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SPS-414: Selling Books Direct with Bookvault – with Alex Smith

Direct sales. A phrase being echoed across Writing conferences and writing spaces currently. Independent authors are now- more than ever- wanting to sell their own books, on their own terms- but how do you do that? Alex Smith joins the conversation today with his service- Book Vault, to talk about fulfillment and printing for independent authors wanting to dip their toes into direct sales themselves.

Show Notes

  • Book Vault and its influence on the indie publishing space.
  • Direct sales and how it works.
  • How Book Vault operates.
  • Printers and printing.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Selling Books Direct with Bookvault – with Alex Smith

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of Self-Publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is the Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Welcome, Mark Dawson. Before we do anything else, we have a Pat supporter to give a shout out to. Thank you very much indeed to our patron supporter, who it is,

Mark Dawson: It's Shadow Fall, which is probably, I'm guessing the name of a book I would guess, but so who the

James Blatch: Author is, or it could be their MI six code name. Maybe they're operating behind enemy lines and they don't want to be,

Mark Dawson: Who knows. But anyway, thank you very much to Mr. Shadow.

James Blatch: Can you tell I'm writing an espionage book at the moment?

Mark Dawson: Yes, I can.

James Blatch: I've been reading a lot about the increment.

Mark Dawson: Oh yes. Yeah, that's quite an interesting, I've done lots of study in the increment also the Feather Man is worth looking at as well.

James Blatch: Feather Man. Yeah, E Squadron, I think they're probably known as now, but the increment, apparently the increment was like a really secret code word that no one knew until an MOD person leaked it in the email in 1991 or something. Can you imagine?

Mark Dawson: You idiot.

James Blatch: Anyway, yes, so if you dunno what we're talking about, we're talking about military wing of security services here in the UK because we don't have A-C-I-M-Y six or pen pushers apparently, although in reality they're probably not enough of that. Although I'm writing my book again, which I have to say I had a long period this year where we had a crazy year where I wasn't writing. I'm writing every day again now, which I'm really enjoying. And after 20,000 words into my book, I finally got to a military aviation scene and funnily enough, that scene flowed out of me like 1200 words in 25, 30 minutes. Whereas the other scenes I found a little bit more difficult, but that's a slight changing genre, so it's just slowed me up a bit. I'm enjoying it. Hey,

Mark Dawson: You're in direct competition with me. Good luck.

James Blatch: Yes. Well, mine's period history I suppose is a little bit different. 1970. Yeah, that's true.

Mark Dawson: I've got an expedited book set in actually in two. Got one set behind the burning wall and I've got one set around the time at Charitable, so kind of, yeah.

James Blatch: Okay. Yeah, that's far a

Mark Dawson: Bit earlier than me.

James Blatch: I'm very much enjoying, and it's feeding right into my research as well. We've got Mark Cameron coming onto the podcast soon. I'm going to be interviewing him in a couple of weeks and he writes the Tom Clancy books now. So I'm reading the latest one of those, which I picked up in a bookshop of somewhere abroad actually I think in the States. So it's doing very well and I'm really enjoying that setting in Eastern and West Berlin, of course, as every good py novel set in the mid eighties was. And yeah, lots of little tidbits I'm gleaning from that might help me in my own book. And a couple of things

Mark Dawson: He wrote them, he stopped, he's written his last one, he's passed the baton to, has he? Another author I'd heard of, I can't remember. He mentioned it on a panel. I was on a panel with him in Vegas and he mentioned that he'd stopped after writing six, I think it was seven. Oh,

James Blatch: Okay. He's good. He's really captured Tom Clancy. He's captured the very best of Tom Clancy and also Little bits of Tom Clancy that irritated me a bit. He's got that as well, which is important because they probably just irritate me, but they are very much, let

