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To publish or not to publish - what is the difference?
3/10/2011 6:25:48 AM
Google the term self-publishing and you'll be inundated with ads from Print on Demand companies that promise to "publish" your book. The term "publish" is misleading, and in my opinion should not legally be allowed. The word "Publish" conjures images of companies like Viking, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, Random House and the myriad other companies that will invest money in your book because they believe it will sell and make them, and you, money. These companies will make sure your book is properly edited, provided with a beautiful cover, professionally printed and bound, distributed to bookstores and promoted (sometimes at least). If they are really taken with your work they will arrange book-signings and interviews. They do these things because they are the ones fronting the money to publish your book. Print on Demand companies, on the other hand, do only one of those things. Can you guess which one it is? Bingo! They will print and bind your book for you. That's it. Yes, I know they provide a cover but the cover they will provide will be anything but beautiful unless you hire someone to do it for you first. So if the only thing these Print on Demand companies do is print your book, then why do they get to freely use the term "publish"? In my opinion it's misleading and criminal. It dupes too many writers into believing they will be "published" authors when they are nothing of the sort. They are "printed" authors, nothing more.
Now don't get me wrong. Print on Demand is a valid and worthwhile avenue for many writers who either give up on seeking a real publisher for their work, or just decide to "do it themselves" and still want to get their book into print. For a nominal fee these Print on Demand companies will set your book up in their computer system and "print" one each time someone, including you, wants to buy one. The costs for this service will vary but should not be more than three to five hundred dollars. If they want more, choose another company from the long list of available companies out there. Also, be wary of extra services that you may not need, or may be able to do yourself for less money. More on those things in another post.
That said, every writer who seeks to "do it themselves" has a choice to make. Do you employ one of these Print on Demand companies, or do you Self-Publish? Wait! What do you mean? Aren't Print on Demand and Self-Publishing the same thing? The answer is NO. Self-Publishing has that word "publishing" in it. That makes all the difference. When you Self-Publish you truly "publish" your book. You do everything that Viking, Scholastic and Random House do. You make sure your book is properly edited, provided with a beautiful cover, professionally printed and bound, distributed to bookstores and promoted (always if you want to succeed). If you are really taken with your own work you will arrange book-signings and interviews, too. Most importantly, you will be the one INVESTING in your book. That means you PAY FOR EVERYTHING. That also means YOU GET TO KEEP ALL THE PROFITS. And finally, that also means YOU DO ALL THE WORK and it is A LOT of work.
So how do you decide wether to go the Print on Demand route or the Self-Publishing route? Much of the answer to that question lies within you. Are you a hard worker? Do you have five thousand dollars to invest? Are you a self-promoter? Do you believe your book has mass-appeal? If you answered yes to all these questions you may be a candidate for Self-Publishing. If you answered no to one of these questions, then think twice. Self-Publishing is a big commitment. Print on Demand may be for you. Like I said, both are equally valid and worthwhile avenues to get your book in print and find a readership. There are some pros and cons, though.
For many, the biggest hurdle to Self-Publishing is the cost. Five thousand dollars will cover, editing, cover design, a print run of 1000 books, a pack of ten ISBN numbers and any incidentals you may encounter including storage of your books. Can you do it for less? Yes, you can. Maybe four thousand dollars will cover you. And if your book is short (100 pages or so) it will cost you even less. But it's still more than Print on Demand. The next hurdle, and I think this should be considered more important than money, is the time and work involved. Finding and hiring printers, editors and cover designers is bad enough, but doing the leg work to acquire your ISBN numbers, bar-codes and distributors can be daunting.
Print on Demand begins to look pretty good after all that! But there are some cons to POD as well. The biggest con is the lack of interest on the part of bookstores to sell POD titles. Point blank, there's no money to be made for bookstores. The cost of a POD book in relation to its retail price is too high for a bookstore to make any profit. When you self-publish your 300 page book you can expect your non-recurring costs (costs minus editing and cover) to be about $2.00 per book for a print run of 1000 books. Since you set the retail price, you can retail the book for $10.00 and make $8.00 per book if you sell them directly to readers. Nice! And if you sell them to bookstores you can still give them a 40 percent discount so they can make a profit and you'll still make a profit yourself. Not so with POD books. POD books will often cost you too much money because they are printing them one at a time, not one thousand at a time. Also, the retail price of a POD book is usually set by the POD company and often times is far higher than a typical book of similar length and quality from a true publisher (like Viking, or yourself!)
It's a lot to think about, I know. What levels the playing field between self-publishing and POD is the time and cost of promoting your book. No matter which route you take, promoting your books will be up to you, and my next post will be all about promotion and selling. You can self- publish and fail to promote and waste all your money and time and sell very little, or you can use POD and promote your book properly and sell thousands of copies. Whatever route you take, your future will be in your hands!
More Blogs by Shawn Patrick Cormier
Why Do You Write? - Monday, December 05, 2011
Creative Ways to Sell Your Book – or Selling in a Psych Ward! - Monday, December 05, 2011
Book signing dos and donts - Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Self-promotion - Wednesday, March 23, 2011
So you want to sell lots of books? - Sunday, March 13, 2011
To publish or not to publish - what is the difference? - Thursday, March 10, 2011
There is hope for us yet! - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Has Publishing Killed the Writing Star? - Monday, March 07, 2011