Bookstore Events

A bookstore will host a launch event for me, how do they get my books?

Bookstores or other venues can order books one of three ways:

  1. The author consigns the books and takes back any returns.  This is preferred if the bookstore does not plan to carry any remaining copies.
  2.  The bookstore can buy from us. Please allow two weeks minimum lead time. They receive a 40% discount and free shipping over $100. They can return unsold copies to us for credit. They place their orders by phoning 1-855-338-8359 x1 or by emailing orders@sunburypress.com. We will process the order and give them 30 days to pay if we approve their credit. Alternately, they can order directly off the website and use coupon code VC40. They will need to prepay for the order with a credit card.
  3. The bookstore can order from Ingram. The author and publisher make the least profit from this method, but it is more convenient to the bookstore in most cases.

Also, be sure to check in with us to be sure your local bookstore is on our list.

Book Sales Expectations

Q: What kind of sales can I expect from my books? How well do Sunbury Press’ best sellers do?
A: Sunbury Press, Inc. is a privately-held corporation. Information about company performance is not made public to protect the privacy of the shareholders. Likewise, the performance of individual titles, except where available through information aggregators like Nielsen Bookscan or Amazon, is tightly-guarded so as to respect the privacy of our authors. Information from those aggregators does not capture 100% of the market. They completely miss Sunbury’s direct sales to readers and direct distribution to independent bookstores and other venues.
Book sales for individual titles range widely from near zero, to the many thousands over the life the book. About 80% of our titles do not break even over their lives. It is the 20% of successful titles that carry our business. Of that successful one-fifth, only a small portion of them do exceptionally well.
Nonfiction generally performs twice as well as fiction in our experience. Generally, only about 30% of nonfiction titles break even or better while 15% or less of fiction titles do so. Nonfiction has the benefit of SEO discovery and is more likely to be of interest to the media so as to gain earned media opportunities. Fiction success is more unpredictable.

Keys to success with fiction:

  1. The author is actively selling books – making appearances at conventions, bookstores, and other events – (as long as the author is not too shy and unable to connect with readers)
  2. The cover, description, and subject matter align with the book’s categories and quality expectations.
  3. The author is active on social media on at least one platform.
  4. The author has a website, is actively promoting themselves as an author, is building a following and an email list
  5. The author has a presence on Goodreads and Amazon Author Central and uses the features and functions of the sites to their advantage.
  6. The author is writing a series or the body of work is related in some way.
  7. The author is releasing new books at least once a year, preferably every six months.
  8. The author and/or publisher is actively seeking film or television opportunities as well as foreign translation opportunities.
  9. The publisher has placed the book(s) in the major marketplaces and channels of distribution, has priced the book in alignment with the category, and has produced the book in the demanded product forms (print and ebook at a minimum).
  10. The book wins a legitimate award or receives significant endorsements or accolades.
  11. The author is putting out content that entices readers to read the whole book and invites readers into the story

What doesn’t work well for fiction:

  1. Paid print advertising.
  2. Paid television or radio advertising.
  3. Paying a publicist.
  4. Sending press releases.
  5. Most SEO-oriented pay-per-click or (worse) pay-per-impression advertising.
  6. Most Facebook ad boosts. (If the author has a medium to large following, boosts can help)
  7. Most blog tours. (unless the author finds very relevant blogs and is choosy)
  8. Most BookBub or other free giveaway campaigns. (we’re still trying to figure out how this might work for our authors, but so far it hasn’t done much)
  9. Most book signings at Barnes and Noble or other big chain stores.

Fiction Book Releases (Soft and Grand Openings)

Q: When will my novel be released?

A: Historically, publishers have a long lead-time from contract signing until the book is released. This is a throw-back from the days of paper manuscripts and snail-mail. Today, things move along much faster.

Sunbury Press does not deal with paper manuscripts. The entire process, from submission, contract signing, to book release is done electronically. We communicate most often through email and public posts on our website. We do this for efficiency and to free our staff to concentrate on editing and getting your books out the door. For fiction, we are also moving to a single point of contact, so you have access to the primary person in charge of your book’s publication. Internally, at Sunbury Press, we work together, but there are no review boards or long review processes to contend with. We’re a small company of professional, hardworking people committed to publishing good books.

