Category Archives: Opinion

How to Dwarf a Giant

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

For Starters, Stop Mentioning Its Name at Every Turn

Last year, an epic battle played out on the North American book publishing landscape.

The conflict pitted an ecommerce retailer/vanity publisher against traditional trade publishers, new ideas against old, price against value, which ultimately spawned the creation of a group called Authors United led by American author Douglas Preston.

In November of 2014, a soldier on the traditional side of this battle was victorious in negotiating a deal that allows trade publishers the continued right to dictate their own retail prices for the books they produce. This has always been the relationship between manufacturers and their retailers, as it should be. The manufacturer (publisher) knows its own production costs and, therefore, sets its manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) based on those costs. The retailer, in turn, lists the item at that suggested price and may or may not provide discounts to their buyers based on their own projected profit margins.

Despite this win, Preston is still concerned.




“The main problem hasn’t gone away,” he told Publisher’s Weekly. “When one company controls 50 percent of the market, and it has proven itself to be ruthless and uncaring with authors, that’s a problem. We don’t want this to happen again.”

His solution is to continue drawing attention to the problem in 2015 by sending a formal complaint to the Department of Justice citing possible antitrust issues which will surely keep this retailer in front-page news for several months to come.

Does anyone remember the movie The Golden Compass? Do you recall all the extra press coverage this movie received back in 2007 when the Catholic Church condemned it for sending an anti-religious message? By calling for a public boycott of the film, the Church actually drew even more attention to it, which inadvertently boosted its sales. That’s why I bought my ticket. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

By the same token, if the goal of Authors United is to dwarf a retail giant that has grown too big for its britches over the years, perhaps a more effective tactic would be to stop mentioning its name at every turn. Change the focus altogether.

There are many exceptional retailers around the world that will happily sell various book formats for their clients without exclusivity contracts while also letting those publishers (self-publishers) determine their own recommended retail prices. How about rewarding these allies by referring customers to buy books from them instead of giving all the focus and energy to a perceived adversary?

There are also many potential customers out there with different motives for buying various types of books. Some people make buying decisions based on price while others make buying decisions based on value. There is a time and a place for both types of marketing. It all depends on your book’s customer base and what will speak to them most. Trade published authors and self-publishers alike should do the necessary research to understand what their customers want, rather than blindly choosing one form of marketing over the other based on the viewpoint of one retailer. It is your customer’s wants and needs that should determine your marketing strategy.

Value-based selling is far from being a new concept, even if it’s a bit foreign to some within the book publishing industry. If it can be used to sell a car, a clothing item, or even a cup of coffee, it can be used to sell a book. And, it can result in a higher profit for the copyright owner of that book while providing more value to the buyer. It’s all just a matter of a little education.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2015 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

The War Over How to Price Ebooks: Kindle versus Hachette Book Group (Value-based Selling)

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

In addition to my book publishing background, I also worked in the world of print advertising sales for many years—a truly valuable experience for me on so many levels. Each of the companies I worked for were industry leaders within their own fields, and the greatest privilege I derived from working with them was a true understanding (and appreciation!) of the many benefits of value-based selling. I’m grateful to all of them for this education … thank you.

Excerpt from How to Publish a Bestselling Book … and Sell It WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price!:

“…most people are already pretty comfortable with price-based selling (i.e., offering sales and discounts to try to undercut the competition’s price); therefore, we’re going to focus on value-based selling here, instead. It’s an important skill to master because, at the end of the day, anyone can sell on price. But here’s the biggest problem with that plan: if price is the only thing you’ve got, and then someone else with a similar offering comes in at a lower price than you can match, you’re done. You’re finished. You’ve got nowhere else to go. However, if you can learn how to sell based on perceived value right from the start, you’ll always be able to justify your price as it is. You can even increase that price down the road by adding even more value to your overall offering.”

How does this relate to Kindle and the Hachette Book Group? Well, as most people in the digital publishing industry are already aware, there is an ongoing battle between these two giants regarding how to price an ebook. And it’s a passionate war! It’s so passionate, in fact, that Kindle sent out a mass email to all its ebook publishers seeking support of its stance against Hachette, and containing the direct email address for Hachette’s CEO (ouch!), with the hopes we would all send him angry letters in support of Kindle.



In a nutshell, here is Kindle’s stance on how to price ebooks:

“Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores.…

…Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book.”

