Australian Self-Publisher
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23 February 2018

In the February issue

The February issue of Australian Self-Publisher delivers more of what you have been asking for. We introduce Ellie Marney—hybrid author and self-publisher extraordinaire—who will be writing for us over the next several issues. This month, Marney answers your burning questions about book distribution. Stay tuned for more in the ‘Self-publisher essentials’ series!

We chat with author Sue Liu, who runs workshops for aspiring self-published authors, about her travel memoir Accidental Aid Worker. And if you’re writing a children’s book, be sure to read the top four things to consider before you publish.

Along with the latest self-publishing and book industry news, you’ll also find competition information, upcoming literary events and a FAQ piece with the ISBN team.

Happy reading!

Shannon Wood
Australian Self-Publisher


Self-publisher essentials with Ellie Marney: tackling distribution

Author Ellie Marney has experienced two sides of the publishing process, both as a traditionally published author and a self-publisher. Her first book, Every Breath (2013, Allen & Unwin), was one of the most-borrowed young adult (YA) books in Australian libraries in 2015, according to an ALIA report. Her debut self-published title, No Limits (2017), topped the YA crime fiction category on Amazon in its first week of release. Marney, who describes herself as a ‘hybrid’ author, shares her insights on the perks and perils of self-publishing in a new series of articles for Australian Self-Publisher. The first topic in this series is about book distribution and what that entails for self-publishers.

What’s distribution?

Distribution is about your book’s availability: the formats it can be bought in, the places where readers can find your book and (hopefully) buy it. Distributors deliver your books to retailers (sellers). They don’t sell your books, but they put them into the hands of people who do.

Are you set up for distribution?

There are different avenues for distribution, depending on the format of your book. All self-publishers should have an ebook, but it can also be worthwhile to have your book available in hard copy as a paperback or hardcover. Audiobooks are also a format that’s gaining ground quickly—and making self-published audiobooks is getting easier all the time.

Ebook and audiobook distribution

You’re on Amazon, right?

Amazon currently holds the lion’s share of ebook sales worldwide (over 60% of the Australian ebook market, about 70% in the US), and they are both a distributor and a retailer. Make sure your ebook is in the proprietary MOBI file format, so your book file is Amazon-compatible.

And you’re on other platforms too?

It’s also worthwhile to be on other distribution platforms (what’s referred to as ‘going wide’). Apple iBooks holds about 30% of the ebook market in Australia, with the remaining non-Amazon sales going to platforms like Kobo, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Google Play. Some self-published authors make as much money from their ‘wide’ platforms combined as from their total Amazon sales.

You can sign up to each of the platforms individually, and load your book to each one. Or you can sign up with an aggregator like Draft2Digital, who does it all for you, for a small cost.

Hard copy distribution

Do you really need a hard copy?

Hard copies are expensive to create: you need a full cover and, once you take printing costs and wholesale discounts into account, you may make limited profit on bookstore sales. Think carefully about putting your book in hard copy. You need a better reason than ‘I want to see my book on shelves/hold a copy in my hand’.

Consider your book’s format and target audience: Is your book a coffee-table book with lots of photos? Is it a thick textbook, a field guide, or a children’s picture book? Is it for a market that prefers hard copy, like the young adult (YA) genre? Those are all good reasons to go with a hard copy. Having your book in stores can increase its discoverability, plus hard-copy sales are on the rise (mainly through Amazon).

Australian bookstores, iPage and wholesale discount

Local bookstores usually place book orders through iPage online: In the last few months, iPage Australia has opened to self-publishers, so booksellers can now order your book on the same webpage as books from traditional publishers. But booksellers are typically given hefty discounts on wholesale orders. The rate of discount is up to you, but between 40-60% is industry standard.

