In this episode, Mark interviews author and bookseller Laura Hayden, who is the co-founder and owner of Author-Author an experimental retail bookshop that deals in online sales, special events, books for writers and books for authors.
Prior to the interview, Mark shares a word from this episode’s sponsor . . .
You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at starkreflections.ca/Findaway.
Mark also welcomes new Patron Melissa Yi and shares a personal update that includes a couple of talks he gave to library groups in the past week, as well as a few Kobo promotions he is participating in.
Mark reminds listeners they can get the following books via Kobo until the end of 2020 by using the coupon code NANO2020 at checkout:
- The Indie Author Mindset – Adam Croft
- Dear Writer, You Need to Quit – Becca Syme
- The 7 P’s of Publishing Success – Mark Leslie Lefebvre
- Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should – David Gaughran
In their conversation, Mark and Laura talk about:
- Laura’s introduction to books by being an early avid reader
- The librarian who took Laura by the hand and guided her through the incredible journey through reading
- The effect of a constant travel life of being a military family on maintaining a reliable career
- Laura’s initial entry into bookselling by walking into a bookstore and offering to help part-time
- Laura’s return to bookselling by offering to volunteer in a bookstore and fixing two of their sections that she saw could use some help
- Learning about the Harlequin Intrigue imprint and how Laura sold her first novel to them on her very first submission
- The steps Laura took by spotting opportunities related to books, bookselling, and bookstores
- The origin of opening up her first physical bookstore
- How the bookstore only lasted 2 years and went into significant debt because there wasn’t a cash-for-trade option
- How Laura has accounts with 18 larger publishers and 44 small publishers, not to mention Ingram, the world’s largest wholesale book distributor
- The non-returnable account Laura has with most publishers, which allows her to offer authors a deep discount on book purchases
- How Laura works within a 6 to 9% margin in her business and that she’s been doing it since 2007
- The way that Laura works with conferences and other organizations for selling authors books at events
- The fact that Laura works 1:1 with all of her clients
- The impact of running this bookstore on Laura’s career as a writer
- Working as a ghost writer
- The Laurence Saunders ghost writer scandal
- The Ella Vaughn pseudonym that Laura is co-authoring with another writer
- The discounts that a bookstore sees when you set different discounts via Ingram Spark or other print on demand services
- The insights Laura has into some “publishers” that writers are considering working with
- What you get with a paid listing in Ingram’s monthly ADVANCE magazine
- Something that Laura wishes all authors would understand about bookstores when considering carrying their books
- The way a successful indie publishing author has worked successfully with a large indie bookstore
After the interview Mark reflects on some of the insights Laura shared but also on how her personal writing took a back-seat to the business she operates in helping writers.
Links of Interest:
- Laura’s Author Website
- Special Patrons Detailed Post: Your POD Book and Bookstores
- Superstars Writing Seminars
- Kobo Writing Life NaNoWriMo Promo (use coupon code NANO2020)
- Obsessions: An Anthology of Original Fiction
- Rude Awakenings from Sleeping Rough
- Mark’s Canadian Werewolf Series
- Findaway Voices
- Wide for the Win Submission Form
- Patreon for Stark Reflections
Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Laura started reading at the age of four and in six short years, exhausted the children’s section of the local branch library. She switched to adult mysteries and science fiction and never looked back. Trained as an engineer, she continued to write “for fun” until one day, she decided to write “for real.”
Since. as a kid, when she wasn’t reading, she was watching TV, her seventeen books and short stories straddle multiple fiction genres and include vivid characters with action, suspense and humor.
Her latest book, DARKWOOD CROSSING: Bailey, the Critter Sitter, is a middle grade collaboration written with Yvonne Jocks under the pseudonym of Ella Vaughn. Laura’s latest short story under her own name is “The Ghost of Dogwood,” the 10th entry in the popular multi-author “Dogwood Series.”
Having traveled across the US as a military spouse, Laura now resides (permanently!) in Colorado with her husband and two dogs. She’s one of the founders of Pikes Peak Writers, its first president and has been the director of its conference an unprecedented eight times. To learn more about Laura, the writer, visit her at http://suspense.net To learn more about Author, Author!, visit http://www.author-author.net
Below is an automated transcription of the interview segment of this episode.
(The transcription has not been human-verified)
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Laura welcome to the Stark Reflections Podcast
Laura Hayden: Thank you, Mark.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I am so thrilled that I get the chance to hang out with you today and find out more about author author. But before we go there, I want to know more about Laura Hayden and, and your career as a writer, as a creative person.
Laura Hayden: Well, it all started back when I was six.
I was an early reader. So by the time I got to be 10 years old, I literally had read every children’s book in the local branch of the Birmingham public library. God bless my, uh, favorite library and took me by the, as I say, sticky little hand and took me to the adult mysteries in science fiction. She started me out on Ray Bradbury, Isaac cosmos, short stories.
And then Ellery queen and Rick stout. By the time I was 13, I had read everything.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So you’ve gotten into the Bradbury, the asthma off the Ellery queen, the stout, like all the, wow. There’s quite a genre specific. Now where you were prior to that, were you a fan of, of the genres, um, or, or was this library and like a mentor that brought you?
Laura Hayden: I had pretty much read all Nancy drew and Hardy boys by then, and really loving the Nancy drew and Hardy boys television shows. Now I just binge watched all the party boys. They may be different, but it’s okay. Um, yeah. Yeah. I always liked genres. I mean, the school was full of biographies, big whoop I’m sorry.
