—Guest Post by Michele DeFilippo—
Michele DeFilippo of 1106 Design is committed to helping indie authors succeed. She has shared advice on our Discussion Groups forum and here offers further support by presenting the case for setting up and managing your own POD.
Marketing your book is the final step in self-publishing; it’s also the never-ending step. Distribution—a way of delivering your book to readers—is a vital ingredient of your marketing plan. At one time, a printed book sold in a brick-and-mortar bookstore (or via mail order or out of the back of one's trunk) was the only distribution method open to self-published authors. Today's indie publishers have several options: print, eBooks, audio books, and print-on-demand (POD).
In this article, I'll focus on POD: what it is, who does it, and how authors can manage their own POD and get paid more.
What is POD?
Print-on-demand, or POD, is digital printing done as orders are placed for books. POD is used to fulfill orders made through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. With POD, these companies do not need to maintain large inventories of each book they sell. Given the millions of books sold online today, that's a good thing.
POD has allowed online retailers to sell virtually (no pun intended) every book ever published without the expense of maintaining large inventories. POD has opened up online bookstores to self-published authors, allowing them to sell their books around the world. Gone are the days when authors had to get a publisher to accept their books for publishing in order to ever see it sold. Now authors have a direct pipeline to the Amazon website via POD.
POD books may be distributed online or to bookstores and libraries—anywhere books are sold.
Who Does POD?
CreateSpace and IngramSpark are the only companies that do POD.
CreateSpace provides direct distribution to Amazon (which owns it). Books appear quickly on Amazon via CS and while author royalties are slightly higher, some authors reported print quality to be better at IngramSpark.
IngramSpark distributes books to all online retailers including Amazon, but as mentioned above, their royalties (or publisher compensation as IS terms the amount paid to self-published authors) for Amazon are a bit lower than CreateSpace.Both companies distribute to brick-and-mortar stores. However, IngramSpark's return policies are more favorable to authors.
For these reasons, some authors work with CreateSpace for distribution to Amazon.com and IngramSpark for everything else.
You do not need to use CreateSpace’s editorial or design services in order to use them for POD. IngramSpark does not offer self-publishing services directly but provides a list of verified experts on their website.
Self-publishing companies may advertise that they print books on demand. However, if the books are being distributed to any online or brick-and-mortar retail outlet other than the self-publishing company's own website, they are most likely being printed and distributed by IngramSpark. Indeed, CreateSpace expanded distribution is run through IngramSpark as well.
The Benefits of Working Directly with the POD Company
Authors can work with IngramSpark and CreateSpace directly without going through a self-publishing company.
Self-publishing companies act as "middlemen" between authors and POD companies, relieving authors of the work involved in setting up book titles for printing and distribution in return for keeping a portion of the author's royalties. Because the author never deals directly with the POD company or knows where the books are being printed, they remain unaware of the difference between the actual fees charged by the POD company and what the self-publishing company says is the printing charge, distribution fee, and the author royalty.As with any other product, the greater the number of middlemen between the manufacturer and the consumer, the greater the price paid by the consumer. Cut out the people in the middle, and you will save money.
Thus, the biggest benefit of dealing directly with the POD company is that authors keep all of the royalties or publisher compensation.
You may also get a better, more saleable, book. When your POD is part of an all-inclusive package, you don't have any say in who does the cover design, editing, or proofreading. Check the quality of the books being produced by the company you are considering and compare their cover designs to those of similar best sellers on Amazon to see how they stack up.
You also gain more control. By "unpacking" the services that you would typically purchase from a self-publishing company, you can choose the best people/service providers for each step of the process. Doing so allows you to ensure the quality of the work as well as keeping costs within your budget.
How Are Royalties Calculated?
Royalties are calculated by deducting the printing cost and wholesale discount from the retail price.
The wholesale discount is the percentage of the retail price paid to the retailer. The wholesale discount charged by Amazon for books printed through CreateSpace is 40 percent. IngramSpark allows publishers to enter any wholesale discount they like. Keep in mind, however, that brick-and-mortar bookstores will not special order a book unless the wholesale discount is 55 percent and the books are returnable.
What Are the Downsides to Setting Up My Own POD?
