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bubblegirl
08-05-2006, 05:23 PM
After reading a lot of information about POD publishers, I wonder nobody has yet adopted a healthier business model. For example, let the author pay $400 for book production, online stores and catalog inclusions, but why not have editing and marketing staff to properly work with the book?

If a firm was to correctly edit books, run 10,000+ copies per print run and fully market a book, would our opinions change on self-publishing? Would authors and books be judged as books published by traditional houses?

Could authors get a chance where they may not usually?
Would book reviewers accept galleys?
Would stores order or stock titles?

I'm just wondering after reading some of the self-publishing disasters spoken about online. Somehow I wonder why there isn't a company as I suggested above, who are devoted to putting quality books out that may "just miss out" in traditional publishing circuits.


S.

Provrb1810meggy
08-05-2006, 06:14 PM
Marketing may help, but I don't think they'll ever reach the success of traditionally published books. Most people will automatically assume self published equals bad, because it wasn't good enough to make it with a traditional publisher, but hey, I may be filled with crap, so who knows?

JanDarby
08-05-2006, 06:16 PM
If a firm was to correctly edit books, run 10,000+ copies per print run and fully market a book, would our opinions change on self-publishing?

If the firm did all that, it wouldn't be POD, it would be a traditional small publisher. And it would cost someone -- the firm or the author -- considerably more than $400 per manuscript to print 10,000 copies, let alone the cost of hiring competent people to edit, market and distribute the books.

And if the firm is picking up the cost, instead of the author, or even if the firm is picking up part of the cost, the firm is not going to take any mansucript that falls into its mailbox, but is going to be every bit as selective as any other traditional publisher that's out to find good books that 10,000 people would want to read.

JD

bubblegirl
08-05-2006, 06:41 PM
Very true. I just thought if CERTAIN POD publishers can survive with authors NOT selling books alone, there must be some way for a publisher to market and edit books correctly and sales to pay for these staff members.

If an author believes in the book, they should have a POD publisher that can support them the whole way. Surely, marketing and creating an impressive image can be done for a fair budget. For example, primary advertising in Australian bookselling magazines is $975AU. Press releases can be sent to media outlets for little cost also. Galleys for reviews cost $12each (or less). Even these small marketing beginnings by the firm, with a return policy would be a start.

Then there's the author's part of promotion. Book signings, magazine / TV interviews, personal website, and specific interest groups.

The author's $400 would cover the book editing and designs, online bookstore submission and brick and mortar catalog promotion. The rest of the cost would be to the publisher. As noted above, small press runs and cost-effective marketing would move the book forward. Because the author pays for book design and editing, the publisher has a lot smaller cost and may take more "chances" on books that "may not sell."


Okay, back to my utopia :D

eldragon
08-05-2006, 07:03 PM
Marketing may help, but I don't think they'll ever reach the success of traditionally published books. Most people will automatically assume self published equals bad, because it wasn't good enough to make it with a traditional publisher, but hey, I may be filled with crap, so who knows?



I think we are equating the general public with writers. Most people, I assume, do not open a book and see who published it, and if they did - they wouldn't recognize LULU as being a self-published work as opposed to Harper Collins.

Am I right?

veinglory
08-05-2006, 07:29 PM
I think there is simply a tipping point. For a company to make that effort they would need to either charge thousands (and if the book sucked it still wouldn't worked and their writers would hate them) or they would need to be selective and so become a small press.

I think that within the 'all-comers' model there is a role for places like Lulu And there is a small niche for those few subsidy publishers that share the costs with the writer because they are in a small niche.

Unimportant
08-07-2006, 05:01 AM
If an author believes in the book, they should have a POD publisher that can support them the whole way.

The problem is, pretty much EVERY author believes in their book. But POD books just don't sell in large enough numbers, because they're by definition not printed and put on shelves to entice buyers. They're printed only when someone has already chosen to buy the book -- and how many of us want to buy books sight unseen? The author putting in $400 is unlikely to ever earn back their investment; ditto for the publisher.

The only way to make lots of money is to sell lots of copies. The only way to sell lots of copies is to print lots of copies. The only way to print lots of copies is to invest lots of money in the book.

Check out this link:
http://alg.livejournal.com/84032.html#cutid1
in which an editor at a large publishing house breaks it down into dollars and cents. Taking a manuscript from go to whoa costs around $20,000.

bubblegirl
08-07-2006, 07:14 AM
Thanks for that. I was just wondering how the POD industry could improve.

There is a particular POD publisher making it bad, yet they continue to survive. How do they survive when authors don't pay up-front and hardly sell books? Where does their money come from?

I just thought if they could survive (somehow), then maybe a POD publisher could help authors market and afford to do it. They would have to be more selective, but could take on more titles that may be seen as "not quite good enough" by agents.

Unimportant
08-07-2006, 09:21 AM
If you mean Publish America, they survive by selling books back to their authors. An author may not pay much up front, besides the $30 copyright registration fee, and they may get a one dollar advance, but then the vast majority of them get convinced to buy 10 or 50 or 200 copies of their own book -- at hugely inflated prices -- which they're then supposed to sell out of the boot of their car to friends and family. Multiply that profit times 11,000 'happy authors' and it's a cash cow.

A lot of small presses run on POD, and they do make a profit -- not a lot, but enough to survive -- selling books to a small, defined niche market. It's not the quality of the books that differentiates them from books that agents and big publishers take on; it's the subject matter. Just guessing at numbers -- there are fifty million American women who read romance, and an average romance title should sell to 0.1% of them -- or 50,000 copies. There are a million American women who read lesbian romance, so any given lesbian title should sell, correspondingly, a thousand copies. The latter is not enough to make it worthwhile to Harlequin, but it still works out profitable for a small press like Regal Crest on a POD system.

dclary
09-01-2006, 06:16 PM
Yeah, the bottom line is that for the typical POD/Vanity publisher... the money's in what they charge the author, not in the book sales themselves, because face it... If the book legitimately had a chance to go big, 99 times out of a 100 a bigger fish would have snapped it up.

maestrowork
09-01-2006, 10:01 PM
A lot of it has to do with reputation, too. People knows Random House and St. Martin or their imprints... They know they can always count on the quality of the product. With smaller presses, it's more difficult but it's possible, if the publishers are known to have published great books for niche markets or book stores are familiar with them. With vanity, the odds are against you because of their reputation of a) uneven quality, from utter crap to occasional rare gems, b) no return policies, trade reviews, distribution, etc. and c) difficulties to deal with.

It's not to say the publishing world is not changing. But the business model is old, and change is slow. And we're writers -- we're not going to reinvent the wheels even if we try.

dclary
09-02-2006, 01:32 AM
Especially when we're talking about a medium (paper) that's being stiffly contested by others.

marsm
11-21-2006, 05:14 PM
Let me start with a brief introduction, and then seek some guidance from the people in this discussion.

I run a Dubai-based custom publishing house that produces bespoke publications for some of the world's largest brands such as Chanel, Puma and Cisco to name a few. This is not a sales pitch – promise.

I come from an editorial background, and my passion still lies in creative writing, having come from the world of magazines, and sold my soul to run a company that produces books (on a business level) for large corporations.

I, however, am now looking to diversify my company to now start offering custom publishing services to authors that can't really affords the ten of thousands of dollars to get published. At the same time, we are not a company that is willing to risk taking on hundreds of authors.

We have an editorial team and award-winning creative team - we can professionally (using the best professionals in the business) to edit, sub-edit, design, etc, a 240 page book for in the region of $1,100. I’m not sure how this compares to other companies – some feedback would probably be appreciated here.

We have access to a multitude of printing presses (offset and digital) and we can undertake all printing requirements with special finishes, die-cuts, etc. even on small quantities. Printing is our strength, and we can do whatever the author wants (at good rates), but what I would like to establish is what you guys think is the best model to follow to help aspiring authors get published.

What’s important is that as a company we committed and we are ready to make a move with this project - my tech/IT team finished the web site yesterday (fully e-commerce enabled), but we are waiting patiently to formulate a sales model that will make us as a company happy, and more importantly to keep the author happy.

