by Susan Ross (@SusanRossCA)
Today I’m pleased to have a guest post from children’s book author Susan Ross. Many people try to figure out whether to print their books offset or to use print on demand. Well Susan’s been there, and here’s her report.
How do you decide how many books you should print and what route to take: traditional printer or print-on-demand (POD)?
In the beginning I was cautiously optimistic and made conservative decisions. I had 500 copies of my first book traditionally printed (any less is not economical). I sold them. Then I had another 500 copies printed and sold them. Printing and selling 500 to 1,000 copies of my books at a time, I sold over 3,000 copies of The Great Bellybutton Cover-up and over 1,000 copies of The Kit Kat Caper. Things were going very well.
It’s important to note that, with a traditional printer, the more you print, the cheaper the cost per book. This can encourage you to buy more books than you should. That’s where I got myself into trouble. I thought, “Heh, things are going well. Why not save more money and print two or three thousand copies?”
That, my friends, was a mistake. That’s when the books started piling up in the basement. And to make matters worse I did it again, twice!
What was I thinking! I was thinking positively. That’s a good thing if it’s tempered with sanity. It wasn’t. Now I’m storing books in the printer’s warehouse (and spending more than I saved on printing).
Then I got into POD to try to get my books “out into the world.” (Hopefully it will work one day.) With POD you can order as many or as few books as you want. The price per book is the same regardless of how many copies you order. You can order one copy or 1,000 copies; it’s the same price. POD gets your book on-line on numerous sites, which makes your book more accessible to buyers around the globe. (The down side for me is that I’m not depleting my stock of books.)
The Next Book
So this is my plan for my next book, which is in the works by the way. I’m going to go the print-on-demand route. I will order 100 books to sell by myself. My POD company (Lightning Source) will place the title on Amazon, etc. to sell it on-line.
I won’t make as much money per book, but I won’t be adding a huge number of boxes to my already-cramped basement either. (The cats are using the boxes as a climbing apparatus. It’s Moses favourite place to sleep. I just hope he doesn’t barf on the books! If you order a book and it smells sort of “off” well. . . we’ll just trust that that never happens.) Once the book becomes popular (I hope), I will hire a traditional printer. (I do hope insanity doesn’t take over again, however; one never knows.)
In Favor of POD
There are other pluses with going the POD route.
- If you miss a typo when going the traditional printer route, and you will, you are stuck with numerous books with that error. It’s not the end of the world if it’s a small error, but if not…. (I met one lady whose book had been printed with the wrong title on the side! I can’t remember if she was self-published or not. She was selling her book at cost.) If you miss a typo with POD you can get it changed for minimal cost. And you’re not saddled with thousands of books with a typo.
- The set-up fee is under $200 with a proof. So, if the worst case scenario happens and no one likes your book, you have a memento of your work and some copies to give family and friends and you haven’t broken the bank. (Please note that this should NOT happen if you’ve taken the proper steps to produce your book. I read my manuscripts in classrooms to test them. I did, in fact, have to toss one. I thought it was hilarious. Kids didn’t. One never knows what the reaction to your book will be until you read your manuscript to your target audience.)
- Although shipping is cheaper if you order more, rather than less, books you can order as few books as you wish and see how your sales go. There is minimal risk. When you are reasonably certain (there is no such thing as being 100% certain about anything… except death and taxes, as “they” say) that you will need at least 500 books, then you can order them through a traditional printer.
Please note there is a big difference between POD companies and companies that offer publishing packages to produce your book, often for a hefty fee. With POD you give the company the book and they print exactly what you give them.
They do not edit. They do not help you with ISBN or CIP numbers. They do not get you a formal copyright. (Technically a book is copyrighted as soon as it’s written. I formally copyrighted mine “just in case.”) So please do not confuse these two types of services.
I hope you found this article helpful and got a chuckle out of it as well.
Susan Ross is a children’s book author who lives in London, Ontario. She has a B.A. in psychology and a B.Ed. with a specialty in primary education, and her background in education and quirky sense of humour are the perfect tools for writing children’s books. You can find out more about Susan and her books at her author website.