We have over 800 fiction manuscript submissions in our queue right now, with more coming in every day. We are working as fast as we can to evaluate and get back to the authors that submit to us. The only way we can hope to better serve all those authors, is to streamline our process. And that is just what we are doing.

Once we take on your novel and the contract has been signed, your book will be released within three months, sometimes even faster depending on the quality of your manuscript and the workload in our queue.

This quick pace might not allow you the time to do all the set up necessary to properly release your book to the world. If you are a new author, you’ll want to setup a new website, Facebook page, get a list of family and friends to help you, etc. So, we recommend that no matter the date that your book is available for purchase, you choose your own Book Announcement date far enough into the future that you have time to prepare. You can think of this as a ‘Soft Opening,’ and ‘Grand Opening’ model. For the Soft Opening, your book is out there selling and available for more reviews. For the Grand Opening, you announce your book with parties, emails, and whatever else you are planning. This lead time also allows you to purchase books (at discount) and have them on hand for your Book Announcement party(s) to sign and/or giveaway.

As an example, your book might be released on April 1st. But you schedule your Book Announcement or Grand Opening on June first. You will have time to work with local bookstores and establishments to plan your party(s), order and get books, make sure you have your website and other pages up and running and your author pages on Amazon and Goodreads ready. In this way, you can maximize the effectiveness of your Book Announcement.

Authors spend a good amount of time slaving over the words, trying to create the best story. But after it’s complete, they are anxious to get it out to the world. We understand! Many of us at Sunbury are also authors. We believe this model will serve authors wants and needs but still give time to give your book the splash you hope for.

One final note, Sunbury Press loves a big splash, just like any publisher. But we prefer the long, slow burn to the quick flash and then burn out. So, plan your big Grand Opening, but also make your plans staggered throughout the year to keep interest flowing and growing your readership. And then write another book! 😉

-Chris Fenwick

#bookrelease #bookannouncement #grandopening #longslowburn #welovebooks

FAQs

We’ve signed a number of new authors in recent months. We also continue to receive many of the same questions from a lot of you. I thought it best to summarize these into an FAQ for this month. Here we go!
Q. When will we see the production queue report? It’s been many months since you included it in this newsletter.
A. I know we promised to provide an updated version of this but we just aren’t ready. We’ve been too busy releasing and selling books. We will get to this soon.
Q. How do I order books at the author discount?
A. Go to our bookstore at www.sunburypress.com. Find the books you want to order and use coupon code A50 when you check out. This code is for authors only and triggers your discount. Please note that your order total must be at least $100 in order to qualify for free shipping.
Q. When will I get my author copies?
A. We do not automatically send you your author copies. Many authors wait until their first book order and have them added to it. In that case, include a note with your order. If you just want your free copies, send a note to orders@sunburypress.com. Identify yourself, your book title, the number of copies, and the shipping address.
Q. When will I get my royalty statement?
A. We send statements four times a year on January 31, April 30, July 31, and October 31.
Q. I have not received a royalty check. When can I expect one?
A. When your total royalties hit $50 or more, you will receive a check in the mail. These checks are issued fifteen days after the royalty reports — four times a year.
Q. It’s Wednesday and I need books for a signing on Saturday. Can I get books?
A. Please allow up to three weeks lead time to be sure to get your books in plenty of time. Our print orders usually are prioritized lower than consumer orders so we are at the mercy of the capacity of our printer partners. Please try to plan ahead, if possible.
Q. I am working on a new manuscript. Must I go through your submissions process like I did the first time?
A. The short answer is “no.” If a new fiction concept, send to Chris Fenwick at cfenwick@sunburypress.com. If nonfiction, send to me at lknorr@sunburypress.com. Please include a summary of the book in your email and your estimated completion date. Also note which number it is in the series, if applicable.
Q. I’ve been waiting quite a while for you to start my book. Why the delay?
A. We are working diligently to catch up on our backlog all the while signing new authors. We are making significant progress in recent months. Bear in mind we are also always re-prioritizing our backlog based on category and market conditions. If you think your manuscript has been waiting too long, reach out and find out why.
Q. I’m selling too many books and my royalty checks are too large!
A. Yeah, right! Maybe you should move to Baltimore and run for mayor!