Also, because we're based in Dubai, this is a tax-free zone, and we will use our existing corporate rates with couriers to be able to ship books anywhere in the world for extremely competitive rates. Needless to say we can warehouse books too (15 or 20 copies) and print more when stocks drop below a certain level. We have a logistics department that can take care of this.

As I’ve said, we are a committed company, and from the research we've conducted, there appear to be a lot of issues with existing POD publishers. There also appear to be massive issues using retailers in general because of the funds they retain. In a nutshell, we want to enter this segment, extremely sensibly though, and make an impact. In order for this to happen, we would like to hear from the people on the ground, along with their experiences, to come up with a model that works for everyone.

I look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to PM or email me.

ResearchGuy
11-21-2006, 08:46 PM
... what I would like to establish is what you guys think is the best model to follow to help aspiring authors get published. ...

...we are waiting patiently to formulate a sales model that will make us as a company happy, and more importantly to keep the author happy.
...
It will be generally agreed, I believe, that the BEST model is for authors to work to professional standards and to pursue commercial publication through agents and through queries and proposals to publishers that accept unagented approaches. The best help is advice and support in the areas of (1) quality writing and (2) quality preparation of queries and book proposals.

Now, for those who do choose self-publishing (and there are many books for which that is in fact an appropriate option, although only with clear understanding of its challenges and limits and in recognition that self-publishing IS a business), it is essential that the author understand intended audience, how to reach that audience, and how to select and purchase editing, book design, printing, marketing, and distribution options that are appropriate and cost-effective. It is not clear to me that (from what you described) you can be of any assistance there. That is, you cannot do the author's work and preparation for him or her. One of the prominent books on self-publishing (Dan Poynter's or Tom & Marilyn Ross's), or training via PMA (Publishers Marketing Association, http://www.pma-online.org/), or both, would be far more suitable.

Now, having said that, if you can offer cost-effective printing services, fine. Nothing wrong with that. But you are in competition with printers (offset and POD and those who offer both) in the U.S. and very competitively priced offset printers in Asia.

Folks who want to get a foot in the door of self-publishing or its rough equivalent, subsidy publishing, have plenty of options right now, including the economical and efficient Lulu.com. Those who want more handholding and who need more help with such mechanics as manuscript formatting for publication have the choice of Aventine Press, Trafford, iUniverse, and many others of varying cost and reputation. Authors can also buy book design services, copyediting, and so on from numerous independent contractors. Having bought those services, they are then able to proceed via several self-publishing or low-cost POD options.

Bottom line: can you beat what Lulu.com (one model) offers, or what Aventine Press (for example; a different model) offers? If so, in what ways?

FWIW, I went through the publishing process with Lulu.com a few days ago to see how it worked -- reformatted a short-book-length manuscript, uploaded, made selections of options, and ordered two copies (6x9" trade paperbacks). That took part of an afternoon. My copies should be here by next week. My total cost: about $16 for the two copies, including shipping. If I were to want more copies, I could easily order them. That is tough competition.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
11-21-2006, 09:21 PM
...we're writers -- we're not going to reinvent the wheels even if we try.
Tell that to my self-publishing acquaintance (working in a solid nonfiction niche with national and international markets for his products) who has twice rejected buyout offers from a major commercial publisher.

:-)

--Ken

Lauri B
11-21-2006, 09:32 PM
The author's $400 would cover the book editing and designs, online bookstore submission and brick and mortar catalog promotion. The rest of the cost would be to the publisher. As noted above, small press runs and cost-effective marketing would move the book forward. Because the author pays for book design and editing, the publisher has a lot smaller cost and may take more "chances" on books that "may not sell."


Okay, back to my utopia :D
$400 wouldn't even come close to covering the costs for editing and design, online bookstore submission, and catalog promotion. Not even remotely close.

LloydBrown
11-22-2006, 01:25 AM
The problem with POD and success being used in the same sentence is that POD doesn't allow much profit margin, so it's very difficult to bootstrap yourself up from one or two sales to a thousand or more. The other barriers we already know about--bookshelf presence, getting reviews, etc. only make it worse.

If the book is one with a wide market appeal and has a legitimate chance to sell thousands of copies, you're better off going with an offset print run.

ResearchGuy
11-22-2006, 01:55 AM
...If the book is one with a wide market appeal and has a legitimate chance to sell thousands of copies, you're better off going with an offset print run.
Indeed. IF.

There are risk calculations involved. How much risk does one want to take of winding up with a garage full of books that cost thousands of dollars to print? (Say, three bucks a copy for a print run of 3,000 copies -- $9,000.) How willing is the author to take on all of the roles required of such a self-publisher? Not everyone can take those risks or has those skills and opportunities. It might make a lot of sense to trade down the risk at a cost in reduced opportunity. If the book shows real appeal after a POD trial run, there is still the option to shop for agent or publisher or to self-publish with an offset print run.

--Ken

marsm
11-22-2006, 08:41 AM
Thanks for the insightful response Ken


Bottom line: can you beat what Lulu.com (one model) offers, or what Aventine Press (for example; a different model) offers? If so, in what ways?

At this stage in the game, this appears to the question for us - find ways that we can better existing players in the market. I feel that there are areas that we can be of extremel benefit, but before I comment, I'm going to take a few hours to check out what lulu, and other established players offer. I also have meetings with three of my printers today to discuss rates and "special" things we can do. Will share my findings over the course of the next few days.


reformatted a short-book-length manuscript, uploaded, made selections of options, and ordered two copies (6x9" trade paperbacks). That took part of an afternoon. My copies should be here by next week. My total cost: about $16 for the two copies, including shipping.

May I please enquire as to the total pagination for the book, paper used (inside and covers) and what artwork was used on the cover? This will allow me to see how far (or close) we are to the mark.


$400 wouldn't even come close to covering the costs for editing and design, online bookstore submission, and catalog promotion. Not even remotely close.

Quite - on the prelimary calculations we did, we were rather "shocked" by the $400 statement.

Birol
11-22-2006, 08:46 AM
The author's $400 would cover the book editing and designs, online bookstore submission and brick and mortar catalog promotion.

You're not expecting to pay the editor, the graphic designer, or the sales person much, are you?

ResearchGuy
11-22-2006, 08:43 PM
Thanks for the insightful response Ken

...

May I please enquire as to the total pagination for the book, paper used (inside and covers) and what artwork was used on the cover? This will allow me to see how far (or close) we are to the mark.
...
Sure. Bear in mind, this was a quick little project I had at hand. That particular book was 90-some pages. Paper? I don't know. Whatever Lulu's default paper is. Artwork? I uploaded a simple cover as a pdf. I could have made it pretty much whatever I wanted, but since this was just an experiment, it was not fancy. (Price would not have varied with a different cover design, and another option would have been to use a Lulu gallery cover or to upload separate front, back, and spine pdf images -- no effect on price.)

The pricing for trade paperback is $.02 (two cents) per b/w interior page + $4.53, so a 100-page book would be $6.53, a 200-page book $8.53, and so on.

You can explore www.lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com) for more information on their pricing. Especially see: http://www.lulu.com/help/index.php?fSymbol=book_pricing .

Lulu is only for someone who can properly format a complete book manuscript for publication -- headers, footers, pagination, margins, gutter, table of contents, section breaks, paragraph and heading styles, fonts, and so on, and with the technical skills to upload files and manage the other steps required. Those who cannot will have to buy help or use another provider who includes such services. Aventine Press (www.aventinepress.com (http://www.aventinepress.com)) and various others do provide such services, for a fee. And of course there is the notorious and problematic PublishAmerica -- generally held in low repute, but obviously attractive to many authors, at least until they discover the hidden costs and the quality issues, by which time it is too late.

--Ken

aghast
11-22-2006, 09:20 PM
id say the minimum investment (editing, design, layout, marketing, distribution, catalog..) for a paperback is about $2000 and thats if you pay the absolute minimum and still expect quality - top editors alone can charge a lot per ms, and that doesnt include the printing cost, so considering that you will know how many you will have to sell to make back your investment - self pub is not for everyone for that reason

marsm
11-23-2006, 10:21 AM
Lulu is only for someone who can properly format a complete book manuscript for publication -- headers, footers, pagination, margins, gutter, table of contents, section breaks, paragraph and heading styles, fonts, and so on, and with the technical skills to upload files and manage the other steps required.

