Writing

Guest Post By Alex Laybourne

Print on Demand Publishing

I have always wanted to be a writer.  Growing up that always meant writing a novel, finding an agent, and landing a publisher. I tried this approach and was rejected more times that I would actually like to remember. Yet these rejections did not force me to go Indie.  Far from it. If anything, the rejections fuelled my desire to find an agent and publisher on the traditional route.

Then why choose Indie?

Well the answer cannot be filed down to one specific reason. There are, as with all aspects of any industry, the high points (those which make you wonder why everybody doesn’t follow this path) and also the low points (the times you realise exactly why everybody doesn’t)

I decided to initially choose the Print on Demand (POD) route. This is just one of the many options available for people looking to go it on their own, but it held a stronger appeal to me than anything else.

Why use Print on Demand?

A very valid question. Print on Demand works on a theory that is almost the complete opposite of traditional publishers. Rather than printing up a certain number (well into the thousands) of a book, sending it out into the world, and accepting returns from bookstores when the title fails to sell, POD publishers operate on a simple but beautiful principle: They simply print the number of books you actually sell.  The physical book itself does not exist until someone buys it, thus eliminating the need for costly warehousing or the possibility of filling up your local landfill with those returns. This was a major factor in my decision process.

Of course the drawback of this is you have to go out and actually sell your books in order to see any money coming in. But hey, we are all writers and advances or not, selling books is the name of the game whatever way you look at it. This may be a large drawback for some people. I, for example, write in English but live in a non-English speaking country. This obviously limits what I can do on a local scale. But with the internet and social media being what it is, I have no qualms about my choice, nor do I fear missing out on potential sales.

Isn’t it Expensive?

POD is as expensive as you want to make it. Createspace.com (and as far as I am aware Lulu.com) both allow you to create and publish your books for free. Yes free.  The only thing you have to pay for is the shipping of your proof copy. This includes the ability to have an ISBN assigned to your book free of charge (under certain conditions of course) and even a choice from what I considered to be a very good, not to mention broad, range of cover page images. Given the harsh times we live in, it is comforting to know that we can still continue doing what we love, even while having to watch the purse strings. However, free does come with a price. While the cover image choices are broad they are not tailor made to your book.  They are more topical than genre specific.

(Kait says: I’ve not seen the stock images at Createspace, but I’ve said plenty in the past about the importance of having good, professional cover art, so obviously my inclination is to put some money in here rather than taking the free route.)

It should not be overlooked that keeping your publication costs at zero does mean you suffer in terms of listings—you will only appear on Amazon.com and also your createspace.com shop.  The free version also affects the amount of royalties you would get per sale. This can all be changed for a mere $39 to get you into expanded distribution, which may make all of you cost-saving, yet equally professional, Indie writers cringe.  But when you consider the higher royalties and the expanded distribution channels, which includes listing on Barnes and Noble, you’ll understand that it really is worth it to invest just a little. Did I mention that the annual charge after the initial purchase is just $5?

Am I tied down by Small Print in the Contract?

Absolutely not.  With Createspace.com you are not tied down at all.  You are free to publish in other mediums such as e-book format (Kait says: And you SHOULD.) and even have the choice (not free) to have your book published on Amazon’s Kindle reader. (Kait says: A foolish choice to my mind, when you can do the work yourself—it’s not hard—and also get into Amazon for free in e.) Should your sales exceed your expectations and attract the attentions of more traditional publishers and agencies, don’t worry: You own your book and you can unpublish it at any time

Don’t forget, though, that just because you can publish yourself, it doesn’t mean that you can churn out sloppy work. No agent would look twice at a self-published novel that looked as though it had been edited by a five-year-old. This is another potential drawback of POD publishing. You have almost too much freedom, especially with Createspace.  As long as your format is correct, your book will be approved—meaning you can get away with bad grammar and sloppy spellign (for those who didn’t get the humour I apologize, I’m British; it’s genetic).

To keep things brief I will summarize my POD experience by saying I managed to produce a book that looks professional and has a relatively good number of distribution options from the start, all for effectively nothing. If you are looking to use POD alone, then you are missing out on opportunities.  Rather than a one-stop shop, it is more a tool that makes up part of the Indie publishing experience. We are, after all, solely responsible for our advertising and sales, and so to rely solely on POD would be foolish. But if you are looking for a place to start your Indie journey, I highly recommend beginning with POD even if it is just to be able to hold a single copy of your book which you can use as a mobile sales tool. Just pull it out of your bag and show it off.  Seeing is believing after all.

Bio:

The Musings of a Hideous Mind is a collection of shorts stories and flash fiction pieces taken from my blog of the same name. It is available on amazon.com and also via smashwords.com. All necessary links can be found on my website www.alexlaybourne.com

If you would like to hear more from me or simply want an extra listing or follower, you can also find me on Twitter: @vanplank.  Should anybody from the Netherlands read this, I am active on Hyves and am always looking for people to ‘poke’: Alex Laybourne.  I am also active on facebook under the same name but to be honest I do not pay it as much attention as I used to or should. (I blame twitter)

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