Library school librarians are staring at me and flipping the rulers, but those were boring. I’m not a history person by any stretch. I’m married to a. PhD historian. And I was like, eh, yeah, yeah. History. I don’t care.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: You get that at the dinner table every night, right?
Laura Hayden: Yeah. Yeah. I forget that. Now let’s talk about, now let’s talk about how to kill people, but yeah, I always, I always had Anjani auras in my soul and I really didn’t get into romance until I was working in a bookstore in between the time I was a kid in the library and I worked in a bookstore, uh, went to.
Finished high school went to the university of Alabama, got a degree in industrial engineering, like all good writers do. And you don’t have time for reading in college when you have so much heavy duty homework, but I would sneak a little time every now and then out on the balcony, AKA fire escape. Yeah.
And do some reading. I can’t even tell you what I read in those days, but I didn’t have to go to much English classes. So I was really happy. I ride here says I didn’t like English class. But, um, after I finished college, uh, married, joined a man, a married man who, um, year later joined the air force to see the world.
By that time I was working for the telephone company. And this was to tell you how old I am. It was pre divestiture. So we had all the baby bills still hanging around as part of the big mob bill crate. You know, he’s doing the air force. We don’t know where we’re going to move. Don’t work for the telephone company.
What’s everywhere. Telephones.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah,
Laura Hayden: except for when you moved from Birmingham 90 miles to Montgomery, Alabama, there are no management level telephone company jobs there. So all of a sudden this great career I had, I had raises I’d had promotions. I had no job and I couldn’t get a job because they didn’t want an air force and wife who was going to move in X number of years.
Right. Locked into a small use bookstore that was on the edge of our neighborhoods. And he could use some part-time help. The guy says, well, you know, yeah, I could, I can use the person two days a week. I’m going, I’ll work for you. Minimum wage. I don’t care. I just want to have a house. And six weeks later, I was a manager of the store eight weeks later.
And that was from when I started, he had left and gone to Europe with his new wife or on his honeymoon and left the store $4,000 in debt. Oh, I had no ability to sign on any accounts. All I had were pre done checks for rent and utilities. I was on my own from that point on, when he came back, I had already wired him $2,000 while he was gone.
And he was $4,000 in the black. Well,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: how long was this?
Laura Hayden: This was a total. He was gone for six, eight, eight weeks over a summer.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And just, you turn that business around. And,
Laura Hayden: well, he had a bunch of stock that he had never put on the floor. It was all classics. And I said
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: sell when you don’t put it out. Right?
Laura Hayden: Yeah, I know. But as I called all the schools and colleges in the area and found out what their classics lists were that next semester Nelly’s books running. I turned it back into the publisher, gone. All that credit started buying new books. Oh wait. So I
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: thought you said this was a used bookstore.
Laura Hayden: It was a bookstore.
And he did sell some new books.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, we had some new pro. Okay.
Laura Hayden: Okay. Yeah. He had one case of new books may be back. He hits forward and I was moving books. Really fast. Wow. Because there weren’t any, we didn’t have a Barnes and noble. We had a wall in books or a B dolphin in the mall. That was it, small town.
So he liked me and I liked working there. And I learned so much about books and bookstores working in this little yous bookstore. We had over a hundred thousand titles though, because when you only have two copies of a book, you get to count that as two is one title and add all your inventory. Cut to 10, 15 years later in the air force.
Kids are in school. I’m bored. I’ll walk into a small used book store. I said, no, you’re really unorganized. Let me work here for a day. And let me show you how I can organize your shells. They had, let’s just like all the men, uh, mystery writers in one place, all over the place. They wouldn’t advertise. I said, you’ll sell more, much more books that they’re alphabetized.
You know, you’ve got all your rec staffs together. You have all your Ellery Queens together. You’re going to sell books. I said, well, it can’t be done. One day. I straightened up two of their big sections. I advertise backwards. That’s the way you do it accurately. Yeah. He hired me and I worked for him for two years and I was working with a really nice lady there who said, I was thinking about writing at that point.
You know, you think about Ronnie for a couple of years, and then you start writing some in. I was telling her the storyline I had, she goes, that sounds like a Harlan Harlequin intrigued me. And I said, what’s a Harlequin cheek. She goes, wait. And she walked over to the shelf. She pulled up about a dozen books this year, read things and bring them back.
I read those. I said, pretty damn good. And it does sound like my story. So I went back and I picked up about a dozen more in every week. I picked up about a dozen books and by the time I’d read about 50 of them, I said, okay, there’s not a formula. Other than they get together at the end. Uh, I can do this.
And I wrote it and I sold my first book to Harlequin tree. Wow. I literally sold it on the road between assignments. We were moving from Colorado to Kansas and the call came in to my mother because I’d ran it all calls to her. And so I get to our new quarters with new furniture. I call my mother and she’s screaming like a blithering idiot going, mom, what’s wrong.
She goes your editor. I said, my editor, she had the editor just called. They want to buy your book. Wow. And that was labor day weekend. And
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: when was this
Laura Hayden: approximately? This was in 1993.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay. Wow. Harlequin, is it, was it a Harlequin intrigue that you sold
Laura Hayden: or was it, uh, it took about two and a half years to do it because editors kept leaving the finally land on the senior editors desk and she mainly bought it.
So it was like, yay. And I still ended up selling four books to them over four years. Wow. So I. I’ve been in this business from the heavy reader, from the bookstore side, from the author side. And now I’m doing bookseller and actually on a small side, independent publisher, but that’s not really, we’re not soliciting materials.