Scandals

This has been a very strange month in the publishing industry. If you haven’t heard, down below the Mason-Dixon, Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is now on leave from her position due to health reasons. However, she has been embroiled in a self-publishing scandal that sure smells like corruption. Somehow she managed to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of her Healthy Holly series of books to various municipalities and organizations in the DC-Baltimore metro area. It is alleged some of these organizations received favors in exchange. Amazingly, the book series has little action on Amazon or other platforms — mostly available to the mayor’s exclusive clients. We all know how hard it is to sell 1000 copies of a book let alone 100,000 in one deal!
Meanwhile, the New York Times is embroiled in a scandal regarding its bestseller list. How many of us have faithfully believed the New York Times to be the ultimate arbiter regarding which books are worth reading and are selling the best? It has been the goal of many authors just to chart on their Sunday bestseller list. I had recently written about this being a sham — subject to being gamed by shady bulk purchases.
Now we learn former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett’s new book Finding My Voice charted at the NY Times despite very low rankings at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. If you check, you will see only 30 reviews on Amazon, most of them trashing the scandal. Apparently the publisher, Viking, used a third party to game the system by buying a huge quantity of the first print run. I am sure you will find this book in all the bargain piles at the beach this summer. You might buy it just to stomp on it or throw it out. Surely the publisher will lose money on this deal — their scheme backfiring. This hurts all of us in the book trade — especially the authors who really are selling well at independent presses and don’t get the time of day from the NYT. This is a lot like that college admissions scandal …

And one more. You can read the article below about the myriad of scandals on the Amazon platform. There is a lot of graft going on. While we refuse to game their system in any way, once again it is the dishonest perpetrators who are hurting everyone else …

TV shows and awards

This past month brought even more good news for the Press. Karim El Koussa has been with us since 2010 when we published his historical novel Pythagoras the Mathemagician–he’s been with us as long as Thomas Malafarina and Keith Rommel. We have published his retelling of the history of Jesus based on Phoenician records and artifacts in his native Lebanon. This book, Jesus the Phoenician, has been one of our bestsellers of all-time. It is our most exported book. We were also very fortunate that Karim sent us his novel The Phoenician Code, an action-adventure that delves into many of the mysteries discussed in his nonfiction book about Jesus.
Karim hails from Lebanon — the country — not the town in Pennsylvania. He has visited us on two occasions, even presenting at our bookstore when it opened at 50 West Main in Mechanicsburg. While the bookstore is no more, Karim has endured. Now, we hear The Phoenician Code has been picked up by Northern Star Pictures to be a five-season TV show in the US and worldwide. Nick Tarabay, a Lebanese-American actor, will play the lead. He is best known for his role in Spartacuson Starz. He also appeared in Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and numerous other television and movie roles. This will be a fun ride for Karim. The book was published seven years ago, but it will only now be gaining prominence. I am sure it will continue to be a bestseller at Ars Metaphysica for some time to come.
Kristen Cunnane is the author of Undoing Jane Doe, the gripping story of her escape from sexual abuse as a teen by a teacher and then a coach. Subsequently, she helped put her perpetrators behind bars. Her book has been one of our better sellers since its release in early April. Late last month Kristen was on the Dr. Oz show where her book was featured. The show was taped and has yet to air. We will let you know when it does.
Also this month we got word that our book A Short Season, about the incredible life and faith of a boy with progeria who loved baseball and inspired others, has been awarded the top prize in the Family category of the Christian Independent Book Awards. Authors Jake Gronsky and G. David Bohner were thrilled to hear the news. It helped to remove some of the sting of losing Josiah Viera who was David’s grandson. Josiah passed away late last year, but always provided those around him with a positive outlook on life despite his near-hopeless predicament. Josiah will be missed, but the book about him will now be read by many more. May his story never be forgotten.

