Self-publishing and print on demand (POD)


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A look at various self-publishing and print on demand (POD) options available. Prepared for the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Writers Association conference. Download for full presenter's notes.

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  • Prepared for the Wisconsin Writers Association conference in Wisconsin Rapids, September 2012
  • For most people, self publishing is not the optimal solution. There are so many advantages to having a publisher do much of the work for you. There is the setup and layout, there is all the particulars involved in printing and most of all the distribution, marketing and sales. Without a publisher, these all fall back on the author. It requires you to master a set of skills unrelated to writing. There are success stories, but most self-published authors are not able to convert their success into a regular deal. Thousands of copies are hard to store, sell and distribute. Self published items are just beginning to attract reviews for selected sources. (e.g.Kirkus) Can involve significant upfront fees that have to be covered before any profit can be realized.
  • In the previous millennium, self-publishing options were limited. Printing involved typesetting, runs of a specific length and cost. Longer runs were cheaper per copy, but more expensive overall. Short runs cost more per copy and ran the risk of being too short. One option was a vanity press – they would help one with setup and printing, but the entire financial risk was yours, with the expectation that there was no commercial market for the item A step up in respectability was a printing service. Some assisted with setup (for a fee), then they would print and bind the copies and deliver then to you. It was up to you to market, distribute and otherwise dispose of them. Local – like Worzalla and Fey, but larger outfits too. Note that in both cases, the author has become the publisher – undertaking all the risks and duties. This changed when items started being born digital. Then each PC became a printing press and each book could become an ebook with relatively little work.
  • Being born digital makes it a lot easier to self-publish In this millennium, authors can have much more control over setup. Choose a form factor (paper size) and let Word do the setup. Download a template with page numbers already arranged, chapter headings, running titles and all the rest. Outsourcing the printing can take advantage of scale and be located anywhere – with shipping the only factor to consider. The latest change (suddenly last decade) is POD, which eliminates the entire concept of print runs. Copies (or even a single copy) are printed and bound on demand.
  • This is the cost incurred in producing and selling a book, not the price of the book, which include (we hope) a profit margin.The manufacturing cost is the obvious piece, but not necessarily the largest. This will be higher for POD and is higher the shorter the run, but this can be offset by other costs.If you print 500 and only sell 200, the original manufacturing cost is divided by fewer copies, so it climbs. With POD, it is higher to begin with, but constant.Publishers also lose copies to theft or damage in shipping. If the author puts up the money to print copies and doesn’t recover the original investment for five years, costs are incurred, even if they are opportunity costs. Even if your warehouse is a closet, there are costs related to storing books for years.For a regular publisher, after-manufacturing costs can easily exceed manufacturing costs. This is also true to self-publishing, it is just less obvious.
  • I’ll be talking further about POD, but it’s important to understand the term. It is a production process. How books get made in a new and revolutionary way. It is not publishing by itself. Traditional and self-publishing both involve quite a bit more. Successful publishing involves some gatekeeping – not everything should be published. Everything needs good editing and that is very difficult to do to text you have written. Traditional publishers have marketing departments and self-publishers needs to marketing on a smaller scale. Traditional publishers have well established distribution networks, both to clicks and bricks, which is very difficult for self-publishers to re-create.
  • There are many advantages to POD. It can be used to publish a book, or for an organization to prepare a pamphlet or for a genealogy title that is meant for family members only.While a great deal of time and effort might be needed, very little actual cash is required, <$10.Because there can be multiple short print runs (or even single copies), inventory can be kept at a minimum. If one sells through a POD service, there is no inventory in your garage, no shipping concerns or even billing. Just a check deposited in your account.POD companies are usually not interested in copyright, exclusive rights or control. Use 2 or 3 of them if you wish. If you find a regular publisher, they are not a problem. Update a work or withdraw it. Your choice.Since the author is preparing the item as “born digital”, moving to an ebook format or setting up Amazon’s “Search Inside” is relatively simple.There is also AV on demand. Professional looking CDs or DVDs on demand.Your title need never go Out of Print or Out of Stock Indefinitely – at least not for economic reasons.There are so many advantages to POD, that publishers are using it to right size print runs and minimize remainders.