Mark Dawson: Guess that's pages of information on what Weapon feels like or

James Blatch: No, not that I love all that stuff. No, it was more, he's such a perfect character. Jack Ryan and his wife is so perfect and their relationship is so perfect and he's such a great dad and that I found nauseating. You want your characters to be a bit flawed, but Jack Clancy didn't really do that with Jack Ryan and Mark Cameron's done that as well, but that is because he's writing as Tom Clancy and writing that star, and that's very clever to have captured all of that. Most people probably love that. Yes, absolutely. All American hero stuff. Anyway, so I've got that interview to come up, so I'm really looking forward to doing What are you working on at the moment? What are you writing

Mark Dawson: Atticus? I am now, I'm finishing Middleton 23 called Bloodlands. I'm kind of hoping I might get it done by the time I go away for Christmas next week, but that's not going to happen now, which is fine. I usually get a sticky couple of weeks where I've kind of got to about the 65,000 words and it's like, oh, God is rubbish. And then I'm through that now when that happens, I usually go back to the start and go over what I've done and actually I'm quite pleased with it now. So it's about 77,000, so I think it's going to be about a hundred thousand when it's done, but I think it'll be done January and then I'll do Atticus four, which has been fun actually. I'm thinking I might do a couple of standalone podcasts over Christmas, and one I might do is just what I've done with Atticus in this area. So a very local campaign, but still selling I think maybe 2000 copies now in one Salisbury War Stones, which makes it the biggest selling book that they've had this year by quite a long way. Had an event last Thursday, which sold out the fastest sellout they've ever had in three days. I'm going to do a big kind of local launch next year, but at a bigger venue. But it's just been really, it's fun to have people coming up and signing, and I'm actually going into the store for a couple hours on Saturday morning to sit at a table and sell. It's perfect for Christmas. Local book signed by the author. Yes. If I can't sell a couple hundred in two hours, I'll be disappointed. So that's,

James Blatch: You're going to be asked to turn on the Christmas lights.

Mark Dawson: I think I mentioned before, I'm actually now getting recognised in Salsbury, which is really quite funny.

James Blatch: Putting Salisbury on the map, why would I want to do that?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly. But that's with very local Facebook advertising, which obviously you can do, and I think there is something there for authors who maybe aren't making a big success of it nationwide, but kind start smaller and they start with a local area, then extend the boundary and extend the boundary again and build word of mouth. And you can do that with very closely targeted ads. So I might do something on that. I think it'd be quite an interesting one. It's also fun. It's not making me, you could set something in Huntington, or

James Blatch: Actually I could sell them down your way. I could compete with you because Bosque Down is kind of the centre of my first novel.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's true. Yeah,

James Blatch: You must have a lot of XREF people living around there.

Mark Dawson: It's mostly

James Blatch: Military, mainly Army obviously, but yeah,

Mark Dawson: Yeah. But yeah, I'm sure there are lots of pirates and things, but yeah, it's fun actually. It's not going to make me a huge amount of money, but it is a lot of fun to go into Ward Stones and all the staff are like, Hey Mark, how you doing? And we've ordered another 300 copies, will you sign them? And it is actually quite nice to be able to do that and see the local Facebook groups. Every town has them, I think what's on in Huntington, what's on in Salisbury with five, 6,000 people in there. And so I've posted in there before and get like 400, 500 comments from locals. So actually it's been really fun. So quite enjoying that

James Blatch: Good. Always like to hear success stories, even if they're here in house. But I got a note last night from Car Alburn who's one of our Cambridge authors, and she's in the charts ahead of both Zodiac Academy and Sarah J Mass at the moment in her romance, dark Romance series. So really kudos to her. She's done really well and is doing really well. Good. Yes. But it is a struggle. I had a really good start to the year in sales, made a thousand pounds profit in an early month, and since then it's been more difficult focused in the middle of the year on building my list, which went really well. But obviously it's just quite expensive at this point without books to then leverage the list with. But I was signing good 500 names a month and a reasonable cost, switched back to sales for ads and made a small profit last month, which is probably where a lot of people are when they've got two or three books, two and a half books in my case.

