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  1. #1
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Self publishing POD books

    I've self-published three novels as ebooks and "pbooks" (printed on demand) through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In my experience both are about equally easy to do. Both do require some technical expertise, but there is a lot of help with that on the Web.

    The print-on-demand service I use for my POD books is CreateSpace, an Amazon affiliate. The basic service is free. CS does sell editorial and illustration services such as copy-editing and cover creation.

    Once the book goes online at CS it automatically becomes available at Amazon through their regular channels. And through Barnes & Noble, even though they are not an Amazon affiliate. In fact, B&N takes only a day to automatically add a new POD book to their site, but Amazon may take 3-5 days.

    Any third-party vendor can use CS to sell your books. This is entirely legal, as long as they go through CS. The author's cut is the same.

    Here's how the Web page for the same book looks on Amazon, B&N, and CS. Notice that Amazon and B&N put your ebook alongside the pbook so that readers can buy either print or electronic version.

    AM - http://www.amazon.com/Sea-Monsters-R...dp/1478131829/
    BN - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sea-...oll/1111567091
    CS - https://www.createspace.com/3919779

    The cost to readers is about the same as a book sold through a traditional large or small press. The cut to the author is a good deal larger, however.

    On the minus side, book stores favor the traditional presses and avoid POD books, so your exposure to the public is less. Book stores CAN sell POD books, and some non-chain book stores do. There are some advantages to book stores. Among them, they can order fewer copies and keep their inventories small.

    When you buy copies of your books through CS they charge you only about a third of the cover price, but they limit how many you can buy that way. I don't know if book stores can get POD books for a price cut.

    There are other POD book services. I chose CS after considering all services. So far my experience has been good.

  2. #2
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    Are the POD books selling?

  3. #3
    sf-icionado / horr-orator Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    I was going to ask the same thing. I have to say that I had no idea how expensive POD was by comparison to ebook - four to five times the cost? My question to you would be, does it make no difference to the deal you have with the service provider if you choose (assuming you can choose) to offer
    • Only ebook
    • Only POD (if this is even an option)
    • or both?

    For example, do you get the same percentage of the sale price for both formats?

    I have two friends who have ebook&POD self-published within the last year, one with a US civil war horror story, the other with a translation into English of the Spanish classic Amadis of Gaul. I bought both for my Kindle and didn't think twice at a price of approximately 4USD; I've since seen the POD hardcopy of Amadis and it's a nice product, but I freely admit I'd be reluctant to pay hardback money for a paperback, particularly if I was taking a chance on an unknown.

  4. #4
    LaerCarroll.com
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    The cost of POD books are slightly higher than those printed on presses. The larger the print run the lower the unit cost of the book. Offsetting this is the fact that in the traditional distribution system there are much higher returns of the traditionally printed books to the publisher. So the price differential is not large.

    Amazon and its affiliate CreateSpace determine the price of the POD book by adding the base cost of a single copy of the book to their cut of the book price. The authors then decide what they want their cut to be. It could be near zero or much higher. Thus Sea Monster's Revenge at 384 pages must be priced at $14.99 for me to receive about $1.00 per copy. My shorter Shapechanger's Birth is priced at $9.99 for me to get about $.90 per copy.

    Amazon and Barnes & Noble require your ebook price to be within certain lower and upper limits. So I set Birth to $3.99 and Revenge to $4.99 based on a lot of factors.

    As to how well my three books are selling, as yet not well. I've been earning about $120.00 per month since the beginning of this year. The income seems to be increasing, partly because I'm adding a new book every few months. (I have three in the pipeline to add in the rest of this year.) But there's no guarantee that income won't go to zero tomorrow.

    On the other hand, I didn't expect to get rich quick. I'm in this for the long haul, and building up an inventory of books and of readers. I'm starting a couple of new sales efforts in the next few months, but I've no guarantee they will work well or even at all.

    But I knew from the beginning that publishing is a tough business. For every huge success there are thousands of moderate successes and many hundreds of failures. And in self-publishing, many more thousands of failures. If you are not tough, or able to become tough, best you stay on the sidelines.