You can make your paperback available through printer-distributors Ingram Spark, let booksellers know, and let them do the ordering themselves. Or you can go consignment…

The ‘consignment’ question

Many bookstores ask self-publishing authors to sell on consignment: You order the books, have them delivered to you, then take orders from bookstores and distribute the books to them for sale. When the books are sold, the bookstore pays you for them. But it’s a lot of back-end work for self-publishers: you bear the brunt of shipping/distribution costs, chasing down invoices can be time-intensive, and if you’re not doing off-set print runs to minimise print costs, you’re often getting small return for all that effort. Bookstores prefer consignment, because it benefits them, but you should work out the costs-versus-returns before going this route.

Selling hard copy outside of Australia

You can register your paperback for sale overseas through printer-distributors IngramSpark, but it’s unlikely to get much traction in overseas bookstores. The simplest way is to create a hard copy through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) print program, and allow readers to order a print book on the same page as where they buy your ebook.

Other options: selling on your website or at markets

You can sell your paperbacks yourself—on your website, for instance. Some authors pay for a market or convention stall and sell stock that way.

Why it’s great to connect with libraries

The Australian government subsidises publishers for the cost of library book sales to the tune of about $2 per copy—the system is called Public Lending Rights (PLR), or Educational Lending Rights (ELR) for school libraries. If you sell your book to libraries, you’re eligible for PLR and ELR by registering at the Lending Rights Australia portal. This means better returns on sales to libraries, plus you’re increasing your book’s discoverability while supporting a worthwhile system.

Contact library suppliers to inform them about your book’s availability and how they can order.

Good luck, and happy distributing!

Ellie Marney is a teacher and hybrid YA author. She lives in Victoria with her family, and her new book, White Night (Allen & Unwin), is out March 2018. Find her at or on Twitter or Instagram.

Lending rights title claims closing soon

Australian book publishers or creators—including self-publishers—can be compensated for the loss of income through the free multiple use of their work in Australian public and educational lending libraries through the public and educational lending right (PLR and ELR) schemes.

Title claims for the 2018-2019 program, for books published between 2012 and 2017, need to be lodged by 31 March 2018.

Payment is based on the estimated number of copies of the book held in public and/or educational lending libraries

Claims can be made through the Lending Rights Australia portal, which allows applicants to submit title claims, update their personal address and banking details, view lending rights payment history details, and register as a new claimant for PLR and ELR.

For more information about the program visit the Australian Government department of Communication and the Arts website.

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Adelaide Writers’ Week 2018 program announced

The full program for Adelaide Writers’ Week, which runs from 3-8 March, has been announced.

This year’s festival is dedicated to children’s author Mem Fox, who will be in conversation with Ruth Clarke on 5 March, as well as featuring in the kids’ weekend program. Fox joins past dedicatees Brenda Niall, Robert Dessaix, Margo Lanagan and Christopher Koch.

Twenty-seven new authors have been announced for the program, including Judith Brett, Ceridwen Dovey, Eva Hornung and Justine Larbalestier.

They join a previously announced line up that includes US writers Barbara Kingsolver, Jenny Zhang and Teju Cole; UK authors Alan Hollinghurst, Alexander McCall Smith, Sarah Winman and Kamila Shamsie; Canadian crime writer Louise Penny; and local authors Michelle de Kretser, Kim Scott, Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason.

Events include an in-conversation about sport in Australia with David Hill, an exploration of food movements with Salt Fat Acid Heat author and chef Samin Nosrat, US photographer and writer Teju Cole speaking with Sarah Sentilles on the relationship between image and word, and a discussion on ‘democracy and populism’ with A C Grayling and George Megalogenis.

The kids’ weekend, which runs 4-5 March, features authors and illustrators Phil Cummings, Kate and Jol Temple, and Indian designers Ragini Siruguri and Dhwani Shah. Sofie Laguna, Maggie Beer and senator Penny Wong will also share their favourite stories as part of a series of events in the children’s program.

This year, the festival is partnering with participating schools, retirement villages and libraries to live stream a wide range of its sessions from 5-7 March.

The festival is once again directed by Laura Kroetsch, who has announced that this will be her final year directing Adelaide Writers’ Week.

To view the full program, click here.

This news story first appeared in Books+Publishing on 1 February 2018. Books+Publishing is Australia’s leading source of print and digital news about the book industry, keeping subscribers up to date with the latest industry news, announcements, job advertisements, events, trends and more.

