Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

The publishing world is changing. It's becoming more difficult for first time authors to break in as fewer titles are published by the major publishing houses. Literary agents are reluctant to take on new authors and prefer to concentrate on authors who have been previously published with a successful track record. Are there any options for writers?

Yes. Self publishing is a viable option for many authors. Self publishing means the author has the control of and the responsibility for the entire publishing process from writing the book to generating sales.

Publishing Tasks
The book must be edited and formatted. The cover must be designed, as well as the book's interior. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) needs to be acquired for each format of the book. The same book in hardcover, electronic version and trade paperback will have 3 unique ISBNs. That way someone ordering the book gets exactly the format they wanted.

If the book is meant for retail sales the back cover must have a barcode. The barcode is a series of bars that can read be through a scanner. The bars identify the book and price.

Finally the book has to be made available in a format that the public can access. Usually this means a hard copy. The hard copy can be printed using an offset printer or using the print on demand (POD) technology. Print on demand allows the book to be printed one book at a time at a higher per copy cost, where offset printing is more economical with a print run of more than 500 copies. Most print on demand books are in the trade paperback format, rather than mass market paperback or hard cover.

A 250 page trade paperback with a four color glossy front and back cover with no interior color images costs about $5.00 a copy when using POD. An offset print run of 2000 copies would cost about $2.25 each, a significant cost savings. The downside is storing all those copies until they're sold and the investment in paying for all 2000 before they're printed.

Pricing the book is critical to the book's sales. A trade paperback nonfiction average price is about $15.00 retail. Fiction is slightly less. At first glance it seems that if the book costs $5.00 for a print on demand copy that there is lots of room, $10.00, for profit. And that would be true if the book was sold directly by the author to the final customer.

If the majority of the book's sales are expected to be through retail stores, or through online booksellers, that $10.00 profit shrinks quickly. Online booksellers, like, require an annual fee and a hefty 55% discount for books to be sold through their site.

Bookstores require a 40% discount from retail and most bookstores buy their books through wholesalers or distributors. Wholesalers and distributors require another 10% to 15% discount in addition to the discount that is passed through to the bookstore.

It is difficult, although not impossible, to convince a bookstore to order directly from an author. There are literally thousands of publishers and the tracking and accounting for all those different publishers is a bookstore's nightmare. Instead the stores buy from a few wholesalers/distributors, receive one invoice for all the books ordered from the publishers the wholesalers/distributors represent and pay one check.

So what's the bottom line for an author with a book retailing for $15? With the total of the 55% (40% for the store and 15% for the wholesaler/distributor) each sale would generate a profit of $6.75 less the $5.00 printing cost for a whopping $1.75.

So how do the mainstream publishers make enough of a profit to stay in business? While an individual author may be thrilled with sales of 500 copies of their book, most publishing houses wouldn't consider a print run of less than 5000 copies. Instead of a printing cost of $5.00 it's more like $1.50.

Self publishing, and print on demand, can be good alternatives for an author if they consider where the book is to be sold, the costs, and the pricing.

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Comment by Boops_Tammy on November 2, 2009 at 3:09pm
Aside from the layout of the book, what's the first thing to do to get started with self-publishing?
Which way do you feel is the best way of going about it?
Comment by Jason Oman on November 14, 2009 at 1:38am
I think a BIG part of this discussion revolves around what your overall goal is for your book. When I created my book 'Conversations with Millionaires' (At: my whole purpose and goal was to create a #1 Best-Seller. I *DID* end up making that happen by using a strategy I came up with (which is at: But, I think starting from the position of knowing what you're trying to accomplish is a GREAT place to start! Because that can determine a LOT of what you do from that point forward!
Comment by Philip Nork on November 14, 2009 at 9:39am
POD is becoming "The new way" to publish. I recommend AutorHouse, especially for a new author. They walk you through the steps very nicely, understand your concerns (and listen) and are affordable. They also help get you noticed. Just watch the marketing area, many of the "extras" they offer you can do on your own for a lot less money. I was published by them 3 months ago, had my galley within 2 weeks of submission, and had a say in how the book looked and felt. I am high on search engines thanks to their contacts, listed on hundreds of websites that I never heard of that sell my book, along with Amazon and Barnes and Noble--all included in the price. Once I was listed on B&N, I was able to have the local manager carry my book on her shelves (you need a booksellers return program) and am very happy with my sales. I may never hit the TOP TEN, but am very happy with the exposure my book gets from AuthorHouse and their team!


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