You will need to do some work to set up your account with the POD company, and then more work to set up your title. You will also need to pay a fee to IngramSpark for each title, but one would pay that to a self-publishing company in any case. Some computer skills are in order, or at least someone to hold your hand through the process.
You may pull a few hairs out, but, look at the bright side: you've survived this far—what's one more hurdle, especially when there's the potential for a greater payday at the end?
How Do I Know What Royalties I Will Earn?
By knowing the approximate fees you will pay and royalties you will earn from CreateSpace, IngramSpark, or self-publishing companies, you can make an informed decision about the route you will take.
Both CreateSpace and IngramSpark include royalty or publisher compensation calculators on their websites. This information is a little harder to find on some of the self-publishing company websites, so we did the research for you. Web page addresses are included in the footnotes of this article so that you can replicate our experiment yourself.
We ran our test on CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, BookBaby, Lulu, and SelfPublishing.com. The latter three companies offer POD as part of their packages.
We selected a trim size of 6” x 9”, black ink on crème paper, paperback with perfect bound binding (glued spine with a color, matte laminated cover), 200 pages, with a cover price of $10.99.
We used a 40 percent wholesale discount for IngramSpark to allow for a better comparison with CreateSpace, and also show the royalties one can expect from IngramSpark with a 55 percent wholesale discount.
The publisher compensation estimates for our book from each of the companies is as follows:
- Ingram Spark (40% wholesale discount): $3.01 (print charge: $3.58) 1
- Ingram Spark (55% wholesale discount): $1.37 (print charge: $3.58)
- CreateSpace (40% wholesale discount): $3.34 (print charge: $3.85, calculated as .85 per book plus .012 per page) 2
- BookBaby: $1.23 3
- Lulu.com: $1.58 4
- Selfpublishing.com: (Thor Distribution) 208 pages: $2.30 5
1 - The IngramSpark publisher compensation calculator can be found at: https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/PubCompCalculator?hsCtaTracking=68469306-2af7-4d9d-921d-08b99ac7b57f%7C2ad18140-91fc-4744-822e-a96ed49d941d
2 - The CreateSpace Royalty calculator can be found at: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/#content6:royaltyCalculator. You can read about how CreateSpace calculates its share, along with the print charges: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Royalties.jsp
3 - Book Baby: You must get a quote from them in order to gain access to their calculator. However, on their POD page, they list the royalty for a 200-page book, paperback, at a retail price of $10.99, to be $1.23. See https://www.bookbaby.com/print-on-demand
4 - Lulu.com: No option to enter your own list price. Their option for a 200-page, paperback lists a retail price of $14.95. The last time we ran this test, we had to increase the retail price until we could calculate a royalty that was over $0, so we sense this is the reason why you can't enter your own pricing. Lulu includes a "base price" in its calculations (in this case, it is $5.50). Their "distribution fee"—the amount that goes to the retailer—is $7.47, which is neither 55% ($8.22) nor 40% (5.98). http://www.lulu.com/sell
5 - Thor Distribution: http://www.thordistribution.com/distribution/ Can't specify a wholesale discount percentage.
Yes, you read that correctly: assuming a 40% wholesale discount, you would be paid around $2.00 less per book by BookBaby than you would by going directly to the IngramSpark or CreateSpace website and setting up your account by yourself.
Perhaps you will save some time and anxiety by going through BookBaby or another self-publishing company. POD can induce anxiety in many authors, who would rather just get rid of that headache when given the option. But, assuming you sell 500 books, you would keep an additional $1,000! Aren’t you worth it?
A few tips about working with CreateSpace and IngramSpark:
-You will need to set up an account and upload cover and interior files that meet their exacting specs. You can create these files, or you can avoid a lot of frustration in this area by hiring an experienced book designer to do this for you.
-There may be account set-up fees, sometimes refunded. Be sure to clarify all costs up front.
-CreateSpace books generally are listed on Amazon a day after the proof is reviewed by them and accepted by the author. IngramSpark takes a little longer, possibly due to the retailers themselves or Amazon giving priority to CS books.
Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that offers cover design, interior layout, manuscript editing and more, with expert indie-publishing advice and hand-holding every step of the way. She'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or by joining in the discussions on the topics she's posted in our group forums.
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