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PublishAmerica

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
User avatar
cw gortner
Bibliophile
Location: San Francisco,CA
Contact:

Postby cw gortner » Fri March 19th, 2010, 4:50 am

PublishAmerica should be shut down for this, but what I discovered as I navigated the POD world is that it's truly astonishing what these people can legally get away with. And as publishers acquire less and more writers seek ways to get their work into readers' hands, these types of false promises will become more of the norm, a bait to lure the unsuspecting and naive.

I agree with MLE; going directly with Lightning Source (LSI) is definitely the best way to self-publish. However, here are some things to know:

1) ISBNs are sold in minimum batches of 25, so the initial order is usually around $250.00. All batches bought are linked to the person / company who buys them, hence the ISBN is the unique identifier for a publisher. If your book is published by WingNut Press, then all the ISBNs you buy will be linked to WingNut. If you publish with LuLu, the same. A retailer who looks the book up and knows how to read ISBNs, will know it's a Lulu book. There is no hiding the ISBN origin. It is also against the law to re-sell ISBNs.

2) LSI is owned by Ingram so setting up an account with them guarantees Ingram listing, not distribution. Ergo, your book will be listed at most online sites but unless you make it returnable, stores won't order it unless a customer requests it AND pays for it in advance. And making a self published book returnable is not recommended. See below:

3) LSI charges approximately .03 cents per page and .90 cents for the cover. It is slightly higher on orders you make for books that you ship directly to yourself, along with a 1.50 per order fee. So, a 325-page softcover would cost approximately $10.00 to print for customers who order it on amazon. (Hardcovers cost more). There is no extra fee to you for these orders. However, you have to factor in a price point of, say, $16.00 for 325-page soft cover and x% distributor discount (without the discount, the book won't get that extra % which amazon, for example, takes off the price point.) Factor all this in, and profit margin looks something like this: $16.00 book - $10.00 print cost = $6.00 profit - 30% discount = approximately $4.20 profit per book. 30% discount is the absolute minimum a distributor will accept; you can reduce this more, to say, 20% but then you're going to get no extra retailer discounts anywhere, which in turn might reduce the amount of interested readers.

In my case, for example, factoring in all the above I made about $1.00 per book off my work when I self published. Sure, in a year I made about $5000 dollars from 5000 copies - but there goes the fantasy of self published authors taking all the profits. The only way to make better money is to do an off-set print run of, say, 2,500 copies, as the price per book reduces significantly at these quantities. But you'll need storage (and storage has to be climate-controlled so your books don't warp); a good distribution plan (LSI / Ingram is strictly POD); and capital to promote your book to brick-and-mortar stores. If you're going to off-set print without a brick-and-mortar plan, it's a waste of money. Shipping books to online retailers will cut your profits quickly, and most of the bigger onliners like amazon do not offer small off-set publishers very good terms because the volume of sales is just not there.

For LSI/POD, if you decide to make the book returnable, every book that comes back unsold will be charged against your account, print charge + return fee. This can get very costly, very fast.

4) Fiction books require experienced graphic art to lay the text out to be reader-friendly; covers should also be attractive. With today's software, this is all very possible, but if you do not have a graphic art background or sensibility, you'll have to hire someone to do this. Factor in at least $1,500 to get a book ready for printing. LSI has very specific color requirements to create a PDF profile for printing, so you'll need to know this lingo for the book to print right. You are charged for every proof you generate before you approve the book for actual printing so getting it right the first time behooves you.

That's just the tip of the iceberg; I haven't yet touched on all the other marketing and promotional duties that is required of the self published author, if he or she wants to make an even moderate splash sales-wise. This is why companies like LuLu and iUniverse make money; they will do all the above for you, for a fee; and they all print with LSI, and make more money off the printing, as they charge more per book than LSI would to you directly.

Self-publishing can be very rewarding but it also takes a lot of work and effort. Most writers do not have the time or inclination to learn how to become publishers, which is why PublishAmerica and other, less nefarious companies thrive. Nor is it advisable for writers to be publishers: we have publishers because by our very nature writers are hardly impartial to the merits of their own work. We need that impartiality to improve our work, and we need established publishers to distribute our work at no cost to us.

I enjoyed self publishing; I even taught myself book layout, but I must admit, as fun it was, I much prefer just being a writer.
Last edited by cw gortner on Fri March 19th, 2010, 4:56 am, edited 3 times in total.
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!
THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
[B]THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE LAST QUEEN
[/B]

www.cwgortner.com

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri March 19th, 2010, 5:45 am

" LSI charges approximately .03 cents per page and .90 cents for the cover. It is slightly higher on orders you make for books that you ship directly to yourself, along with a 1.50 per order fee. So, a 325-page softcover would cost approximately $10.00 to print for customers who order it on amazon."