Barnes & Noble announces large cuts to store positions

US book retailer Barnes & Noble has announced large cuts to store positions as part of a ‘new labour model’ after reporting disappointing holiday sales results in early January.

‘The new model will allow stores to adjust staff up or down based on the needs of the business, increase store productivity and streamline store operations,’ said the retailer in a statement.

In a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Comission (SEC) on 13 February, the company announced that the dismissals, to be completed by 16 February, were expected to save the company US$40 million (A$51.1 million) annually.

While Barnes & Noble has not confirmed the number of staff affected by cuts, the filing noted that severance payments worth approximately US$11 million (A$14 million), would be made in the current fiscal year with the remainder paid in fiscal 2019.

Anecdotal reports put the unofficial numbers at around 1800 staff, with cuts to full-time positions such as head cashiers, receiving managers and digital leads (those responsible for solving Nook problems).

At the start of the year Barnes & Noble reported that holiday sales fell 6.4% compared to the same period a year ago. As a result of the poor sales, the company also reduced its financial performance for the full fiscal year.


Adult sales up, kids sales down in US

In the US, estimates from the AAP’s StatShot program show that sales of adult trade books increased slightly (0.4%) in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, reports Publishers Weekly. Sales of children’s and young adult books fell 3.5% in the same nine-month period.

The AAP data showed that sales of adult hardcovers between January-September 2017 were up 7.3% compared to the same period in 2016, but that mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks fell by 13.2% and 1.3%, respectively.

The results also showed that audio sales continued to grow—up 24.2% in the same period—while ebook sales in the January-September period fell by 5.5%.

In the children’s and young adult segment, both hardcover and ebook sales were affected by the sales success of 2016’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, with hardcover sales declining 8% in the first nine months of 2017, while ebook sales were down 11.5%.

The AAP receives sales figures for 1204 publishers. In the first nine months of 2017, sales for all publishers were down 0.5% compared to the same stretch in the previous year.

This news story first appeared in Books+Publishing on 12 February 2018. Books+Publishing is Australia’s leading source of print and digital news about the book industry, keeping subscribers up to date with the latest industry news, announcements, job advertisements, events, trends and more.
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FAQ with the ISBN team

Why doesn’t my ISBN come up in an internet search?

All publisher and title information that is supplied to us via our MyIdentifiers website is included in our publications: Bowker Books In Print, Bowker Syndetic Solutions and Bookwire.

These publications are sold on subscription to those in the industry who are researching and purchasing titles regularly, such as bookstores and libraries.

Unfortunately there is no international index/database/website available free to the public, where all titles issued ISBNs are listed.

Generally, titles do end up appearing on other ‘book find’ websites or databases as many online booksellers get a data feed from Thorpe-Bowker to populate their sites.

When you send a copy of your title to the National Library for Legal Deposit it will appear on the Trove catalogue and the National Library Catalogue

Your title will also appear on Google Books but it does take approximately two months to appear once you have entered the title details into your MyIdentifiers account.

Can I use the same ISBN that I have for my paperback on my ebook?

Your ebook version will need its own ISBN. Ebooks are usually produced in two formats: MOBI and EPUB. Each of these formats should have their own ISBN.

I am producing a second edition of my title; do I need a new ISBN?

You will only need to have a new ISBN assigned if :

  1. The title is changing.
  2. The format will be changing, for example, from hardback to a paperback.
  3. If the contents will be changing more than approximately 10%.

If not, you can use the original ISBN, providing that it is a 13-digit ISBN. If it is a 10-digit ISBN you can convert to the new standard 13-digit version at for your new edition.


Sue Liu on 'Accidental Aid Worker'

Author and communications professional Sue Liu self-published her travel memoir in 2015. She has since released two new editions of her book, and has run self-publishing workshops through the State Library of New South Wales.

Describe your latest self-published book in under 50 words.

My first book is my epic travel memoir, Accidental Aid Worker.