I replied to Kindle’s email and also cc’d Hachette’s CEO on that reply, at their request; but, perhaps, they were expecting a different answer than the one they got from me. I told them I completely disagree with them. I told them that when Kindle tries to control the price of an author’s ebook by saying is must be priced at $9.99 or lower, it is Kindle that is being unfair. For this reason, I won’t put my next book (the one named above) online in Kindle format. It will remain a paperback on the Amazon site along with various other sites, and an ebook on several other ebook sites such as Kobo.com; and it will be listed at $19.99 USD because that is the price I choose to sell it at. The content inside my book is definitely worth the higher price regardless of what format I’m selling it in. (On that note, for the avid Kindle authors out there who believe that a book sold online can only become a bestseller if it’s an ebook that is priced low or given away free of charge, think again. The POD paperback version of my book, How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!, became an Amazon.ca bestseller only a short month and a half after it was first published and was also listed as a bestseller in the Calgary Herald a short while later. The recommended retail price for that book is $19.99 USD.)

Let me put this into another context for you. Kindle’s stance that every single ebook should be priced at $9.99 or lower is the equivalent of saying that every single car should be priced at $20,000 or lower, whether it’s a Toyota Corolla or a BMW. That’s absurd, plain and simple.

Pricing a book is a very important component of your overall marketing campaign; and, you have to take many different things into consideration when you’re deciding on that retail price. You have to understand your demographic—your book’s target market—and create your marketing campaign around that. You also have to base your retail price on your own projected profit margins.

It will likely take you forever to make back the money it cost you to properly publish your book (the word “properly” referring to professional copy editing, design, and proofreading) if you set your retail price at $2.99 per copy. Not only that, but such a low price truly devalues your content. When you price a book that low, what you’re telling people is, “This is a cheap book full of cheap content.” It is what it is.




I was surprised to receive a reply from Hachette’s CEO. I figured my email to him would end up in some type of spam blocker along with the thousands of other emails he probably received after the crew at Kindle sent his email address to the world.

In a nutshell, here is Hachette’s stance on how to price ebooks:

“As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box.”

Anyone who follows this blog and/or has read my books knows full well I don’t agree with everything the traditional publishers have to say. But I agree with this one wholeheartedly. Hachette understands value-based selling, and I think Kindle should rethink their stance on this. If Kindle truly wants to empower self-publishers in the sale of their own books, then let them set their own prices. Give them their freedom back.

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website: http://www.polishedpublishinggroup.com/
PPG Publisher’s Blog: https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com/

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Canadian Book Publishers: Time for a Change!

If there’s one thing I’m passionate about, it’s the Canadian book publishing industry! After reading an article in The Globe and Mail tonight by Anna Porter titled Time to Lead: The shaky state of Canadian book publishing, I was compelled to express my own opinions in this regard…

RE: “What kind of government policies do we need to keep our vital publishing houses functioning? The old model no longer works.”

I agree that the old model of book publishing no longer works. When restrictive government grants are involved, the potential growth of any publishing company will be stunted.

Around 15 years ago, I worked for a small Canadian literary publisher. As much as I loved the work, I had to leave after three years as I was only earning $1,000 per month in full-time wages (yes, that figure is correct … only $12,000 per year for full-time work). Obviously, it became increasingly difficult to support myself and my son on this menial income. In order to improve my standard of living, my only choice was to change industries, never mind jobs.

I worked in the fulfillment area for that company, and my marketing counterparts and I would often discuss ways we could generate more income for the press. I once approached my directors and recommended we start charging fees for certain things, and I was immediately shut down. “We can’t do that. We’ll lose our grant money if we do.” I even recall a conversation with a colleague about how we could significantly increase our book sales … only to learn that there was a fine line we didn’t want to cross in this regard, too … too many book sales may equate to too much profit which may also jeopardize our ability to qualify for the next grant.




Ridiculous! When government tries to control the way you earn your money and how much money you’re entitled to earn, it stunts your growth potential exponentially! It is killing the industry.

The publishing industry is thriving in the United States for reasons other than population as the author of this article mentions. It is thriving there because they are a “forward thinking” society that is open to all kinds of different book publishing business models and all kinds of different books. In Canada, our publishers are severely limited by genre (“literary” prejudice) and this antiquated notion that the grant operated “traditional” business model is the only way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Here is another thing that is killing the industry: book returns. This is another antiquated business practice. How many other industries would survive if they did business this way, allowing their wholesalers/retailers to return their goods to them damaged and for a full refund at their sole discretion? This is senseless! Perhaps, it made sense at one point in time. But that time has passed. It is long gone.

Years later, rather than waiting around for the government to change their policies, I started my own for-profit Canadian book publishing company. Yes, authors pay for the publication of their books through our “supported self-publishing” business model; however, in return, they retain 100% copyright ownership of their books AND their artwork. We mark all our books NON-returnable. We utilize the Internet and social media to sell our eBooks and paperbacks online. And, most importantly, our income potential (along with our authors’) is uncapped by anyone but ourselves and our own efforts … unlike it is in the “traditional” grant-operated trade/literary book publishing sector. This allows for GROWTH! And this is the type of choice Canada’s book publishing industry needs! This is the kind of choice our authors deserve!

