Too many authors spend all their time on writing, then scrimp on a course in miracles design and book marketing. They hope that their publisher will handle all the details of book design and book marketing, so that they can just sit back and rake in the millions year after year. Then, if these same authors decide to self-publish, they’ll quickly get lost in the morass of print on demand publishers and the time and money sink hole of self-publishing. In fact, most authors would rather die than think about book marketing, or spend money on book design.
In 2005, around 172,000 books were published with an ISBN number, according to Bowker, which compiles publishing statistics. An ISBN number will get you into Books in Print, and allows your book to be distributed to bookstores and online sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. According to some sources, nearly one quarter of these books were printed by Print on Demand (POD) companies. I’d estimate that number to be much higher, as many small publishers are having their books printed by Lightning Source, which also provides printing for many of the larger POD companies.
Additionally, Lulu Press, who publishes over 1500 books per week, says that only about 5% of their books get an ISBN number. That’s another 80,000 or so books circulating in the market each year, although most of Lulu’s books are only sold through Lulu Press on their web site. It only takes 300 book sales to get on Lulu’s all-time top 100 bestsellers list. 300 books! For some people, that can be attained simply by selling books to their extended family. While AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and other big players in the POD market might print more books with ISBN numbers, their sales records aren’t much better.
Some sources estimate that the average book sells no more than 150 copies, and other sources put that number at below fifty copies. In many cases, authors end up losing money on their books, which is why Lulu Press is so popular. At Lulu, you can upload your book interior and cover (you do all the design work), and have a book on your doorstep within days – all for the “cost of printing” (which is highly inflated, by the way).
The services and prices of POD companies vary widely, which is why we’re in the final stages of creating a comprehensive guide on self-publishing. It can be a confusing morass of information and data, with many unsubstantiated claims. The truth shall be revealed. Will your book be dead before it hits the streets? If you have any intention of selling more than 50 books, then you’ll have to invest time – and money – into the production and marketing of your book. Here are the basic steps you’ll have to consider:
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to assume that people will read their book just because it’s “good.” People will read a book if it is either applicable to their lives (non-fiction), or if it really is a damned good book (fiction). Even then, you’ll have to market your book. “How to sell a book” or “How to market a book” are two of the top questions we get, and search engine analysis shows that these are frequent search terms. If you haven’t written your book with an audience in mind, then you’re down to three legs on your four-legged marketing stool.
The second leg of book marketing is the interior and exterior design of the book. People do judge a book by its cover, so if you’re not spending some money on getting an outstanding cover, you’re losing sales. Then, people will open the book and read the intro or first few pages. Is it well-written? Easy to read? Is the interior book design clean, consistent, and well-implemented. I’ve seen many POD books in which the margins were too small, the fonts poorly chosen, and the images fuzzy. Who’s going to buy a book like that?
There are many great book cover designers. Then for editing, contact Charity at Mighty Pen Editing for your editing needs. Don’t scrimp on the editing because you WILL make mistakes (trust me on this – there are probably a few in this article). Lulu Press is great if you just want to print a few books for your friends, or create a low-cost galley to send to editors, agents, or distributors. You’ll often be asked to send a “galley” of your book, which is simply a printed copy of your book with a blank cover. Lulu Press is great for creating galleys at minimal cost.
As we’ll show you in our upcoming comprehensive guide to self-publishing, which POD company you choose depends on your intentions and desires. If you want to have your book professionally edited and the cover professionally designed by your publisher (instead of outsourcing to some unknown person), then companies like Cold Tree Press might be a good choice. Other companies offer a varied level of marketing packages. Personally, I’d rather stay away from having these publishers market my book, and instead go to a good book marketing expert or media specialist.
But, there are a few small publishers (like Cold Tree Press or Arbor Books) who have excellent book marketing packages, ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars (you get what you pay for!).