It is hard at this beginning stage. So if you're listening to the podcast and you're fed up with hearing how successful everyone else is, it absolutely, it takes work and it takes products basically books on the shelf and keep getting stuff right in the way that you're working and operating, which is what this show is all about. And in actual fact, today's interview is going to be about a new exciting, well, not new exciting, but an area that's always been around direct selling, but is certainly on everyone's lips at the moment as an area for exploiting for us. But before we get there, mark, should we just give the foundation another shout out? We are getting to the stage where we're going to close applications to the SPF Foundation soon.

Mark Dawson: So just a very, very quick recap and some very kind sponsors, I won't mention them all now. They're all on the website, provide some money and also access to our two main courses to a number of successful applicants who meet the criteria and are selected or picked to take part in the foundation. And it gives people a chance who might not otherwise have the means to be able to take their books and get them packaged correctly or advertised, or it just basically gives people a little bit of a shove and hopefully that is the kind of early momentum that they need, which then builds and take them from maybe not selling very many books to selling what we think those books deserve to sell. And we've had some, well, half a dozen authors who've been through the foundation, and we've done this for five, six years now, so maybe 30 or 40 authors have done it, but a good half dozen of those are now making significant amounts of money in some cases, really significant amounts of money.

And I think without the push, they may have got there, but it would've been more difficult and it might've taken them longer. So we are looking for applicants now, and the choosing process will start probably round about Christmas time. So if you want to find out more about that, if you go to the website, inform me.com. And I think on the top right of the dropdown menu, there is a tab called Foundation. So if you click that, all the details you'll need will be there. So fill in the application form, it will come to us, and if you are picked will be in touch early next year to let you know.

James Blatch: Good. And one other thing just to tease ahead is we have two standalone courses being released soon. One is AI Marketing for authors, which is I think I've had the most fun putting a course together in a long time, particularly the image work, which I do, and Mark does a lot of the tech stuff. So that course on how to leverage ai, how to use it properly for authors, and the things you can do now, hand by hand step-by-step instructions on how to actually do it. That is coming out in the next few weeks. And then probably after Christmas in January, we will release how to Make Money with Translations. And that's been done by a guest lecturer in Bella Andre, who's a very successful romance writer in her own right and has also done super well with translations and has a system methodology to follow.

So that is going to come in, we'll give you more information as we get closer to the release of both of those courses. Now, direct selling. So this is something that's really come to the fore. In fact, along with ai, it's been the two big, they have been the two big discussion topics at all the conferences that we've been to this year. And there's one company that's got itself very cleverly at the centre of the direct selling boom. It is based not far from here. I've visited the factory about 20 miles away from where I'm sitting here in Peterborough in the UK it's called Book Vault, but they have partners in the US as well. And when anyone talks about direct selling, they talk about book vault because it's setting itself up as a company to be positioned perfectly for indie authors to make the most of direct selling, special editions, all those good things. In fact, if you listen to the Creative Pen podcast as well, you'll know Joe is a big fan of Book Vault. In fact, if you go to the factory, her books are very prominent around the place. So let's hear from Alex Smith, the horse's mouth out book vault, and then Mark, and I'll be back for a quick chat at the end of the podcast.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Alex Smith from Book Vault, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. It's good to chat.

We've seen each other around the world, haven't we?

Alex Smith: Yeah. It's just recently. Link was, yeah, nice and hot, which was nice.

James Blatch: And London and Peterborough. Now people may not know where Peterborough is, but I know where it is about 15 miles away from me, which is sort of coincident, but that's where Book Vault is based. And you are, I mean there are two big talking points at the moment. One is ai, but the other one is direct selling.

And your name, Book Vault's name is in every other conversation about direct selling. So you better introduce yourself to us.

Alex Smith: Yeah, so my name is Alex. I'm the technical lead here at Book Vault. So Book Vault is a kind of print on-demand platform built by a company called Print on-Demand Worldwide. So we are a company that have been in the printing scene, digital print for around 30 years now. So the past we printed for traditional publishers in the UK such as Taylor and Francis Bloomsbury Publishing and people like that. And it wasn't until around two to three years ago that we opened up our platform that was originally kind of cordoned off the publishers to the indie market and authors around the world. So it kind of enables people to I guess get access to the publisher grade features. But as an indie author and kind an individual as well, we have our own print facility as well in the uk. So made a large amount of investment over the last couple of years kind of really automating that and dial it down to a T. And then we also work with partner facilities around the world as well. So we've got a partner facility in the US and then we're also launching one in the coming weeks in Indie as well. So we're kind of really building that print network around the world to enable one platform to print globally.

