Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So..., You wanna write a book..

Chapter 55

So, You wanna write a book L

Writing is the easy part, Publication is easy as well. Editing until you are cross eyed, then promoting and marketing will kill you, unless your name is Tom Clancy of Military and Political thrillers, or Andy Hilstrand of Deadliest Catch fame J It is a mud hole you may want to consider more than once before you step off into it. I was convinced I could make it work and pay some bills that were coming due. Boy, was I ever wrong J

Publishers promise a lot that they may, most likely not, be able to deliver. Things like promotional assistance, helping you with a targeted readership, assistance in obtaining meaningful reviews from people who feed those reviews into organizations that provide exposure for your book, ad nauseum. It don’t work that way, not one tiny bit. A Publisher, who you pay to purchase their grand publishing package with all the frills, thrills, chills and minor vibrations you perceive you’ll need, have only been paid to establish themselves as another middle man, standing with their hand outstretched for further payment if and when one of your books sells on Amazon or any other bookstore affair. Lemme think, what does that do? It reduces YOUR royalty because everyone will be paid. Book printer, wholesaler, distributor, shipper, retailer, and then you.

By making yourself the book wholesaler, you cut the Publishing houses out of the loop. They don’t do much anyway. Of the “Special” Publicist/PR package I purchased from one Publishing house for my book, they spammed twenty two thousand plus Press releases to various groups, ranging from Radio and TV stations to Newspapers and Religious Publications. I received six requests for copies of my book for “possible” reviews. To date, only one person reviewed the book and posted it as a “customer” on my product description page in Amazon.com. It may have helped sales a little, but you couldn’t prove it by me.

To make yourself the wholesaler, simply do what Publishing houses do, go directly to outfits like Lightening Source. They actually print over a million books a month and are the largest in the United States. You could go to off shore printers, like those available in China or Korea, but I prefer to spend what little I have at home. You could also seek out an Offset Printer who can print a book for about a buck each, but minimum printing runs will have you buying a warehouse to store an inventory of about a bazillion tons of your book. No, POD is the answer for a small publisher/writer. Lightning Source does not help with distribution, but lists with Ingram, the largest book distribution firm in the United States, Walden, Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as other retail outlets, feed on the Ingram listings.
This is particularly applicable to POD books. The books are only Printed On Demand so no warehousing or inventory problems.

There is somewhat of an advantage to going with a Publishing House. They step in and purchase the ISBN and Bar code all books must have for salability and listing. This is of course at a labor intensive(?) inflated rate then what you, as the author could accomplish with just a few strokes of the keyboard at your home computer. The International Serial Book Number is vended by a sole source. I have no idea where they are located, but do know your book must have one. It is printed on your book cover on the small white rectangle that contains the Bar Code. The code that reports sales and inventory on the check out scanners we have become familiar with. Bar Code? “Free,” if you choose your ISBN from the right source. Fifty five bucks. You probably pay in excess of three hundred dollars for the two in a Publishing Package with a Publishing House.

Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, getting the book printed. It must be “formatted” after it is approved and edited. You can do the editing, but it will not count as a professional edit. Those you pay for by the word or page, both are very expensive. I have had book reviewers refuse to review my book because I short-changed my readership because I failed to pay a professional to edit my trash. All formatting is, would be converting your Word, Works or Apple generated book document into an Adobe Acrobat 8.0 PDF manuscript. Pretty simple with Acrobat Wizard, just highlight and click.

What else? Let’s see, Set Up fee of seventy five bucks. Plus an ISBN of $55 and that pesky Bar Code for free. Humm? Seems like I am missing something, Oh, yeah, the middlemen who make publishing so expensive. Well, we cut them all out.

An outfit like Lightning Source makes all their revenue printing books. A 300 page book will cost around five bucks when purchased from them. They will ship via Media Mail, the old Postal “Book Rate,” so that amounts to about .03% of the cover price of a $12.95 book (mine). My Publisher now, will only ship books via United Parcel Service and if a bookstore in Alaska wanted to carry it, shipping equals 29.65% of the cover price of my book. The Publisher sells it and receives 78.46%, which includes my royalty of 20% as well as paying for the printing. Adding the 78.46 and the 29.65, you see why a bricks and mortar bookstore cannot stock it. The price is printed on the cover and the cut all involved want is over 108% leaving our retailer holding the bag.

Now let’s talk about Trade Discount. An interesting industry phrase. Most default Trade Discounts are 20%. That will guarantee your book will never see the light of day on a book shelf in a retail outlet. Industry standard is 55%, some authors can squeak by at 40%. The 55% Trade Discount has some pitfalls. In that one is your royalty is smaller, another is the bookstore will have a “buy back” privilege. That is to say you incur the obligation to buy the book back from a retailer if the book is not sold after a reasonable set time. Think about that possible nightmare. A book chain like Walden may have over a thousand bricks and mortar retail outlets. Say they decide to stock your book and purchase at that 55% Trade Discount and they want 5 books at each store. That’s over five thousand books that you now carry as a potential liability. If they only move twenty or so percent in that specified period of time, time is money you know, you may end up buying your book back at the rate Walden paid, plus any shipping as well as paying for the shipping to have them sent where ever you want them to go. Sounds kinda glum don’t it J

Now for the “good” part of POD. There are hundreds of publishing outfits like BookSurge, Wheatmark, AuthorHouse, Outskirts, Joe’s Back Yard BBQ and Book Printing Company, WeDon’tShipMediaMailPrintingCompany.com and on and on. They assume all the risk, which is none, but you pay them handsomely to do it, just stay away from that 55% Trade Discount or they’ll get further into your pocket. By that I mean you will be required to pay the publisher an “insurance premium” of about four hundred dollars to buy unsold books from retailers. They see the spots and parts of the country that consistently move your book, you don’t ever have a clue, so it is easy to move those books to favorable sales places and you will never see a royalty, not a dime, as the books now belong to the publisher. This is fun, isn’t it? Book publishing is a racket, almost criminal, but just above that line. Any down the road revisions are expensive, so do the math and decide on the price YOU want, edit until you are cross eyed and drooling on the keyboard, DO NOT purchase a PR/Publicist Package as they are expensive and about as useful as boobs on a tree trunk.

If you go with an outfit like Lightning Source, it will cost you $55 for the ISBN and Bar Code, an additional $75 set up fee and I strongly suggest a $40 proof copy, then a $12 listing fee. So, for $142 you are in print, EXCEPT, you will need to engage a Graphics Design person to collaborate with concerning your book cover. The photographs you use to festoon the cover will be yours, ones you personally clicked the shutter or you will need a copyright release from the person who did. On the back cover there is room for your “hook.” A brief synopsis of what the book is about, make it as catchy as you can, this is what sells your book to the browsing public. An estimate here, that initial $142 and a Graphics Design person, the whole shootin’ match will cost about $400 to be submitted Print Ready. One last thing, a table of contents or index is not automatic. You will need to list your chapters, although you will have no idea the page number of each chapter, only the Shadow Knows J A couple other last things, you will have to select your book size, i.e. an 8.5 by 5.5 book or whatever choices you are offered. This tells LS the total pages of the book based on Word Count. Example, a 73,453 word book is 283 pages long in an 8.5 by 5.5 book, IIRC, that is what my dining room table leveler is J Damn, I gotta check my Dining Room floors again, anybody seen my laser level? One last thing, be certain you do the Prologue and copyright pages, just look at another book and plagiarize a suitable example with slight re wording to fit your book. Further, this affiant sayeth naught. Damn, I coulda been a lawyer J

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