After a series of life-changing tragedies, a running-away habit turned into an addiction to adventure travel. In the wake of the 2004 tsunami during the civil war conflict in Sri Lanka, I stumbled into voluntary aid work and it was the beginning of a 10-year obsession with helping people in need and a quest to find love and places to belong.

Why self-publish?

I realised early on that self-publishing was probably the only option available to me.  The dream-like vision I had for my book was crystal and pure—just like my knowledge of publishing and the world of books.

I quickly came to terms with the reality that it would be hard work convincing a publisher to take a punt on me and my story. I was an untested writer, an unknown personality who, despite having boundless enthusiasm, had an unwritten story and a dippy time-frame.

I had a degree of confidence that my story was a ‘ripping yarn’ and that I had some ability to tell it well. As a communications professional and business woman, I knew I had the skills to deliver the physical aspects of publication and aspects of marketing. The rest, I would have to learn along the way.

What year did you start and where are you based?

March 2013, the idea for the book literally spewed forth as an embarrassing, very public announcement. After a few misadventures followed by insecurity, self-doubt and writers block—for 12 months—I had to ‘renew my vows’ to the project. In June 2014 I set myself a rigid 12-month deadline and to keep myself accountable, I again (foolishly) announced that my book would be available for Christmas 2015.

Terrified of the humiliation of not achieving that commitment, I slave-drove myself through it all, and on 1 November 2015, Accidental Aid Worker was delivered to the world.

I live in Annandale in Sydney.

How many people did you contract on your book and what did you do yourself?

As a business and communications professional, I understand the value of contracting other professionals. I was happy to pay for the best professional advice and service I could afford to achieve the quality of the book product. I worked with an editorial consultant, editor, graphic designer and printer. I also contracted a publicist when I launched. The designer and publicist were not connected to the publishing world.

Everything else, I did myself, including formatting and production of the book files (on Pressbooks), marketing, social media, fundraising, business development, administration and sales campaigns.

Publishing is its own beast, so I invested a lot of time into learning about a whole new industry and its set of requirements and expectations as best as I could. I relied very much on referrals from industry professionals to find my editorial help and a printer.

What makes your book unique?

The story, for one, is unique and mine. It involves real people, world events and raw emotions.

The artwork and printed book is very special and was my primary focus. Personally, I like the tangibility of a printed book, and I had always planned the Accidental Aid Worker paperback to be a beautifully produced memento—a piece of art—that would stand out in bookstores and libraries as well as on the digital bookshelves.

The cover art features an original Tinga Tinga painting made into a puzzle, my hand and funky jewellery (most asked question—yes, it’s my hand). Those puzzle pieces are real, and if you buy a copy of the book directly from me, you receive the limited edition third reprint, a special bookmark with string blessed by a Hindu priest, and a numbered puzzle piece as a memento. You can read more about the artwork and production of the book.

I printed a double-colour cover with the inside filled with beautiful photos, and a matte cello coating for the outside. It feels and looks like quality and people love and appreciate this. Using inside cover real estate is not industry standard and obviously added to my costs. The book is also 394 pages/148,000 words long. There is no way a publisher would agree or invest in a book like this for a first-timer.

What has been your biggest success?

WARNING: answer contains shameless name dropping.

As a first-time self-published author—a ‘newbie’—the icing has been recognition, appreciation and endorsement by industry professionals and respected community leaders and living legends. Tom Keneally and the Honourable Professor Dame Marie Bashir have endorsed and validated me and my precious book. Their comments are on the cover of the third reprint of the book, and Professor Bashir launched this edition.

I am also proud to have fellow authors as authentic connections. I have hung out, chatted over email, talked intensely about the writing life, and played with the likes of Meg Keneally, Julian Burnside, Morris Gleitzman and Di Morrissey. I’ve even had a ‘moment’ with the luminous Gloria Steinem.