James Blatch: And what I really love about this situation is that you say it's 30 years, so 30 years you've been printing in the kind of traditional space, but I really feel that you've recognised the growth potential of the indie market and are pivoting your business towards them.

Alex Smith: Oh, without a doubt. I think we kind of see it as a bit of the future, to be fair. I think it's the way that people are going if they can earn more money and it's all these simple platforms enable them to, it's the way they're going to go. I mean I've seen people that kind of hybrid publish and always bring in more through Indy. So it does seem like the way to go. And I think it was that we attended the Self-Publishing show a couple of years ago and that's where it kind of really opened our eyes up that yeah, this is the market we want to be in. I mean as well, everyone's just so much nicer. Everyone wants to sell their books and they've got a passion to sell their books as well, which is what we want to see. We want to help people on their journey and see them come from having their first book to tens of thousands of pounds coming in each month. So that's kind of the route that we want to take.

James Blatch: Well, you're a great addition to the community. It's great to have you around and the company there, and it's exciting what people are doing. I had Joe Penn on the podcast last week. I interviewed Joe Penn last week, I'm not sure when it's going up, probably going out before this interview. And she held up very proudly per book, the Shadows book, and I think a gold Braided one, which looked amazing. And that's all done through you guys.

Alex Smith: So that's something we're really trying to, I guess, break the mould of POD. So I guess quite a lot of the publishers, we call it the dirty work, they always used to give us the work that no one else wants to do and it would always be that we would do it. So that's something we've kind of dialled down in our production Phil a lot. We kind of have built a lot of workflows and processes to do what other parenters find a bit difficult automated and in a production environment that we can get 'em out in quite quickly as well. So that's why we are trying all these new innovative things such as you say the printing of foil, box sets, ribbons and all those exciting things to try and enable people to effectively sell their products for a higher price and earn more. I think that's the whole thing, especially when you talk about direct sale and it's all about up sales. So if you can sell your book for 10 pounds on Amazon as a standard product, but then you can sell it on your own website with a foil cover and a ribbon for an extra 15 pounds, that's always going to be great.

James Blatch: And that is definitely something people are thinking about, particularly those authors who have big established audiences and a decent sized mailing list. You'll always be perhaps blown away by the fact that people are prepared to pay 25 30 pounds for a special edition of one of your books. And that's where this whole system works.

Alex Smith: Certainly, I think it's all about targeting those superfans that are really, they invest in you as well as the stories. So they're much happier to maybe wait a bit longer for their books, but get their books and have a really nice thing that they can put on their shelf and kind of write for you. Yeah, really nice.

James Blatch: Yeah, so that's the kind of one-off special editions. People might use that for Kickstarters. I think that's what Joe did with her book and so on. But actually the stock in trade probably for most of us is going to be setting up a sort of Shopify, just selling our own books, either I guess stuffing envelopes on our kitchen table. But you also do the whole thing, right? You do the fulfilment.

Alex Smith: So we have a range of apps now. We're kind of adding them as quickly we can. So the big one for us is Shopify. That's obviously the one that seems to be taking the indie market by storm, but we also work with WordPress with WooCommerce as well, just recently launched Wix as well, which is a big one for us. I think we're the first in the printing space to do that as well as Zapier. So that enables you to link up multiple apps together. So those kind of platforms all tie into Book Vault. So effectively you would instal the Book Vault app onto your chosen website, we would then kind of pick up the products that you want to sell. We then provide the customer at the point of buying the book, the Up-to-date shipping price so that you get charged what they get charged. So there's no kind of manually putting 10,000 rates in, et cetera. I think with the Shopify store we manually upload 42,000 shipping prices. So that would obviously take you a long time to do. So it kind of all flows through book vault. So as soon as the customer places the order, it comes straight to book vault, we print and send it directly to the customer, whether that be locally in the US from our US facility in the UK or globally.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's amazing. So in the UK it's your factory and I've been there, we had a tour of the factory and saw the amazing printing machines, but in the US you use a partner facility, but

is that transparent to us? If I set up a Shopify with for US customers as well just feel the same to me?

