With the advent of technology, writers have numerous options when it comes to publishing. If you’re blessed to get a book deal with a traditional publisher (i.e. Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins), you’ll get an advance, royalties and a marketing allowance. Given the volatility of the book industry and emergence of e-books, landing a deal with a traditional publisher is a rare feat.
Tons of vanity presses make it easy to publish a book. These companies charge tens of thousands of dollars by preying on the fact that naïve authors will pay and do just about anything to be in print. I know of companies that charge $12,000 for 500 books. That’s $24 a book! As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, vanity all is vanity!”
Subsidy presses will offset, or subsidize, a portion of the publishing expenses. The author pays for editing and printing, the press pays for marketing; however, they will also participate in the proceeds for each book sold.
An independent or small publisher usually focuses on a specific genre. These publishers may or may not pay advances and often have fewer than twenty authors on the roster.
Print-on-demand (POD) publishers are better described as high-priced printers than publishers. These companies charge exorbitant fees and act more like the middle man on a book project. One of my clients paid $150 to copyright her title through a POD. Had she done it herself, the cost would have been $35 (that’s a markup of almost 500%).
I am a proponent for self-publishing because you control the process. You decide when the book releases, the cover and content, the retail price, the printer and the marketing strategy. As a self-published author (self-pub), you can expect to spend about $3,000 to publish 1,000 copies of your title (or $3 a book). And if you sell those copies for $10 each, you’ll gross $10,000!
Sidebar: Regardless of the publishing option you choose, your books will not automatically fly off the shelves. You will have to market, promote and sell, sell, sell!
Let’s take a look at some differences between self-publishing and PODs:
- Many PODs do not provide a comprehensive edit although they charge like a professional, developmental-writing editor who’s providing personalized coaching and a manuscript critique. Self-pubs can find competent editors for a fraction of the cost.
- PODs use templates for book covers. I have a client whose inspirational book has the same cover image as a book about demons, witches and warlocks. She was horrified by the discovery. Self-pubs can contract with graphic designers to create customized one-of-a-kind covers for as little as $300.
- Now for the real deal: making money!
- If you’re in business to make money, it’s almost impossible with PODs. Thorough self-pubs can acquire books for less than $2 each; however, the POD cost for a comparable book often exceeds $10. Doesn’t sound like much, but when authors try to market to bookstores, libraries and distributors, they soon learn that it’s not cost effective. To make money, bookstores charge 40% of the retail price and distributors up to 70%. So, if a book is priced at $15 and the author has to give up 60% (or $9) to a distributor, the gross profit is $6 ($15 retail price – $9 to the distributor). If a POD printed the book, the loss is $4 a book ($6 gross profit – $10 POD print cost). As a self-pub, each book sold results in a net profit of $4 ($6 gross profit – $2 printing cost). I have a client who went with a POD—against my recommendation—because she wasn’t charged any upfront fees. I admonished her to find out her cost to purchase books, but she was too ecstatic about “the savings” to read the fine print. Well, as I expected, they got her on the back end. The POD charged her $25 to buy her book which should retail for $12.95. The cost made the book a hard sell, so she packaged it with trinkets to enhance the perceived value, sold it for $20 and lost lots of money.
- PODs don’t pay royalties on books purchased by the author and most books sold through PODs are purchased by the author. Go figure! For the few books that are sold by the POD, the author earns a whopping $110 in royalties on average. The earning potential for self-pubs is limited only by the author’s persistence and ability to creatively market and sell books.
- PODs charge excessive fees for promotional material and marketing. One of my clients purchased business cards through her POD. They charged her $200 for 200 cards (at $1 per card, they’re too expensive to give away) that didn’t even have her contact information. To add insult to injury, the cards directed the consumer to the POD’s site, so she paid to advertise for the POD. Awful!
The only plus to PODs is the ability to print small quantities. For writers who want to test the market or print copies for family history, POD may be a viable option. If you absolutely must go POD, go straight to the source, Lightning Source. Most of the PODs contract with them to print books and then markup the fee to authors.
If you’d like a FREE list of PODs or want us to rate your publisher, visit the Contact Us page at PenOfTheWriter.com.
As a bestselling author and award-winning publisher, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman has helped thousands of aspiring authors navigate the challenges of self-publishing. With over ten years of experience in the book business, this expert divulges industry secrets on avoiding the top five mistakes made by new authors, pricing your book to sell and identifying dishonest publishers. Her dynamic presentation and knowledge of the business takes writers from pen to paper to published as they master self-publishing to make money! To learn more about Valerie, her books and succeeding as a self-published author, visit ValerieJLColeman.com, PenOfTheWriter.com and QueenVPublishing.net.
Copyright © 2010 by Valerie J. Lewis Coleman