Since I signed the contract with Archangel Ink quite a lot of indie authors approached me asking if it is worthwhile.
I answered them here and there, but I intend this post to be an ultimate answer for all such questions.
I’m very satisfied with our cooperation, however there are some drawbacks and I’ll start with them.
Publishing a high quality book costs money. Editing services, a cover, proper formatting… The list goes on.
On the other hand, there is quite a time lag between publishing a book and reaping the benefits. Archangel Ink will get their investment back no sooner than two months after the launch. Here’s a real life case to illustrate this point:
My book, Learn to Read with Great Speed, was republished by them on 11th of August 2014.
Up to the end of August it had sold a few hundred copies and earned a couple hundred bucks for them.
Amazon paid them that money at the end of October 2014, but they still had to pay their people in August, September and October, not to mention fixed costs of running a business.
That’s why they need a deposit for the initial investment.
They estimate a $250 deposit for the book, which is already on the market (the performance is known, the risk and investment are usually lower).
They charge about $500 for investing in the new release (more work and higher risk).
“Charge” is the wrong word. It’s a deposit and, as such, it will be returned after six months to the author.
They are confident bold enough to know that they will easily make such a sum on the book within six months.
Let’s do some math to drive the point home:
They invested about $250 in my book at the end of July 2014. They will get exactly three payments – at the end of October, November and December – before they will return my deposit. They expect to make at least $83.33 monthly out of it.
Assuming a $2.99 price point and $0.07 delivery costs, they would make about 63 cents on a single copy. We would need to sell at least 136 copies a month so they could break even.
My biggest sales of this book were in the month of launch: 113 copies. And the book was priced at $1.
Bold assumptions, aren’t they?
They’ve recently changed their politics extending deposit period up to 12 months.
The actual level of deposit is individually estimated for each book. They are not set in stone.
I love Archangel Ink’s guys for this deposit approach. I need to spend money on releasing my books anyway; with my mediocre English I need to edit them, anyway; I have no graphic skills, so I need to outsource cover creation anyway; I need to launch my book anyway and it works better if I spend some money on it.
And they share the risk with me, something no other service provider does. That’s especially frustrating with external marketing services: an author pays them upfront a fixed fee, sometimes a very lavish fee, and then crosses his fingers in the hope of a return on investment. The provider doesn’t care a whit about the author’s results, he is in a secure position.
Archangel Ink does care very much about your results.
2. Sales tracking.
Quoting my friend Anita:
“Also wondering… if you don’t have access to sales charts – do you just have to wait until the quarter is over, and they send you a check, to find out how you did? Doesn’t that drive you crazy?”
Well, it drive me insane and that’s the drawback. You have no access to these wonderful Amazon sales reports. I miss them so much!
When you publish with AI you will be kept in the dark about your sales. It’s not some kind of vendetta, they just have no human resources to provide you with sales reports on a regular basis.
From time to time Matt Stone shared some numbers with me, but in comparison with the luxury of having my sales at the reach of a mouse’s click anytime, it now feels like data starvation.
It drives me insane. Hopefully, after a few authors will go nuts, Archangel Ink will implement some reporting process. I just hope I won’t be among these nutcases.
3. Control of the publishing process.
Or rather lack of it. You hand it almost completely over to them. We, indie authors, are spoiled beyond imagination in that regard.
I was so used to overseeing every step: edition, cover creation, formatting, marketing, choosing categories, everything! I could tweak anything at a moment’s notice.
Not any longer.
I still have some influence on it, but it’s constrained first by the cooperation model (there’s only so many things you can discuss via email), time zones and the sheer size of their team.
Archangel Ink is run by three founders and they have dozens of employees and freelancers to coordinate, and dozens of authors to serve. I’m just one of them.
The absolute control will slip out of your hands, it’s unavoidable. And you suffer the consequences:
a) see point 2; it’s one of them.
b) you could do something better than your publisher.
If you’ve been in business for some time, you probably have some well developed skills which helped you along the way. Maybe you can design mind blowing covers or write compelling book descriptions.
I can hop through Amazon categories like I was born in this virtual environment.
It’s not that Archangel Ink can’t. They are just overwhelmed with the tsunami of projects so they take a ‘good enough’ course. They don’t spend hours researching categories for each book and then painstakingly track if the change has driven some effects. It’s not their 20% which brings 80% of results.
So I watch helplessly how my books have only one category or have one that feels utterly wrong for their topics.
c) they don’t know your books in the intimate way you know them
How could they? You are the author, it’s your creation. Sometimes it elicits trouble.
For example, in my book, Learn to Read with Great Speed, at the beginning I changed the font of a fragment of text giving my readers a speed reading test. During the formatting process this change was overlooked and the book was published without it. Quite a fail if you ask me 🙁
4. Communication issues.
Archangel Ink has their own process and company culture, needless to say, a bit different than mine. It caused us some troubles and I’m sure it will make more till we learn to work hand in hand.