Alex Smith: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So when you set up your store, it would literally say Book Vault UK and Book Vault us and you can choose only to ship from Book Vault UK or to choose Book Vault us. It's kind of completely up to you. And they would ship out by Ohio. So we've got a working agreement with Baker and Taylor in the US so they're who are printing it for us. So we are kind of going off the mould and not using Ingram, but I think that's what quite a few of our customers as well, I have to admit, we went through loads of printers, but their quality was really great, so that's why we chose them.

James Blatch: Great. That's good that you've got a partner and I can see you potentially expanding yourself at some point into the States

Alex Smith: Without a doubt. Yeah, I think especially attending more and more US conferences, it's making me really want to, I mean certainly with the weather from Florida, I think if you want to set a factory in Florida, I'll happily move out there. That'd be great.

James Blatch: Now just to get into a bit more detail about how this works, because some people including me to an extent, cause I don't have a lot of time to look at the technical side of it, don't fully appreciate what you mean when you say you have an app on Wix or on WordPress and so on. What are we actually talking about here?

Alex Smith: So effectively if you take Shopify as an example, there's the Shopify app store. So you can get all your different apps, so you can get a email app kind of popup app and all stuff like that. So all you do is search in the app store for Book vault, it comes up, you instal the app, log into your account and it kind of talks you all through there. And we've got a really great knowledge base on our website that kind of talks you through the stage of how to do everything. And equally we've got a great support team as well. So if you do struggle, you can reach out to us and we can arrange a Zoom call, et cetera to go through things.

James Blatch: So basically you build your website,

you drop in these apps as you call them onto a panel, and then in the background you get it on your app, you load your products, where do you do that?

Alex Smith: Yeah, so on the book Vault portal you can add all your titles. So if you have your own ISPN upload your own ISPN or equally if it's just a sell direct, we can provide you with a fake ISPN because they're not going out to retailers, you don't need registered ISPN. So we can provide you a fake one. And then effectively, once you've uploaded 'em and uploaded the file to book bot platform, we'll then link them up to the store and print and dispatch 'em for you.

James Blatch: Okay.

And how is the takeup of these products? I mean they're pretty early days on. I think Wix was only a few weeks ago.

Alex Smith: Yeah, Wix is kind of an early one. We haven't shouted about it yet. We normally like to leave it. This is the first time we've kind of, I guess globally released it. We're working with Stuart from Digital Authors Toolkit. So he's absolutely fantastic. And yeah, he's certainly the one to go to if you want to set up a Wix website. He's been kind of testing it as well, given us a bit of feedback. We always, I guess as a developer I kind of know how I want it to work, but equally we get a lot of feedback and we work on that quite closely. So yeah, the Shopify one's been a massive intake. I think last month we had our biggest instal, I think just shy of 350 people installing it in a month, which again is a massive uptake of authors really pushing for direct sales. And we're only seeing that kind of increase more and more. So it's exciting.

James Blatch: Yeah, well hopefully I'll be able to give you feedback soon because Stuart Grant does look after my website, which is on Wix, and we do have direct selling and I use an awful clunky pay hip system at the moment, which looks horrible. So I'm very much looking forward to.

And also the, I do autographed additions, which for the time being at least we'll have to do at home. I can't see a way around that unless I take it up presumably. Is it possible I could bring a box up to you at some point in Peterborough?