I played around with their site yesterday - I have to say, it's a very good, functional website, but as you've pointed out Ken, you need to know what you're doing. I specifically started using a document where there would be issues such as chapter names at the bottom of pages, loads of orphan lines and widows which just look silly when printed, and I can see what you're saying - the time investment can be substantial, provided you know what you're doing to start with and that you pay attention to detail.

Following on from my posts over the past few days, after visiting many sites, we are not really offering any that others aren't already. We’re not re-inventing the wheel, but what we are doing as a company that comes from a strong custom publishing background is offer high-quality services to authors in important areas such as editing and design. We have a great, award-winning team, and we have recently secured the additional services of two excellent book editors with years of experience, and our editorial panel is also high-qualified.

In addition to the editorial, we have an award-winning art director that is working on inside page layouts, and an area that we will focus on intently is cover design. I am of the opinion that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you’re twice as likely to pick it up off the shelf and buy it if the cover design is enticing and representative of the book. Coming from a magazine background, I know how important covers are to the overall success of over-the-counter sales.

On the topic of printing – we have a reputable digital printing press that we use for smaller projects, but we are now also engaging in talks with our offset printers to undertake smaller print runs for us. We only work with ISO-certified printing presses, so all the books that are produced will adhere to the highest standards. To quickly address differences in pricing, it would have cost you $15.50 to print two books if we’d printed it (90 pages, perfect bound with full colour cover). Where you saved though, is in the area of design where you did that yourself, and couriering these books to you from the UAE would have been an additional $20 (approx).

At the end of the day, we’re just providing a service, providing more quality perhaps, than many others are offering, and we realize that we are not really going to make a dent on the US market purely because of the distance game. Why pay more to get stuff shipped from the UAE when you have these services in the US right?

The area that we will be focusing on as a result of this is to offer authors the opportunity of getting their books published in the Middle East, where such services do not exist, and there are two ways that we are thinking of tackling this:


There is a massive Western expat community living in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Riyadh, Manama, Doha, Kuwait City, Muscat, etc. The Middle East as a whole is starving for entertainment, and reading is a big pastime amongst expats, and the book shops are always looking for new, fresh material. We already have a distribution network because of our other business activities.
Our reputation in the local market has been the quality of our Arabic team, which is why we are the chosen publishers for companies such as Chanel and Cisco in the Middle East on the back of this – the Arab world, especially in places such as Saudi Arabia where they don’t even have cinema, is very much geared towards reading. What we will look at doing is translate existing materials into Arabic (and we have an unmatched team in this year that does excellent translations), and get them printed for the regional market. Needless to say we have Arabic designers. This will allow authors in places such as the States and Europe to get their books published in a different language that will allow them to pass their work onto a new audience that they previously would not have had the opportunity of reaching.
In closing, these posts are getting longer and longer, I would appreciate it if the people involved in this topic could pop on to the site, www.leadingbrandspublishing.com/bookshop (http://www.leadingbrandspublishing.com/bookshop), and just have a quick glance at the three models (under Getting Published) that we’re offering to our prospective clients. Please bear in mind that the site is not yet finished, and is being set up, but all insights and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

huw
11-23-2006, 06:10 PM
The problem with POD and success being used in the same sentence is that POD doesn't allow much profit margin,

Only if you decide up-front to outsource your profits to a vanity company...

The underlying margins on POD are healthy. For those who inflate prices to the commonly-seen $15-20 level, the margins are fabulous (I guess a glance at the accounts of iUniverse et al would confirm this). The difficulty for the typical self-publisher is in achieving enough volume to exploit those margins.



If the book is one with a wide market appeal and has a legitimate chance to sell thousands of copies, you're better off going with an offset print run.
Presuming a work is suitable for POD in the first place (reasonable length, no halftone artwork, no fancy cover requirements etc.) then it depends on your attitude to risk and to the cost/work of warehousing and shipping. Say a self-publisher can buy a POD book for $5 and sell it for $12. How much cheaper is an offset book going to have to be to make up for the downsides? Myself, I'd go POD, pocket the $7, and pass on the hassle and cost of a print run (unless I could persuade someone else to fund and manage the print run, of course :)).

LloydBrown
11-23-2006, 07:42 PM
Only if you decide up-front to outsource your profits to a vanity company

That wasn't one of my assumptions.


The underlying margins on POD are healthy. For those who inflate prices to the commonly-seen $15-20 level, the margins are fabulous (I guess a glance at the accounts of iUniverse et al would confirm this). The difficulty for the typical self-publisher is in achieving enough volume to exploit those margins.

Apparently, we have a different view of a healthy margin. I think a healthy margin should a) allow a second tier of resellers enough profit to make carrying the book a viable option, and b) remain competitively priced. Your example of buying for $5 and selling for $12 sounds unlikely given what you can afford for $5 with POD. Lulu's cost for a 6x9 tpb is $5.17, and that's only 32 pages. 32 pages is not an easy sale at $12.

Even with that implausible margin, selling that same book to resellers leaves little gross profit. Selling at a 40% discount drops your gross profit margin to 18.3% ($2.20 profit on a $12 item). You only get your 59% margin on direct-to-consumer, undiscounted sales. Ideally, for a $12 price, you should be looking for a production cost of $2.40, which is easily achievable.

The difference in an offset print run and your POD price in this example is about $2,500 per thousand copies sold. On your second thousand copies sold, the difference increases because reprints are cheaper with offset. That's not true with POD.

Storage isn't much of an issue. 1,000 copies of that book won't take up much more room than your dining room table. The cost of shipping isn't that bad, because you can set your rates such that single-copy purchasers pay enough to make back anything you spend on bulk shipping to resellers (the publisher typically pays for shipping to distributors).

To look at it another way, offset printing is inifinitely sustainable, since each book sale (even through resellers) pays for another book.

Of course, if you expect to sell fewer than a thousand copies, you're really doing this because you want to, and not because it's a commercially viable project.

ResearchGuy
11-23-2006, 08:26 PM
...

The area that we will be focusing on as a result of this is to offer authors the opportunity of getting their books published in the Middle East, where such services do not exist, and there are two ways that we are thinking of tackling this:
....
That sounds like a very fine niche.

You might also be able to provide cost-effective, quality-competitive printing services for the sorts of folks who now send their book-printing jobs to Asia. (I have in mind folks who do all of the book design here, but contract for printing in, say, China.)

--Ken

ResearchGuy
11-23-2006, 08:39 PM
...Of course, if you expect to sell fewer than a thousand copies, you're really doing this because you want to, and not because it's a commercially viable project.
That depends . . . for example, consider the fellow who self-publishes semi-technical books (printing cost of maybe three dollars each in quanity 1,000) that he sells at $40 (w/o CD) or $90 (w/ CD, which adds another dollar or two to production cost). Nicely profitable even before the second or third thousand-copy printing.

Dan Poynter's rule of thumb (I have been told) for book printing cost vs. list price for self-publishers is 1:8 (that is, price = 8 times production cost). At that, the self-publisher can give full trade discounts and still have a good profit. However, economies really kick in at print run of 3,000 -- so by that measure, 1,000 will not cut it.

It all gets back to a bottom line, though: self-publishing is a business. That means the self-publisher has to do all of the things required of a business. Those who do not want to run a full-time business, with all of the responsibilities and headaches, or who do not have the needed skills and knowledge, need not apply.

POD allows a sort of self-publishing-on-training-wheels -- sharply reduced risk, with commensurately reduced opportunity. But it serves a purpose. The key, I think, is to understand it for what it is, and not to confuse it with what it is not.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
11-23-2006, 08:56 PM
... all insights and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
(1) Listing measurements in centimeters will stop a lot of American visitors to the site dead in their tracks. Every effort to switch the U.S. to the metric system has failed, except that we are now accustomed to buying soft drinks in two-liter bottles.

(2) Lack of samples may be a hindrance. Folks can easily buy a sample of the output of Lulu, iUniverse, xLibris, Aventine, Trafford, and so on, or of domestic book printers such as Adams Press. But if you have not produced any books yet, potential customers cannot make comparisons with your products.

