22 Dec Should You Print Your Self-Published Book?
The idea of printing books when you are self-publishing is often derided these days with the advent of ebooks and print-on-demand (POD), but there is still a place (and definitely a market) for traditionally-printed books, even, or maybe especially, as part of an independent publishing strategy.
Some good things about print books are:
- they are actual books
- they command a higher retail price than ebooks
- they can be taken to events and sold by hand
- they give a good impression and have a certain prestige factor that is unique.
POD books can deliver some of these benefits, but:
- the quality is not as good
- they are not physical (more of a concept than an actual product you can hold in your hand)
- it’s more difficult to get them into bookshops
- they are more expensive than traditional print, depending on volume.
Working with Printers
As a general rule, use Australian printers for black and white books, and overseas Printers (in China) for colour books. For essential advice on printing colour books, read this post.
Print Costs and Book Specs
It’s important to understand what you want. Books come in many standard and non standard formats and with an infinite variety of add-ons and nuances. You need to understand what to ask for and know how to negotiate. Get quotes on different volumes and specs to give yourself greater flexibility when determining your costings.
Deciding How Many to Print
The key to a successful print strategy is to be cautious and realistic on the numbers. It’s a delicate balance: try to be confident but don’t overprint.
Trade publishing is generally considered to be a business of risk. That’s why so much has traditionally been made of a ‘publisher’s instinct’ for predicting a winning book. Instincts are great and sometimes there is little else to rest your case on, but remember a book’s success is usually the result of hard work in all elements of the process (from editorial to marketing to distribution) so making a commitment to all of these is the most important thing you can do to give you faith in your number.
A good guide when setting your print run is to look at sales of other, comparable titles, quantify your market (if you can) and print for your worst-case scenario within your profitability limit. By which, I mean print as few as you can while still returning a profit. Before you hit print, you should have a good handle on this.
Crowdfunding to Cover Print Costs
Have you considered raising funding to cover print costs? Crowdfunding is a fantastic, innovative way of doing this and there have been some great successes with it for independently-published authors. We’ve had some great success with it too – you can read about that here.
Don’t forget to apportion your sales estimates by channel, so that you understand the implications of different discount rates and terms (eg firm sale versus sale or return).
Storage and Fulfilment
One of the truly beautiful things about ebooks is that you don’t have to store them in your garage and drive them around in the back of your car! Print books, on the other hand, take up a lot of space and are expensive to post.
So don’t forget to factor into your costings the physical nature of your books, which means:
- Storage and warehousing costs
- Courier, postage and packaging and admin costs (locally and internationally).
- Be clear about your book specifications so you know what you are asking a printer for
- Understand your print costs (and associated costs)
- Don’t overprint and don’t underprint (Be psychic!)
- Consider funding to help cover your initial print costs