By Ron Pramschufer, President , Self Publishing, Inc. – Helping Authors Become Publishers since 1995
Even in this day of e-this and e-that, you haven’t published a book unless you can hold it in your hand… flip through the pages, book mark the place you left off and pass it on to a friend after you have read it. One copy is what you buy from a store for your personal use. Ten or twenty copies are what you pass out at the next Thanksgiving or Christmas to your family or your buddies at the local pub. One hundred copies is the minimum needed to convince the most important person who needs to know that you are serious about publishing… YOU.
Thirty years ago, when e was just another letter in the alphabet, a self-publisher needed to print 3000-5000 books, in order to have that book priced anywhere close to a retail price that people were willing to pay. The total cost to publish a book back then was staggering, even in 2014 dollars. Typesetting alone could cost $10/page. Financing a self-publishing project generally consisted of taking a second mortgage out against your house. If the garage full of books didn’t convince you that you were serious about publishing, the 120-240 easy payments on the 2nd mortgage did. If you chose to publish back then, you rarely did it on a lark… you knew you had made a significant investment and had a lot of hard work ahead of you, if you hoped to recoup that investment.
Technology has lowered the entry investment into the publishing world, to the point that it is within the reach of virtually everyone. That $10/page typesetting has been reduced to about $1/page for complete text layout. The prepress portion of the average color cover has dropped from $2500-$3000 in scanning and film assembly to a few hundred dollars for a complete custom cover design, prepped and ready for press. Without going into a lot of additional detail, the prep part of the average 256 page trade book has dropped from $5000-$6000 to about $750…. and that is using a design professional like the people at www.selfpublishing.com. Now don’t get me wrong, $750 is still more than most people carry around in their pocket but it’s not 2nd mortgage money either.
The digital technology has also lowered the first book price of virtually all types of book printing. The saying “The first book is pretty expensive but they are real cheap after that” still holds true for offset printing, which is most cost effective in quantities above 500. The straight digital book presses have a very low setup cost but high running costs, but only high, when compared to a longer offset printing run. The basic digital printing price for a 256 page – 5X8 paperback book is a little over $5.00ea so the difference between 10 books and 100 books is under $500. Like I said in the first paragraph, ten books is what you give your family at Thanksgiving or Christmas… it is not what you need to get started publishing. While filling your garage is no longer necessary, nothing beats a few cartons of books in your closet to remind you of your publishing mission. The thousand or so dollars that you put on your charge card quickly gets absorbed into the various Starbuck’s and Clearview Cinema charges on your credit card so the financial incentive is not the same as it was years ago. The presence of physical books….. The incentive is still the same…. if you want to get rid of the carton… sell the books. Sell books and what’s that make you….ta ta…. a self-publisher.
My attitude towards reprints has been pretty much the same as first printings. For all the time my company has been in business, we required a minimum reprint quantity of 100, just like the original printing. While I wholeheartedly believe every word above concerning the first printing, it has always bothered me that I wasn’t able to offer smaller quantities on reprints. Automation has allowed us to offer authors the opportunity to order reprints of less than 100 by joining the Thor Distribution program. Thor has been around for years as POD entry level distribution. Recently we made it possible to order as few as 2 copies through Thor at the 100 copy unit cost plus shipping.
If you printed your trade book with RJ Communications, BooksJustBooks.com or SelfPublishing.com you should sign up for the Thor Distribution program today!! It’s only $149 to sign-up.
Meanwhile, if you are just starting out, get that closet cleaned out and ready for a few cartons of books. Don’t be fooled by the empty promises of the various vanity presses that lurk out there on the Internet. Your self-publishing journey can start with the purchase of a single ISBN. Get started today