--Ken

huw
11-23-2006, 10:21 PM
That wasn't one of my assumptions.

...yet you proceed to rely on the pricing of such a company in your analysis. Lulu is a middleman, seeking profit from every book sold, hence the killer $4.53 binding fee and inflated page costs that lead to them charging (as you rightly say) $5 for a 32-page book. To misquote: C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas le POD (or at least, not POD as I know and buy it).

Which isn't to say that Lulu doesn't have a place in the market. It's just not a place where a profit-oriented self-publisher wants to be.

As for placing the book with resellers...I don't see how having a self-published print run helps there. At least with POD, the self-publisher has an automatic in with Ingrams, leading to placement with Amazon and similar.



Apparently, we have a different view of a healthy margin. I think a healthy margin should a) allow a second tier of resellers enough profit to make carrying the book a viable option, and b) remain competitively priced. Your example of buying for $5 and selling for $12 sounds unlikely given what you can afford for $5 with POD. Lulu's cost for a 6x9 tpb is $5.17, and that's only 32 pages. 32 pages is not an easy sale at $12.

ResearchGuy
11-23-2006, 11:25 PM
... As for placing the book with resellers...I don't see how having a self-published print run helps there. ...
Perhaps you don't see that, but competent, professional self-publishers who choose to do so (and who do the work and preparation that is required) can and do get their books placed in bookstores and with wholesalers, such as Baker & Taylor. But that does not just happen. The author-publisher has to manage every aspect of the business, including dealings with wholesalers and distributors. The topic of standard distribution channels is covered in Chapter 15 of Tom and Marilyn Ross's The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th ed.

--Ken

huw
11-24-2006, 01:36 AM
Perhaps you don't see that, but competent, professional self-publishers who choose to do so (and who do the work and preparation that is required) can and do get their books placed in bookstores and with wholesalers, such as Baker & Taylor.

Ordering an offset run may be desirable for these people, it may even be essential to make the economics work, but I suspect the work and preparation you mention count for more than the print technology. [Edit: I should really have said "helps the typical person considering POD" in the previous post. Having stock on hand is clearly a prerequisite to organising distribution, just as having bricks on hand is necessary for building a brick house. For most, it's the lack of building skills that's the issue, not the availability of bricks. The choice to buy bricks singly or by the truckload is neither here nor there.]



But that does not just happen. The author-publisher has to manage every aspect of the business, including dealings with wholesalers and distributors.

Presumably those author-publishers will be placing serious amounts of stock, in which case an offset run makes sense. You mentioned a breakpoint of 3,000 earlier; I have no idea whether the level of placement you're talking about would be feasible with fewer than this. It doesn't really matter: the group you're talking about knows enough to figure out the most economical print method for themselves. They certainly don't need to come to a forum like this for information.

Then there are those who would be better advised to test the waters first, without buying 3,000 books or tying themselves into an unworkable POD contract and pricing model. Maybe they'll start with lulu, learn as much as they want to know, and be satisfied with the limitations of the pricing model. Maybe they'll move on to working directly with a POD printer. Maybe they'll grow into the full-on, offset-ordering, deal-brokering self-publishers that you commend, if they want to and are able to (and many of them may not want to).

ashwood
11-25-2006, 03:21 PM
marsm,

I am a potential non-fiction self-publisher - my manuscript is complete (http://www.lulu.com/content/504978) and I am waiting for an ISBN allocation. I am intending to self-publish through Lightningsource (https://www.lightningsource.com/index.htm). They will take my manuscript and print it one copy at a time. I will order maybe 100 from them initially and sell them through my website. They also have an option where the books will be available through Amazon.com etc.

Lightningsource is Lulu's global distribution partner, so by going directly to Lightningsource I am cutting out the Lulu middleman. Lulu takes a >25% cut from the author, so I am saving money by going directly to Lightninsource. For example, the printing cost of my 149 page A4 book through Lulu is £4, but only about £1.50 from Lightningsource. To be fair, Lulu does add value by shielding the author from Lightningsource's technical requirements. But that won't be a service I need as I could handle the technical aspects myself.

Lightningsource appears to have a monopoly, so if you want to set up a competing service, we would be very interested, especially if you can save money because you are in Dubai :)

I think 2 separate things do get lumped into one: (1) Self publishing where the author takes on the editing, proofing, contracting printer, distribution, marketing etc. and (2) the technology that is POD i.e. one book can be printed at a time. Combine these things together and we have a revolution on our hands. Certainly for niche interests where "traditional" publishers cannot recoup their costs, this is amazing. Interestingly, I have yet to find a name for the thing that is the marriage of "self-publishing + POD". What is the name for this...?

Jaws
11-25-2006, 07:41 PM
The biggest barrier to the success of small presses and self/vanity-published works is the existing book distribution system, specifically returnability. I think it's highly significant that no startup has risen to first-tier level in American publishing since the returns system became "standard" during the Depression; every single "new" first-tier publisher since then has risen as a result of consolidation, acquisition, and external-to-the-industry financial and marketing muscle.

The closest that the American publishing industry has had to a post-Depression startup entering the first-tier is probably Norton, but it's not really fair to characterize Norton as a pure startup in publishing—only in trade publishing.

That's not to say that second- and third-tier status is something to be ashamed of; I'm not ashamed of my publishers, and nobody in their right mind should be ashamed of being published by others like Grove Atlantic. My point is only that too many commentators (and boosters of "new" models) on publishing don't notice the glass ceilings between the tiers, and don't understand that moving up in the publishing world requires enough initial resources to survive a decade or so of 10% (average) losses for each step upward. I wish it was otherwise, but it's not, or at least it's not based upon available data.

In short, to quote Randy Newman, "It's money that matters | In the USA." I don't deny the importance, in the long run, of the quality of individual works; I just deny that the quality of a publisher's line is enough (exhibit A: Blue Jay Books).

Anthony Ravenscroft
11-25-2006, 11:04 PM
Bluejay is an excellent example. They had everything going for them:
big-name authors
great cover art
excellent industry connections
excellent sf/f genre connections
experienced management

And the operation was a total success except that the patient died....

ResearchGuy
11-26-2006, 12:27 AM
...moving up in the publishing world requires enough initial resources to survive a decade or so of 10% (average) losses for each step upward...
Not everyone wants to "move up." Some are happy with a profitable, manageable self-publishing business. Examples I am familiar with personally: Stagecoach Publishing (best selling of his 16 books has sold 75,000 copies); Barsotti Books; Deer Valley Press (owner has twice turned down buyout offers by a major publisher); Bridge House Books; KPEnterprises (via Great Little Book Publishing Company, Inc., http://www.greatlittlebook.com/). Of course all use offset printing.

The contempt for small publishing businesses on AW is pervasive. A similar view of, say, local restaurants would condemn the lot of them for not being McDonald's, or Morton's Steak House, or Bob Evans, or . . . Likewise, a similar view would condemn all independent bookstores for not being Barnes & Noble or Borders. Local auto repair shop? Not a Midas or Goodyear/Gemini, so deserving of contempt.

Some self-publishers, of course, do move up. The one-man Prima Publishing (Ben Dominitz -- you can Google him) was eventually (after vast expansion) acquired by Random House, and is now an imprint of that company. Mick Martin and Marsha Porter decades ago self-published a guide to movies on tape. They consigned copies to Tower Books, Sacramento, which then carried copies at its NY location. The book was noticed. The title was picked up by a major publisher and has been through many editions, now of course emphasizing DVDs. (Next year's will be the last edition, according to Mick.) Some self-publishers sell tens of thousands of copies, and some hundreds of thousands, and remain independent (see first chapter of Tom and Marilyn Ross's book on self-publishing, 4th ed., for some striking examples. Really. Too much there to repeat here.). Some find a useful niche with a few hundred copies (adjunct to other business, for example, or maybe the book simply has a limited audience, and for them, POD might work fine).