  5. #5
    sf-icionado / horr-orator Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Okay, I just did some exploring on the CreateSpace site. I wanted to see how close to a conventional paperback price I could get with POD while still making some money out of the deal! I didn't want to use your Sea Monster's Revenge as a test case, so I've gone with a nice, fake, average novel for CS's royalty calculator:
    • Black&White
    • 320 pages
    • Any standard industry trim size
    • Paying for no fancy extras, like editing/formatting/covers, etc.

    NOTE: Originally I started with 350 pages, but when I saw the generated prices I thought to look for a pro-published Amazon title for comparison. Step up Stephen King's The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel, which will apparently be available for USD$10.88 in paperback from November.

    OKAY. The minimum price for my imaginary novel as a POD release that could be guaranteed to turn a profit in ALL of the six potential retail spaces (Amazon.com; your own private CreateSpace eStore; CS's "Expanded Distribution" option; Amazon Europe, printed in GB; and Amazon Europe, printed on the continent) is USD $11.75. This is actually not as high as I imagined it would be, but there is a bottleneck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Author Royalties, guaranteed profit
    A.com...$2.36
    eStore...$4.71
    ExpDis...$0.01
    AE-GB....£0.55
    AE-Cont..€1.18

    (on a sale price of USD$11.75 per copy)
    (converted to £7.42 ; €9.37)
    As you can see, this price is forced by catering to the Expanded Distribution option, which the CS site describes as opening "additional sales channels" to "make your book available for order to online retailers, bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, and distributors within the United States"). This service costs only $25 up front, but in order for the author NOT to owe CS cash on every purchase the price per copy has to rise.

    So, let's ignore ExpanDist and hit the price Stephen King is after. Doing so, the royalties come down as follows:
    Quote Originally Posted by Author Royalties, minus ExpanDist
    A.com...$1.83
    eStore...$4.01
    AE-GB....£0.22
    AE-Cont..€0.76

    (on a sale price of USD$10.88 per copy)
    (converted to £6.88 ; €8.68)
    Well, Europe isn't ever going to be a massive earner on those numbers, but this could be considered do-able. It works out to approximately 20% of sales price, I think.

    I'm not based in the UK these days, but I think you'd be lucky to find many new paperbacks on the shelves for less than £6.99 - a Stephen King title would likely be at least a few pounds higher than that. Here in Madrid I would expect to pay a minimum of €9 and probably much more depending on size (guesswork - I don't buy books here these days for just this reason). It's worth mentioning that you, me and our mate Steve would be losing 34c per copy sold via the ExpanDist option at that USD£10.88 pricing.

    If you were willing to dismiss profits from the UK entirely, you could bring the price down a little bit further.
    Quote Originally Posted by Author Royalties, minus ExpanDist and writing off UK printing
    A.com...$1.50
    eStore...$3.56
    AE-GB....£0.01
    AE-Cont..€0.49

    (on a sale price of USD$10.32 per copy)
    (converted to £6.52 ; €8.23)
    Unfortunately, it seems that you can't choose to ignore UK/European-based printing with CS so there is no point taking the price down any lower, as anyone buying your book from the UK would cause YOU to pay CS for the privilege.

    None of this has anything to say about ebook publishing. On the subject CS says, "sign-up for a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and we'll provide everything you need to publish your book on the Amazon Kindle Store". So presumably any money to be made there is done entirely separately from CS.

  6. #6
    sf-icionado / horr-orator Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Laer, I didn't see your response until I posted. Thanks for the extra info, and good luck!

  7. #7
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Good job, Andrew (Noumenon).

    Readers of this thread might like a little info about what it takes to create a book for POD publishing.

    First you have to select a publishing service. There are several. There are several issues to look into for any such service, such as how large is their distributing network. How easy it is to use their service. What kinds of books do they print, such as color interior illustrations and finished sizes. Etc. As I stated earlier I chose CreateSpace.

