05 June 2014

Self-publishing in print

a guest post by Andrea Scovel (@AndreaScovel1)

As an indie publisher, how does one go about getting one's book in print? What does it entail and, more importantly, where does one start? I wish I could say that these questions are easy to answer but I have found that the world of publishing is anything but easy. From what I have discovered, you need to define whether or not you should publish in print and who you should print with.

Photo by Rick Campbell
Should you publish in print?
Asking the important question of should you is a good place to start. You probably know that some authors only publish ebooks. The reason? It is inexpensive and a lot of times free to publish in ebook format. Whereas publishing in print can be very expensive. Not to mention that the platforms available for distributing ebooks are very efficient and wide-reaching.  According to Joanna Penn of the blog The Creative Penn, a lot of authors (including her) have made the mistake of paying a huge upfront cost for printing out tons of copies of their book, yet they had no distribution network. Without a way to get your book out there and noticed by customers; you may end up eating the cost of the books. If this is your first publishing venture and you don’t have a following yet, the ebook-only option may work the best for you. 

Who should you print with?
So, you’ve decided that publishing in print is a good option for you. Let’s take a look at some different ways to get that book off of the computer and into your hands.

Print on demand is a great option for those that don’t have the ability or need (because of lack of following) to pay for a large print run. The customer can order your book in print, and just one book is printed and sent to them. Genius (if you ask me)! So you don’t have to do anything except set up the service. You receive royalties when customers purchase, and every company has their own rules as to how the pricing and payout works. As with everything, disadvantages do exist for print on demand. The books are often more expensive because you don’t get the discount that you get when you order a large batch of books to be printed. Also, bookstores are still learning of the option and they don’t always carry them. If you’d like to look further into this option, Create Space, Blurb, and Lightning Source  are all good places to start.

If you are interested in just paying to have your book printed out and then worrying about selling it, then there are plenty of companies who are happy to accommodate you. It isn’t a cheap venture, though; the charges are usually upwards of $800, depending on how many books you want to order and what style you prefer. As mentioned before, it’s advisable to have a distribution network set up before you order books...if you plan to sell them, that is. Ready to invest in your work? Check out Bookbaby and LuLu. If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, this non-profit may be helpful.

The Espresso printer was something that I had never heard of before I began my research for this article. There is one at our local Powell’s bookstore here in Portland, and apparently you call and make an appointment with a consultant and they help you get set up. The set up fee is $75 and you can print out as many books as you like. It is costly but doesn’t seem to be as expensive as just ordering them through a printing service. Also, you can go and watch your books print out, if you like. The really cool thing about the Espresso printer is that it has “digital shelves” so that customers can print out your book for themselves and you get the full retail price that you dictate minus a $1 consignment fee. These machines can be found all throughout the nation and in some international locales, as well.

To sum up, if you want to have a quality print version of your book, you have a lot of options. The list of resources in this article is definitely not exhaustive; there are many, many companies eager to take your book (and your money) on. 

Get out there! See if you can connect with someone on Twitter who has published in print and ask them what they got out of the experience. Just make sure to weigh your options. As an author, having your book come alive in print should be a celebratory occasion, so, do your own research and make a clear plan that’s right for you.

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