Earn more readers!
Most self-published authors face a depressing conundrum: They labor over their magnum opus, then they release it to market … only to discover that they cannot meaningfully access the industry’s standard distribution network.
We’ve seen a lot of self-published work over the years. Some of it, admittedly, probably isn’t ready for prime time. But some of it is. And some of it is absolutely glorious! To support the self-published writing community, Lakeshore Literary offers a special catalog just for self-published authors, accessible along with our small-press and lit-journal catalogs. In our self-published author catalog, you’ll get:
- Title visibility — partner bookstores can buy your book through our catalog, so you don’t have to worry about asking for a consignment agreement.
- Low costs — our business model treats our distribution subsidiary as a service, not as a profit center.
- Discovery with indie booksellers — the additional metadata we request from you promotes discoverability and potential partnerships with bookstores in your community.
As a distributor, we make books available in the wholesale market. We insert them into a convenient catalog on behalf of people who buy the books for bookstores. We cannot guarantee any sales for your book. What we can guarantee, however, is that bookstores that use our catalog have the same access to your book as they do to any other commercially released title that we distribute. Plus, we carry your book inventory on the shelves of our bookstore and café, so people can buy it off-the-shelf retail from at least one bookstore.
FUN FACT: Pull all the ISBNs of published books into a hat, then pull one out at random. Odds are less than 1 percent that this book will have been housed on even a single retail shelf.
Eligibility Criteria for Self-Published Author Distribution
We believe that a well-deserving segment of the self-published market is worth broad distribution. Because we sell to bookstores, libraries and book clubs — and not exclusively to consumers — we enroll books that a reasonable retailer might acquire and a reasonably large reading audience might purchase within a space-constrained bricks-and-mortar environment. We must therefore carefully curate the titles we accept.
We look for books that:
- Enjoy a broad market appeal. Titles that are hyper-niche might sell intermittently online, but most retailers (especially small indie bookstores) don’t have space to stock stuff that won’t appeal to at least a reasonably large chunk of their patrons. Books about specific church histories, memoirs from people who aren’t well-known, non-fiction books by authors with no obvious expertise to write on the subject — stuff like that proves tough to sell on the open market.
- Conform to expected genre norms. Your sparkly gay vampire romance set in ancient Steampunk Egypt might be a great book. But if it’s not clear where it ought to be shelved, it probably won’t be. Fiction should conform reasonably well to standard genre expectations. Most retailers remain reticent to take a chance on these mixed-metaphor titles that defy straightforward answer to questions like, “Upon which shelf does this book belong?”
- Price competitively. Select a price that’s aligned with your genre and word count. One reason that short books — like novellas and novels of fewer than roughly 60,000 words — are rarely purchased for the adult retail market is that the size/heft of the book, relative to the price tag, generally disappoints consumers. A shopper on a budget is more likely to spend $14.99 for a 90,000-word novel than $9.99 for a 30,000-word novella.
- Present as free of obvious typographical and styling errors. Books improved through the efforts of independent book editors or high-functioning critique groups are probably more likely to shine with clean, crisp language than books from authors working in relative isolation. Books face a brisk headwind with shoppers when the product demonstrates inconsistent interior formatting, routine spelling errors, grammatical missteps, or non-standard typefaces.
- Offer a pleasing cover likely to incur readers’ interest. Covers represent a major marketing tool for your book. Covers developed in partnership with experienced graphic designers tend to be more eye-catching than the alternative. Retailers prefer books that present a beautiful visual appeal.
Five important caveats:
- If you paid to get your book published, we cannot consider the book for distribution. When we say paid, we mean that if you, as the author, gave any money to the publisher at any time for any reason (including “cost-sharing payments” or “assisted publishing fees” or “investments in your success”), we cannot list your book in our self-publishing catalog. There are two reasons for this restriction. First, we’d need to evaluate your contract with that publisher to determine whether we’re lawfully authorized to distribute the book — a cumbersome and invasive process, and cost-prohibitive in terms of attorney review. Second, we do not believe that pay-to-publish arrangements are good for authors eager for a broad market, so for ethical reasons, we refuse to work with the products of hybrid/vanity/subsidy presses.
- It’s likely that many books will not be accepted for the catalog. Please think carefully whether your book is truly market-viable before you pay our registration fee and send us an inspection copy, because the fee and the book are both non-returnable.
- We opened our doors officially in January 2022 and are growing our bookstore-partner list. Our early efforts will focus on the Upper Midwest, and in particular, the Michigan market. However, we’re still in that early chicken-and-egg phase where authors are leery of giving us titles because few bookstores are interested, and few bookstores are interested because few authors have signed up. You’ll be an early adopter if you join us (as we hope you do!).
- We cannot tell you whether we would or wouldn’t accept your book outside of the application process. Please do not contact us with questions like, “Would you accept …” — we cannot make that determination until we weigh all of the information and examine a specimen copy of the book.
- We do not distribute electronic books, nor do we manage sales on your behalf with other distributors (like Amazon).
How to Submit a Self-Published Book
We require three things to evaluate your book — an online registration form; a one-time, non-refundable payment of $50 per book; and one physical, non-returnable copy of the book.
You may pay the fee through our shopping cart (put your order number on the registration form) or include a check or money order in your mail package. Because several people review paperwork and the form is designed to transfer data efficiently, we cannot accept printed or emailed versions of the form, but it’s okay to remit payment by check.
