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View Full Version : Short eBook getting printed by publisher, Want to independently sell print version as well!



metamemoir
12-13-2013, 10:30 AM
MISTAKE IN TITLE!!! SHOULD SAY: "Short eBook getting PUBLISHED by publisher, Want to independently sell print version as well!"


Hey All,

I have a non-exclusive book contract that I signed with a digital publisher for a short eBook. At this point, this publisher does not make print books at all. So I really really want to make and sell a PHYSICAL, print version of my short story/book to sell (probably just online).

My short story is VERY short. About ~8,000 words (I know!). However, I produced and directed an elaborate photography series depicting scenes from the story with hired actors, props, costumes, the works. In total, there are 10 extra pages with HIGH QUALITY photos.

Anyway, I looked into CreateSpace and was SHOCKED by how impossible it was to seemingly make any money with their print on demand! They said my book would cost $3.70 to make, and then I got a little confused, but I believe they said the minimum price would be $6.10, (which I feel is not a fair price for a 8,000 word story obviously, despite the elaborate photo series/artwork), and even at that high price, I would only make ONE PENNY profit for every sale through Amazon (??) then like $1.20 for every sale through CreateSpace(??). I got a little confused by the details, but at the end of the day, it just sounded like no a lucrative route.


So I thought about perhaps ordering a bunch of copies of my little book in bulk.

This is not an endorsement, but literally every time I googled it, the first thing to show up was "PrintNinja.com" which prints in China but has an office based in Illinois.

I have no idea if PrintNinja is the best, but the prices were a lot more conducive to making a profit (duh). I could order 1,000 copies of my little book (which will be more like a little digest-sized magazine or even comic book since it's so short) in full color with every standard (saddle stitching), for about $1,275 in a 6-8 week turnaround. So that's $1.275 per book.

For kicks, I plugged in how much it would cost for 20,000 (!!!) copies of my little print book, and the total was about $6,700 I believe. That's only $0.335 cents per book! If I sold all 20,000 at $3.99 each, my profit after expenses would be a whopping $80,000+!

Now I know you think I've crazy for even entertaining the idea of selling 20,000 copies of a self-published little book by some unknown...but i dooo have a few tricks up my sleeve for marketing. For one, the Huffington Post wants to run the video trailer I made for my story. I also have a couple "mid-list" celebrity plugs in the works, a well researched email blast list, and a coupe articles coming out where I can plug my book in the byline. The main marketing asset I think is the video, however.

Anyway, I've poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into this project and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford around that $6,700 at this point in my life. I know i sound crazy, but I believe so much in my project that even if it failed miserably and I was stuck with boxes of my story to give away, sell at flea markets or on the subway, or use as shingles for a house or something, I don't think I would regret it that much. I'm devoted to this dream and sharing my story in a big way, and I have this "all in" or "go big or go home!" mentality about it.

What do you all think? What else would I have to do to maximize my chance at sales? I was thinking of just selling it through my personal website primarily using something like Gumroad (or shopify, magento, etc.).

merrihiatt
12-13-2013, 04:34 PM
For kicks, I plugged in how much it would cost for 20,000 (!!!) copies of my little print book, and the total was about $6,700 I believe. That's only $0.335 cents per book! If I sold all 20,000 at $3.99 each, my profit after expenses would be a whopping $80,000+!

If being the key word here. I think we've all done the math (I know I have!). It seems that you are banking on the video to bring in sales which prompts me to ask, have you ever purchased a book because of a book trailer? I haven't.

I wish you luck, but caution you a bit. Money should flow to the author, not from the author.

Parametric
12-13-2013, 05:22 PM
This does not sound like a good financial investment to me and I'd be extremely surprised if you even broke even on this. I've never heard of any real market for print copies of individual short stories, especially at $3.99. I'd be happy to be wrong, of course, but this sounds like a quick way to lose $6700. If you really have $6700 sitting around, and it really wouldn't bother you at all if you sold not a single copy, then go for it.

Old Hack
12-13-2013, 05:32 PM
For kicks, I plugged in how much it would cost for 20,000 (!!!) copies of my little print book, and the total was about $6,700 I believe. That's only $0.335 cents per book! If I sold all 20,000 at $3.99 each, my profit after expenses would be a whopping $80,000+!

Most self published books sell fewer than 200 print copies.

Please be careful.

You might like to contact print shops in your area and see what they'd charge you to print the copies you're after. It could work out far cheaper.

Parametric
12-13-2013, 05:36 PM
If I honestly, seriously thought that my short story could sell in print, I'd do this incrementally. Print ten copies and try to sell them. The profit margin on the early sales is not important - this is just the proof-of-concept stage. If you sell all ten, print another twenty copies and try to sell those. If you sell all twenty, print a hundred and try to sell those. If you sell all hundred ... etc etc. But going straight to a several-thousand-dollar investment in twenty thousand copies of a totally unproven product that doesn't fit into an existing market is not good business sense to me.