For example, overlooking of the font change in my book was caused by their attitude toward book formatting. They are in the business of mass production. They simplify the process as much as they can, so they use the same font style and size throughout the whole book. If you produce dozens of books monthly it saves a lot of headache.
And I didn’t know that. I formatted my books myself and I wasn’t afraid to give it a personal touch. Our views on the subject clashed in this regard, thus leading to misunderstandings and a problem in the final product.
The same goes with categories. I was used to squeezing the last ounce of exposure from Amazon. As an indie I had no other choice. You probably know this: exposure or death. With my non-existent marketing skills, tweaking categories to perfection was my way to squeeze out an ounce more of exposure. But Archangel Ink has not such problems. They launch the book using their massive list via Buck Books and, suddenly, the book is everywhere on Amazon. They can afford not to worry about each single book and each single category.
We will adjust to each other. It takes time and practice, like any other cooperation. I had more serious problems with freelancers in the past and I still was able to figure out how to finish the projects positively.
1. They have good enough control over the process.
You don’t have to micromanage if your business partner knows what he is doing. The second biggest complaint indies have about traditional publishers (the first is unfair model of compensation of course) is that they are fossilized. It takes them eons to introduce the change into a book or the process.
Archangel Ink founders are indies themselves. You don’t need to micromanage them. They know what they are doing and are doing it well.
My six books were republished within six weeks since I provided them manuscripts. They all went through a professional publishing process, were proofread, formatted, their descriptions were tweaked and so on. They all sell better than when I had absolute control over the publishing process.
The biggest benefit of this situation is that it freed up a lot of my time to take care of writing and my life. I had been spending a lot of my time on formatting, researching categories, outsourcing cover design, preparing launches and free promos… I signed the contract a week before starting renovation of my new home. I could give this activity appropriate attention without the burden of tackling each step of the publishing process on my shoulders.
They may not know the nuances of your book, but with a much bigger data set they know all kinds of publishing tricks you just can’t know. For example, I brought to Matt’s attention that there are no links to the book page in request for a review at the end of my books. It’s common wisdom to do so, I’ve heard it many times in authors’ groups and forums.
He told me that they tracked the efficiency of this solution and it is just not worth it.
I’m sure they know a lot more such tricks.
3. They understand indies and go the extra mile.
One example which says it all: Matt offered to make for me a dedicated landing page for my subscribers. By the way, free of charge. Of course I was interested, my subscribe page on the blog was far from pretty and I knew it. I just never had the time and money to come up with something better.
I set one condition, however: that the subscribers will be signed up to my Aweber account, not some list in Archangel Ink’s abyss. When I signed the contract with them, the only resources which stayed really mine were this blog and my mailing list. I just couldn’t resign from the control over my list.
Matt just said, “All right, no problem.”
A web developer who works with him made this beautiful landing page for me. He was so flexible that, when I contacted him to ask for some further improvements, he did it on his own, without consulting Matt. (BTW, kudos to you, Josh!). I don’t know his deal with Matt, but it works perfectly for me.
This attitude builds trust between us. I don’t hesitate to refer my readers to their list.
4. They are vitally interested in the success of your book.
I touched on this subject talking about deposits. They finance the initial investment and they want it back. They are paid not by the promises, but by results. If my book won’t sell they won’t earn a dime.
I may not have an instant view into my stats, but they have them and they track them. Once again, it’s more a question of micromanagement and my old habits than the real need for data. They have data and they do all in their power to make good use of them.
Because it’s to their advantage too. This cooperation is mutually profitable.
Within several months, Archangel Ink built their marketing machine from scratch. Within a year I was able to get about 250 subscribers on my own. The disparity between their skills and mine is enormous.
In the end it’s the ultimate determinant of any cooperation. Archangel Ink delivers results for indie authors. In July 2014 I earned about $390 on my own. The same six books published by them in August and September brought me about $1000. It was the same content, just repackaged.
And do you know what I like best? Not bucks. These numbers mean that I have more readers. MANY more, in fact. My readership expanded significantly. I sold 434 copies in July. In the first month of cooperation with Archangel Ink I sold 630 copies of Learn to Read with Great Speed during a couple of $0.99 promos alone.
My list grew by 20% in this period.
The ultimate benefit of cooperation with Archangel Ink
I want to be a full time writer. Cooperation with Archangel Ink accelerates achieving this goal.
The ultimate benefit of that collaboration is that you spare yourself headaches. You can focus on the author’s job – writing – and outsource the rest to them. You can still market on your own if you wish to and have the resources. I don’t and I haven’t.
My best marketing comes through developing relationships with my readers. Now I can spare more time for email communication. It already brought the fruits. My previous book, From Shy to Hi, was read by six beta readers. The next book by twenty-seven.
In my absolutely non-biased 😉 opinion, signing the contract with Archangel Ink is the best thing that can happen for an indie author struggling to stay afloat. If my results haven’t convinced you about it, then there is no power in the universe which would accomplish that.