From Thought to Print (Part 2)

quillThe first thing you need to know about print, is that it’s expensive. Possibly expensive for you, but mostly expensive for people to buy. You may tell yourself that $35 for a hardcover is not a bad price, but step into a big box store and look at what’s on sale – feel the same way now? It’s not that you want to sell that book for $35, it’s that you’ll have to sell that book for $35 just to make a buck – literally. The self-publishing industry is about making money off of you, not your books, and for the most part – you’ll be doing this for that very same person.

Still want to press forward? Thought so, I know I did. We authors want to hold that pulp copy in hand like a talisman guiding us towards the validation of what we do; Proof that we’re not just messing around. Fortunately, it can be done quickly and easily if you have the know-how. There are many possibilities available for print, but I can only tell you about the methods I used.

CreateSpace can be a one-stop shop for all of your printing needs. They are easy to deal with, and it costs you nothing to make changes. If you are going to sell on Amazon, you’ll want to utilize this service for that very reason, regardless of who else you go to. If you decide to stop here, then know this: CreateSpace distributes in America only. If you decide to use their expanded distribution, they outsource world distribution through a third party (Ingram). Selecting this option not only increases the total print costs of your book, but these international sales pay even less than domestic. Keeping competitive in price is hard enough as it is, adding additional costs only makes it impossible.

Thankfully, you can now go directly to Ingram yourself through their IngramSpark division. This not only cuts your CreateSpace costs down, you make (slightly) more on your international sales. Ingram is a worldwide distributor, a real print house, and as such it provides some benefits. For one, you can create a distributable hard cover edition, a service that Amazon does not provide. It is expensive, and mainly for your own edification, but you can. Going direct can also get you into actual book stores, not that it will, but it can. If you let CreateSpace take care of things, then Amazon becomes the listed publisher and book stores will not touch you. The reason for this is discount percentage and returns.

Through traditional publishers, book stores are given a 55% discount with the license to destroy unsold copies instead of returning them. Amazon will do neither, so book stores refuse to carry anything they list. Now, unless you become an overnight sensation that the world suddenly recognizes, you will not get into book stores – get that out of your head now. However, you may be able to persuade a local book store to carry a few copies because they know you. Remember though that destroyed copies are still costing you print fees, Ingram will not eat the costs. I would suggest in this case that you order the copies for yourself, and agree to consign them. If the store decides to remove your book or reduce your shelf space, you can come collect the extra copies for use elsewhere.

Using either expanded distribution, or going direct, will allow people almost anywhere to go into a book store and order your book. It will likely cost more then buying it online, but it’s one more distribution channel than you had previously.

You may be asking yourself why you wouldn’t go direct to Ingram at this point, and I’ll tell you – costs! First, you will pay two separate set up fees – one for the internal material and one for the cover. What you print will vary those costs, but the larger issue is that you pay for every revision. If you get everything right the first time, and you almost assuredly will not, it’s a one-time fee with a recurring $12 annual distribution charge. Best-case scenario, you’re paying out before you’ve sold your first copy, and have obliterated your profits for the next 60+ sales. For a first-time author, that can be prohibitively expensive. My first ride on this carousel cost me $25 for the cover (color, glossy), and $25 for the internal material (black and white, no pictures). I’ve had one revision (so far) for both due to problems you will read about in an upcoming piece.

If you are less technically inclined, or just don’t want the hassle, I suggest sticking with CreateSpace. Their set up is easy to deal with, the proofing tools are far more user-friendly, and the costs are minimal. Once you get a book or two under your belt, go try Ingram if you feel adventurous. My only negative in regard to CreateSpace is the lack of quality assurance. This could disappear overnight and become a zero-issue, but for now – it’s a problem. Ingram, for all it’s caveats, provides a consistently professional product for your time and money. It’s a cost-versus-time-versus-discrimination factor that you will have to choose from.

Next up, my experiences and how-to’s on CreateSpace and IngramSpark…

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