Getting Past The ‘Bookstore Barrier’: Freethy And Ingram Go Into Print

iStockphoto: rustyjaw
iStockphoto: rustyjaw

‘Without Giving Up Digital Rights To One Of The Big Five’

The best-of-the-bestselling Amazon Kindle Million Club independent authors today is announcing a partnership with one of the recognized giants in book distribution:

Ingram is providing a full-service sales and publishing team that will also be instrumental in selling, printing and distributing the books worldwide as they do for many publishers. Our aim is to get the books in bookstores and retail outlets around the world. I’m thrilled to be working with such an innovative company. Together, we hope to fill a void in the print market.

That’s the women’s fiction author Barbara Freethy telling me about her new arrangement with Ingram Publisher Services. Freethy sees the deal as a breakthrough for self-publishers, getting her past the mostly-digital realm of ebooks and into the global network of stores and other print-based channels in which Ingram traditionally operates.

As you know, I haven’t been able to get my digital titles into print without giving up digital rights to one of the Big Five publishers. But now through Ingram, I’ll be able to do just that. It’s a game-changer for bestselling digital authors who haven’t been able to make this happen until now.

The author Hugh Howey has congratulated Freethy on the partnership, writing, “She retains the rights. Ingram makes their wholesale fee. Barbara keeps the rest. Bookstores get more great content. Readers have access to one of today’s hottest selling authors. Everyone wins.” He goes on:

Kudos to Ingram for putting this together. This removes one of the last few barriers for self-published authors, and that’s print distribution to brick and mortar stores. For other bestselling self-published authors, it’ll mean another option other than selling off all rights to a work, since publishers have been loathe to sign more print-only deals. And it should help bookstores, who didn’t have access to some of the bestselling works around.

Barbara Freethy
Barbara Freethy

“Together, we are going to make history,” Freethy says in a prepared statement for Ingram, “bringing my indie best-selling digital books to the print world in a big way.”

And Freethy does have a few books to offer. (Are  you sitting down?)

One of the canniest of the “indie bestsellers” in reclaiming and reactivating her original traditionally published backlist, Freethy has built on that inventory to now count 40 titles to her name.

“I’ve sold more than 4.8 million ebooks in the last 3 years,” she tells me, “but have been unable to get back into print in a big way–until now.”

It’s that total of sales — making her nearly a five-time Kindle Million Club member — that prompted Amazon in August to name her the biggest Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) seller in the pantheon of self-published outliers, which includes indie icons Howey, CJ Lyons, Bella Andre, Tina Folsom, Jasinda Wilder, Stephanie bond, H.M. Ward, Liliana Hart, and several others. Additionally, Freethy is noted as the first author to have sold more than 1 million ebooks at Barnes & Noble.

Almost half of Freethy’s titles — 19, count ’em, 19 — have become New York Times bestsellers. Summer Secrets reached the No. 1 spot.

I recall asking her during a live online-conference interview from her home in California late last year how she manages to write a word when she’s busy managing such a body of work. Answer: her daughter, Kristen Freethy has become chief of her mother’s sales operations. Freethy-the-younger directs a team of freelance specialists in keeping it all on track.

What you’re looking at is the nether reaches of the self-publishing sector’s dream: Freethy, Inc. is booming.

I always tease Freethy that her book covers inevitably have a body of water in them — a sea, a bay, a lagoon. She concedes it’s a theme for her. And? She can set those cover-art scenes anywhere she wants to now. This author is fully and completely calling the shots.

In her words to me:

My company sells more books and makes more money than many small publishing houses.

‘For Her Physical Books’

In answer to my questions, Ingram officials confirm that the news of Freethy’s new venture with them does not constitute a new program on their part. It does appear, however, to be a new and aggressive effort in demonstrating what Ingram can do for self-publishers.

This could be helpful. While the problems that independent authors have in getting into brick-and-mortar stores have been well known, the capabilities Ingram has to overcome those hurdles have remained less clear.

