Wednesday, October 29, 2008

POD Publishing: good news for independent publishers

For those of us who use as well as CreateSpace, there's been some great news recently. The only problem with Lulu has been the price to manufacture an individual book -- they were a LOT more expensive than CreateSpace, which made it utterly impossible for a Lulu book to get onto at a price where you could 1) expect to sell any copies, and 2) make anything out of the sale, or indeed, the venture as a whole.

Lulu calculate their prices at (for a normal 6" x 9" trade size paperback) .02c per page plus $4.50 for the standard price of printing the full-color cover and perfect (glued spine) binding the book. So a 300pp book will be $6.00 + $4.50 ... $10.50. Dead simple. Change the numbers around to suit your book, to a maximum of around 700pp. (I think it's actually 740pp.)

Now, CreateSpace has a much more baroque method of calculating prices, especially when the book is going to go to Amazon. To say it's complicated is putting it mildly:

However, if you just plug in the numbers and let the calculator do it for you ... and if you do the upgrade to the "pro" package for a POD title, you get a price of $4.45 for the same item. This is so low a "price to manufacture" that you, the indie publisher, end up with enough elbow space to actually get the book onto Amazon at a realistic price.

Now, CreateSpace only buddied up with Amazon in the last half year, after Amazon really set the cat among the pigeons with its attempt to monopolize the POD industry. I've already blogged about this, and instead of reiterating, I'll just give you the link to the other post: ...

...and, if you want to go directly to the absolute nitty-gritty of this story:

...where Angela Hoy's article outlines the situation which prompted Amazon to buddy up with a real, genuine POD printshop -- CreateSpace.

All well and good ... unless you were Until the Amazon/CS partnership, Lulu was the best deal in town. Suddenly, though, there were more attractive ways to go -- and like any healthy animal with a desire to survive, Lulu checked out its options and decided to compete.

Well, they're not 100% percent competitive (yet?) with the Amazon/CS deal, but they're not far off, and they just offered a package which is extremely attractive:

Now, the Publisher Grade paper is only available at this point in US Letter and Half-Letter (something similar to A4 and A5), so the formatting for the book interiors will be a tad bit different, but the tradeoff is this:

...there's a price calculator on that page; plug in your numbers, select half-letter and prepare to have your chin hit your knees. At 6" x 9" on the normal creme paper stock, a 300pp book costs US$10.50 to manufacture, as I explained above. Drop the size to half-letter (a half inch smaller than 6" x 9" in both axes) and select the "publisher grade paper", and the same book can be made for (!) US$7.00.

In other words, you're US$3.50 more profitable on any one item -- and with the bottom dropping out of the Aussie dollar, that could easily amount to A$7 better per sale -- which is a relief.

(Contrary to what you might think, it takes between 150 and 300 sales to break even on the set-up work for a POD book, even though you only print them one at a time. Before selling them, not being Michelangelo yourself, you'll need to pay a cover artist; you might also have paid an editor to do a final check on the finished work; you'll have printed out no fewer than three copies of a 300pp manuscript; you might have mailed copies to your "proofies" intra- or interstate. You'll need to order at least one if not several pilot, or proof copies of the book to make sure it's good to go (Lulu can be fraught with font issues, since they use EPS printers ... makes like interesting.) You'll need to pay your proofies in copies, and then send out up to 20 review copies. You'll need a website, and unless you're skilled, you'll have to pay someone to build it. You'll also need to buy advertising in order to be visible in a world wide web which has swelled to incredible proportions... In other words, if you slap $10 per copy onto the book as your (ha!) profit margin, somewhere between sale #150 and sale #300 ... you finally, finally, finally, see black ink.)

So this new option from comes as a tremendous boost to indie publishers. It's not quite enough to get the Lulu product onto Amazon at good prices, but it's close. (If you're interested, a book printed via Lulu's new offer would result in a list price of US$22.40 (about A$40) with US$5.00 or so leftover as the (ha!) profit margin for the publisher. At this price, you will sell copies if people want the book enough ... but Aussie and Kiwi readers won't be able to afford you, because it costs another US$12.50/A$20 to get the book shipped down here. Very few Aussies can afford $60 for one book these days ... if, indeed, they ever could.

However, since most of your sales will always be made in the US -- it's not too bad at all. You're close to being competitive, and if Amazon decided to offer your book at a discount price, they take said discount out of their 60 share of the list price, not yours. Nice.

Speaking of books, publishing and Amazon --

THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is going to Lulu first, and then CreateSpace/Amazin ... and very soon. The cover is almost finished right now, and I'll be able to show it to you, and let you read the first chapter, right on the blog here.

THE SWORDSMAN -- available at the CreateSpace estore, STILL waiting for it to show up on the Amazon engine. Remember this post:

NOCTURNE and TWILIGHT -- manufactured by CreateSpace in three days, and shipped out ... still waiting for delivery to Aus; could be another week or two.

FORTUNES OF WAR: going up to CreateSpace today; the month-long process of getting a book to Amazon commences. Take a deep breath and cultivate patience!

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