefore, I ordered a copy for “approval”.

Given my bad experience with carriers like DHL and the terrible Bolivian regular mail, I decided to use a service called Aeropost. It is a service for most Latin American countries. You send your order to an address in Miami (meaning that the shipping inside the US is quite fast and not expensive), and from there they consolidate their packages and bring them over to Bolivia. When I talked with the Aeropost sales representative, they said it would take the most 10 days. It was a decent waiting time for me. I paid online $14, which wasn’t that bad compared to what DHL would charge you, and waited.

After ten days, I could still see my package not having left Miami. After calls to Aeropost, it turned out that they were using a very low-key military airline to bring the packages over and that airline had stopped their flights. They were trying to negotiate shipping with a new airline. Short story, it took one month for the package to get there. Regular mail would have taken almost the same, around 6 weeks. That delayed all the plans that I had to release the book in November. The book got here at the beginning of this week and I just approved the printed copy on Lulu’s website. Now there is a wait time of 8 weeks, after approval, for your book to be listed on other services. At this pace, I only hope the book will be out there this year (crossing fingers it will be for Christmas).

I thought it would be fun to record myself at the moment of receiving my book, unpackaging it, and seeing it for the first time. I didn’t know if I was going to use that video for social media or not. Maybe I really didn’t like the book, and my reaction was terrible, but I decided to do it anyway. Anyway, it would be a good memory to recall: that time when I first saw a copy of my first book. The book looks quite good. The cover is awesome and printing has gone very well. All formatting looks top-notch and I feel relieved.

I thought it would be a good idea to embed this Instagram video here: (if you are not seeing the video play, please click on the image)

Now, let’s cross fingers I can announce the book’s release for this year.

Social media for a book

I have to admit that I don’t like social media platforms that much. If I could disconnect from the social media world indefinitely, I would do it. But unfortunately, in today’s world, it is needed. As a writer, to promote a book, it is imperative to use it. If you are self-publishing and living in a country where the language of the book is not the native one, then you need it more.

When I decided to self-publish “The Last Families”, I knew I was going to be on my own in regards to book promotion. I know there are services out there that help you with this process, but let’s be realistic, they are too expensive. I also knew that traditional promotion like book fairs, reading, or signing in a bookshop wasn’t for me because I live in Bolivia and those are limited here to books in Spanish.

Therefore, my best way to get to other readers out there that are comfortable reading in English is with social media. Even if you have a blog and website, people are not going to find your book just like that with a simple Google or Amazon search. Social media promotion is needed.

Initially, I tried to limit myself to my Facebook Page and Twitter following, but personally, those aren’t the ones that I used the most, they are only the older ones. Nowadays, if I have to use social media, I prefer Instagram and Pinterest. I also know that much of the fantasy world’s best can live in Tumblr. Therefore, without realizing it, I ended up with several social media.

You are, of course, most welcome to follow any of them. But If you are like me, that prefers blogs and websites, aside from this post, it would be great if you can follow “The Last Families” website:

Instagram

Facebook

Pinterest

Tumblr

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