We’re working for other people’s. So I speak this language.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, no, no, it’s funny. You ha you have to say that because the minute, uh, sometimes, I mean, I’ve been a writer my entire life. Sometimes you hear publisher and your eyes pick up and you’re like, Ooh, maybe I can sell them something.
Laura Hayden: We’re not acquiring.
We’re not that type of publishing company where an assist itself out publishing company. So we help people publish their own books and get stuff
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: done. So, uh, how did you migrate from writer and then back in, well, I was going to say back into bookselling, but it’s not what you did is you took books selling.
Uh, to a whole new level, uh, with a very author centric approach, like how did that migration happen?
Laura Hayden: I always wanted to own my own store. And my husband finally said I’m retired from the air force. And we were in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which I love. I love Colorado. That was our second assignment.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Love Colorado Springs too.
Laura Hayden: You should come visit more often. I can make it happen. That’s another hat I wear. Um, So he, I said, well, I walked as a little bookstore the other day, and I’d been when Amazon opened up their third-party sales with auctions, I happened to have seen that notice and I had to have some few extra books around the house and I said, I can do this.
And so I put them up for sale. I sold them all. I took that money and I was living in great falls Montana at that point. Um, I went to a little bookstore. I was shopping with the head. I’m going, Oh, I know that book. That’s a, and Stewart’s very first book Barrett Hill. I bet that a Bruce some money. So I bought it, auction it off for $120.
Bought it for less than a buck. I kept saying, wait, I know from working at the bookstore and from being an author and knowing these people. What their old back list is worth. They’re going. Yeah, I can’t ever find this book. When I see it on eBay, it sells for $15 and that’s not fair. And so I said, I’ll start doing that too.
At least they know the money’s going to the pocket as someone who appreciates what they do. And I started buying books up because I knew what. The market was on them. And, um, Todd, if a friend of mine says that’s a great business, she was in Colorado Springs. I was in Montana. And I said, well here, okay, this is what you do talk their entire business.
About three months after I taught her the business and she was doing quite well, we got an assignment to move to Colorado Springs and I realized I just taught my competition exactly what I do. So the only other thing we could do was go into business together. Okay. And we did. And then I walked this well bookstore one time when I was scouting around for books and I’m looking at the owner and she’s sitting on the counter like this, I’m like, what’s wrong.
She goes, the water heater just broke in the back room and flooded everything. I’m quitting. My grandfather had just died and left me a very small amount of money. I looked at her, I said, how much for everything? And she looked at me. I figured I could at least go through all these books and make money through the auctions.
And the Z shops. She called me a price, said, okay, I’ll buy everything, but I’m going to have to have help. We’ve got to put in storage. And so we boxed up everything in that store, including the register, the counters, the bookshelves broke down the bookshelves. I reassembled everything in a storage unit and started slowly going through them all and realized that I hadn’t of stopped starting new bookstore.
So I coerced my partner into doing it and we opened up a bookstore in Colorado Springs. Ran for two and a half years. And we had been operating assigned to books and more online with us a stupid name because they’re not gonna let me sign books in our bookstore. And so we’re batting around names and author, author, just one of the ones we both liked because it was red author blue offer.
And we said, okay, we’re author elder and a steer numbers, fewer letters to put on a sign too. In fact, I only signs at books because you have to pay by the letter. And that lasted about two and a half years until the retail just broke us. We were so much in debt, even though we had a smart bookstore well-organized well loved, but we didn’t have a cash with trade policy.
And that killed us because your best customers brought you a bunch of books in, took out a bunch of books and never spent a penny.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, I see. Okay.
Laura Hayden: You have to have a cash with trade. Or you just can’t pay the rent. Can’t pay the rent with books, unfortunately.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And th this is, this is with, uh, a bookstore that, uh, that deals on used books as well, or use
Laura Hayden: books strictly used.
We did have some new books and we would order, and that’s how we started building out this stuff in. Well, we’ve got an open anger account. We’ve got to sell X number of books a year to keep. The discount up. We can’t do that in the store. Let’s offer the people that we know. Would you like to my books at a deep discount?
And I said, yeah. And so we started doing that and all of a sudden we could keep our Ingram account alive.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh. Because the volume was high enough to justify
Laura Hayden: wrecked director, home, ship, everything. It didn’t have to go through us. All we had to do is order the books to ship directly to them. And if they order 50 books, you got free shipping.
You can’t beat that. Then one day a pinion rep showed up on our door. I heard about you guys. Would you like a penguin account? We’re going, yeah, sure. So we went through Ingram and found all the thing and authors that we knew and said, Hey, we got to think of an account. You want your books at discount? We can give you a better discount than Ingram does.
And it started growing from there. People say, can I get my books? I’m with Hachette. Give me a second. Yeah. I just started an account with Tasha yet. Here’s your price for books? And I did that. And as this sitting, I eventually bought out my partner because we were moving in. So I moved everything to Alabama, ran the store there for 10 years, moved everything back.
Um, now I don’t carry a lot of stock now. It’s just all ordering for authors, but I have accounts with 18. Uh, major in midsize publishers and 44 small publishers. You need a book and I don’t have an account by God. I will start an account, you know, in order from them. Cause I pay, I prepay all the orders. So I’m not asking for credit lines, which roll no credit
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: lines with these publishers.