Within two weeks after receiving your book in the mail, we’ll reply with our determination. If we accept your book, we’ll ask you to ship us copies that we can use for order fulfillment and ask you a few more specific questions that we need for the catalog but not for our initial review. If we do not accept your book, we will reply with the specific, detailed reasons we think your book is not a good candidate for our distribution catalog.
Two important things:
- Our registration fee is non-refundable because we take time to assess every book. If we accept you, the fee covers time and costs related to reviewing, ISBN provisioning, database enrollment, and paperwork processing. If we don’t accept your book, the fee includes a detailed summary explaining our rationale. For some authors, this summary constitutes the first meaningful feedback they’ve received about their book.
- We insist on a print copy because we inspect the quality of the artifact. If your printer isn’t good — bad glue, off-center trims, etc. — we aren’t likely to carry the product. Obviously, we can’t perform this inspection with an electronic copy of your book.
Transmit the books to us at:
Lakeshore Literary, Inc.
1590 44th St SW
Wyoming MI 49509 USA
Please, do not send us packages that require a signature upon acceptance. We’re rarely in the office when our cheerful but overburdened mail carrier makes his appointed rounds. Correspondence that requires a signature will often be returned to sender, undelivered. Sorry!
Sundry Terms and Conditions
Additional fees. There aren’t any. Apart from your up-front application fee, we will not charge you any other fees.
Indemnifications. Lakeshore Literary assumes that you’re not obligated by any exclusive distribution contract. For example, some books published through Amazon, and which incur Amazon’s ISBN, technically cannot be resold through other distributors. You’ll have to warrant that you’re free to work with us. Likewise, you’ll have to warrant that you own the copyright to the book and are not encumbered by a publisher’s exclusive right to distribute it. We encourage you to carefully reflect on this point; you’ll indemnify us against damages, so if you’re playing fast-and-loose with your contracts with others, the legal liability accrues solely to you. We remain, however, happy to discuss the specifics of your situation if you’re unsure of your eligibility.
Metadata. We request certain, optional, metadata fields from you. You’re not obligated to transmit them, and failing to answer those questions does not affect the acceptance or non-acceptance of your book into our catalog. We ask for them because this information appears in the catalog; it’s intended to help small bookstores identify local talent for in-store signing events and related marketing purposes.
Product IDs. Most self-published books do not obtain ISBNs, or they obtain a limited-use ISBN or ASIN through Amazon. Lakeshore Literary will provision ISBNs (at our cost) for you, as needed, that will govern the book during our period of distribution. As such, we may place a sticker on your books with this identifier. If you purchased your own ISBN through Bowker and you incorporated a barcode into your cover, then we won’t add our own labels. When you remove a book from our distribution catalog that includes our ISBN, we must retire that ISBN — we cannot make it available for your ongoing use, as per Bowker’s rules.
Payments. We extend a 55 percent discount off the book’s list price to all wholesale buyers (this is an industry-standard rate from a publisher perspective, alas). We retain 15 percent to cover overhead and shipping and return 30 percent to the author. We pay quarterly (February, May, August, November) when revenue accrues to $50, and annually if the accrual rate hasn’t reached $50 after 12 months.
- For example, if in February 2022 we sell eight of your books priced at $14.99, we owe you $35.98. We will pay that amount in February 2023. However, if we sold an additional nine of your books in March 2022, we’d owe you a grand total of $76.45, which we’d pay in May 2022.
We also send quarterly statements regardless of whether you have any payments due to you, so you understand how your book performs in the marketplace.
The only exception to this rule is if non-wholesale consumers (i.e., ordinary readers who find our website or drop into our bookstore) elect to purchase from us at full retail, we’ll pay you 80 percent of list.
At our sole discretion, we may make small-dollar payables available to you as a credit in our catalog system, in advance of a contractually mandated payout, which you may withdraw to your bank account or use as in-store credit to purchase other books in our catalog.
Returns. Industry trends suggest that 15 to 20 percent of all books purchased in the distribution market are eventually returned. For self-published authors, we expect that returns will occasionally accrue, and we will debit the return to your account as they occur. Because most self-published books aren’t likely to sell large quantities of titles, Lakeshore Literary does not presently require a reserve against payments to accommodate returns. If your account is negative at the time we discontinue our working relationship, we will invoice you for any balance you owe us, although we may (at our sole discretion) waive small balances to avoid unnecessary penny-chasing paperwork.
Discounts. At our sole discretion, we may extend self-published authors in our catalog a courtesy discount off the full retail price of books we maintain in our general catalogs.
Provisioning of Product. If we agree to carry your book(s), you’ll generally need to supply us with a minimum number (often, 10 copies at first) we use to fulfill orders. You must be able to supply additional copies if sales trends warrant it. Shipment to our office, and the print cost of the books, is at your expense.
Discontinuation of Partnership. If, after a minimum of nine months, you are not satisfied with us, you can discontinue your relationship with us with no penalty — either in general, or on a per-title basis. We require 90 days from your date of notice to inform relevant book buyers that their return window closes for specific titles; if none of your books are outstanding, then a 90-day window is obviously not necessary. At the end of that period, we will ship to you (at our cost) all of your remaining unsold stock as well as any payments due to you, regardless of whether they met our normal $50 payout threshold.