How To Be A Self-Published Author
Introduction | Self-Publishing Options – Part 1 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 2 | Self-Publishing Options – Part 3 | Why Self-Publishing Is Worth Doing | Creating A Manuscript | Critiques Are Painful But Necessary | Book Illustrations | A Cover That Sells | Self-Publishing Through Lightning Source | Self-Publishing Through CreateSpace | Finally A Book!
UPDATE April 2015: The online world is continually changing and what was ‘current’ in 2009, is old news now. I have linked to the book on Amazon so that you can use their ‘Look Inside’ feature to see the layout of the print book as well as the Table of Contents. Not everything in the book is included here but you can probably get most of the information you need through this website.
Self-Publishing Options – Part 2
We’ve discussed using self-publishing or subsidy publishers (sometimes referred to as vanity presses) to publish your book. Now let’s look at a second way to self-publish a book.
Start Your Own Publishing Company
If you’re ambitious, you can set up your own publishing company and not only publish your books but also provide publishing services for other authors. This might sound like fun, but I don’t recommend getting involved in the business of publishing if this is your first book.
Most of the information I found when I searched for steps to set up a publishing business focused on being in business not the legalities of setting up a company. Becoming a publisher isn’t just thinking up a name, designing a logo, ordering business cards, buying a block of ISBNs, and printing a book.
Publishing is a business that involves occupational licenses; local, city, county, state and federal taxes; business bank accounts; detailed accounting; perhaps even some seed money. It’s very easy for business laws and legalese to play havoc with the dreams of naive entrepreneurs.
What type of company will you start? Sole proprietorship, partnership, LLP (limited liability partnership), corporation, or LLC (limited liability corporation)? Each has advantages and disadvantages. Research the different types and choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
If all you plan on doing is running a one person home-based business (good for sole proprietorships), make sure your community’s zoning laws or the deed restrictions in the neighborhood in which you live don’t prohibit home-based businesses, regardless of how quiet, small, or non-intrusive to the neighborhood. Even if home-based businesses are welcome in your area, renting a post office box for business mail is a smart move.
I am not a business consultant nor can I offer business advice. I am a business owner and I know from being in business for over 30 years that accounting, taxes, legalities, and voluminous paperwork are part and parcel of owning any business.
What I will suggest is that if your only reason to set up a company is to self-publish your first book, there are easier, less stressful, and more cost-effective ways to get the job done. Once you’re holding your published book in your hands, then decide if you need to be a business owner in order to be a published author.
Note: If you already have a publishing company, you can:
1) – Print your book on an offset press. This can be very costly as you’ll need to print a large quantity to bring the per book price low enough to make it affordable. The biggest cost of running a press is at start-up and the longer a press runs, the lower the per book cost goes — to a point. The paper, ink, and bindery fees won’t change but the high setup/start-up costs will be spread over a bigger number of books.
For example, let’s say it will cost $500 to print 100 books, $3,000 to print 1,000 books and $10,000 to print 10,000 books. These figures are examples, not real printing prices (at least not that I’ve found).
If you printed 10,000 copies of your book at a cost of $10,000, the per book cost would be $1. If you set the retail price at $7.95, and offered booksellers the standard 55 percent discount off of retail, you would make $2.58 per book sold. ($7.95 – $4.37/discount = $3.58 – $1.00/printing cost = $2.58) That’s not a bad return.
That same book at $500 for 100 books could not be sold for a retail of $7.95 otherwise you would lose $1.42 on each book you sold through a bookseller. ($7.95 – $4.37/discount = $3.58 – $5.00 printing cost = -$1.42) That’s the way to go out of business fast!
The upside of paying to print a large quantity of books is that you will be able to lower your retail price and still make a good profit.
There are several downsides, the first of which is storage. Where do you store such a large number of books and will they be safe from mildew, mold, rodents, theft, fire or other types of damage or loss? If you have to pay for storage, that cost should be included in the book price. In reality, any expenses incurred to publish, print, market, sell, and distribute your book should be factored into the retail price.
One of the biggest negatives I can think of for volume printing is not having the ability to make changes, edits, or updates to a published book without being stuck with thousands of outdated copies in a warehouse or storage facility.
2) – Print your books as you need them either on your laser or inkjet printer or through a copy service such as Kinkos, then pay to have them bound or bind them yourself with spiral binding. This isn’t really a good option for most types of books since they are going to look homemade or “crafty” and image really is everything especially when trying to get a bookseller interested in stocking your book. Also, paper, ink and copy fees won’t be cheap and your per book price may end up being too expensive for readers to consider.
3 – Publish through a POD (print on demand) printing company which prints copies as needed, eliminating the need to pay for and warehouse huge quantities of your books. This option is the one I choose using Lightning Source, the POD printer for virtually every printer/publisher you might come in contact with from major publishing houses to the greatest majority of the self-publishing and subsidy publishers.
I’ve seen POD printing criticized as not as good as offset printing and it might not be for full-color coffee table books. But, so far, I haven’t been able to tell the difference in quality between books I’ve printed through Lightning Source and books printed years ago before POD printers existed.
Self-publishing through Lightning Source allows me to make minor revisions any time they’re necessary which means the next book order they print and ship, the buyer will get the most current version of my book. I can order quantities from one to 1,000 (or more) for my own use, very economically, and I can get my books distributed through Ingram’s distribution network. If I want international printing and distribution, that’s also available. It doesn’t get much better than this for a self-publishing author such as myself.