What price print? by Ali Bacon
|Solid books, Krakow style
POD costs more per copy (around £5.70 for me) than asking a local printer to do a print run, but the advantage is the author needn't fork out the money up front. If you can cope with the fairly basic mechanics of uploading a Word file and cover image to the POD website, the only start-up costs are cover design, usually £200- £300 although there are cheaper options. (And if you have e-published, that part might already be in hand with just some tweaking required for print quality images). Feedaread asks the author to buy a proof copy and charges steeply for changes to the final version, so it's best to get your proofreading sorted out well before this stage!
There are of course, alternatives, with reputable companies like Silverwood Books of Bristol or the long-standing Matador providing self-publishing packages with varying service-levels from manuscript editing through typesetting and cover design.
|'The Bristol Suffragettes' Walking Tour
So is that it? Set up on Feedaread, Lulu or another POD company and start selling books? Well not quite. You could of course just order up a few hundred copies, sell them from your own front room, hawk them around local bookshops and take stands at writers' fairs (which many of us do anyway) but if you want your book to be available through book wholesalers (which is where bookshops place orders) or 'major online retailers' (no prizes for guessing who that is!) you have to pay for distribution of the printed book. This was £88 when I set up with Feedaread, and I would have to pay the same again for any subsequent books. (There's an annual renewal fee, but that's fairly modest).
Of course, as I told myself at the time, lots of people still don't hold with e-books, and I dearly wanted to be able to say that my paperback was 'available from most bookshops'. And I did at least in the first year or two sell in sufficient numbers (my royalties come via Feedaread so it's easy to see the figures) to justify the distribution fee. Libraries are also significant players, because although your local branch may buy direct from you, many are compelled to use centralised purchasing systems, i.e. book wholesalers. This matters because as well as the ego trip of seeing my book in libraries, I can also earn modest PLR payments generated by loans.
However, now that the first flush of business has died down, I wonder how many print copies I'm likely to sell out there in the big wide world, especially as the online retailers charge £8.99 a copy, sometimes with postage on top. I can charge less than this even with UK postage included. (I'm also my own worst enemy in this respect, since I often remind customers how much cheaper it is to buy the e-book!)
In fact I realised this week that through some inattention on my part, my distribution agreement with Feedaread lapsed last October. Aagh! No wonder my paperback sales have dropped off! In fact Kettle is still listed in paperback on Amazon (who perhaps haven't yet latched on) but Waterstones and Blackwells are offering only 'used copies'. Not good! I have written to Feedaread asking to renew my distribution package (£10 for another year) but in view of everything I've just said, perhaps it won't make a huge difference if the option is no longer available. Or if they take this as a chance to hike up the price, I'll certainly think carefully before going ahead.
So don't forget that printing is only the beginning of getting your books out there. And if anyone is interested in a paperback copy of A Kettle of Fish at less than £8.99, please contact me, or if you're anywhere near Bristol, drop in to the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival this Thursday where I'll be reading and selling my wares along with lots of local authors.
'Published and distributed by the author' doesn't sound so bad. And of course there's always good old Kindle!