    Next you must select a type of finished product. I chose black-and-white interior on cream stock in a 6x9 trade paperback size. This is the most popular format, as it happens, and often-used by traditional publishers - though there are many TP sizes being printed. I chose not to use a mass-market size (about 4x7) for several reasons.

    Then you save your word-processing file in PDF format and submit it to your service. You must also give them a cover in PDF. Their computers run a bunch of checks and give you several options for viewing the finished product.

    First you'd view it online and notice any violations of their requirements, such as margins too narrow to be printed. You re-format your file, re-convert it to PDF, and re-submit. You might have to do this two or three times. When all errors are fixed, then you request a proof copy, maybe several if you have a friend or associate to help you view the hard copy.

    You have to be pretty jaded not to feel at least the tiniest thrill when you have your book in your hands. And you can be forgiven if you use it to do some discreet boasting. Give a copy to your significant other. Take it to a restaurant and casually mention this is your latest book to the waiter, who will pretend to be impressed. As will your family and friends, though don't be fooled. You are still beloved, but you are still a kook doing something that interests them for only a few seconds if that.

    Now you get down to re-re-re-proofing your book. To your annoyance you'll see errors invisible to you in manuscript and ebook formats. Don't be tempted to hurry this process. Do it over several days, with breaks to keep you fresh. Set it aside for a while if you find you're getting stale or bored.

    There are rewards amidst the annoyance. You'll be amazed at the brilliance of some of your writing. And a bit puzzled. How can this gleaming stuff come out of YOU?

    You may have to repeat hard-copy proofing more than once. But finally you find no more problems in the last proof copy and tell the publisher to put it on sale. A day or three later they say it's available. Buy a copy through regular channels to make sure they are correct.

    Finally you are a published author. Self-published, it's true. But you've begun the next stage of your career. You are no longer a wannabe. You are the real deal.

  8. #8
    www.unityparadigm.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    The cost of POD books are slightly higher than those printed on presses. The larger the print run the lower the unit cost of the book. Offsetting this is the fact that in the traditional distribution system there are much higher returns of the traditionally printed books to the publisher. So the price differential is not large.

    Amazon and its affiliate CreateSpace determine the price of the POD book by adding the base cost of a single copy of the book to their cut of the book price. The authors then decide what they want their cut to be. It could be near zero or much higher. Thus Sea Monster's Revenge at 384 pages must be priced at $14.99 for me to receive about $1.00 per copy. My shorter Shapechanger's Birth is priced at $9.99 for me to get about $.90 per copy.

    Amazon and Barnes & Noble require your ebook price to be within certain lower and upper limits. So I set Birth to $3.99 and Revenge to $4.99 based on a lot of factors.

    As to how well my three books are selling, as yet not well. I've been earning about $120.00 per month since the beginning of this year. The income seems to be increasing, partly because I'm adding a new book every few months. (I have three in the pipeline to add in the rest of this year.) But there's no guarantee that income won't go to zero tomorrow.

    On the other hand, I didn't expect to get rich quick. I'm in this for the long haul, and building up an inventory of books and of readers. I'm starting a couple of new sales efforts in the next few months, but I've no guarantee they will work well or even at all.

    But I knew from the beginning that publishing is a tough business. For every huge success there are thousands of moderate successes and many hundreds of failures. And in self-publishing, many more thousands of failures. If you are not tough, or able to become tough, best you stay on the sidelines.
    Great info Laer, thank you so much. One thing I'm a bit confused on is the price structure of the POD book you mentioned. Based on your example, it seems for a $14.99 book, you are receiving lest than 10% as royalty. If I followed correctly, whats the breakdown of the remaining amount?

  9. #9
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by AARoque View Post
    Based on your example, it seems for a $14.99 book, you are receiving lest than 10% as royalty.
    Ebook and "pbook" POD royalty structure is different. Self-publishing gives you a lot of control over how much you receive. I chose to get the royalty I thought was reasonable for my effort and for the product.

    Here are some specifics.

    It costs almost zero to publish a copy of an ebook regardless of its size. So through Amazon we get 70% of the cover price. So for a $10 ebook we get $7. (Barnes & Noble is similar.)

