Publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. Look around and you’ll see more publishing options than ever. Why? Authors think about being published, but they don’t think about the business end of the process. They willingly pay some “self-publishing company” to publish their book and never think about what they’re really doing.
Here are some things to consider when self-publishing.
- Cost. Many of the self-publishing companies charge an initial fee. You need to analyze what you get for that initial amount of money. Do you get editing? Proofreading? Custom cover design (or just a template)? Custom interior design/layout that complements your cover? ISBN? Library of Congress number? Freight? Printing? OR, worse yet, does the company charge a la carte for services? Anyone who’s eaten a la carte in a restaurant knows that’s the most expensive way to go.
- Print run. Consider doing as small a print run (assuming you’re not doing your book as print on demand) as possible, but is still economically reasonable. There are two reasons for this: (1) You’ll catch errors you can correct in next print run. (2) You’ll avoid boxes of books stacked in your bedroom reminding you that no one is buying your book.
- Price. You’ll want to set a price for your book that covers your costs and allows you a little profit. Browse bookstores (online and brick and mortar) to find out which books are your competition and what their price range is. People tend to have the same perception of books priced in the same range ($16.95 – $19.95, for example). But when you get to the next level (say, $20.95 – $23.95), people expect more.
- Break-even point. You’ll need to figure out your cost to publish the book (include only publishing costs, not time spent writing). You’ll also want to figure out how many books you’ll need to sell to break even. Be sure you remember to use the net price of book paid (cover price minus discounts) when you do this.
- Distribution. Book stores and libraries get their books by ordering from Baker & Taylor. Some bookstores order through Ingram. Any time you get a book order from either one, you can kiss 55 percent of the cover price good-bye (along with shipping costs). And, since bookstore orders are consignment, any time the bookstore wants to return your book for full credit, they do. Of course, since the distributor doesn’t pay you for books until the stores pay the distributor, you get the books back too. The really sad part about selling in bookstores is the books typically come back damaged so you can’t sell them, but you are expected to give full credit for their return anyway.
- Marketing. Once you’ve birthed your book, you may notice that no one knows it exists. People can’t buy what they don’t know about. That means you have to market your book if you intend to sell it. Think outside the bookstores. Think speaking to groups, bundling with other books, selling in craft shows, etc. You need to build relationships to get sales. If you don’t have a market for your book, consider not publishing it until you do.
I encourage you to take off your author hat and put on your business hat when deciding whether or not to self-publish. What you have to say is important and only you can say it. Just make a good business decision so you don’t get discouraged.