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L.T. Suzuki

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Blogs by L.T. Suzuki

Publishing in the Digital Age
7/13/2009 6:35:49 PM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

Today, talented fantasy author Brian Rathbone is my guest blogger. For those of you not yet familiar with Brian, he is the author of The Dawning of Power trilogy. He is my go-to man when I have a query pertaining to anything computer related when it comes to publishing/marketing and he is very knowledgeable about the changing landscape of the publishing world. Here is part one of his blog:

Publishing in the Digital Age (No more chisels and stone tablets):

You've probably heard of the digital revolution in the publishing industry and you may have heard that large publishing houses are laying off employees. Couple this with the perception that the publishing industry is antiquated and uses antiquated equipment and you might think that traditional publishing is dead. It's not. But that doesn't mean that electronic publishing can be ignored. Publishing is no longer an "either or" scenario.

Digital vs. Offset (Big laser printer vs. Big stampy thing):
Much of what I am about to share, in regards to printing technology, I learned from Ron Pramschufer of RJCom.com and SelfPublishing.com. Ron's a great guy and someone I think we can all learn something from.

When it comes to selling books, there are always those who are going to want to hold a printed book in their hands. Traditionally, this meant a print run on an offset press, which also meant at least 1,000 copies. Typesetting and setup are a time consuming process, but the actual production of books is very fast. On a very large press, it's possible that your entire book could be produced in a single "impression".

Digital presses have, in many ways, revolutionized publishing and lowered the 1,000-copy barrier of entry, but this flexibility comes at a cost. Digital presses use dry powder toner and they require precut paper. Offset presses use ink and cheaper rolls of paper. In the end, it boils down to economics. If you wish to print less than 1,000 copies, then you will most likely use a digital press and your cost per unit will be significantly higher than on an offset press. The costs of using a digital press is somewhat fixed and linear--the cost per unit does not decrease much when a greater quantity is produced. The opposite is true for offset press, since the setup costs can be spread over a greater number of units. The more you print, the lower your cost per unit.

This is why many POD self-published books fail. In order to generate any profit, the retail price must be set too high; usually well above of what is customary, and the authors price themselves out of their market. Most people just won't pay $28 for a 150-page book. Low margins also rule out wholesale and consignment selling, since the required discounts often consume the meager margin and then some.

This does not mean that there is no place for digital presses and print-on-demand technology in the publishing industry beyond vanity presses. Consider the small but serious self-publisher, someone who understands the benefits of offset press and makes the investment on a press run. Selling the offset printed units within the publisher's own continent is not a problem, but what if you are targeting a world market? Shipping units overseas is cost prohibitive and international print runs are a serious risk. This is where POD printing can be a great boon to independent press. Once in the mainstream POD channels, your title can be made available worldwide. When a buyer in another country purchases a copy, the unit will be printed as nearby as possible and shipped locally. A successful Internet campaign can produce viable markets in unexpected places.

Books vs. eBooks (Doorstops vs. bits and bytes):
Again, I don't think this is an "either or" scenario. There are those who read printed books exclusively and those who read eBooks exclusively, so ignoring either group is limiting your market. And let's not forget those who love to read printed books, but also might like to be able to read a few chapters on their cell phone or iPod. I never thought I would read a book on my cell phone, but I recently found myself in a waiting room for many hours with just my cell phone and the eBook I read was a pleasant diversion.

Many ignore eBooks, figuring the market is too small--it's not. Sure the eBook sales for a bestseller might not compare to the number of paperbacks sold, but does it need to? After all, how much is it costing the publisher to produce/reproduce said eBook. Beyond some initial setup and hosting fees, the publisher isn't out much, and therefore eBooks generate high margin even at a lower price point.

As with printed books, eBook distribution, payment processing and order fulfillment are all challenges, but sites like Amazon, MobiPocket (owned by Amazon), Smashwords, etc. make it much easier to get into the mainstream eBook market. If you sign up as a publisher on MobiPocket.com, they can automatically make your eBook available through dozens of eBook retailers, including Amazon Kindle.

eBooks, in the end, are a no-brainer. Every day, more and more people are reading eBooks on their Kindles, cell phones, iPods and computers. As a consumer, the reasons for doing so are numerous and the lower price point and instant gratification are not to be overlooked.

Join Brian Rathbone on Thursday, July 16th for Part 2 of Publishing in the Digital Age. He’ll be sharing advice and his experience on marketing and audiobooks.
For more information on Brian Rathbone and his fantasy trilogy, The Dawning of Power: http://www.brianrathbone.com


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