Some self-publishers refuse (GASP!) to lower their standards to fit Procrustes Publishing's model. Some refuse to take the sizeable cut in profitability that settling for standard royalties (maybe 8% of wholesale, more the norm than folks want to admit) would entail. Of course many have a niche. Bridge House Books focuses on western regional novels; Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc., focuses on books for computer network administrators; Deer Valley Press focuses on wildland firefighting; Barsotti Books publishes books for young readers and does very nicely by combining book sales and paid presentations to schools.

So much of that sort of thing is under the radar, or is done in a way that results in products and availability that look just like an independent commercial publisher, that those who are busy sniping at self-publishing across the board have no idea what they do not know. (An "unknown unknown," to borrow from Don Rumsfeld.)

BTW, take a look at the statistics quoted on page 89 of The Making of a Bestseller (Brian Hill and Dee Power). Their calculated odds against a book being selected by a publisher via an agent work out to 50,000:1. Adjusting for multiple submissions might reduce the odds by one or two orders of magnitude, but still not better than 500:1 against, and maybe more like 5,000:1 against. Is it surprising that some folks might pursue other options?

--Ken

jamiehall
11-26-2006, 03:16 AM
BTW, take a look at the statistics quoted on page 89 of The Making of a Bestseller (Brian Hill and Dee Power). Their calculated odds against a book being selected by a publisher via an agent work out to 50,000:1. Adjusting for multiple submissions might reduce the odds by one or two orders of magnitude, but still not better than 500:1 against, and maybe more like 5,000:1 against. Is it surprising that some folks might pursue other options?

--Ken

True, but like most points in favor of self-publishing, it is only relevant in some situations. As good a counter-argument as I've ever seen against that point can be found here (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).

ResearchGuy
11-26-2006, 04:59 AM
True, but like most points in favor of self-publishing, it is only relevant in some situations. As good a counter-argument as I've ever seen against that point can be found here (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).
Hmm. Seems to rattle on at vast and beside-the-point length.

Here's the thing. According to Hill and Power, even agented submissions to publishers (which presumably meet certain criteria, such as appropriateness of publisher, basic literacy, and so on) are overwhelmingly rejected. The agents stop the clearly unacceptable manuscripts and target suitable publishers. So, again allowing for multiple submissions, the odds are still pretty awful (100:1 against before adjusting for multiple submissions). On the page I cited, Hill and Power were dealing ONLY with agented submissions. NOT with slush-pile miscellany. Agented submissions. The agents' rejection rate (as Hill and Power heard it) was 500:1. That cleans out a lot of slush -- and probably a lot of worthwhile manuscripts as well.

So, what is an author with a manuscript he or she believes in and sees an audience for going to do? Roll over and give up? That is one option. Pursue some other means of getting the manuscript into printed book form and take responsibility for marketing and other requirements? That is another. And of course, for some -- and I have provided specific examples that are not disputable, while the Rosses provide more -- the first choice is self-publishing or some variety of subsidized publishing, sometimes for excellent and clearly understood reasons.

Whose business is it to tell an author that he or she should not be able to make a book available in its intended form? And who is to tell even a modest but real potential audience that they have no right to buy and read the book unless it is revised to commercial standards and runs the gauntlet of agents and publishers? And why should the author not take advantage of the book-printing options and ease of purchase (simple online ordering) offered by a POD book printer/publisher? Sure, the choice should be made with an understanding of limitations involved, not under false pretenses. (THAT is what is wrong with PublishAmerica: it bases its business model first on building false expectations and on selling illusions, and then on selling books to their authors under those false pretenses.)

Is it really is anyone else's business at the end of the day to say that an informed choice is wrong for that particular author?

Do any of the folks carping about non-commercial book publishing ever attend little theater productions or high school plays? Not if they use the same standards as they do for books. Not Broadway productions. Not worth the time of day. Do they ever attend Little League baseball games? Probably not. Not major league. Do they ever go to a Kiwanis pancake breakfast fund-raiser? Not a chance. Not IHOP or Denny's. Ever attend a coffee-shop poetry reading? No way. Buy from a farmers' market? Patronize a civic group's bake sale? Etc. Etc. Etc.

--Ken

Julie Worth
11-26-2006, 05:47 AM
BTW, take a look at the statistics quoted on page 89 of The Making of a Bestseller (Brian Hill and Dee Power). Their calculated odds against a book being selected by a publisher via an agent work out to 50,000:1

Their actual estimate is 50,000:1 for the entire process--from word processor to a deal with a publisher. The biggest hurdle, so they say, is getting an agent, which they say is 1000:2. They then combine that with what an editor at a top publishing house said, that she accepts one out of a hundred agented submissions. The problem is that's just one house, and most of those 99 rejected submissions are also at other houses. So his calculation is flawed, probably by a factor of ten or more. And allowing for multiple submissions to agents (let's say 50 per), that takes the overall odds down to 100:1. And as we all know, 99 out of a 100 are unpublishable anyway.

veinglory
11-26-2006, 06:52 AM
It seems pretty arbitrary all round as a figure. I've also heard an editor say that she accepts work from only a few agents and takes almost everything they send.

LloydBrown
11-26-2006, 07:09 AM
Nobody's complaining about the quality of food found in the independent restaurants or the quality of the books found in the independent bookstores or the enjoyment of minor league baseball games.

Your analogy is flawed because you're comparing the quality of the end product to the user of the end product, and not to the sales channel's benefit to the creator.

If you're a writer, then the difference is clear. In your analogy, you should be the farmer selling his goods to the small-town restaurant, or the base-ball bat manufacturer trying to sell his wares to the Little League team down the street. Which would you rather have--a contract to replace Little League's bats as they wear out, or supply the NBA with all its professional games and training gear?

The choice seems pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, with self-publishing, there's no filter to weed out the product that isn't good enough to make it to store shelves. There's no FDA or NTSB in writing. Your bats could snap in half on every swing and nobody would know until they bought it.

ResearchGuy
11-26-2006, 07:28 AM
...And as we all know, 99 out of a 100 are unpublishable anyway.
But again: in that mental exercise, the agents already filtered out the genuinely unpublishable (and probably a lot more). That is where the 500:1 (1000:2) comes in. Yes, as another post notes, these are suspiciously round numbers. Sure, there are probably agents who are so well attuned to specific needs of specific publishers that their success rate is much higher once they have signed up a client. They probably also turn away an extraordinarily high proportion of manuscripts, or avoid having them come to them in the first place.

Anyway, that aside, there are plenty of worthwhile manuscripts that do not meet the criteria for commercial publication (too long, too short, too narrow an audience, too local, author lacks platform, not what is in vogue this season, or one-too-many of what is in vogue . . .). What is the harm in their authors taking an alternate route and seeing what they can make of it?

--Ken

Julie Worth
11-26-2006, 07:39 AM
Yeah, you're right, I'll grant you that agents have probably filtered out 90% of the unpublishable, which means that 9 out of 10 publishable books aren't published.

ResearchGuy
11-26-2006, 08:02 AM
...If you're a writer, then the difference is clear. ...
Indeed, for some of my writer-publisher friends and acquaintances it is clear: self-publishing has been far more profitable than commercial publishing would have been, in addition to allowing them to have control over their products and the opportunity to run a satisfying business.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
11-26-2006, 08:05 AM
Nobody's complaining about the quality of food found in the independent restaurants ...
Oh? Ever hear the phrase "greasy spoon restaurant"? It is not a compliment. Anyway, even greasy spoons can draw a clientele. Just not a picky clientele.

--Ken

marsm
11-26-2006, 05:43 PM
(1) Listing measurements in centimeters will stop a lot of American visitors to the site dead in their tracks. Every effort to switch the U.S. to the metric system has failed, except that we are now accustomed to buying soft drinks in two-liter bottles.

We've ammended that - we now carry both sizes, which we hope will make it easy for Europeans and Americans, and the rest of the world.


For example, the printing cost of my 149 page A4 book through Lulu is £4, but only about £1.50 from Lightningsource. To be fair, Lulu does add value by shielding the author from Lightningsource's technical requirements. But that won't be a service I need as I could handle the technical aspects myself.

Ashwood - let me see if I get this straight - you can get the book printed through Lighteningsource for £1.50 - POD right? I tried to make sense of the Lighteningsource website, but wasn't able to make much sense of it at all. They print and supply you with the book, and they sell it globally for you? Is that right?