Laura Hayden: The only credit line I have is with McMillan in Ingram.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay. Yeah. Two small players in the industry. No one’s ever heard of fingers. So let, let explain, uh, to authors, uh, cause I, I I’m a bookseller myself, so I understand how the, how the business works. But when you say you’re going to order books for authors and get them at a discount, I’m going to first explain, uh, I do have traditionally published titles and Canada.
Is my, uh, biggest, biggest publisher that I work with. Canada’s largest independent publisher. Now I can get, I can get books from Dundurn at a 40% discount, which is typically the discount they give to bookstores or light through the distribution chain. But. Uh, I don’t get royalties and that doesn’t count as a sale if I buy a box of books for either marketing or giving away or, or reselling.
But I have brokered deals with some local bookstores where I’ve said, Hey, I’ll cause I know that the discount they get I’ll order a box, whatever 48 copies or whatever from you. You put it through your system. All I’m asking for is your staff discount or, cause I know sellers get a discount and that way you’re making a tight, small margin, but you’re still making money and I’m reaping the benefit of.
Of the sale. I mean, I’ll get the money a year later, but, uh, but then that way I support a small business and I also, I kind of benefit as an author because it’s not a lost cause like Dundurn and won’t count those as sales. So then when they go to consider my next contract, they’re like, well, you didn’t sell any well that’s because I bought them all.
You still made the same amount of money.
Laura Hayden: Yeah, exactly. But
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: actually you took advantage of this opportunity to help authors.
Laura Hayden: Right because the clause and it’s usually two clauses in your publishing contract. One says you can’t be in competition with the publisher, right. That means you can’t buy author copies from them and resell them.
Now, some have that. Some of them don’t all the big ones do have it. And the other one is like you said, it doesn’t count it. Doesn’t generate royalties and doesn’t count through your sell through. And of course the sell through is the most important thing for your next contract. When they look at the percentage of books that you’ve sold.
My advantage is I have a non-returnable account with these publishers, which gives me a better discount. Most bookstores don’t have that. Oh, that’s right. So I’m getting a better discount than your local bookstore. With exception, Ingram Ingram doesn’t doesn’t play that game has one discount structure, whether it’s return on non-returnable and they tell you up front the book can’t be returned.
Um, so I will, um, have these non-returnable counts with them. And for you in, in terms for you to decide whether it’s good for you or not, you look at what is your royalty, how much money are you not making when you buy your own books? Because. But when you buy them from me, I probably got a better discount.
Now I’m going to cut some that discount for my own profit. I’m going to work from anywhere from six to 9% profit margin because I work on volume.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah, of course. That makes sense. And you can’t lose money helping authors or else you won’t be there.
Laura Hayden: Exactly. I’ve been doing this, literally this portion of the program do it by myself.
I’ve been doing since, uh, 2007. So I’m in this for the long haul. Because I don’t have high hopes for overhead and I do vacate a lot and I found that I can take care of virtually everything with me. I have taken orders while I was in vacation in London, because I know I can just wait until four o’clock in the afternoon and get hashed out first thing in the morning, you know, and things like that.
So I can play that game. So I’m, I’m literally doing orders, I’d say almost 24 seven, but I won’t wake up and. Put an order in for you. I’ll wait till the next morning when the publishers are open. Right? So, um, thanks to volume and non-returnable discount. And my low overhead, the bulk of the profit goes into your pocket.
Now it let’s say the discount you get is 40%. I can sell the books to you at 41% and you get your royalty. It’s the account goes through your sell through. Plus we are a New York times reporting store every Monday morning. I report all the sales. In fact, I’m looking at. December 20th, best sellers list they just sent to me right now is on the bestsellers list for December 20th on all the lists.
I’ve got the entire thing here. So I get that early to sign. I’ll tell friends you’re on the list. I see you on the list. Wow. It’s a wonderful business because I’m dealing with authors. We speak the same language. You know, I I’ve published with Harlequin St. Martins, random house. Tyndall. Cause I actually did some, uh, Christian thriller books with them, uh, Cumberland house Kensington.
So I’ve dealt with the longest publishers. I know what’s good for the author. And my bottom line is what’s good for you. And if you asked me to price out a book for you and I found out that Amazon could beat my price, I will. With great reluctance in science. Like, you know what? I can’t beat Amazon. You’ll do better if you buy it from the damn river.
I would tell them that because the bottom line is what’s good for the author. I have an author just said, I’ve got an emergency. I need books by December 18th. Well, they’re arriving today. She put the order in two days ago. Uh, I have very good reps with all the publishers and I won’t pull the, I need a rush job order card with them unless there is one and by God, they will bend over backwards to get books out.
Publishers are great about that. Oh yeah. You’re impressively. Good. Well, we’ll send it out next day. Thank you. I know how much the next day costs shipping across the country. Client in California wants some books and they’re shipping out a New Jersey. That’s a big chunk of money, even though they have a ups account and get big discounts.
That’s still a lot of money that is
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: so, I mean, you’re helping authors, uh, That you get access to the books, uh, through, through a different method that that’s, that removes some of the pain points. And you also have done events as well. I mean, I I’ve been at events where you’ve had a table. And then prior to the events, you’ve invited, um, people authors who have books available through the distribution chain, the ability to either bring in stuff on consignment or, uh, or stuff that you’ve ordered through the publishers.
How does, how does that work?
Laura Hayden: We have a standard consignment form. And again, I don’t want to. I know how much they’re having to pay for their own books. Especially if they’re working with a small press, they’re not getting that self publishing production cost out of Amazon or in our IngramSpark is I take a 20%, um, commission fee on what is sold.
