There is a wonderful new system in publishing called -- Print on demand (POD) publishing. This means print runs can be as small as one copy, has revolutionised self-publishing. As evidence, online publisher Thorpe-Bowker’s research shows the number of self-published books in the US has grown by 287 per cent since 2006, totalling more than 235,000 titles in 2012.
There are no comparable figures for Australia, although anecdotal evidence from Australian self-publishing houses suggests there has been a similar boom in self-published books here. There are a number of different self-publishing models authors can choose and it’s worth reviewing the different options before deciding which way to go.
There are full-service companies such as Xlibris that do everything for you, but you really pay for it. This will cost you several thousand dollars minimum and your selling options are limited and your royalties are low. But when it comes to e-books, many use an aggregator such as Smashwords, a free service that converts books into the most common e-book formats such as iBook, Nook and Kindle. Smashwords charges a commission of around 5 per cent.
Amazon’s self-publishing platform CreateSpace/Kindle is also worth considering. Books that are distributed through Amazon and published through CreateSpace tend to receive higher Amazon ratings than the same book published with another POD service. There is also a publishing service available through CreateSpace that includes a basic form of editing, cover templates and print layouts. There are various levels of support, with a good package available for between US$1,700 and US$2,000. CreateSpace’s biggest drawback is the need to obtain a US employee number or give up 30 per cent of the cover price of each book, which is retained for tax purposes. With an employee number this figure drops to around 5 per cent.
Australian self-publishing service providers warn it’s important to check the fine print before signing a printing and distribution agreement. When it comes to return on investment, Blythe Rowe, author of Bullies, Blamers, Bludgers – the three things killing productivity and profitability in modern business, says for her the return hasn’t come from book sales, but from the doors the book has opened. Rowe estimates she spent around $10,000 producing and printing 1,000 copies of her book.
There are various organizations that can offer print books servics in Australia, including lulu.com and others. Check them all out, and also check with your local printer because he or she may also be able to offer small runs of books. The key is not to over-invest in stock, but rather keep stock rolling through. The key to that is marketing.
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