Dreyer’s English

Every so often there comes a book that you just can’t put down. You find yourself laughing and learning and very soon sharing with your spouse or friends. Often such a book is on a subject that you love. Rarely is it on a subject you abhor – like punctuation and grammar.
Yes, I admit, I am a book publisher who did better in math than English on the SATs. While my high school writing teacher (and baseball coach) enjoyed my work and had me read it to the class, I was never a lover of the subject. Mr. Haag, whom we nicknamed “The Tin Man” for his lack of a pumping muscle inside his ribcage, made 9th grade English a chore. Admittedly, I did receive A’s in his class, but they were brutal to achieve. Suffice to say, despite my advanced degree in business, mastery of the written word was not envisioned in my future. When I was running a software consulting firm in the ’90s I never imagined I’d be running a book publishing company two decades later, let alone enjoying editing other people’s work, let alone writing my own.
Alas, a good friend told me about this little book by the head of copy editing at Random House — Benjamin Dreyer — entitled Dreyer’s English. In my opinion, it is an instant classic. It is both humorous and educational. It is a book in which the footnotes are just as interesting and funny as the main text, similar to the subscripts at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. No, a moose did not bite Benjamin’s sister. But you do get a silly anecdote about a time an author left out an absolutely necessary serial comma and another about the “actual” difference between grey and gray. One reviewer described it as “pithy.” I humbly agree. It is pithy as pithy can be.
I highly recommend this book to our authors and employees alike — as well to my adult children, coworkers, and clients. This is a writing guide that educates and entertains. If only Haag had been like Dreyer, God rest his soul (Haag’s).

Double, double, boil and …

As of this writing, we are about to hold our third imprint meeting. The first two, with Hellbender Books and Ars Metaphysica authors went very well. There was a lot of positive energy on the calls and the exchange of ideas was more than one-way. At Hellbender, it was decided to produce a compilation of short stories by our authors. There was also collaboration regarding our BookSpeak Network podcast programming. Likewise, at Ars Metaphysica, there was a lot of sharing regarding media opportunities. So far, so good. Next up is Brown Posey Press later this month. Milford House Press and Sunbury Press will follow and then we’ll start the cycle again. Our regular interaction should help build and grow our opportunities.
In the meantime, we have embarked on our most aggressive growth effort to date. Too many of you have been waiting too long to get started while we’ve been shifting our mix. Recently, we realized we have among the 1000+ manuscript proposals per year at least another 100+ quality opportunities. In order to move faster and do more, we have split our process onto two primary tracks — nonfiction and fiction. Over the last 12 months, we published 118 titles. Over the next 12 months, we expect to produce over 200.
How, you ask? We have brought in publishing veteran Chris Fenwick to jumpstart our fiction backlog and new fiction acquisitions. Chris is a publishing polymath who can quickly move books through the process — a process she helped start during the early days of Sunbury Press when she brought us our first fiction manuscript that jumped to #1 in visionary fiction. She has experience at other publishers and has a keen eye for quality and efficiency.
Many of you may have noticed movement on your manuscripts in the last month. Chris has been picking up a bunch as has Jen’s team. You may also be so lucky to have me working with you. It is all hands on deck at this time as we catch up the backlog and attend to the new in a more agile fashion.

