Saturday, November 21, 2009

Printing costs are the biggest hurdle to profitablility for self-publishing authors

When I first considered self-publishing and began researching what was involved in self-publishing a book, I was amazed by the number of "self-publishing" companies in business. The various claims and pricing plans were confusing to say the least. Some companies touted their low cost to get a book into print. Others promoted the quality of their production service and much support the author would receive.

Since one my motives for self-publishing a book was to earn some extra money to help pay college tuition bills, not only did the money invested in the project need to be kept to an absolute minimum, what sales the book did generate needed to be as profitable as possible.

Years of making a living as a coach have taught me to always examine every situation from the perspective of a worse-case scenario. Time after time I read the fact that the average total sales of a self-published book is 200 copies, and this is an average!

If my book only sold 200 copies, how could I recoup the cost of using a self-publishing company AND make a profit from the sales of my book? This made me take a very different view of the costs involved. I felt that part of what would make my book sell was the content. But if the book was poorly produced and filled with mistakes, negative word-0f-mouth and bad reviews would kill sales quickly. This meant that an editor would be needed as well as professional book production. That costs money.

Then it occurred to me, the key is the cost per book for the author to purchase for direct sales. Also key is the price charged against the author's royalty for book sales on Amazon. The lower the price to print each copy of my book meant more profit for me, be it a direct sale off my website, speaking at a coaching clinic or sales on Amazon. After further research, I discovered that nearly every self-publishing company in the United States uses the same print-on-demand printer, Lightning Source. This meant that the self-publishing companies were essentially paying the same price per copy to have a book printed and then marking up the price to the author on a per copy basis.

To find out the percentage of the mark-up per copy each of these companies charges read Mark Levine's book The Fine Print of Self-publishing. This was an eye opener for me and it will be for you as well.

For the first book I published, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball: Bench Coaching for Success, I chose Dog Ear Publishing. Dog Ear did an excellent job of producing the book, editing it and had one of the lowest mark-ups on per copy pricing in the industry.

Then I discovered Amazon's CreateSpace. At the time CreateSpace did not offer any author services BUT CreateSpace had, and still does, the best price I have been able to find for print-on-demand printing on a per copy basis for the author. For my next books I choose to self-publish with CreateSpace. My profit margin has been higher for each book sold.

I strongly suggest that when you are shopping for a self-publishing company that the first item on your list to check is the author's price per copy. That and not the cost of getting the book into print will be what determines the profitability of your self-published book.