Everything always belongs to them at the end of the day, all books on civil, go back to them. And I have a contract that they sign. We know exactly what titles came in, what the retail price is. How many units they brought in and then how many units they bring out. And I pay for the difference. Hopefully luckily with writers’ organizations, we don’t have any real loss people.
Don’t walk off with books there, cause we’re all in the same boat together. So it’s one of the more honest events you could ever run. I have, uh, so as superstars, you know, it’s, it’s depends on the organization, whether it’s 15 to 20% and I’ll take up to five titles, five copies each, and if you sell them out, I’ll flag you down and say, bring me more books and we’ll add to your contract.
Um, but it gets books on the table. And if you talk about it and someone’s interested there, it is for sale and they’re still getting 80% of the retail on it. And they set the real retail price. If they want to override the retail price on the book. Sticker goes on top of that price. And we go from there.
Uh, I use complete electronic inventory system, so we’re able to really keep track of sales really, really well. I’ve got a, um, a square system that cannot be beat with. Automated touchless, even if that, so I love that, man. Yeah, we haven’t, we haven’t had any events of course canceled due to this COVID fun and games, but I do have a system which would be remained mostly touchless.
Except when people touch your books. I don’t know why you must get,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: we can’t can’t stop. Can’t prevent that, but that’s what you want. You want them to browse and check it out and get hooked.
Laura Hayden: I’ve worked with a friends of libraries. I worked with, uh, science fiction conventions, uh, in the case of like dragon con, I have supplied a stock for some dragon con vendors.
Because I lived in Birmingham, I would drop the dragon con. So I just load up the car full of books. He deliver them to the authors, but unfortunately I live too far for that now. So I’ll have to stick with, uh, Denver, with Colorado Springs, Comicon and Denver pop culture, whenever those come back.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Wow. So.
How, if an author is interested in working with author author with your online books, I call it an online bookstore, but it’s more than just an online
Laura Hayden: bookstore. I actually have an online bookstore website with a real power back in because I do some special promotions with authors and I need to have a fully functional online bookstore to handle that, um, author-author.net.
And no, I couldn’t get. Dot com some Guzman skeleton on it for 20 years. Yeah. I says author-author.net. And on that front page, there’s actually a link to author purchase program, which explains everything and gives a list of many of the publishers we work directly with. Um, all of the many publishers, uh, I work one-on-one with all my clients.
There’s nobody else here. This is home office, it’s me and two dogs and a husband who doesn’t walk into the office. So when you call the phone and I have a dedicated office line, you get me, you get the same person who answered your email, so we don’t have to re-explain anything you go, Hey, it’s Mark. Hey Mark.
Yeah, let me pull up your quote. You know, this is what I can do for you. And I’ve got some, um, clients I’ve ever spoken to on the phone. We’re strictly email online, right? They pay by PayPal or they go through our website and purchase the deposit. So that gives me their credit card information in a secure server.
I have a drawer here with about 1,003 by five cards in it, or two people’s credit card numbers, because we never ever, ever keep it in any online spreadsheet. Right. So it can not be hacked through our system at all. Right. So you’re safe when you’re working with us and that’s an important thing to know.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, and so here’s what I’m curious about, depending on some of the relationships you have with publishers or obviously Ingram because they have facilities around the world is for, um, you’re not shipping from Colorado Springs. A lot of times these are being dropped, shipped from the publisher.
Laura Hayden: Sorry.
Nope. And 98% of our orders are drop, shipped from the publisher or from England.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So could that, I mean, then I’m just thinking about an author who has maybe a, um, in, in Australia, but it’s set up through Ingram and, and they don’t want to have to pay shipping from the U S to Australia. Cause I know Ingram does have.
The facilities is with print on demand to print locally. That’s a possibility, something like that happen, or Harper Collins, UK, or something like that.
Laura Hayden: I, I cannot have accounts with any of the other, uh, like corporate Carolyn Collins, UK. I’m only limited to what I can order the Harper Collins us, but I have several Australian authors who are contracted through the U S arms and they say, I need to get a case of books to this convention.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, and they’re traveling of
Laura Hayden: course. And I’ll drop, shipped to the community. Yeah. Sometimes they’ll drop ship. Cause I’m visiting. I’ve got one who lives in Puerto Rico and she says, I’m visiting my family. Miami will give me the dress in Miami. I’ll ship the books to Miami and you can take them. Whatever’s left.
Cause she was doing some signing events there. Their Australian clients often are shipping. They’re doing promoting things and there are, they’ll have a virtual assistant who lives in the United States. And I’ll shift to the virtual assistant. I work with one virtual assistant who has like three or four New York times best-selling authors and it’s like one credit card, one account, boom, boom, boom.
Ship it to her. They work really well. So she goes, Hey, I need books. I say, how many. Here’s the prize charge my card and that’s the entire that’s our entire communication is okay. I’m shipping it to you. Okay. Yeah. I got your address. I’ll ship it right now. And some of the PR therefore, while the publishing companies were really having to drag their feet through COVID Simon and Schuster still does not have their in-person phone crew in place.
Right? McMillan. Luckily I have a rep at McMillan that I can look. Literally get on Facebook going, Hey, I just sent you an order. Um, delightful, wonderful person who has become a friend, because I won’t ask you to do anything outrageous unless the situation warrants it. And maybe I’ve done that twice over the course of three or four years.