In June 2016, the State Library of NSW requested I write a workshop on author brand and marketing, particularly for aspiring and self-published authors. The workshop was part of the Indyreads pilot—a new e-lending platform that will roll out through NSW libraries in the second half of 2018. I’ve presented this gutsy, innovative workshop via a few libraries, and it’s striking a chord with those trying to DIY and pitch to publishers.  If I can help other authors to more confidently and successfully represent themselves and their work in the big world of books, that’s a win in MY books. Read more about the workshop and its creation.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Being single, self-employed and with a huge Sydney mortgage, I find juggling the variables of resource (energy, inspiration, courage, emotional and financial) and weighing up the entirely subjective reward for effort, a continuing challenge. I’ve had to go back to PAYG work now, in order to live. Writing and publishing dreams will have to tick away in the spare hours.

It has been an odyssey, scaling the multiple vertical learning curves and navigating the winding pathways of a constantly changing publishing and retail industry. Figuring out all that needs to be done is difficult, and it’s impossible to do it all well.

Success and reward in its variety of forms (money, recognition, sales, kudos) eludes so many worthy artists. To finish a work is success in itself. To make a book that resonates and does commercially well in an overcrowded marketplace is nothing short of exceptional, and so few achieve that. Therefore, I’m happy with my very modest successes.

What would be top tip for those starting out in self-publishing?

In my workshop I introduce the importance of having dreams, plans, strategies and goals around your writing projects. As much as it’s important to aspire, it’s crucial to understand how to work toward making those dreams tangible and real.

  • Regardless of whether you’re seeking a publishing contract or plan to self-publish, you need to be a business person and actively market and promote yourself as an author, and your books. You need to become ‘business minded and marketing savvy’.
  • Start researching, exploring, networking and talking to other writers. Being part of a physical or online community of like-minded people will help you learn and be exposed challenges we all face.
  • Work on your writing craft and aim to produce the most professional product possible.

What will you publish next?

My current works in progress include: the sequel to Accidental Aid Worker, a book of travel adventures, and a series of books centred around my beloved cat, Moet. Next up is Moet’s memoir! I will not dig myself a hole by announcing any publication dates … yet!

The third reprint (limited) edition of Accidental Aid Worker is available directly from the author at author talks, workshops or from the Accidental Aid Worker shop (book and e-book). The first print and second reprint edition are available at all good bookstores, online retailers and libraries. The print on demand version (with outside cover only) is available via Amazon.

Upcoming events


Perth Writers Week, (19-25 February) Perth, WA.
Woollahra Poets’ Picnic, (27 February) Sydney, NSW.


Dunedoo Bush Poetry Festival, (1-4 March) Dunedoo, NSW.
Adelaide Writers’ Week, (3-8 March) Adelaide, SA.
Writing and Writers of Gippsland, (5-9 March) Paynesville, Vic.
New Zealand Festival: Writers and Readers stream, (8-11 March) Wellington, NZ.
Somerset Celebration of Literature, (14-16 March) Gold Coast, Qld.
Melbourne Art Book Fair, (16-18 March) Melbourne, Vic.
John O’Brien Festival, (16-18 March) Narrandera, NSW.
Read to Me Day, (19 March) International.
Red Dirt Writers Week, (19-23 March) online.
Emergence Creative Festival, (21-24 March) Margaret River, WA.
Leading Edge Books conference, (25-27 March 2018) Hobart, Tas.


ASA 'My Patch of Red Dirt' competition: entries close 19 March

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) is running a writing competition in March, as part of Red Dirt Writers’ Week. Entries to the ‘My Patch of Red Dirt’ competition close 19 March.

Entrants must share a picture/illustration and/or description of their favourite patch of red dirt (this can be anywhere in Australia) and describe how it best relates to Sue Williams’ quote below:

‘The Outback isn’t a place on a map. It’s a place in your heart. It’s an attitude, how you treat people, a way of behaving. It’s your belief system, and how a whole nation of Australians often long for a time when life was simpler, less complicated, more genuine.’—Sue Williams, ‘Welcome to the Outback’

The competition winner, to be announced on 23 March, will receive a 12-month membership to the society and a bundle of Australian books.

For more information about the competition, as well as terms and conditions, visit the ASA website.