RE: “Fortunately, there are people in this country who value what they contribute to our lives above what they take out of the economy. (That, I hope, answers the question a distinguished lawyer once asked me: If that’s all you make in a year, why don’t you change professions?)”

This always makes me chuckle. Why is it considered so noble to be a “starving artist” in Canada’s literary world? Why can’t Canadian authors have that valued sense of contribution coupled with significant profit potential? I say THEY CAN! THEY SHOULD! That’s why I started my company. And I hope to have a strong influence on changing the way this country views book publishing in the years to come. The author of this article and I definitely agree on one thing—it’s time for a change.

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website: http://www.polishedpublishinggroup.com/
PPG Publisher’s Blog: https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com/

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



The Entrepreneurial Author

The following guest blog post is by Stuart Smith, CEO of The Entrepreneur’s Advisor.

Writing and then having your book published can be very challenging unless you approach the task as an entrepreneur would. The key to success is breaking down the steps to success into their basic components.

Creating a book

The Entrepreneurial Author

An author must pick their subject, think through a plot, write the content, review for quality and format, and finally promote the book for sale. Viewing this as a business you see many similarities:

  • Choose the business (selling books).
  • Think through your idea: who will buy, why will they buy, how will they buy, where will they buy, when will they buy?
  • Create a plan of action. This is the content portion of a business plan. Here you will also identify how you will market and sell your book.
  • Have your business plan reviewed. This is the same as having a Canadian publishing company examine your work.
  • Start your business. For Canadian authors this is all about marketing your work.





Authors are, by nature, creative individuals just as many scientists and visionaries are. It is unlikely that a new author is aware of all the intricacies of publishing a book in Canada or worldwide. It is ok to ask for help.

Choosing the Right Partner

When seeking assistance, be prepared and do your research. Can the Canadian book publishing company you are engaging:

Most importantly, you want to make sure the staff of the publishing company puts you at ease so you can have more time to focus on the book to avoid writer’s block as well as other distractions. Contact us today to see how easy it is to publish a book in Canada. We will help you sell more books.

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website: http://www.polishedpublishinggroup.com/
PPG Publisher’s Blog: https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com/

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



Side-by-Side Comparison of Two Book Publishing Methods

To quote the home page of PPG’s book publishing website: “When most people think about having their book published, they envision the traditional method of searching for a publishing company, sending them a query letter along with one or two sample chapters, and then waiting several months for a response as to whether or not their manuscript will even be accepted. That’s one way to publish a book, but it’s not the only way….” In this article, we’ll take a brief look at traditional book publishing versus modern supported self-publishing.