So you’re always, you’re always going to be pleasant to your reps because they’re the ones who make or break your company. If you’re nasty, one of those. Cause you’re having a bad day. You’re not going to get great service or no blame them for not wanting to bend over backwards for you. So when you talk to Laura at author author, you can walk away with a smile cause I’m going to shoot some sort of fun breeze with you.
Not keep you in line too long. So you’re know. You’re not screwing up your statistics on how fast you take an order, but you know, you’re going to be happy when you get through it because I’m telling you how wonderful you are. You’re solving my problem. I can’t yell at you. You’re you’re fixing my problems.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So I have to ask, because you’re running this business that is helping authors, lots of authors with something that they could just not navigate on their own. They just don’t have the ability because you have all of the. The background, the knowledge, the skill, the accounts, what has happened with you as a writer?
Have you been able to maintain the
Laura Hayden: I’ve gotten better there for awhile? I had about a four to five-year dress them. It also kind of happened because I was working with textbooks in green Bay, Wisconsin. The great late, uh, Martin Greenberg. Yeah. And when he passed, that was an add a revenue stream for me that I lost.
And that was very sad. Cause I had done so much work with them as a ghost writer, a credited ghost writing a short stories, they would say, Hey, we’ve got, I guess I can talk about this. Now. Donny Osmond wants to do a mystery series, right. As something up. If he likes it, well, they’ll fly to Vegas to meet him during one of his shows, but that never came to fruition.
A couple of celebrity stuff I did did come to fruition. I never met these people, but, uh, I, I wrote as them,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: but, but, and, and the cool thing about ghost writing is, is you usually get no credit for it, but the money is way better,
Laura Hayden: but he is way better. And I did get cup of credit on both of them. They had the really big Susan Ford and the really little with Laura Hayden.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay. I do. Okay. So that’s, that’s, that’s awesome.
Laura Hayden: That’s rare. And I went into the contract knowing that I might not get credit. Right. But this was after the Lawrence Sanders, Archie McNally series blew up when. He was his bio said that Lawrence Sanders lives in Florida and Lawrence Sanders had been dead for four years.
And someone sued the publisher saying, you lied to me. You said this was written by Lawrence Sanders. And it was written by someone else and they won the lawsuit because it was bait and switch. This was not story ideas or anything that came out of the Lawrence Sanders. He didn’t have a, uh, a box under the bid with all these story ideas in it.
They just turn it over to somebody else. And at that point they started getting scared. So all of a sudden ghost writers start to gain credit. So I got created on two, two, one series and one that should have been a series, but just failed miserably. So not my fault.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So you actually have been able, you have been able to maintain.
Some of the recommendations,
Laura Hayden: some writing, like I said, when you move a lot, that kind of takes the wind out of your sails because you don’t have this consistent group around you. I’ve been with my critique group since 1992, and it’s a lot easier this last time when I wasn’t living in state. Because we had email and we had Dropbox and we had all these wonderful ways to, and cell phones that you could call and not pay long distance charges.
You know, that some so much different than it was in the early nineties where you might, I was an early email adopter. I had a steady email account and in 92, 93, but not everyone did not everyone. Got on their phone and looked at their email every 15 minutes, kind of like I do. So I didn’t have this steady connection with them for many years.
It was, Oh, I’m at the conference with you. Let’s all room together. And, but I didn’t critique with them because we weren’t able to. And I’m here now in the city with my critique group and that’s made me be better. I’ve been here two years and I am. That half a third way through the middle grade that I’m working on.
I published the middle grade this summer that I wrote with a friend. We sat on, it, sat on it for about three years. Um, my fault, I just wasn’t ready to release it. It didn’t seem right, but we released it, uh, in April, I believe it was. And so yeah, you guys,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: is it under both your names or is it
Laura Hayden: we, um, we used to sit in them of Ella Vaughn.
L for me. And Vaughn is actually her first name is Von jocks. Uh, so we decided she’s always used, uh, Evelyn Von Yvonne, because Yvonne is her real first name. So we kind of mush that together. Came up with Ella Vaughn is called dark wood crossing Bailey the critter sitter really. Neat story. It’s a wonderful world.
Oh, I love the brand we built and we know we need to write a second book in the series. We just, she’s a teacher. She’s a professor in the Texas area, so she’s got her hands full surviving. And I got a lot on my plate here. And author authors is by far work, but lots of fun. Wow. One of the nice things is that I have new authors will call me and say, Hi.
I heard from a lube. I should get my book from you. I’m going, God bless you. Loops because if it’s a sisters in crime or mystery writers or our romance writers of America, any of those groups are even critique groups. They’re very good about saying, Oh, you need books. You got to talk to Laura, here’s a phone number, just call her.
Right. And I talked to people who know nothing about the business. They’ve written their first book and they’ve sold it. God bless them to a major publisher. The editor and their agents have not told them what to expect. I ended up talking to them for about an hour on the phone explaining, okay, this is what you need to do next.
And now, now here’s, here’s, here’s your next step. And this is where you should do this and do that. And it’s like, these are babes in the woods and I’m so glad at least I got a hold of them because it’s not fattening my wallet. I telling them what they need to do in their career. And it’s based on 30 years, almost in the business, 25 years in the business and going, okay now, now go to your critique group, go to your loop.
And ask them about this particular thing and see what they say. Yeah, don’t take it just on me, but let me tell you some key topics you should be concerned about. These are the people that talked to him about it. Wow.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, wow. Um, you’re going to send me, you’re going to send me the links to some of your books that are available so people can check them out.