Ingram and its subsidiary IngramSpark are frequent sponsors of writers’ conferences and events. I was pleased to have Ingram’s London-based David Taylor on one of the Frankfurt Book Fair panels produced by Authoright on Friday. Taylor’s associate Robin Cutler is a familiar face in publishing circles and was with us at Frankfurt’s new Business Club over the weekend.

But the road to print has continued to be hard for many self-publishers to discern. Beyond the services of David Symond’s CreateSpace, the battle to move into bookstores and libraries with self-published print titles has flagged.

What’s new here is not only Freethy’s formalizing of a relationship with Ingram to open up a major channel into print venues for her work but also her establishment of a new company of her own, Hyde Street Press, to facilitate the arrangement.

For two years, she has published her ebooks under the LLC called Fog City Publishing. It’s not uncommon for active self-publishers to do business as a limited liability corporation in the States.

The easy way to think of how Freethy and daughter Kristen are structuring this is to think of Fog City as the parent company, the ebook-producer, and and Hyde Street as the print-b0ok producing element. Freethy lays it out for me this way:

I created Hyde Street Press as the print imprint of my publishing company Fog City Publishing, LLC. I wanted to distinguish between these print books and my digital catalog. I formed Fog City Publishing in 2012, and I manage a list of 26 of my own titles that continues to grow each year.

Under this newly announced arrangement, the two Freethys expect Hyde Street to produce six to eight print titles annually. They’ll then be distributed through Ingram’s system.

Ingram Vice-President and General Manager Mark Ouimet says in a prepared statement, “By taking advantage of Ingram’s services, Barbara will be able to easily provide readers with the flexibility to experience her beloved books in the formats they like best.”

Ouimet is describing what Ingram likes to call “full-service sales and distribution…using a combination of relevant services to meet demand.”

In answer to my questions, Ouimet confirms that this is not limited to print-on-demand (POD): “It could be pre-printed books in a warehouse,” he says, “or books that have been manufactured using POD.”

Freethy first four for Hyde Street Press

The key word here is ‘combination’

Ingram appears to hope to demonstrate a flexibility on behalf of this major self-publishing author that can resonate with others in the independent world whose sales have so far stopped at the digital divide.

Ouimet tells me:

Publishers that work with Ingram Publisher Services have access to a broad range of services including the traditional stocking of inventory, print-on-demand and offset printing for large order quantities. Ingram Publisher Services is collaborating with Barbara and her Hyde Street Press team to utilize the best combination of our services to meet the demand for her physical books.

Four Freethy Callaway Family series hits are scheduled for spring 2015 as the inaugural releases from Hyde Street and handled by Ingram:

Summer Secrets and Don’t Say A Word are slated for later release in 2015.

Emphasizing Ingram’s range of services for “a variety of publishers,” Ouimet tells me, “For an author with a platform like Barbara, she can publish her books and we can provide her with the broadest possible access to markets and readers.”

And Freethy, for her part, is exuberant:

Ingram is providing a full-service sales and publishing team that will also be instrumental in selling, printing and distributing the books worldwide as they do for many publishers. Our aim is to get the books into bookstores and retail outlets around the world. I’m thrilled to be working with such an innovative company. Together, we hope to fill a void in the print market.

Freethy’s progress will be watched carefully, not only by her fellow independent authors but also by traditional-industry defenders who have taken some comfort in that “bookstore barrier” to self-publishers. Many in the “trad” or “legacy” world are fond of saying that their channels remain dominant because print is still, of course, the preference of many readers and discoverability in bookstores is considered a key to success.

If Ingram can translate what it’s doing for the big-selling Freethy into practical, actionable avenues to bookshops for more modestly producing self-publishers, a considerable shift might be in the offing.

“It’s a game-changer for bestselling digital authors who haven’t been able to make this happen until now,” Freethy says to me. “Certainly I think it’s going to be a big win for everyone — booksellers, readers and indie author-publishers.” TC mark

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