  • I wish it was all sweetness and light, but it isn’t. It isn’t hard, but it is a lot easier the second time. Good writers don’t necessarily have background in layout, graphics (esp. digital graphics), designing cover art (so your book can be judged by it), knowing what rights have been signed away and which retained, when to ask for permission to use an image or quote and whether that permission covers the ebook too.Getting your work before the public (and reviewers and libraries) is your problem and no one else’s. Amazon may list your work, but they do not otherwise promote it. It won’t appear in any publisher's catalog, or be automatically sent to the right reviewers. You remain the publisher.While copyright in the United States automatically attaches upon the creation of an original work of authorship, registration with the Copyright Office puts a copyright holder in a better position if litigation arises over the copyright. Copyright law is a real snakes nest.90% of everything is crap. It is up to you to be in the 10% and to separate yourself from the 90%.
  • This all leads to a confusing array of options. There are totally free services. CreateSpace and Lulu will let you prepare you book and publish it at no cost beyond a reasonable printing/shipping charge. As few or as many as you want as often as you want.Both of those companies will also provide a range of fee based services – from cover design to layout to extra distribution channels. Think of this as POD+.A local printing service (Worzalla or Fey) can help setup and then print your work. This covers a lot of the hand holding, but is still a long ways short of what a publisher would do. There is another category of companies that specialize in getting a text made into a book. They are also using POD, but they are doing most of the work normally done by publishers. As another layer of confusion – this only really covers print version of a book. Some will prepare an ebook version too.
  • Let’s look at one of the options – Lulu. They are a POD operation, with a range of fee based services, from layout to marketing and distribution. Each service calls for a decision on the author’s part – worth it or not.Like most POD operations, they have a wide range of products. Better paper, different bindings, a dozen sizes.As a librarian, I liked that they obtained a real ISBN, which gets a real listing in BIP.But….even though they will get you a listing on Amazon, that doesn’t mean that Amazon will have any copies. So – no copies = no sales.They also create an ebook at the same time. Easy to do since they have the digital files. But it is mainly marketed there, so don’t expect big sales. I did find it for sale on B&N for $9.99, though Lulu sells it for $7.50. If I get my $4.00 royalty, it works for me.
  • The most powerful thing about CreateSpace is their connection to Amazon. That doesn’t improve your writing or the printing, but it does help the sales / marketing side.CS uses a semi-real ISBN. They can reuse it if they choose and it is not registered as specifically for your work.BUT – you get an IN STOCK AMAZON LISTING. As a POD item, the book is always in stock, well not actually in stock, but available in a short enough time period that it might as well be in stock. People will order it, it will be printed immediately and shipped to them. Probably never touched by human hands.Ingram and B&T for another $25 fee. Probably worth that. Publish for Kindle with your existing files.Cheaper than Lulu for copy.
  • I created this work on both sites and made copies available. They have a different cover (I improved it) and different ISBNs. Otherwise they are identical.I listed it at $25, to get free shipping. Selling for $21 and $4 shipping would help Amazon, but not me. The royalty is an astounding $12! I could list it at $10 and still make $3 per copy. If it sells elsewhere, I still make $7. I can easily convert to a Kindle book (more later). And author copies are only $3 + shipping. Sorry, no free shipping after $25, as this is CS not Amazon.Lulu creates the same exact book, but the royalty is less. Author copies are much more expensive. And you don’t get a working Amazon listing.
  • These are printing services that offer a range of author support. In general, they handle the distribution, so they are more like publishers than straight POD. More hand holding, but it is often worth what they charge, since it frees you up to do what you do best.
  • It is possible to skip print entirely and move to ebooks. Several sites off easy, web-based setup. Not much harder than copy and paste or upload and convert. Also easy to update or change.Prices for ebooks are generally lower than print, but the royalty rate can be as much as 75%, since there is so little overhead.Again, the author / publisher incurs no inventory / shipping / billing. Books can be sold and downloaded, with the royalty being dropped into your bank account.But it is up to you to make sure it looks good, that you have the right to include any images you usethat you get it for sale in enough venues.
