Sunday, 27 November 2011

Publishing a Fishing Book - Punk Publishing (Pt2)

Having examined the traditional publishing route and been struck by the massive inequities apparent within it, you just have to look into the alternatives. Ten years ago there was probably only one other alternative apart from becoming a publisher yourself, and that was to publish through a 'vanity publisher', an operation who would create your book for you and sell you all the services that the publisher would ordinarily farm out. These vanity publishers were (some still are) in the game of making a book, not for public consumption but the authors consumption and you'd get your book but pay through the nose just to have the soul lifting experience of seeing it looking good in print, hence the vanity appellation.

Of course loads of perfectly good books by authors now world famous were self-financed efforts in their initial stages after the author suffered being rejected over and over by publishers who really should have seen the potential in the author's work, but for one reason or another, failed to and then went out on a limb and had the book created despite the implicit challenges.

Nowadays things are rather different. We now have companies who will have an author publish their book for... NOTHING!

That's right. You heard. Nothing at all. Not a penny.

Well, not upfront anyhow...

You just have to write the book and get it print ready, upload all the various files, hit a button and your proof comes through the post within a week or two. Then you'll proof read the thing, correct all the thousand mistakes that will show up in print, resubmit your files and start the proofing process over, and over, till the books sings like a bird. There's no catch and all you have to pay for is each proof copy, which is no expense at all as the price is only the price that the company deducts from all subsequent copies ordered for their costs incurred in printing and posting. It's fair and equitable.

For example, my 200 page 6x9 book created through Createspace (paperback only) will cost me something like £7.76 per proof ($5.50 print & $6.38 postage) shipped from the USA but I'll have to wait a month for it at the cheapest shipping rate available and that's going to be a real pain as proofing will take at least that length of time and then I'll have to wait another month before the changes are seen. As you can see proofing may take six months or more with Createspace, but hey, that's fine if the result is great in the end. And with so much long winded proofing it should be!

Lulu, the main competitor for the same business (who will do hardback) will be cheaper still as they ship from the UK too and within a week here, but for some reason known only to themselves they only print on white paper and do not offer the option for cream. I have also heard that the paper they do use is so thin than not only can you see through it but also the books spine depth is affected seriously making the book seem insubstantial whatever the page count.

All these costs crash when you start to order substantial quantities and sign up for discount schemes. For example, with Createspace, the price for the same book would come down to $488 for 100 books shipped to the UK, which is at todays dollar/pound exchange rate, £3.15 per unit. At this cost to the author we are in business as you can triple the amount and still come in at under a tenner for the book, which is excellent news because that's two thirds profit, at an attractive price to the consumer, so long as you can sell it yourself!

Of course you can forget about getting the book into the large bookstores. There's no chance of that. But you can still get it into the smaller ones, but the trouble is, all bookstores work on the principal of sale or return, for up to a year, which is preposterous in the extreme! How on God's earth did publishing ever get itself in such parlous mess? Can you imagine anyone in the fashion trade ever allowing high street shops to over estimate demand, over-order, fail to sell, and then ship back the unsold and now unsalable units to the sweat shop and demand the cash back?

Well, you could sell the book through your own website (this one for instance) and get plenty of sales that way. The only trouble then is that you are piling on extra postage costs to those already incurred. Already the postage is costing more than the book itself and profits are crumbling away.

But it's still better business than going through a mainstream publisher...

1000 books at a tenner retail per copy gets you just £1000 total through a publisher

1000 books self-published through Createspace and sold at the same retail price of £10, gets you a wholesome £6,850 if you can flog the lot without incurring postage

But still, at Royal Mail's cheapest second-class postage rates, the book should only cost a further £2.16 per unit, so subtract that and there's still £4,690 in it for the author which is an amount that would represent sales of very nearly 5,000 books through a publisher which really is, with the best will in the world probably unthinkable even with the best efforts of the best of them.

And remember this... to make a £1,000 you need to sell 1000 books through a publisher, but need only sell 213 books, even with the extra postage costs incurred, to make the same through using Createspace and succeeding in your own efforts at marketing.

Sounds attractive to me!  It should sound more attractive to anyone with any sense because by going down the traditional publishing route the only thing for the author to gain seems to be the prestige of being represented by a recognised player in the game, but that's all, because no matter how hard they work they simply are not going to be able to secure the author a sufficient return on their investment in the creation of the book in the first place.

I'm afraid that with publishers, reputation enhanced or not, 'author' will still rhyme and chime, with 'pauper'. But it seems, that if the author cuts out the middleman and does all the design work and all the marketing and promotion that makes a book a viable project and then sells it off his own back. Then after all, there's seemingly something, even a working wage in it, for him or her...

... Next - POD, Amazon, e'books, et al

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