Amazon Central and Goodreads

If you are not on Amazon Author Central or Goodreads as an author, you need to be. For reference, here are the two sites:
Why does this matter? Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world. Your Author Central Page functionality provides a platform for Amazon readers to interact with you. You can do more than just list your books and bio. You can link your blog and list your events. You can also upload videos if you have them. When there is a new blog post on your site, your Amazon followers will be notified. When you have a new release listed in your bibliography, your followers will also be notified. So it is a way to automatically contact your readers. And don’t forget to claim your sites in other countries on Amazon. No, the US site is not the only one — you need to claim them all!
The UK site is probably second in importance. There is not an Australian site yet. Also note, the US site is the only one to integrate blogs. And, if you use Google Chrome, you are easily able to translate the foreign languages, if you cannot read them.
Here is a quick checklist for Amazon Author Central:
  • Claim your site by clicking on the link.
  • Click on the books that are yours. You might need to click through quite a few if your name is similar to someone else.
  • Add your bio
  • Add your photo — or photos
  • Link your blog
  • Enter your upcoming events
  • Upload your videos
  • Repeat these steps for each country site (except the blog)
  • Keep these updated from time to time — especially when you have a new release.
  • You might also consider making these country-specific if you have content related to that country.
So what about Goodreads? It is one of the top book review places on the Internet. You can interact with lots of readers here. You can also run giveaways and interact with your readers via Q&A. Note that Goodreads is now owned by Amazon, but they have not integrated this with Author Central — yet.
To claim your Goodreads page, do the following:
  1. Sign in or create an account, and then search for your most popular book via ISBN, ASIN, or title.
  2. On the book, click on your author name. Scroll to the bottom of your author profile page.
  3. Click “Is this you?”
In the drop down, click on Account Settings and make sure you’ve done the following:
  • Add your biography
  • On the right, click on Videos to add videos
  • On the right, click on Events to add events
  • On the right, click on Edit Blog. Here you can add a Goodreads blog or link your existing blog. To link existing you need to enter the Existing Blog Feed URL.
In the drop down, click on Profile and do the following:
  • Add your website URL
  • Add your Twitter handle
  • Add the genres you write within
  • You can update your bio here
  • You can also add books and combine editions
If you set all of this up, your existing blog will feed both of these sites automatically and will reach your followers. Which brings me to one of the most important points. Besides trying to capture their emails and getting them to post your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, ask your readers to follow you on both sites. Provide links to your author pages — and with Goodreads you can even include buttons (for those of you who are web savvy).

Marketing activities for 2019

Last month I covered our plans for imprint-specific author meetings and marketing activities. We’d like to pull together each imprint’s authors about twice a year. I had initially thought we could do this quarterly, but we just can’t handle that many meetings! Rather than two meetings per month, we will be focusing on one imprint per month.
So, we have the Hellbender Books meeting scheduled for next week and I am really looking forward to helping the imprint get some traction. This being a smaller group, it also provides a model we can experiment with regarding these meetings and what is possible. I will report back on what we discussed and decided.
In the meantime, we are currently negotiating increasing our Cision contract to include global media contacts — not just US. Many of our books are selling in Europe, Australia, and other far-flung places. I know our Amsterdam book would perform better if the Dutch and British media were aware of it. The key question is whether or not we will see sales growth in these places due to more media outreach. We also need to be able to actually use the tool and make the effort. In other words, paying for a tool you don’t use is wasted money! I will let you know where we land.
In recent weeks we are seeing an uptick in collaboration among authors. This is great! Specifically, the most helpful thing you can do is review each other’s books. You can post your review online. If it is in a longer form, we can always post it as a blog entry. Ideally, we can find some snippets for the book’s product page or cover. There is also the side benefit of being able to mention your own work, though we recommend this is done subtly.
If you purchase the other author’s book from Amazon, you will be able to enter a review as a verified purchase. This seems to carry a little more weight than unverified reviews. You can also purchase the books from the Sunbury Press store and use your author (A50) discount — yes — you can buy any of our books at your discount. So, why not throw another author’s book on your next order and do your colleague a favor?
Last, but not least, contests are top of mind as we enter the new year. I personally was nominated by SABR for the Larry Ritter Award regarding my recent baseball biography of Eddie Plank. I was surprised by the nomination and immediately complied with their request for copies. I have no idea who nominated the book — someone at SABR — but I am honored to even have the chance. (I am nearly 100% sure I will not win!) Many of you have asked about contests over the years. You are always welcome to enter contests you think you have a chance to win. We will support you if the contest requires the publisher to enter. We try to avoid contests that have fees. Usually these are set up to be money makers for the organizers and have little marketing value. It seems the best contests — the most meaningful — only require copies to be sent. Of course, from time to time, we, as publisher, nominate your books for awards. You might not always know this.
This year, I’d like to set up something different — something more formal and with better tracking. We will be discussing this in our imprint meetings, but there is no reason to wait until then. Here is what I am asking — if you are aware of a contest that might be of benefit to you or one of our other authors, please send me the link. We will be developing a master list of contests and the schedule associated with them. Rather than an ad hoc activity, we will incorporate this into our planning.