By George Kittredge
In my previous two posts on this subject, I mentioned that many people are confused by the terms self-publishing and POD publishing, often using both to mean the same thing. Even publishing companies are guilty of the same fault, especially those that call themselves a POD self-publisher. In order to eliminate some confusion, I suggested that authors should think of their publishing options three ways:
- self-publish their book under their own name and contract with a print-on-demand (POD) printer to print the book,
- contract with an Internet POD publisher who will publish and print the book, or
- contract with a POD publisher that offers individual, customized services and will also publish and print the book.
There are pluses and minuses with each option, and the option an author selects will largely depend upon his or her publishing objectives and knowledge of publishing in general. Another major consideration is what it will cost (fees the author will pay) to produce and sell the book? Each option presents its own set of variables.
Hopefully, the following will give you some insights into the publishing costs you might expect or should anticipate.
Option 2 - the Internet POD publisher: I want to talk about option 2 first because, generally speaking, this is the most inexpensive way to publish a book. And for many authors, it is an excellent option. But remember, you often get what you pay for. Internet POD publishers will print your book just the way you send it to them. So if your page layout is poor, that's the way it will appear in your book.
Although costs will vary from one publisher to another, inital costs (know as set up fees) can run anywhere from $500 to $1500. Some of the lower fees may also carry addition costs for specific services - such as obtaining an ISBN for your book. But still, the costs will most likely be less than contracting with a publisher that customizes its services. And they also may likely be less than those services you purchase - even if you are self-publishing.
Conversely, it's likely that you will find the cost to print books to be higher than with the other two options. One analysis I did revealed that a book that cost $5.25 to print with a POD printer was close to $7.50 when printed through an Internet POD publisher - a 40% premium. This is an important factor when determining what you want to charge for your book (and hence what your royalty/profit will be on each book sold). Typically, Internet POD publishers provide the equivalent of a 20-25% royalty - but again, this may vary from one publisher to another - and, of course, your book's selling price.
Option 1 - Self-Publish and contract with a POD printer: As a self-publisher, there are two ways to go - do all of the publishing work yourself (you'll need knowledge and the right software) or do some of the work yourself and contract with individual professionals for work you are unable to do. Obviously the more work you can do yourself, the greater the out-of-pocket cost savings. The biggest expense items in the book publishing process is usually the graphic design and page layout work. For an average size book, you could expect to pay up to $1,000 for the complete cover design and anywhere between $750 - $1,500 for professionally done page layout. If your book has lots of images, the page layout expenses could double.
To determine what your total publishing expenses will be, it's good to use a publishing services checklist that identifies all of the publishing elements you may need to consider. Don't have one? Then check out my post next week.
On the printing side, you will need to negotiate a per book cost from your POD printer and what the minimum quantities are that you will need to purchase. You'll also need to set up a "storefront" where you can sell your book. If you already have a website or blog - fine. If not, you may need to build one or pay someone to handle the sale transactions, etc. The difference in your book printing cost and your book's selling price will be your profit. I won't try to give you guidance here, but it should be way more than 25% of your selling price.
Option 3 - Contract with a POD Publisher that offers customized services: Quite likely, this will be the most expensive of the three options. But as I said earlier, one usually gets what one pays for. Most POD publishers will provide a list of the publishing services they provide and will charge one fee for the complete package. In most instances, the package includes all of the necessary services required (graphic design, layout, proofreading, ISBN, copyright, etc., etc., etc.). Many will also help authors obtain testimonials and book reviews. Almost all have internet bookstores where your book can be sold.
Some POD publishers may outsource some of the professional work, such as design and layout. Chances are they can subcontract this work cheaper than you can (if you were self-publishing), but the markup they apply to their costs will probably offset any cost difference. And because of the business relationship they have with their printer(s), it is most likely that the cost to print your book will the least expensive when comparing options. Again, something to consider when your determining selling price and royalties.
In most instances, author royalties from POD printers will range between 20-30%.
In conclusion: When comparing costs, it all comes down to what you can afford and what type of services you are looking for. It's important that you look at the complete publishing picture - developing the book, printing it, marketing it and selling it. Also, it's prudent to do some calculations to determine how many books you need to sell to recover your costs (ROI). You might find that if you spend $2,000 to publish and print the book, you may only be getting $2.00 back on each copy sold vs. if you spend $8,000, you may be getting $8.00 per book back. In which scenario are you more likely to sell 1000 copies (or more). So, there are lots of things to consider.
My biggest suggestion? Find someone in the book publishing business who would be willing to sit down and discuss the different book publishing alternatives.
Stay tuned next week for my "Book Publishing Services Checklist."