Alex Smith: Yeah, we don't normally do stocking, but something we are looking at is potentially sending out pre-printed covers that people can sign in inside of the cover and then we then bind the cover to the text block. So that's something we're investigating or whether it be kind of book stickers that you stick in with a signed plate, et cetera. So it's something that we are looking at, I guess we are very much, our facilities very much say no to stock, so we very much literally a book comes off the end of the production line and goes out the door within a couple of hours. But it is certainly, we've had a lot of feedback for it. I know we last year did the Kickstarter with Joanna Penn, she came in and signed, I think it was 700 bucks in a morning I think. Yeah, C'S tunnel there with her hand. But yeah, it was good. So it is something we're open to and looking at,

James Blatch: Yeah, it's very quickly fill up your premises. You you'd have to get one of those disused farming warehouses in the feds to fill up with books if you could stock

Alex Smith: Look, there's quite a lot around here. Yeah,

James Blatch: That is true. So yeah.

So basically this is for the ideal scenario. Is your shop selling your versions of your books, not going through Amazon or any of your other retailers doing it direct? And just tell us again about the fees side of things. So how does that work?

Alex Smith: So as a platform, we introduced an upload fee. So we didn't initially start with one, but after about a month of launching, we had someone upload 20,000 books all with different pictures of the kittens on, I dunno how they did it because it wasn't even an automated version. They must have paid some labour somewhere to quickly upload them all, but in a space of a month completely flooded our system. So we had to introduce an upload fee. So the upload fee is 1995 or $24 95 per title, and that's a one-off fee and you don't have to pay to change the specifications or the files. It's literally just that. I call it a barrier to entry, but it's not, it's like a barrier there to stop people mass uploading. But there's a couple of ways around that. So we work with a lot of organisations, be Novelist Incorporated, we work with Alliance of Independent Authors as well as a big one for us.

So all members of them get unlimited uploads, so there's a free code to upload as many titles as you want, so that'ss kind of free there. We also have plans as well, so we've got Book Vault Pro, which is probably the one that majority of people use, and you pay 89 pounds 95 a month, and then you get limited uploads and that's done on a month by month basis as well. So you could literally go to Book Vault Pro, upload all your titles in a month and then drop straight back down to the free plan as well. So that's kind of a way of uploading all your titles at once. So that's that.

James Blatch: I think you're going to extend that offer to SPF listeners to the

Alex Smith: without doubt. Yes, without a doubt, yes. So yeah, certainly sort that out. Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay, so we'll sort that out. So you'll get a code for, is that unlimited free uploads of your titles

Alex Smith: For the podcast? It's free uploads and then yeah, we can sort out other codes in the future as well, I think. Yeah, certainly.

James Blatch: Okay, so free uploads and if you go to self publishing formula.com/book vault will be the URL and you can grab your code from there. So absolutely be part of that. As you say, those bad actors, I mean goodness knows what was going on with the kittens, but I think,

Alex Smith: Yeah, I mean I like kittens but not 20,000 of them.

James Blatch: And I think if you are in online organisation, this is what Amazon deal with every day, isn't it? They end up with people trying to game the system with their low content stuff.

Alex Smith: That's the thing. I mean, we will happily accept low content, it's just that it's got to be low content that you are prepared to sell because as I say, people will upload loads of low content and it's kind of all those get rich quick schemes on Amazon where you can upload 20,000 books and they'll make $10,000 a month, et cetera, with no marketing or anything like that. So that's, we don't want those people, but we do want the low content people that really do put effort in to try and sell.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah, good. And it's a fascinating physical world to see and that

I guess the machines get bigger and more efficient. And that must've changed a lot in your time because the ability of you to scale up, it's built in I think to the investment you've made recently in equipment.

Alex Smith: Yeah, yeah, I mean I've been with the company seven years now, and even in the seven years I've seen us go through three large printers evolving to there. But yeah, I mean when we first started it was kind of your, not to the extent of the press at home with a little digital printer, but I guess only two or three metres long digital press that was churning out sheets of paper. But now we're using an inkjet, we're able to print colour books onto coated stocks. And a big thing for us with the technology we've done is we can charge per colour page as well. So that's a massive advantage. So effectively, if you had a hundred page book with only two pages of colour, we'll only charge you for those two pages of colour and that's really good for special editions. You can put say a splash page at the front of the book or chapter headings and it doesn't become a full colour book and really expensive.