Lightningsource appears to have a monopoly, so if you want to set up a competing service, we would be very interested, especially if you can save money because you are in Dubai :)

We would be quite interested to try and compete by basing the operation in Dubai - but we first need to understand what they do? Basically, we are new to this publishing segment, and we always enter existing segments, and try and offer something different. We have been very successful as custom publishers, and we think that POD publishing and related services are an area that we can make an impact in.


I think 2 separate things do get lumped into one: (1) Self publishing where the author takes on the editing, proofing, contracting printer, distribution, marketing etc. and (2) the technology that is POD i.e. one book can be printed at a time. Combine these things together and we have a revolution on our hands. Certainly for niche interests where "traditional" publishers cannot recoup their costs, this is amazing. Interestingly, I have yet to find a name for the thing that is the marriage of "self-publishing + POD". What is the name for this...?

We want to enter the game as a serious publisher that will provide services to authors in fields that they may be lacking - design, editing, etc. I have to say that the people on this board are very switched on - but we want to offer a complete solution (or parts thereof) - self-publishers provide the content - we edit, design, print, distribute, etc - take on the WHOLE project. So, the author writes the book, and once done, it gets passed onto us, and they can focus on their next book.

jamiehall
11-27-2006, 06:05 AM
I think 2 separate things do get lumped into one: (1) Self publishing where the author takes on the editing, proofing, contracting printer, distribution, marketing etc. and (2) the technology that is POD i.e. one book can be printed at a time. Combine these things together and we have a revolution on our hands. Certainly for niche interests where "traditional" publishers cannot recoup their costs, this is amazing. Interestingly, I have yet to find a name for the thing that is the marriage of "self-publishing + POD". What is the name for this...?

These outfits are called "self-publishing POD service providers" or slight variations on that term. Those that don't directly charge authors, and instead make their money from inflated book prices of copies bought by the author and author's friends, are generally called author mills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Author_mill). The revolution you speak of has already happened, and it mostly consists of a large number of people getting into self-publishing under terms where the system is even more stacked against them than in the kind of self-publishing where you own your own publishing company. Remember, POD is only cheaper if you don't sell very many books. Otherwise, offset lithography (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offset_printing) is cheaper (about $5 per copy cheaper, unless we are talking about extremely short books, in which case it is still about $3 cheaper per copy).

jamiehall
11-27-2006, 06:33 AM
Nobody's complaining about the quality of food found in the independent restaurants or the quality of the books found in the independent bookstores or the enjoyment of minor league baseball games.

Your analogy is flawed because you're comparing the quality of the end product to the user of the end product, and not to the sales channel's benefit to the creator.

If you're a writer, then the difference is clear. In your analogy, you should be the farmer selling his goods to the small-town restaurant, or the base-ball bat manufacturer trying to sell his wares to the Little League team down the street. Which would you rather have--a contract to replace Little League's bats as they wear out, or supply the NBA with all its professional games and training gear?

The choice seems pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, with self-publishing, there's no filter to weed out the product that isn't good enough to make it to store shelves. There's no FDA or NTSB in writing. Your bats could snap in half on every swing and nobody would know until they bought it.

This is a good dissection of the analogy. Nothing else works quite like the book publishing industry, so comparisons to other industries often aren't as straightforward as they appear to be at first.

The independent restaurants still have edible food, but there is no guarantee that self-published books will be of at least publishable quality. If I wanted to, I could self-publish a book consisting of nothing but the word "the" repeated for 300 pages. Or look at the example of Atlanta Nights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Nights).

There are health codes to make sure that even "greasy spoon" restaurants aren't serving you shaving cream instead of pudding, or two-day-old roadkill instead of hamburger. But self-published books are regulated only by the beliefs of their authors - which is sometimes their strongest point, but it is also their weakest point.

Bookstore owners, reviewers and other industry professionals don't hold their prejudice against self-published books because they want to squash the hopes and dreams of authors who dared to buck the system - they hold that prejudice because they have been exposed to far too many self-published books of unpublishable quality.

I shudder to think what my work of 10 years ago would have seemed like to readers if it had been published in its unvarnished form.

marsm
11-27-2006, 07:09 AM
Just keep going round in circles in my head, so I'm going to knock out some figures here (and maybe I'm stating what most of you already know or suspect), and would like to know how appealing (and they're not) this would be to authors as a turnkey solution - they finish their novel and it comes to us to take care of everything - bear in mind that this is a "high-end" service:

This is based on a 150 page book, 15.23 x 23 cm (6 x 9.1 inches):

1. Editing (high level) - $0.041/word - average of 450 words/page @ 150 pages = $2,767.50
2. Design of cover (inclusive of stock image from Getty):$548
3. Design of inside pages: $3.80 per page (which is inclusive of checking for orphan lines and widows) = $570
4. Printing (we're doing this at cost, on the basis that we will sell the book on behalf of the author) = $9.25 per book, which includes b&w printing on all inside pages on high quality woodfree paper, with a full colour, 300gsm cover (no printing on inside front or back covers.

On the basis of this, our services would cost (excluding printing):$3,885.50. What drives the price up is that we are going to assign a highly qualified editor on this particular project with years of experience in book editing. But let me continue.

On the back of this, we would sell the books in the Middle East retail channel, mainly in Dubai (the hub of English-speaking expats in the Gulf). The average book, new release, in Dubai sells for approx $15. This proves to be a poser, because if we distributed the book ourselves (not using a distribution company), which we are capable of doing, book stores are still going to take 20-40%, which completely devours any profit that you might have made.

So, as a model, the best way to sell books will be through the website where you don't have the issue of paying retailers. If we continue to solely use Dubai as an example, where there is a very big market, we could sell the book online for $15, a profit of $5.75. If we printed book when books were ordered, or kept a small stockpile, the author would have to sell 676 books in order to pay off the intial fees of things like design, editing, etc. And this, for us as publishers, is not worthwhile, because we are not making money from those services to start with - we want to enter a numbers game, of high volume sales. And granted, we can market the site as a place where people from around the world can buy books, but shipping will be quite pricey - $15 for the book and shipping by courier would be $21 to the UK and $25.20 to the US. Shipping in the Gulf will, however, be comparatively low at $16 to GCC countries and $5 in Dubai itself.

This is a real poser - sure, we can drop the design and editing fees, but then we can't help people with genuine interests, who are not tech savvy, to get published.

As I'd mentioned earlier, there is a market to sell books of this sort in the Gulf - UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, etc, but it seems that POD just isn't the model, but at the same time this market is not big enough for huge offset quantities.

While we want to get involved in this arena, because it shows a lot of potential, it's difficult to see how anyone, other than the POD printers, are making a success of this.

ResearchGuy
11-27-2006, 08:47 AM
...would like to know how appealing (and they're not) this would be to authors as a turnkey solution - they finish their novel and it comes to us to take care of everything - bear in mind that this is a "high-end" service:

This is based on a 150 page book, 15.23 x 23 cm (6 x 9.1 inches):
...
On the basis of this, our services would cost (excluding printing):$3,885.50. ....
Considering that there is no assurance of selling even one copy and that the price you cite does not include any book printing, I am skeptical of your getting many takers.

--Ken

bubblegirl
11-27-2006, 10:18 AM
$400 wouldn't even come close to covering the costs for editing and design, online bookstore submission, and catalog promotion. Not even remotely close.

Hi again,

I thought I would qualify my above suggestion. $400US-$1000US is what POD publishers (like Fultus, Xlibris, etc) charge for book typsetting, cover production, submission to Amazon and online stores. and ISBN cataloging. I assumed if they can do it for this cost, so could a publisher, we'll call it "XNEW." This would be what the author paid for.

Extended editing and design would cost more, however, in XNEW these costs would be taken by the publisher.

My idea was to revolutionise the self-publishing world to mimick traditional publishing, yet retain low starting costs for the firm AND start with a better rep. Authors who are turned away from traditional publishers because they are "saleable," as with many success stories in self-publishing, would be given a chance to prove their worth.

