In this post, publisher Susan Daffron shares her insight to printing your self-published book.
If you plan to self-publish, after you’ve written your book manuscript, the next step is to get it printed. The most affordable way to do that is to use one of the many companies online that print books on demand. In other words, the book is only printed when someone orders it.
Unfortunately, many options for turning your manuscript into a book are expensive and some are out and out scams. The publishing landscape is littered with unhappy authors who made poor choices for producing their book.
I’m a big believer in making money on books and not getting ripped off, so first I’d like to explain a couple of things about:
How Book Printing Works
If you do a Google search on “self-publishing” you’ll see ads for big companies like Xlibris, iUniverse, and Outskirts Press. The problem with these companies is that they separate you from your profits by acting as a “middleman” between you and the real print-on-demand printer they are using. In the book publishing world, these companies are referred to as subsidy or vanity presses. And almost every knowledgeable person in publishing recommends you avoid them (including me).
Here’s why. Subsidy presses mark up their printing costs, and then pay you only a percentage of sales (called “royalties”). If you like profits, subsidy presses are not your friends. Often they have complicated contracts and keep rights to artwork you paid them to produce. Most people regret going with a subsidy once they discover the alternatives.
To make the most profit, you need to be the publisher of record. To do that, you buy your own ISBN block from Bowker. Owning your own ISBN makes it possible for you to go to the printer directly and get the same distribution the subsidies offer.
Once you have your ISBN, have a graphic artist lay out your book so you maintain your ownership rights, and take it to a printer yourself. (Hiring a freelancer to lay out your book usually costs less than the “packages” subsidy presses offer.)
Online Printer Recommendations
Some companies like Fast Pencil and Lulu can act as printers, but they are just marking up printing from another company (usually Lightning Source). For example, a 200 page book costs $9.30 to manufacture at Fast Pencil. However, you can get the same book for $3.50 at Lightning Source. Why spend $5.80 more per book?
Although many people like Create Space, I personally print my books through Lightning Source because you get better distribution for less money on online bookselling sites. However, Lightning Source has higher setup fees than CreateSpace and doesn’t have forums you can turn to for community support like Create Space does. If you only plan to release one book and aren’t worried about distributing books anywhere other than Amazon.com, Create Space can be a good option.
When it comes to book publishing, a little knowledge can save you a lot of money. Spend some time researching your options before you sign a contract you might regret. Just because a company comes up first in a Google search doesn’t make it the right choice for you and your book!
Susan Daffron aka The Book Consultant owns a book publishing and consulting company called Logical Expressions, Inc. and spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her five dogs out for romps in the forest. She also teaches people how to write and publish profitable client-attracting books at SelfPubU and puts on the Self-Publishers Online conference every May.