O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published. Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it. You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published. However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.
This is what this post is about then: self-publishing. Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project. My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim. So I didn’t bother going there.
But let’s get to the heart of this post. I found a printer. Ingram/Spark. Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings. Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network. Their claim is 39,000 distributors: like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell. Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!
But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive. My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!
So, here’s what I have done: I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package. I disallowed any return policy. This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut) and to allow just the base printing price to be covered. I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share. Because that’s our shared business-plan. For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright. So I know that’s never going to happen.
What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of. Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website. The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing: print it overseas. During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.
Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers. You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! :)
Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format! If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best: writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.
When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China. Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!
The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book. It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them. And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!