4 things you need to know about publishing a children's book

1. It takes time and effort—then more time and effort.

Have realistic expectations about the time it will take to publish your book. Illustrations—let me rephrase this—good illustrations, take a lot of time. Finding and working with a good illustrator to completion is a process. Start early. Engaging other services, like editing (yes, this is important regardless of it being ‘just a children’s book’), interior and cover layout (or ebook creation) and printing can take a long time too. Consider your printing needs carefully as it can mean the difference between four weeks or four months, depending on the printing option chosen.

2. You need an exceptional illustrator—with experience.

A children’s book’s success depends a lot on the quality of its illustrations. Without illustrations, your book isn’t complete. So, if you’re not an illustrator you’ll need to hire one before you get to the publishing stage. Choose someone whose work excites you, and get a written contract in place. There are two options for contracts: one provides you with ownership and the other is where the illustrator retains ownership—not knowing the difference will cost you. A contract will spell out exactly what each of you is responsible for; what work will be completed in the process; how much it will cost including revisions, and what happens if one of you terminates the agreement.

Children’s book illustrator fees vary considerably and authors need to be mindful of this. Budget for around $150 per illustration, but more complex or advanced work can cost over $195 per illustration. Professional and simple illustrations are better for book sales than cheap and unprofessional ones. Visit the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) website to see their suggested rates.

3. Your book’s purpose will dictate your printing and distribution choices.

Many children’s authors end up with thousands of books in their garage with no knowledge of how to move them. Many authors say, ‘my printer said the minimum is 500 to 1000 books.’ But this doesn’t need to be the case. With print on demand (POD), you can now print small numbers cost-effectively.

Choosing between POD or offset printing requires some thoughtful consideration. There are differences between the two in quality, quantity, and printing costs. Offset printing is not digital printing. It is more traditional and offers higher quality ink for both colour and black-and-white interiors. A wider range of trim book specifications and paper weights are available, as are printing methods such as spot finishes, pop-ups, and fold-out pages. Offset printing costs more to set up, so this is not for the faint-hearted. You will need to print in large quantities (500 books or more) with offset printing. Essentially, your publishing purpose will influence your choice of printing and distribution.

So how do you decide? We encourage you consider these questions:

  • Do you want to try a low-risk, low-cost, library quality output print run? If so, then print on demand is a viable option.
  • Do you want to create something for personal use such as providing to family and friends? If so, then print on demand is a viable option.
  • Do you have a readership established that you can direct to your website? If so, then print on demand is a viable option.
  • Do you need distribution to online retailers? If so, then print on demand is a viable option.
  • Do you need the distribution options for physical retailers (bookstores)? If so, you’ll need a physical distributor plus offset printing in bulk (minimum 500-1000 books). Although, IngramSpark (POD provider) is set to launch iPage in Australia which could make the supply chain easier for POD books.
  • Do you need to print in colour? If the interior of your book has colour images, even just one, the whole book will be printed in colour for print on demand. Whereas with offset printing you can receive a colour insert—printing just a few pages in colour and have them inserted as a block in the book. The reason you would do this is to reduce your print costs, as interior colour increases the cost of your project.
  • Should you just publish an ebook version? The cost for set up and illustrations for an ebook is very similar to creating a print book, even if there is no cost to print. That said, children’s ebooks usually retail at around $2.99 to $3.99 so it will take some time to recoup your investment if this is your only publishing format.

4. A marketing conundrum–you can’t market children’s books to children.

Most books are marketed and promote to the end user, or what is also known as the ‘target audience’. In the children’s book market, children (the end users) are not the ones buying books so, you market to the people who are buying books for children. Essentially this means the adults in their lives. That means your job is doubly difficult: you must write and publish a book that children will love, and that their parents and relatives will want to buy. Your book must appeal to both audiences and, in some way, set itself apart from other children’s books.

Julie-Ann Harper has 25 years of experience in publishing, business training, self-publishing workshops and presentations; she is a passionate advocate towards true self-publishing and helping authors to view publishing as a business. Pick-a-WooWoo Publishing is the only Australian company listed under IngramSpark’s Resource Experts page as an ‘IngramSpark Self-Publishing Friend’.



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