And I’ll post firstname.lastname@example.org um, we were having a conversation. Uh, last week, I think, um, when I was working with you as an author and, uh, you shared some information, um, that I’m hoping it’s okay to ask about here, to, to share with authors because authors don’t understand when they set up a book on IngramSpark, for example, and they say, okay, I’m going to give it a full 55% discount.
The reality, because you’re a bookstore. The reality is the bookstore doesn’t get a 55% discount. So the money’s not all going to. And bookstore what’s actually happening. What are like, what if I set up a 55% discount? Um, what, uh, what is the bookstore actually seen that the author isn’t aware of?
Laura Hayden: Definitely as a, as a small publisher, on a side, I have an Ingram spark account. So I get to see it from that side to see both of them. That’s why I’ve made going. I can tell people to go, no, no, go back into Spark and change it to this. Cause this is what you need. If you give a 55% discount to Spark, the bookstore is going to get what they call a regular discount.
It actually shows up as REG regular. That means depending on the number of books that you buy. How many books were in the total order? Basically it’ll be anywhere from 40 to 42, to a 43% discount to us. So Ingram is going to pocket usually 15% of that. Okay. So if you go down to a 50%, it’s going to show up as 36% for me, and it’ll go all the way down to 25%.
I actually have seen 20%, 10%. And the thing that chills every bookstores soul is when we see a book listed with NET. Which means not only no discount. We have to pay shipping for it. If we, if we don’t order more than 15 books in, in one particular order. Yeah. And even if I get free shipping with 15 books, which I do from two other warehouses, I still have to pay a fuel jet fuel tax.
So I’m still paying two, $2 and 25 cents per book order. Wow. And so I’m not to make any profit. I have to go above the retail price. So a bookstore is not even going to order it for that customer who comes in going, I really need this book. I’m going, uh, I’m sorry, I can’t get it. Or I have to charge you a $5 fee.
For me to get it. And that makes you look bad as a bookstore, you try to say, no, I can’t get it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah, it’s easier to point them at Amazon.
Laura Hayden: Amazon, because I don’t know how they get to have it for that price, but they do.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So, uh, speaking of Amazon, so, uh, and this, this I’m just trying to help inform authors.
So when an author sets up. Um, uh, Kindle direct publishing print that automatically there’s no 55% discount. There’s some sort of short discount. What does that end up looking like? That’s not a net, is it?
Laura Hayden: No, it’s not net. It’s 25% on our side. So, um, when you set up your KDP and you select expended distribution, that will throw it into Ingram.
Uh, often angerness our own printing on it, which is kind of nice. Uh, Ingram and Amazon have some sort of printing agreement because sometimes you’ll get a book that was printed through Ingram and I ordered it through Amazon. So I think they, uh, Whoever’s espresso machine is not busy. They’ll stick it on that and ship from there.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, I imagine, I imagine Amazon’s probably a larger account for them.
Laura Hayden: Uh, but it’s a 25% discount on our side non-returnable period. There is no way to make, uh, Ingram KTP, uh, book returnable on, uh, what a lot of people have done is you can use the same ISB in, you have to coordinate between with, um, Straight off on KDP and then go to Ingram up labor’s the order.
And then tell Ingram that you’re reusing a KTP, but it has to be the exact same trim size. Yeah, exact same content, exact same cover. It is completely identical. So any description of the book of 280 pages, five and a half, eight and a half you the same cover art, you can use the same ISB because they don’t care who the printer is.
Right. You’re the publisher on record. And you do want to use a publisher name when you’re with Amazon. Otherwise it comes up is as independently published on Ingram and you’re lumped in with everybody else. Right. Um, you can with Ingram, you can actually go in and select a publisher and look at all the titles they have.
So if I’m running my books under, you know, Laura Hayden press, which I don’t, and I’m an Ingram, you can click on Laura Hayden press and look at all. And Laura Hayden press
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: don’t. You mean Hayden house publishing?
Laura Hayden: I don’t know who that be. Nice. Hayden books. The big check. Yeah, I haven’t. Yeah, so it was just for that very reason.
Um, but I can actually see everything published by that company. Uh, I can do that with any of the big presses. Right. And one of the services I provide kind of on the side, often, mostly on Facebook in some of the groups I’m in, they’ll say, Oh, what about this publisher? I think good. And I’ve never heard of them.
I’ll go to Ingram and I’ll pull up all of their books. And I’ll say they haven’t listed book on Ingram in two or three years. So, no, I don’t think they are very good. They’re offering you print distribution or they’ll say, um, Or I’ll say the discount is 10% or knit. I’m going, no, don’t sell them them. You do better selling yourself.
They’re not going to offer you anything that you can’t do yourself. Wow. And I like small presses, so small presses are fantastic. Uh, but I’ll steer them away from someone who’s just taking the night to do the, to put it on vellum and slap a $5 cover on it. You know, it’s like, no, that’s not what you should be paying your big bucks to.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. I mean, I’ve always said, um, the reason you may want to go with a traditional publisher, apart from the fact they have in-house editorial and design usually is they actually have real distribution, not the distribution I can get by using a print-on-demand service. Right. That’s that’s the main reason you would do it.
Yeah. And the margin you end up with at the end of the day is relatively the same. It’s about 8%. I mean, once you factor in the cost of printing the cost of distribution, right? It’s not all that different. Maybe I make a tiny bit more, but it’s not, I don’t think it’s for that. It’s for, Oh no. I want my books to be in bookstore as well.