 Traditional (Trade) Publishing
 Modern Supported Self-Publishing
  • Traditional book publishers are organizations of highly-qualified people who have joined together to publish a specific selection of books each year.
  • Supportive self-publishing companies consist of highly-qualified people who will assist you in publishing your book by supplying you with the tools you will need.
  • Most trade publishers receive thousands of manuscript submissions every year from which they select fewer than one dozen new authors to work with—a discriminatingly low acceptance rate. One of the primary reasons for this low acceptance rate is that they have preset budgets and objectives for what they can publish each year.A common misconception is that traditional publishers always and only reject manuscripts that are poor in quality when, in fact, that is not the only factor involved. Budget and manpower play a huge role in which projects they can/cannot accept, particularly for the smaller presses. Unfortunately, this means many talented authors are overlooked every year.
  • Most supportive self-publishing companies will accept the majority of manuscripts submitted to them. The reason for this high acceptance rate is that the authors (self-publishers) are the ones who pay all the costs associated with publishing their books. The support company merely compiles all the publishing tools these authors need in a convenient “one stop shop” package so they don’t have to do it themselves.
  • When a traditional book publisher agrees to pay for the publication of your book, they are essentially buying the ownership of your book. They agree to pay for its publication because they believe they can make a profit from owning and selling it. (On the flip side, if the book doesn’t sell, they are the ones who take the loss on their original investment.)
  • When you choose the supportive self-publishing route, you are choosing to pay all your own production and marketing costs in exchange for complete creative control over your work. You also keep all the rights to your work which may prove profitable if/when that book begins to sell well. (On the flip side, if your book doesn’t sell, then you may not be able to recoup your original costs. That loss is yours as the self-publisher. That’s the risk you take if you choose this route.) 
  • Due to the volume of material they must consider, a trade publisher’s manuscript review process can take anywhere from three to six months; and most will reject multiple submissions (a.k.a. simultaneous submissions), meaning they will automatically disregard manuscripts that have been sent to more than one publisher for consideration. If your book is accepted upon review, the production process can take up to another six months to complete.
  • Once you submit your electronic book cover/interior files and payment to a supportive self-publishing company, you’re pretty much ready to go. It’s that easy to get started. The production process, itself, can be completed in as few as eight weeks.
  • If/when your manuscript is accepted, the traditional publisher takes care of all the necessary legwork, such as: obtaining ISBN numbers; managing publishing contracts; designing your copyright page; finding/organizing editors and graphic artists; typesetting your book; dealing with printers and distributors; submitting your book to the Legal Deposit at Library and Archives Canada (LAC); et cetera.
  • Supportive self-publishing companies will manage most (if not all) of the following background details for you: obtaining ISBN numbers; managing publishing agreements; designing your copyright page; finding/organizing editors and graphic designers, etc, for you; typesetting your book; and dealing with POD printers/distributors. (Click here to access PPG’s convenient checklist of the various tasks self-publishers must do for themselves.) 
  • Trade publishers will pay you royalties on whatever books they and their distributors sell on your behalf. You can also buy author copies of your books from them at a significantly reduced price to sell on your own. (Think of them as your book manufacturer/wholesaler, and think of yourself as a retailer.)
  • Supportive self-publishing companies will pay you royalties on whatever books they and their POD distributors sell on your behalf. You can also buy copies of your books from them at a significantly reduced price to sell on your own. (Think of them as your book manufacturer/wholesaler, and think of yourself as a retailer.)
  • If/when your manuscript is accepted for publication, an experienced editor is assigned to work with you to polish and perfect your book. This is a mandatory part of the traditional book publishing process.
  • Some publishers (i.e. vanity publishers) do not require their authors to go through an editorial process … and this is a serious issue, in my humble opinion. Everyone can benefit from copy editing and proofreading. The more sets of eyes you have to review your book, the better. (This is a notable viewpoint that sets supportive self-publishing apart from vanity publishing. It is described in more detail in the below-linked article.)I founded PPG because I strongly believe it is possible for authors to self-publish a professional product if they are willing to go through the same steps a traditional publisher goes through to polish and perfect a book. However, what sets PPG apart from other support companies is that we will refuse to publish anything that, in our judgment, has not been properly edited/proofread. It doesn’t look good for us or the self-publisher unless it’s done right.
  • Most trade publishers still use traditional printing methods, meaning they will print a large run of your books—usually from 500 to 2000 copies to begin with—on an offset press, and they’ll try to sell those off before printing anymore. Because they print this way, their production cost per unit is quite low, so they can charge less for each book. (i.e. The same book may retail at $9.99 when printed the traditional way while it may retail at $12.99 when produced using modern digital “print-on-demand” methods.) The down side is that it costs a lot of money to warehouse all these books; and once you’ve printed that many, you’re stuck with them. There’s no changing them even if you find typos after the fact … which happens more often than not, believe me!
  • Most supportive self-publishing companies use a modern digital printing method called “print-on-demand” (POD). An electronic copy of your book is stored with a special POD press that allows as little as one copy to be printed at a time. This is helpful because you can easily resubmit your book’s e-file to the POD printer if you need to make any corrections or updates along the way. This new method of printing also eliminates expensive warehousing costs. That said, because the books are being printed only a few at a time, the production cost per unit is a bit higher, and this is reflected in the price of your book. (i.e. The same book may retail at $9.99 when printed the traditional way while it may retail at $12.99 when produced using modern “print-on-demand” methods.)
  • Traditional publishing companies actively market and sell their frontlist books on behalf of their authors. They are well-connected.
  • As a self-publisher, it is up to you to market and sell your own books. It is up to you to get well-connected. (Blogging is a great way of doing this!)
  • Because trade publishers produce new books once or twice per year (spring/autumn selections), the shelf-life of each book is typically six months to a year. After that, it moves from the frontlist to the backlist and becomes less of a priority than the new releases.
  • As a self-publisher, you are not confined by someone else’s publishing schedule. You can publish a book at any time of the year, and you can be assured your book will always be given top priority because you are the one in charge of marketing it.

Click here to read another great article comparing traditional (trade) publishing, vanity publishing, and supported self-publishing.

There are obviously pros and cons to each form of book publishing, and there are many varying opinions out there as to which way is best. What are your thoughts on this longstanding debate? I would love to hear from you.

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website: http://www.polishedpublishinggroup.com/
PPG Publisher’s Blog: https://blog.polishedpublishinggroup.com/

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.