James Blatch: Wow, that's great. There's old beautiful Enid Brighton books where they had a colour plate on the inside of the coven. The rest of the administrators were black and white, which I guess was quite common in the old days.

Alex Smith: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, we do, that's worked really well for us. And as you say, I think when you saw we no longer printed sheets of paper, it's all on a massive, I say it's a massive toilet roll with about 10 kilomet of paper on it, and that flies through our printer really quickly. So yeah, it's a changed world.

James Blatch: I'll try and upload some of the video to go with this podcast interview, but we went and visited, I mean that machine, it turns a corner, it goes like 90 degrees the middle, and then there's this very clever bit in the middle, very large glass case, which is a buffer zone. If one part of the machine is going faster than the other part, it buffers up for a little bit and then starts, I guess makes sense, so it doesn't have to stop, but it's an incredible thing to see.

Alex Smith: Certainly at the end of the line when it pushes the paper out, it has to stop the line so the printer keeps on printing so it doesn't stop. And yeah, it's a really efficient thing. So yeah, I think we print about, I can't remember what, 150 metres per minute for our printers and each sheet of paper has six pages in a row, so it's quite a quick and efficient piece of kit

James Blatch: And cheap, I'd imagine

Alex Smith: It may print a lot more affordable. I mean, as a price point, we sit slightly above Amazon, KDP, but then we sit on par or below Ingram, so we fit quite lightly there. And I mean the whole point of us not sitting with KD P'S prices is because if we did, we'd have to drop our quality and we don't want to do that. That's our big thing is that we want to produce beautiful books and that's where we want to sit there.

James Blatch: And is it POD is what you do? What if an author wanted 20,000 of their books, would they be better off going to Clay or someone of the big industrial printers?

Alex Smith: I think normally it is certainly something we could look at. So we have volume discounts, so up until a thousand books we kind of drop the percentage think a thousand books, we give a 10% discount and we can go further. It's all a point of if you've got that large run, speak to our team because yeah, we can certainly look at that. We have done 20,000 book runs in the past, so it is certainly something we can do. Yeah, definitely.

James Blatch: Great. Okay,

so where can people find you and how can they get going with Book Vault?

Alex Smith: Yeah, so it's all on our website. We've got a really easy quoting calculator as well, so you can get a quote before you even start with Book Vault. And that's all on our website as book vault app. So you can find all about there, you can create an account on there and you can say completely view the whole process before you create an account. We don't want you to be tied in as soon as you sign up, so the best place to go is on our website.

James Blatch: Great.

Are you seeing an increase in, I mean it feels like there's an increase in authors going direct, you must be feeling that at the front end.

Alex Smith: Yeah, certainly. I mean it is crazy. We were looking back, obviously when we're dealing with publishers, we're getting six or seven new customers a month because obviously it'd be large scale publishers. But yeah, I think last month was our record an insane amount. We've absolutely destroyed that target, so it is really good. I think we hit it at the right time with direct sales because yeah, it really is a push. I mean, NNC was all about it. I mean all the other conferences we've been to have been all about direct sales and I think people are starting to see that if they take control of their own journey, it's a lot better than relying on the big likes of Amazon and stuff like that for your sales. I mean if you pair it with Book funnel as well for direct sales, you've got a really strong tool there

James Blatch: And you can even do audiobook through book funnel and have the whole gamut available to people.

Alex Smith: Yeah, definitely.

James Blatch: Yeah. Brilliant. Well, very exciting what you've done. Thanks for hosting us at peterburg the other week. It was great to see the machines in action. I'm a bit of a geek about machines anyway. I mean normally flying machines, but I was impressed with your printer.

Alex Smith: Yeah, no, I have to admit even I still love going down there. Certainly the trimmer at the end that's always most rising.

James Blatch: And actually the one thing that surprised me, my takeaway from visiting a factory is still quite a lot of hands-on manual stuff and

I guess gradually a lot of that will become automated, but at the moment if you want your gold leaf and stuff done, there's probably someone sitting the corner doing it.