The biggest complaints for a self-publisher is: bad reputation, bad editing, and no advertisement.

As the author pays $400 (or more) for online bookstore submission, basic typsetting and cover design, XNEW only has to pay an editor to fix up mistakes with the author to prepare the book for publication.

However, the books would be error-free, and on 90 day account to entice bookstores. They would be of top quality with return policy like traditional publishers do. The difference is that books thought of as "low market interest" or "too unknown author" would be given a chance.

XNEW could ensure books accepted would be close-to-perfect and ready to be fully-edited (much like the traditional publishing circuit). BUT this publisher would be more willing to take a chance now and then on books not thought of as saleable. There are thousands of Self-publishing successes who became millionsaires after being refused by traditional publishers because they didn't see the book selling millions.
These "diamonds in the rough" are given a chance. Authors will a high-grade book who are willing to work hard will be selected. Authors will be expected to work with the editor to fix errors in their book and take part in the promotional activities organised. As an extra request, authors will be expected to tour and pursue promotional activities in their own lines of interest.


Lastly, marketing. XNEW would assist the author in this and share some cost. Budget marketing would be:

- emailed press releases to industry heads and newspapers
- announcements mailed out to bookstores
- booking radio spots
- PRWEB press release
- emails to magazines of similar theme to book being released
- review galleys to newspapers and magazines
- author book tours (author pays for their expenses if interstate or international)
- library targeting
- local book club and literary group appearances

These will surely start some buzz about the company. Many PODs have become known this way, HOWEVER this new firm would not just churn through their authors. They would include advertising and follow-up care on their quality books (without errors!)

If self-publishing houses that charge the author for everything can survive, I wonder if XNEW would survive. While they put in some cash (which PODs don't), the success rate is sure to be higher. Rather than the author being alone in selling their book, their efforts will be assisted by marketing agents at XNEW.

Of course, I'm still learning about the industry and welcome any comments. I just think of my own properly-edited books with marketable merit that are seeking more of a push and wonder if such a publisher could exist and survive -- or win over -- certain POD publishers out there.

S.

bubblegirl
11-27-2006, 10:39 AM
1. Editing (high level) - $0.041/word - average of 450 words/page @ 150 pages = $2,767.50

Editing is always expensive, however, I feel this estimate is quite high.

The submissions editor would have to read books to ensure they are close-to-perfect and properly-constructed novels with correct dialogue, plotting and character implementing. Basic grammar and spelling skills are expected.

Books that are correct in these areas, may only need an editor to fix up certain mistakes in spelling or grammar. An editor who does this can be hired for 1-2c per word, as that's the rate at book-editing.com. 4c per word is a bit much considering the book's selected should only be higher-quality grammar and spelling. For example,

books with errors such as this would be refused:

i know what I must do. . . and I know what I must see.

Yet, a book with a little error would be accepted:

I stormed to the classroom door. Rosie stood across the room, but when she saw me, she walked toward me. Callie followed me as I marched up to the broadcaster.


I held Rosie against the wall. "You have a big filthy mouth."

My fist clenched and lined up with her pretty face. Anger welled inside me so
strongly. Students, waiting for class, watched.

Callie stepped beside me. "Don't hit her, Sea. It's not worth a suspension.”

My fist held its place. "Did it occur to you that I may want to forget what happened? Death isn't a nice thing."

Rosie was frozen. She didn't reply.
(Excerpt from Life in a Bubble by Season BubbleGirl -- I removed a comma to make an error in this.)

If you want to keep the editing fees down and your reputation for good quality books up, I would suggest being more selective of the works you accept. If a book needs so much work it's going to cost a high rate, then maybe the work isn't ready for publication anywhere.

jamiehall
11-27-2006, 08:14 PM
My idea was to revolutionise the self-publishing world to mimick traditional publishing, yet retain low starting costs for the firm AND start with a better rep. Authors who are turned away from traditional publishers because they are "saleable," as with many success stories in self-publishing, would be given a chance to prove their worth.

The biggest complaints for a self-publisher is: bad reputation, bad editing, and no advertisement.

As the author pays $400 (or more) for online bookstore submission, basic typsetting and cover design, XNEW only has to pay an editor to fix up mistakes with the author to prepare the book for publication.

However, the books would be error-free, and on 90 day account to entice bookstores. They would be of top quality with return policy like traditional publishers do. The difference is that books thought of as "low market interest" or "too unknown author" would be given a chance.

XNEW could ensure books accepted would be close-to-perfect and ready to be fully-edited (much like the traditional publishing circuit). BUT this publisher would be more willing to take a chance now and then on books not thought of as saleable. There are thousands of Self-publishing successes who became millionsaires after being refused by traditional publishers because they didn't see the book selling millions.
These "diamonds in the rough" are given a chance. Authors will a high-grade book who are willing to work hard will be selected. Authors will be expected to work with the editor to fix errors in their book and take part in the promotional activities organised. As an extra request, authors will be expected to tour and pursue promotional activities in their own lines of interest.


Lastly, marketing. XNEW would assist the author in this and share some cost. Budget marketing would be:

- emailed press releases to industry heads and newspapers
- announcements mailed out to bookstores
- booking radio spots
- PRWEB press release
- emails to magazines of similar theme to book being released
- review galleys to newspapers and magazines
- author book tours (author pays for their expenses if interstate or international)
- library targeting
- local book club and literary group appearances

These will surely start some buzz about the company. Many PODs have become known this way, HOWEVER this new firm would not just churn through their authors. They would include advertising and follow-up care on their quality books (without errors!)

If self-publishing houses that charge the author for everything can survive, I wonder if XNEW would survive. While they put in some cash (which PODs don't), the success rate is sure to be higher. Rather than the author being alone in selling their book, their efforts will be assisted by marketing agents at XNEW.

Of course, I'm still learning about the industry and welcome any comments. I just think of my own properly-edited books with marketable merit that are seeking more of a push and wonder if such a publisher could exist and survive -- or win over -- certain POD publishers out there.

S.

What you are describing sounds logical at first. The problem isn't in your logic, it is in the fact that the book publishing industry isn't logical to begin with - so scenarios that *should* work often don't. James D. Macdonald, the inventor of Yog's Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yog%27s_Law) who frequents this board, can tell you a lot about the way the publishing industry really works (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20586), and it isn't sane or rational.
People have already had the exact same thoughts that you've had. So far, nearly all of those POD publishers have either gone out of business or they've been forced in one of two directions - (1) they have become legitimate micro-presses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_press#Micro-presses) or (2) they've had to become author mills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Author_mill). About as close to the middle ground as you can find is Book Locker (http://www.booklocker.com/), which has developed a reputation as the most selective POD self-publishing service provider. But, even then, you've got a better chance at making it by continuing to pursue traditional, commericial publishers or, if you have enough start-up cash, a head for business and an unbeatable marketing plan, going into business for yourself as a self-publisher without a vanity press (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanity_press) as middle-man.

Is the book publishing industry fast at recognizing talent in unpublished writers? No. It is a slow, painstaking process to sell your book. You might have 3, 4 or 5 books ready to go by the time you get accepted into that world (of course, by then, you might be better able to take the industry by storm as you release one book after another).

But there are reasons (often subtle reasons that don't fully make sense until you've studied the publishing industry for quite some time) why the scenario you described just doesn't work out for publishers. One reason is that the book industry as a whole is not that profitable, so there is not much room for little guys at the bottom of the heap. It is hard to enter the industry as a small press - even harder if you are using a new business model that has so far been a failure. Another reason is that the niche of picking up decent authors the big publishers won't pick up has already been filled - by small presses and university presses. There isn't much talent left over for the really little guys, and they have to work incredibly hard to find it.

ResearchGuy
11-27-2006, 08:56 PM
...I just think of my own properly-edited books with marketable merit that are seeking more of a push and wonder if such a publisher could exist and survive ....
Professional self-publishers already do all the things you listed. I have cited some examples. Perhaps the gold standard of my own acquaintance is Naida West. Naida is a historian (Ph.D.) and novelist. She commissions paintings for her book covers, contracts for needed publishing-related services (including editing), and handles marketing and promotion. She is not interested in turning her books over to commercial publishers. (She has turned down offers.) Look up Bridge House Books (http://www.bridgehousebooks.com), order one of her books, and take a look. The claim that all self-published books are dreck is preposterous, as Naida's books demonstrate.