With all due respect, C. W. the cost is .015 cents per page, all sizes trade paperback up to 6"x9" charged the same. (The price you quoted may be the price for letter-sized books) So the cost for that 352-page paperback is actually only $5.78 each. Usually I order in batches of 50, LSI always runs sales on that amount during the slow times of year.

They also don't quibble with the colors on whatever you send in. YOU may not like what you get back, but they just print it as you send it.

Those without expertise in Indesign or Quarkexpress can pay a little more and send a physical cover to be scanned.

I know I speak as someone who has been cranking out various print matter for nonprofits for decades (starting with a fundraiser cookbook from instantpress in the seventies) but it seriously isn't that hard. And compared to what I used to have to go through to get a 120-page annual report printed for a gazillion donors, it is getting easier all the time.

Four-color used to cost an arm and a leg -- now it is standard. As for book design, you can simply go pick three best-sellers in your genre from the bookstore shelf, spend half-an-hour figuring out the point size, margins, and other layout details, and just duplicate them. Layout variations are infinite, but as long as you fall into certain pretty ordinary and obvious parameters, nobody will notice your layout at all.

You don't even have to have a fancy layout program. It can be done in Word, which can also generate the pdfs.

All that is very simple. What is difficult is getting the reader's precious time and attention.

Also, Bowkers has recently been authorized to sell individual ISBNs.
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Fri March 19th, 2010, 5:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
cw gortner
Bibliophile
Location: San Francisco,CA
Contact:

Postby cw gortner » Sat March 20th, 2010, 2:01 am

"MLE" wrote:" LSI charges approximately .03 cents per page and .90 cents for the cover. It is slightly higher on orders you make for books that you ship directly to yourself, along with a 1.50 per order fee. So, a 325-page softcover would cost approximately $10.00 to print for customers who order it on amazon."

With all due respect, C. W. the cost is .015 cents per page, all sizes trade paperback up to 6"x9" charged the same. (The price you quoted may be the price for letter-sized books) So the cost for that 352-page paperback is actually only $5.78 each. Usually I order in batches of 50, LSI always runs sales on that amount during the slow times of year.

They also don't quibble with the colors on whatever you send in. YOU may not like what you get back, but they just print it as you send it.

Those without expertise in Indesign or Quarkexpress can pay a little more and send a physical cover to be scanned.

I know I speak as someone who has been cranking out various print matter for nonprofits for decades (starting with a fundraiser cookbook from instantpress in the seventies) but it seriously isn't that hard. And compared to what I used to have to go through to get a 120-page annual report printed for a gazillion donors, it is getting easier all the time.

Four-color used to cost an arm and a leg -- now it is standard. As for book design, you can simply go pick three best-sellers in your genre from the bookstore shelf, spend half-an-hour figuring out the point size, margins, and other layout details, and just duplicate them. Layout variations are infinite, but as long as you fall into certain pretty ordinary and obvious parameters, nobody will notice your layout at all.

You don't even have to have a fancy layout program. It can be done in Word, which can also generate the pdfs.

All that is very simple. What is difficult is getting the reader's precious time and attention.

Also, Bowkers has recently been authorized to sell individual ISBNs.


You're absolutely right on pricing; sorry, I should have double-checked that. For the color profile, I did adapt my Adobe Distiller to their specs; they sent me a profile that would allow me to print color exactly as I saw it on screen. I have an off-set print background, too, so I used a Pantone Color scheme that matched LSI's profile, just to be sure. But that's me: O.C.D. ;)

I had no idea Bowker started issuing individual ISBNs. That's great. Wished they'd done that when I was buying: I have 10 ISBNs I paid for that I never used.

I think the fancy layout programs (I used InDesign and have used Quark in the past) do create a more professional look, but again, that's my opinion.

I agree, it is simple. But you appear to have some knowledge of printing and a good head for the specs; many writers have none. It's not quite as simple when you're starting out. I have advised quite a few of my friends who self publish and you cannot believe the amount of obstacles they have, just getting the lingo! It's not to discourage anyone; if you want to do it, I'm all for it! I just think anyone who does needs to do some legwork first. I've had a few self published books sent my way that look just dreadful: poorly designed and almost impossible to read because of it. I do think appearances count, especially in the overcrowded fiction market.

Of course, so does content :D In the end, the reader's opinion is of course everything. How it's published is far less important than what it contains.
Last edited by cw gortner on Sat March 20th, 2010, 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!

THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
[B]THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE LAST QUEEN
[/B]



www.cwgortner.com


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