Thursday, May 11, 2006

Would I better off self publishing ?

March 27

I received another rejection this morning - this time from Floris - no specific reason given, just a note to say they cannot make an offer for publication. I am still waiting on Watkins/Duncan Baird, plus Capall Bann and Hay House. I will probably try and send my proposal to the next one on the list this afternoon.

At this stage I am beginning to think about whether I should consider self publishing. I will have to pay for this myself, but the turnaround is so much quicker. The publication process via the traditional route can be agonizingly slow, with no guarantee that they will even publish the book at all even after the contract has been signed. It can take anything up to 2 years before the book reaches print even when it is published, with no publicity or marketing unless your name is Beckham or Rowling.

It seems to me that at this stage I may be better off doing it myself. There are 2 ways of doing this - short print run and print on demand (POD). With short print run, you oversee the whole process, sourcing printers and registered the book for ISBN's, legal library deposits etc yourself. Once the copies are printed, you have to distribute them all yourself, via talks etc, and if you are lucky independent, book stores.

Getting into book stores is problematic for most self publishers mostly because of the heavy discounts that book stores and even Amazon buy the book for. In the case of book stores, this is typically around 40 percent, but with Amazon Advantage 60 percent. This means that they buy the books from the wholesaler for that percentage of the actual cover price. So if for example your book is retailing at £10, they will buy it for £4. By the time print costs are taken off, there is not much left over. This is the main reason why the publishing industry is in the state it is in and why it is so hard for an unknown author to get a deal. Budgets are tight and resources limited, so publishers need to be certain that they will recoup their investment. Unless you have a good track record of past sales, or a captive specialized market, then you will be very lucky to get anything at all. Gone are the days of large advances and mega publicity, most books get nothing, and the author finds that they have to do all the hard work themselves in organizing talks, book signings etc.

What then is the incentive of publishing via the traditional route? None, other than the fact that you do not have to bank roll it. On the other hand, with self publishing YOU are totally in control. It can though be expensive. The first quote I have got, from a company called Upfront Publishing is for nearly £2500. This includes proof reading and editing (I may be able to do some of this myself, typesetting (more complicated to do yourself), writing of back cover blurb, bespoke cover design, ISBN registration, legal library deposits, uploading to the distribution network, plus marketing package (posters, postcards, business cards etc that you can give out to people). The first 25 copies of the book would be free, after that you have to buy them for around £7.79 a piece (minimum order of 25 copies). This is based on a paperback selling price of £12.99 for a book of up to 400 pages with no colour illustrations or photographs. For copies that you manage to sell yourself in this way you get to keep the full balance between print costs and selling price (i.e. £5.20 a book). Otherwise, for sales through the distribution network (Amazon, book stores etc) you get a royalty of 12.5 % of net receipts. This is the amount left over after the booksellers discount and print costs are taken off. In most cases this will leave you with literally pennies.
This though is the first quote I have received. There are plenty of other POD companies out there, who according to their websites and catalogues can do it for a lot less. One thing I have decided is that I want to work with a UK based company rather than one based in the US. The reasons for this are simple - time difference, ease of communication, freight costs to get the books shipped to the UK and currency conversions. I do not wish to pay hefty bank charges for converting my hard earned royalties from dollars to pounds.
I should maybe explain a little more about what POD is. It basically means what it suggests, that books are stored as a digital file and printed on demand, as and when they are ordered. The company will normally take care of all the ordering and delivering for you, paying you royalties typically every 3 months (as opposed to every 6 which is the norm with traditional publishers).

This is not to say that the books will be available on the shelves in book stores, as most stores would not want to pay upfront, but be invoiced later, after the books have sold. What it does mean is that anyone can walk into a book store and ask them to order a copy, the same with libraries. It is in the authors interest to sell as many books as possible themselves, as that way they earn more royalties and are more likely to make a profit. Shipping costs to the author have to be considered, plus the cost of generating publicity. After all, the book will not sell if no one knows about it. That is where my own website, Internet forums and places like our local church come in, as they are all potential ways of selling more books by letting people know that it exists. The next thing to consider then will be getting a website of my own; with my own name as opposed to the one Telewest have given us. I will keep plugging away.

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