Alex Smith: Yeah, there is certainly for those, as I say that dirty work, the special editions and stuff like that, it's what someone sits there and does and that's why you do pay a little bit more. But I think it's all about the core products. If you can automate the core products as say a paperback, there's two touch points and that's one scanning them out and one moving them from one production compare to the other. So is it's all about kind of automating it as much as possible. Certainly with the bespoke stuff, because there's so much variation and people want so much kind different things, it kind of gets a bit hard to automate it because people say we'd have to change the machine every minute. I think what we're looking at with certain things like sprayed edges, that's a machine we're looking at at the moment where it would print on the kind of white page of the book and that looks really nice and there's a nice automated machine we're looking at for that. So certainly in time, yeah, there'll be less touchpoints.

James Blatch: Brilliant Alex. And just a reminder, if people want that code for free uploads self-publishing formula.com/book, we'll put some information in there about the rest of the company as well. So brilliant Alex, thanks very much indeed. Good to see you on the beach in Florida. Hope you had a good time. Yeah, thanks Alex. Definitely. I did notice the two of you looking a little bit slower one morning than other mornings.

Alex Smith: I dunno if you noticed both of us. I think one of us was missing, so I was certainly there for coffee in the morning.

James Blatch: There was a man downn wasn't there at

Alex Smith: One point. I'm not commenting. Yeah,

James Blatch: Yeah. But anyway, it is Las Vegas next and nothing like that happens there of course. So

Alex Smith: No, of course not.

James Blatch: We'll see you in the desert next month. But yeah, thanks very much indeed, Alex, for joining us.

Alex Smith: Thanks for having us on. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: There you go. That's Alex Smith from Book Vault. I think I mentioned, I went to the factory a while back. It's brilliant. See that huge ream of paper being turned into paperbacks. It's all very clever. The way that works and the cleverest bit, I think I mentioned this before was it turns 90 degrees. This machine, it's so long around the factory in the middle bit it has a buffer because one part of the machinery might go to slightly different speed from the other part and obviously the paper will just rip. So they have this huge area where you just see the paper building up and building up and then stretching out and stretching out. It's all very clever and gripping to see. But that's print on demand, that's book by book being printed and automated system.

Mark Dawson: Gripping,

James Blatch: Gripping,

Mark Dawson: Grip, gripping. I don't think you mean anything. Gripping like, oh my God, this is thrilling. This says more about you than it's compelling else, I think.

James Blatch: Well, it's like staring at a fire. It's compelling.

Mark Dawson: Compelling. Yes, I suppose so. Intriguing,

James Blatch: Fascinating, intriguing. Yeah, right. I'll get my thesaurus. Yes indeed. Well I'm also an author.

Mark Dawson: You are? Okay.

James Blatch: Alright, look, that's it. Thank you very much, Anita. Alex Smith, big yawns, cold and wintry here. Struggling to wake up every morning. It's damp weather. I want those blue sky days again. We had last week. They may come back still. I'll be in the snow soon. And you are going to be in the sun. You're going away somewhere.

Mark Dawson: I'm going to the Maldives next Saturday we record this.

James Blatch: Wow. You can be one of those little houses on stilt in the Indian Ocean. It

Mark Dawson: Is, yeah. 29 degrees at the moment. So yeah, I'm looking forward to that.

James Blatch: Oh, that would be amazing. Well, it

Mark Dawson: Busy couple of days, a couple of weeks to get things ready.

James Blatch: Minus 29 where I'm going. But

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's what you want.

James Blatch: Yeah, it is indeed. Okay. Thank you very much indeed to everyone, particularly the team behind this podcast to get it out to you. All that remains for me to say is there's a goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye. Goodbye.

Speaker 1: Get show notes, the podcast archive and free resources to boost your writing career at self-publishing show.com. Join our thriving Facebook group at self-publishing show.com/facebook. Support the [email protected] slash self-publishing show. And join us next week for more help and inspir inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing. So get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self-Publishing Show.

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