  • The Emily Updates are an example of direct to Ebook publication. When my niece was diagnosed with cancer at 30 months, my brother Tom kept his extended family up-to-date via email. He later published these on a blog. The response encouraged him to make them available as an ebook and he choose direct to Kindle, so that the titles would show up with his other books (NYT bestselling author).This cost his almost nothing, as he had the files already. His main work was cutting it down to 200,000 words (500 pages). I see a lot of these in romance or urban fantasy. Still be aware of Sturgeon’s Law.
  • KDP – Free and very easy if you already use POD. 35 or 70% royalty options.PubIt – Ditto, but makes it available on B&N.Smashwords – does both and works from MS Word files.Vook – adds Apple, for $99. Handles all three at one site, which is an advantage.Probably recommend Smashwords + KDP
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  • Self-publishing and print on demand (POD)

    1. 1. Self-Publishing21st Century Options Andy Barnett Assistant Director McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids
    2. 2. Guidelines Let me know if you are lost Ask questions If you meet Buddha….
    3. 3. Self-Publishing Not the best of all possible worlds More work – setup, printing, selling Unlikely to lead to regular publication Unlikely to see thousands of copies Unlikely to be reviewed Upfront costs to be recovered later?
    4. 4. 20th Century Options Vanity press Printing service with range of options  Local  National Eventually – born digital  Copy ready (including images)  Ebook ready
    5. 5. 21st Century Options All books are born digital Printing service with even more options and more control Remote printing service - outsourcing POD – print on demand
    6. 6. Cost per book sold Manufacturing cost (obvious) Returns/unsold Spoilage Carrying costs Only matters if money matters.
    7. 7. Print on Demand ≠ Self-Publishing POD = Method of production, but self- publishing needs to include more. Publishing involves  Vetting / self-editing  Marketing  Distribution channels – brick and clicks
    8. 8. Print on Demand (pro) Public, internal or personal use Low initial cash investment, <$10/copy No inventory, shipping or billing Retain rights and control Epublishing / Search Inside options AV on Demand too Never go OP or OSI
    9. 9. Print on Demand (con) Learning curve on layout, captions, graphics, covers, rights, permissions Marketing and visibility Copyright is your problem Sturgeon’s Law (90% of everything…)
    10. 10. Range of Options Free (on your own) CreateSpace & Lulu Semi-Free (POD+) Local printing services Fee (hold your hand) Author Services Print vs. Ebook vs. both
    11. 11. POD Option – Range of fee-based pre-pub and marketing services Wide range of product Real ISBN Will get an Amazon listing but… Create ebook at same time, but…
    12. 12. POD Option – CreateSpace CreateSpace – Amazon Semireal-ISBN Will get an Amazon / Target listing Other channels fee based Cheaper
    13. 13. Grit, Grief and Gold 176 p., B&W imagesCreatespace Lulu Sell for $25  List $25, sale $17.50 Amazon royalty  Ebook $7.50 / Nook $12.04 $9.99 Other channel  Royalty $6.00/$4.00 royalty $7.04  Author copies Author copies $9.90+shipping $2.96+shipping
    14. 14. Other Options Lightning Source (Ingram) Author Services Blurb
    15. 15. Ebook Only On-line, web based setup Easy to update Lower prices but high royalty rate No inventory, shipping or billing Special challenges  Getting formats right  Images and rights thereto  Distribution
    16. 16. Direct to Ebook Example: Emily Updates Very inexpensive to produce Genres popular
    17. 17. Ebook Options Kindle Direct Publishing – Amazon only PubIt (B&N) – B&N only Smashwords – B&N and Apple Vook – distributes to Amazon, B&N and Apple for $99 Apple aggregators Royalties vary
    18. 18. Contact Andy Barnett McMillan Memorial Library 490 E. Grand Ave. Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494 (715) 422-5144