Strategies on publishing your own book – from 25 to 25,000 and beyond!

It used to be that book runs of less than several thousand were simply too costly per unit to print and sell. There was a time when a self-published author personally had to invest in writing, editing and design. Even today, with the advent digital printing (which eliminates film and other expenses), costs still remain high. And besides, the experts have been telling us for years that printed books would die out, giving way to digital books and magazines available from Internet sites. So why invest in self-publishing your masterpiece in a printed version at all?

Well, guess what – the “experts” were wrong!

I believe the basic human desire to hold a printed book will endure. Look at it this way: On your birthday, would you rather receive an e-mail of congratulations, or a printed card with an admirer’s personal written message and signature? In December of 2014, Bowker (a leading U.S. monitor of the book industry) reported that printed book sales and e-book sales still remain around 50/50. Furthermore, they revealed that the printed book market is actually growing, adding that over 1.5 million new printed titles are published every year in North America. However, because profit margins for companies who print these books have been declining (due primarily to huge self-publishing entities grabbing most of the business), many small-to-medium printers and publishers have thrown in the towel. But not all!

The good news is that other companies saw this as a huge opportunity. So they retooled (i.e. bought new printing equipment), added book design and marketing services to their repertoire, and took dead aim at smaller, less-known authors (perhaps like you) looking to break into the self-publishing market without emptying their bank accounts. The result? Today, there are companies out there who specialize in printing books in quantities as low as a few dozen to as high 1,000 and beyond! These “short-run” book printing and publishing companies have actually embraced this niche market and are actively seeking you out. But before you take the plunge, here are a few self-publishing strategies to consider:

  • Decide on whether you want to use a commercial printer who specializes in short-run digital books, a company who handles all aspects (design, printing, marketing and sales, etc.) of your book from writing to final printed product, or a traditional publishing house.
  • Never give up ownership of your book – and that includes control over publishing, marketing, sales, reproduction, even how it’s packaged and sold!
  • Negotiate with sellers. Self-published authors can earn up to 35% of the cover price for books sold through retailers. The low end usually comes in at 15%-20%.
  • Get to market quickly. This should take a few months – not years. Most retail buyers require lead time of about four months. Ideally, the actual printing of your book should take only a few weeks.
  • Make sure you can afford it. Self-publishing authors require a larger up-front investment than those using traditional publishing houses. Your financial risk usually includes everything having to do with the production and marketing of your self-published book – writing, editing, design, printing, shipping, selling and even warehousing.
  • Check a distributor’s quality standards. Before deciding on a retailer, be sure your self-published book is up to their standards. Don’t give them a reason to reject it.

Bottom line: Whether you want to publish your printed book for friends, for academia or for consumers in the hope of gaining prominence and creating more masterpieces, there are viable and cost-effective options out there. So good luck with your next book. And remember, the printed book is far from dead! Have you visited a library lately? 

About the author

Tony Curcio is the Senior Writer and News Editor of Graphic Arts Magazine (GAM). He is an award-winning writer, born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who has written for virtually every type of print and electronic medium during his 45-year career. He began in 1969 as a writer in the Communications Department of The Toronto Star. After five years, he became head writer. He left the newspaper in 1989 and currently maintains a small freelance writing and design business in addition to his responsibilities at the magazine.

Since 1997, Graphic Arts Magazine has provided in-depth coverage of the latest trends in the printing and graphic communications industry. This includes new products and technology, special features written by industry experts, and articles on boosting profits. Published ten times a year and sent to over 10,600 locations across Canada, its readership is over 50,000 and is complemented by a weekly e-newsletter that goes to over 10,000 subscribers. Its website, www.graphicartsmag.com, is one of the most visited in the industry, currently averaging over 12,000 unique visits per month.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.