That publisher you’re probably able to go that publisher. Isn’t going to get your book.
Laura Hayden: It’s going to be an increment. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be in the bookstore catalog. Every now, and I will see, um, some of the small presses who actually do an advertisement here, and I’m so surprised, you know, here’s a two-page Harper Collins, and then there’ll be a half page small.
Person’s like, Oh, interesting. They actually put some money into a promotion by going into the catalog.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah, because that is an option. Even through Ingram spark, you have an option of making it available in the advanced catalog with an ad,
Laura Hayden: but all you get with, uh, that. Let’s see, it’s another case of seeing it.
It’s something like this. All you get is a listing like that, right? Uh,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: sorry. Is that the generic listing? That’s not the paid listing.
Laura Hayden: No, everything’s paid. You don’t get a generic listing in here unless you pay for it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It’s just, if you’ve paid the $80 or whatever
Laura Hayden: dollars, this is what you get. Okay. And I have pages and pages and pages of those.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So what is this a hundred page? Uh, quarterly.
Laura Hayden: Uh, let’s see. It’s a monthly and it is 276.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: All right. So it’s not like there’s 20 titles. There’s going to be thousands.
Laura Hayden: Okay. But there’s the first half of it is all colored print ads from the big publishers. Right? Okay. Of course, those are the ones that catch your eye is, and there’ll be one or two articles in there decent about the business or an author.
Right. But it has a lot of money, but it’s distribution. I mean, Ingram is solid and when it comes to distribution, everybody can get angle my account. Yeah. In a bookstore. I think the minimum you can get, it’s like a $3,000 per year account, but then your discounts are very low,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: right? Yeah. Well what’s, um, uh, I really appreciate you sharing these insights.
I think they’re really valuable for authors to understand. What’s one thing that you wish authors, uh, coming into the business that you wish that they would understand about bookstores or understand about the supply chain in general, since you get to see it from all the angles.
Laura Hayden: Yeah. If you have a book that’s non-returnable, you’re asking me to invest nonrecoverable capital into your career.
I don’t know you. I don’t know how good your books are. I’m not really, you know, when I had a bricks and mortar store, I wasn’t really, um, anxious to buy a bunch of non-returnable books. I kept some of those returnable books for 10 years, cause I couldn’t give them away. Couldn’t, you know, I literally would donate them and take some money off my taxes because that was all the work they had to me.
They weren’t worth the cover price. So I hate to tell some authors is that, um, Urging your local bookstore to carry your book has a lot of problems in it. If it’s only available, non-returnable some bookstores and that would be some of your smaller ones might take books on consignment, right? Uh, if they do unique, present them, if they don’t already have a consignment contract, you need to have one that says I’m bringing in X number of books on this date.
Um, the cover price is this amount. For books that you sell, you may keep this percentage of the cover. I will be back or contact you on this day to arrange, to pick up any remaining copies. Or you can call me at this number. If you need more copies, you know, some level we’ll let you do that. It takes a smaller store.
But, uh, I have, uh, I have an acquaintance who lives in Denver and was able to make a consignment deal with a tattered cover. That’s a major thing. And they took a big chunk because their tattered cover they’re used to, uh, uh, Stonewall 40%, but he gave it to him and they were, it was very special for this, for tattered cover to take that.
But he sold, uh, he came there, did book signings would come and sign stock, whatever they wanted, congenial, how you doing? You know, he, he kept the transactions low-key but positive and was a very pleasant person to be around. He sold a good number of books that way. I don’t know that tire cover is open to a lot of people doing that.
I think he was a steady customer and they knew his face from that. So
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: well, yeah, he was part of the community. He was engaged with them. It wasn’t just a random drug drive by
Laura Hayden: exactly in those knowing why a random drive by wa works really well as if you’re traditionally published and they already have your stock.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. And, and, and you’re a recognized name. That’s probably always on the New York times bestseller list that,
Laura Hayden: that helps too, in this case that wasn’t his situation. He is not a well-known author, but he’s a personally, a man who just has a really good way about him. And I think that went far with dealing with tattered cover.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Wow. Well, Laura, thank you so much for sharing so much.
Laura Hayden: So
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: many insights, so much expertise with me today.
Laura Hayden: So you’re saying I’m not afraid of talking
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: and where, uh, just remind people where they can find out more about author, author, or yourself as an author,
Laura Hayden: uh, author-author.net online, and you can find out about, uh, universe specials, any of our, um, uh, Author purchase program.
And please email email@example.com. Yes. I still have a prodigy account since 1992, pro D I G Y prodigy. Um, and, um, Email me and I answer everything myself. I do have a canned email that will send, but in the middle of it, we stopped the can. And then I start talking about your exact situation. So it gets through, uh, it allows me to give you everything you need no in a bulleted format, but then we break through and have the personal connection.
My telephone number is (205) 582-2750 or eight eight eight, eight, seven seven. Read. Eight seven two seven three two, three. That’s
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: beautiful. Yeah. Cause you just need to know, read
Laura Hayden: just we can do that. You know, um, as an author, my woefully, uh, neglected website is suspense.net. I got that right early on in the career.
Uh, you can get firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. So that’s my life. Awesome.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Laura, thank you so much.
Laura Hayden: Oh, you’re welcome, Mark. And, uh, thank you so much for this opportunity and come on, let’s sell some books.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yes. Yes.
Laura Hayden: Because as my motto is, authors should never pay retail for their own book.
And I’m here to make sure you don’t.