J. Tanner
12-13-2013, 08:59 PM
If I honestly, seriously thought that my short story could sell in print, I'd do this incrementally. Print ten copies and try to sell them. The profit margin on the early sales is not important - this is just the proof-of-concept stage. If you sell all ten, print another twenty copies and try to sell those. If you sell all twenty, print a hundred and try to sell those. If you sell all hundred ... etc etc. But going straight to a several-thousand-dollar investment in twenty thousand copies of a totally unproven product that doesn't fit into an existing market is not good business sense to me.

Ditto.

Do a POD (CreateSpace/LightningSource) or a short run through a local printer and just run it at break even or even a small loss for the short term as proof of concept. Maybe you're out a few hundred bucks if we skeptics are right. If demand is as spectacular as you surmise, you can still do your 20K run then and still end up with fat stacks.

My guess is you will not need to, unfortunately. Paper without major distribution tends to be below 10% of most self-pub fiction in comparison to the ebook.

I suspect you will fall into that range, and wouldn't guess you expect to sell 200K or more ebooks through your publisher.

Don't overestimate the value of press like HuffPo. Authors have done major media like TV and NYT and reported back that it moved the needle on sales virtually nothing. Sustained campaigns or grass-roots interest across a variety of tier 1 media can move the needle, but that's generally out of an individual author's control and budget.

(I'm familiar with moving the needle this way in non-writing pursuits, and it costs thousands per day and is still a challenge.)

Torgo
12-13-2013, 09:30 PM
This is a scale problem, and lies at the heart of why it's very hard to self-publish successfully in print. If you print a few at a time, your margins shrink to zero, or you have to price them so high nobody will buy them. If you print thousands of copies, viability increases as your unit cost decreases, but only so long as you can sell what you expect to sell. If you don't, you lose your shirt and have a basement full of stock you can't shift.

It's so, so risky to punt thousands of dollars at self-publishing in print. I have only seen it succeed on a handful of occasions over the years, and always with much more conventional offerings than what you're proposing. In your shoes I wouldn't even consider it.

Juliet Rich
12-13-2013, 10:48 PM
I'd ask yourself a few questions to get at what your goals are for a print version. There's no right or wrong answer, just the right answer for you.

* Do you want to do it to make a good profit?
* Do you want to do it so as many people as possible can easily buy a print copy?
* Do you want to do it so you have some physical copies to handsell?
* Do you want to see it in brick and mortar stores?
* Do you want to be responsible for packing and shipping?
* Do you want to make this print book available for a short time or indefinitely?

Though honestly to me it sounds like CreateSpace would work fine. Price it so you're making a decent profit (more than a penny!), and see if it sells at that price point or not. At the same time, you can order some copies for yourself from CreateSpace and handsell them. Re-evaluate later.

The thing with going to a printer, local or not, is that they're either not going to be able to distribute it for you, or it's going to be an additional cost you haven't factored in yet.

Old Hack
12-14-2013, 02:20 AM
The thing with going to a printer, local or not, is that they're either not going to be able to distribute it for you, or it's going to be an additional cost you haven't factored in yet.

CreateSpace doesn't distribute the books it prints. It does list them on Amazon but that's not at all the same as distribution. If you're using that term in the way it's understood in trade publishing.

Polenth
12-14-2013, 06:12 AM
Keep in mind that children's picture books cost about the same as adult novels. Illustrated is always expensive for the page count (and you can take a look at picture books to get an idea how high you can go, so you set a reasonable price). That's not really your dealbreaker.

The dealbreaker is disinterest. The difficulty is getting people to want the book. If they don't want it, they won't buy it for any price.

Which is why POD is a good way to test the water, even if you're hoping for a print run in the future. It'll give some idea of the interest, so you know if it's worth paying for a print run and how big it should be.

If you go ahead with a massive print run straight out, you've got a number of issues. If it doesn't work out, you'll likely still have to pay for storage (unless you live in a mansion, I'm doubting you have enough space for that many books - you need to measure it) and won't make the money back. But if you are successful, it's a double-edge sword. You'll have a lot of admin to deal with, and may end up having to hire someone. You'll need a better web service than most authors, to handle the load. All this will cost money, which has to be factored in to the price per book.

This is one reason why surprise successes with small publishers often end up reprinted by bigger ones. The small publishers simply can't cope if a title is too successful. Where the author is the publisher, they can end up being a publisher full time, and no longer having time to write.

So even if you think we're wrong for thinking it's highly unlikely you'll sell that many... consider you may not be prepared for success either, because success comes with extra business costs.

Laer Carroll
12-16-2013, 02:04 AM
There may be people who’d buy a short story or novelette in a booklet form. I certainly am not one of them.

I do see a booklet being useful as a free handout to introduce you and your longer works. They would do the same as business brochures. Perhaps a complete short work that introduces your universe (if you’re writing a series), followed by a few pages of covers and blurbs for the book-length works.

You could use CreateSpace for this, having them send the booklet to you for distribution. Or go to a local printer, especially if you want color pages, perhaps for the book covers at the end of the booklet.

C.R. Baker
12-16-2013, 02:58 AM
You have gotten some great advice here.

I just say ditto. It's great that you are so confident about your work but I wouldn't sink thousands into a print run at this point. Economies of scale are great, but at this point you don't have scale. Not yet.