Going to Print – The Process, Future and Economics of Self Publishing

 I’ve been on the Wordclay site today. Wordclay is the print publisher (for self-publishers) that is affiliated with Smashwords, the eBook publisher I’m using. Wordclay isn’t nearly as writer-friendly as Smashwords, unfortunately.

I tried to upload my manuscript, but it got stuck and I’ve emailed them for help.

Formatting for print is different than formatting for eBooks. For an eBook, you strip out page breaks, tabs, headers, and page numbers, because the concept of a page is different on a reader than it is on a printed page. Depending on the size of your type, the device the eBook is being viewed on, or the resolution of your computer screen, the text comes out differently. You can’t control how much material is on a page.

Because Wordclay gives you a file of how your book will actually look page by page, you can make adjustments as you want. Starting with my eBook file, for instance, I added page breaks, a few more fonts (the rule with eBook formatting is Keep It Simple), and other niceties.

So to submit to Wordclay, I took my eBooks manuscript and put back all the formatting I’d been dying to have all along.

With print, the text adjusts itself to the size format you have selected. Wordclay provides a selection of three different page sizes. You can do page breaks at the end of chapters to make sure your chapter starts on a new page. Then, Wordclay will show you how your book will actually look in type. It’s kind of thrilling.

Wordclay’s web interface is not as intuitive as Smashwords. And the costs affiliated with the processes are not immediately obvious on the site. It turns out that what they do is produce a book-ready file for you for free, but then they charge quite a bit for getting an ISBN number, acting as your publisher, and if you want other services like marketing, etc. it is more. And I cannot figure out, after reviewing the site carefully, how much it would cost to actually produce a book. This is critical because it determines how much I would have to charge for the book.

I already have an ISBN number and have established a publisher identity for this and future books. Wordclay claims that the ISBN I got only applies to the manuscript, but that is something I’ll want to check out. Meanwhile, their fee for procuring one is $99. It only cost me $25 doing it myself. Of course I went through a lot of crap with the company that dispenses the numbers, but it was a learning experience. (See my previous article about Bowker.)

I have looked into some other self publishers and my best guess is that each book, with a two-color cover, would cost upwards of $12.00 unless I bought hundreds of them, which I can’t afford. If I have to pay $12 per book, I would have to charge at least $25 to make any money, by the time I am finished with the cut to Amazon or whatever. And very few people are going to pay $25 for a trade book by an unknown author.

An on-demand printer that I just love is Third Place Books in Seattle. (Lake Forest Park store). A surly genius named Vladmir runs a tight ship there. He has a miraculous machine, that once you feed it your files, churns out a finished, covered, bound book in a few minutes. The staff calls the machine Ginger.

Ginger also  prints out copies of public domain books on demand. You can order them from a catalog or inquire as to whether they can print a book for you.  See thirdplacepress.com

However, to print an author’s book, Ginger charges six cents per page per book, as I understand it. For my approximately 280-page book, printing  would cost $16.80, and that’s before we factor in the cover.

Of course there are dozens, if not hundreds of companies that call themselves publishers and help you get your book online as an eBook or printed as a book. The author pays for everything. They also provide editing and design services, and claim to market and promote your book.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen any self-published books in retail stores so far, so I don’t understand where their marketing leads. Perhaps they get books reviewed in odd online locations of their own creation.

Of course, the wonderful thing about being selected by an establishing print publishing company is that they pay all the expenses for whipping your book into shape, creating books, and using established lines of distribution to get the books into stores.

But it could be that eventually, the line between traditional publishers and the new kind of publishers, that charge the author, will dim, and some mid-ground will be available. Maybe someone will be smart enough to start a self-publishing firm that actually reviews and evaluates the manuscripts and selects some that they will publish at reduced cost to the author and more royalty for them. Kind of a joint cost sharing. This would still leave the author door open wide enough to admit the screaming mobs who are sure they’ve written The Ultimate Book, and also allow the better writers accessibility to print services at prices they can afford.

If this happens, it will mean that the self-publish companies will take a look at quality, perhaps absorb some of the editors laid off by the old school publishers, and start a new era of publishing, one that encourages writers instead of making them feel like rejected idiots.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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One Response to Going to Print – The Process, Future and Economics of Self Publishing

  1. Jane says:

    Check out http://www.createspace.com
    I think they are the best vanity publisher right now. The are owned by Amazon and their royalties and book prices are good. There are no hiddens costs. You don’t need pay a cent except for your proof.

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