By the way, go to http://www.slushpile.net/index.php/2006/04/21/why-people-hate-self-published-authors/ and search on the name Naida -- you will find Naida West's comment far down the page. It is well worth reading. Here is one paragraph:



Ten years ago when I learned that major houses considered my 640-page historical novels too much financial risk for a new author with “regional” appeal, I went ahead and printed the first title myself. Later, after sales were beyond regional and distributors came knocking on my door, several of those same publishers lined up to bid on reissuing that title under their imprint, as well as my unfinished MS. I refused a contract. So I was not rejected, they were.


Also of gold-standard quality is Bill Teie, Deer Valley Press (www.deervalleypress.com (http://www.deervalleypress.com)). Bill is the one who has twice rejected buyout offers from a major textbook publisher, and whose books are sold nationally, internationally, and now expanding into versions customized for other continents. Bill's books are sold via college bookstores and direct to firefighting agencies and to individuals. Few, I believe, are sold through general trade bookstores (those are not his market). Bill buys the services he needs.

Order a copy of Pete Masterson's Book Design and Production -- http://www.aeonix.com or via Amazon, for example. Good book. Professionally produced. Self-published. Should be, as Pete is a book designer by profession. Others can buy book-design services from him.

Etc., etc., etc.

The folks who keep dredging up the same canards are unable to move outside their mental box to realize two key things:

1. MANY books are not sold via trade bookstores (B&N and the like). There ARE other channels.

2. Self-published books that are written and produced to industry standards and sold through the usual trade channels (Baker & Taylor, Ingram, bookstores on and offline) look like any other trade books -- they are in fact simply the product of a small press. Unless a reader looks up information on company ownership, there is no way to tell whether the publisher (Aeonix, for example, or Bridge House Books) is owned and operated by the author.

So, those who focus only on the bad self-published books that do show up on "local author" shelves or that otherwise come to their attention (yes, I have seen my share of those, too, some of them truly awful) simply are unaware of the rest of that universe.

An author who seeks a wide, general market and who wants to see his or her books sold through normal trade channels (that is, bookstores), and who is uninterested in becoming a publisher and running a publishing business of course should pursue commercial publication. The sorts of folks I have listed are business people who operate in a professional manner. Those who only want to write and to leave the business end to someone else are not candidates to become self-publishers.

Now ... this leaves another category of writers who have written something worthwhile but not commercially publishable. Let me give one example. Moj Dehghan, a friend of mine via local writers' groups, wrote a slender volume of essays he titled Chatter to Flatter your Platter. He had that published via iUniverse. Charming book by a well-liked man. Moj (who has quite an interesting life story) and his little book received local newspaper publicity. No, he is not going to sell a lot of copies, and he is disappointed by the difficulty of marketing a POD book. Nonetheless, irrespective of its lack of commercial publishing potential, it is a worthwhile little anthology, despite a few spots that needed a copyeditor's or proof reader's attention. Most people could read it with pleasure and interest, and I am happy to cite it as a nice example of amusing and insightful personal essays. What on God's Green Earth is wrong with his having pursued POD publication and seeking his audience for his essays? Absolutely nothing. And who has the right to tell that gentleman, now in his 70s, that he should instead have fruitlessly spent the rest of his life pursuing unattainable commercial publication when he had an option that met at least some of his goals? No one.

Ok, I'll get off my soap box now. I just wish that some folks would get out more and see the large part of the publishing business that is not yet under the control of a half dozen publishing conglomerates and mediated through self-interested gatekeeper agents. Not every book has to be (and not every book is) homogenized and pasteurized and nationally distributed through a standard channel.

--Ken

Anthony Ravenscroft
12-02-2006, 10:48 AM
Yep, yep, yep, it's always one Huge International Conspiracy or another that's keeping all those great authors from ever getting to print. Has nothing to do with lack of ability, hackneyed concepts, zero base, or unintentional hilarity.

Yep.

Look, the mere fact that proponents of "the New Model" can cite a handful of glowing examples only calls to question the gullibility factor. I could similarly cite the industry's biggest royalty advances of the past month as "proof how wonderful it is to be a writer" -- & I often see such numbers cited by absolute noobs as proof of how much they're likely to make for their own first novel.

Sure, I sell maybe a hundred or so of my books every month -- not enough to pay the rent, but pleasant. But I'm not gonna tell anyone it was "easy," especially if they're just starting out. I've been writing for 35 years, I've spent about half that time also being an editor (actually living pretty good at it for four years), & I had the sense to buy into a small publishing company -- paying less than most vanity-press customers for a share in a legitimately distributed business with some good product.

There's an old story about a Texan visiting England, & marvelling at the acres of beautiful, rolling lawn on one estate, so he found the groundskeeper & asked for the secret. "Oh, sir," said the old man modestly, "there's not secret. You simply water once every two weeks, & roll every month. Oh, yes, & do this for 450 years. That's all."

The majority of wannabee writers don't want to know about that "450 years" part. They want it now, they want it without any effort (beyond angst), they want to feign modesty so long as they're surrounded by toadies.

ResearchGuy
12-04-2006, 03:36 AM
Yep, yep, yep, it's always one Huge International Conspiracy or another ....
To whom was that addressed?

If it was intended as a comment on my last post, you completely missed my point (points, really), and apparently did not grasp the examples or their implications. Hyperbole and sarcasm are not a substitute for discussion.

For the record, I repeat: The folks who keep dredging up the same canards are unable to move outside their mental box . . . .

--Ken

Anthony Ravenscroft
12-04-2006, 06:32 AM
To whom was that addressed?
Oh, that. See, there's this website called the "Absolute Write Water Cooler," & a thread on the "POD Self-Publishing and E-Publishing" forum.

Hyperbole and sarcasm are not a substitute for discussion.
And I am sincerely glad that this works for you! I, however, have a small trade in loopy sarcasm-with-a-point -- anyone who's qualified to diagnose others' "mental boxes" would surely be able to see that.

The folks who keep dredging up the same canards are unable to move outside their mental box
...& I am saying that "look at all the fame & riches garnbered by one rare example out of 147,896!!" certainly qualifies as "half a duck" on a good day, & anyone citing such seems to have feathered her/his own little box.

Rather than trumpeting one stratospheric glorious success or another as though it had any meaning beyond trivia, maybe the discussion ought to be aimed more toward how the methods employed in achieving that success could be adapted by others, rather than trotting out another careworn cliche that's about as helpful as the "John Irving sold books out of his trunk!" path to writerly success.

ResearchGuy
12-04-2006, 08:09 AM
...maybe the discussion ought to be aimed more toward how the methods employed in achieving that success could be adapted by others...
The methods are explained in detail in books on self-publishing by Dan Poynter and by Tom & Marilyn Ross. I see at my local Barnes & Noble that there are at least a couple of new competitors on that subject, too.

I do not see value or feasibility of repeating hundreds of pages of detailed and long-tested information on this or any other message-board thread. Those who are genuinely interested in the self-publishing business will buy and study at least one of the most widely used books on the subject. Others will not. Those who are genuinely interested will seek out mentors (in real life, person to person). Others will not.

Bear in mind that one person's measure of success is not necessarily another person's, and one person's purposes for self-publishing may differ markedly from another person's. Many people take up painting without seeking to be the next Picasso, or take up singing without expecting to compete with Celine Dion. Snobs might fault them for that. So be it.

The folks I know who are making a living via (or with the aid of) self-publishing:

--Evaluate a market segment
--Write something of quality
--Manage the production of an appropriate product (design, layout, printing, binding)
--Market systematically and effectively
--Manage costs

It is a business. What confuses some folks is the seeming notion that writing is some etherial calling not to be sullied by undertaking it in a businesslike fashion comparable to how one would scope out a retail niche, open a store, and market products to a clientele.

Anyway, I have given specific sources for detailed information and have given a range of specific examples with whom I am personally acquainted.

The nattering is tiresome, and not worthy of any further response.

--Ken