What are my options for publishing my book? What are the advantages and disadvantages of Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing houses, are there any other alternatives?
Here is Part Two of the simple evaluation questionnaire you answered in Part One. Now read the summary below to see which option might suit you better.
Self Publishing – Print Your Own Book (answered mostly 1’s)
You are completely responsible for the look and content of your book and the registration/copyright, production and design of the print ready files (you can pay for freelance services like layout technicians, illustrators, editors, publicist etc; if you can not do them all)
You want the maximum return on investment and you are willing to make a business out of selling, distributing and promoting your book.
You want to maintain complete control of your book and keep the most profit too.
Up front money/capital investment: As little as $150 depending on how many books you print (and whether you use a POD printer) but you have to provide a print ready file for the printer, purchasing your own isbn number is not expensive.
You pay to have you book printed, plus costs for a designer/graphic artist/ format and layout technician to get your manuscript ready in an art ready file ready for printing. You organize ISBN/Library registration/barcode/copyright etc
You pay per book for printing; An example is my book that I first printed myself and cost me for 200 copies, 220 pages black and white with full colour laminated cover, size 6” x 9” = $6.42 per copy – $1284, therefore at $20 RRP you need to sell 65 books to cover your costs and the balance gives you pure profit of $20 per book.
There are really two approaches here…
- Print-then-Sell – using a traditional printer. The downside to this is that you’ll have no built in distribution and your initial investment (and exposure to risk) will be higher. Benefits include lower unit cost for larger orders and typically higher quality production (with more options) than you get with Print-on-Demand.
- Print-on-Demand – using a printer such as LighningSource. The benefit of LightningSource is that you get good distribution built in and you still get to set a discount that suits you. Booksurge offers similar distribution now but will force you to give roughly 65% discount to sell on Amazon compared to typical 35% with LightningSource. The downside is that quality is slightly lower than a typical traditional print run and unit cost is higher than printing a batch of books up front.
Self-publishing – using Paid for Publishers aka Vanity Publishing (answered mostly 2’s)
You want an attractive professional looking book that someone else produces and you pay for. The more you pay the more professional it will look. It is your responsibility to get the book edited at your cost, or choose not to edit it. This is “your book, your way” the publisher will make no suggestions for your book they will just print what you give them.
You are willing to pay up front costs to produce a professional looking book and to have distribution channels set up for you such as Amazon etc.
You understand your book will be available to but not necessarily stocked in book stores because your margins using POD on demand will not enable you to offer the same discounts as larger print-then-sell publishers; for this reason book stores will rarely accept your book unless you give it to them on consignment and they’ll often want it on Sale or Return/Destroy rather than Firm Sale (ie no returns).
You want the flexibility of just having a few copies for friends and family and the ability to print on demand to fulfil orders as they come in. You want the option of being able to buy bulk copies of your book with bulk discounts. You understand that buying copies of your book and selling them can bring you up to 50% or more profit on your book sales, but you are completely responsible for selling them. You understand royalties through distribution channels such as Amazon will give you small royalties because of the big discounts they take. (A typical example is a $20 retail book will pay you approx $1.50 royalty in sales if sold through Amazon/Trafford)
Please note – some publishers describe themselves as Print on Demand publishers but this is misleading as most vanity presses will now use Print on Demand printers (such as LightningSource) to print your book and then charge you more than it would have cost to do it yourself. At Publishing Academy we consider these companies to be essentially vanity presses.
You want someone else to take care of all the details and have different options available to you for marketing and promotion, design and layout and distribution. You’d like someone else to handle online sales and distribution. If you want to spend more money on marketing and advertising you would like those options easily available to you.
Simple packages cover core admin services i.e. ISBN/Barcode, copyright/library of congress and layout from around $1500. This can be as low as $800 if you can do the layout (or use the services of a independent technician at $35 an hour www.impact-webdesigns.com) If you just want to buy copies of your book and are willing to provide a print ready file this can be as low as $400.
Packages go up to $2600 if you want to include book trade distribution, publicity and promotional tools and you can buy marketing packages such as trade shows and email campaigns for $1,000’s You would like the option of purchasing your own stock for book launches etc.
This is not a great idea if you intend to make a decent profit from your book – and as standards can be absolutely awful (as most paid for publishers will print anything) you are unlikely to be treated seriously as an author by most of your fellow authors, publishers and retailers. Still, a perfect option if you are printing a book for your family and friends as a legacy for your future generations or want to print a book to raise funds for your non-profit or as a celebration of a special occasion. Maybe another name for this could be “Hobby Publishing”.