    For a pbook the cost to publish a copy is manufacturing cost + publisher split + author split. For a $10 book, 6x9 black & white interior, 250 pages, I get a different amount depending on where the reader buys the book.

    $4.15 - CreateSpace direct.
    $2.15 - Amazon US
    £0.58 - Amazon UK (about $.92)
    €1.17 - Amazon Europe (about $1.48)
    $.15 - Expanded distribution (bookstores, libraries, etc.)

    For more info go to this link. From there you can go to a page where you plug in your particular pbook (size, interior type, and # of pages) and you'll get calculations for your return as shown above.

    https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Royalties.jsp

    Want a bigger split? Charge more per copy - but will you get more money? We are unknowns; higher prices may scare off readers.

    Want to sell more copies? Charge less - but will readers buy even if we set our pbook price to so we get zero or negative royalties?

    Sounds complicated? If all you want to do is vanity publish you can forget about these complications. But self-publishing AS A BUSINESS is complicated.

    Welcome to the real world of publishing. Self-publishing is no way to escape from business complications.

  10. #10
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Finally you are a published author. Self-published, it's true. But you've begun the next stage of your career. You are no longer a wannabe. You are the real deal.
    That's probably open to debate.

  11. #11
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by PeteMC View Post
    That's probably open to debate.
    Nearly everything is!

  12. #12
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Nearly everything is!
    I can have my cat walk across the keyboard. I can copy and paste it all until I have my 60,000 word "Cat Tales" novel complete. I can put it up on the net with a Buy button. I am now self published. According to your statement, I am no longer a wanna be and am genuinely published.

    Bull.

    I still have a problem with the 100% acceptance rate, with zero quality control checks. A big problem.

    So let me add this caveat - you are successfully self published, and no longer a wanna-be, when you've sold more than a handful of books to friends and family. When you get great reviews by folks you didn't ask to review you. You did it your way, had great editing done for you, and marketed the hell out of your work. You deserve to consider yourself as "made it" in that case. And no other. None. Zero.

    There are too many desperate writers out there who frankly haven't the talent or the skill, but want to claim the glory just the same. They write crap because they never bothered to learn past High School. Are only as creative as the latest fad. They deal in fictitious or misleading sales figures. They remain what they are. Wanna-be's.

    That's why I cast a jaundiced eye on self publishing for new writers. If you seriously can't pass muster with any editor at all, what makes you think you're as good as the rest simply because you put out a Buy button? They don't call them "vanity presses" without good reason. For someone without a track record at all, self publishing remains the hardest and least successful path to establishing yourself in my opinion. You have to work harder than anyone else to present your product and successfully market it. Why? Because you have no credentials worth spitting at beyond a page count. Yes, you CAN make it. Make it crazy big - enough to be picked up by one of the big houses (especially if you're doing soft porn, apparently, but that's another subject). However, your chances of rising out of the muck isn't great, because you've all those others sucking you down. One good apple in a bushel of rotten ones.

    My advice is obvious. Get published for real first.

    Again, just one opinion, but hopefully a dash of needed cold water to some.

    Kerry

  13. #13
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmtolan View Post
    I can have my cat walk across the keyboard.
    Heh, that's exactly the analogy I was going to use too!

  14. #14
    LaerCarroll.com
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    True, as Kerry and Pete point out, self-publishing anything is a tiny perhaps stumbling step toward becoming a successful pro writer.

    But it IS a step, part of a process that began with a dream, then fumbling attempts to write, then more confident attempts, and finally ended in a completed story - or much more often several or many stories.

    Self-publishing ebooks and "pbooks" is becoming easier all the time, but it's still not easy even for an experienced engineer and technical writer such as myself. And producing a quality self-published work, in form and content, is harder still. That's why, as you two point out, there are so many awful self-pubbed efforts.

    Beyond that step are many more small steps to journey's end. But it deserves at least some small respect, not sneers.

  15. #15
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    We all know where this is gonna go, so let me head it off at the pass: You are both right.

    Now, let's get back to facts and figures in terms of self-publishing print books.

    Thanks!

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