Pick Your Platform, part two

In part one, I gave you a basic overview of ebook publishing. Today I want to look at printing your book. Even if you don’t plan on offering your book in print and want to stay with ebook format only, it is nice to be able to print a physical copy of your work. Who doesn’t want a paperback of their own book sitting on their shelf?

At one time, the only option was what many called ‘vanity publishing’, a system that allowed you print out a hard or softcover book but also required you to order a minimum number of copies. Often requiring you to put out a lot of money up front. The printing landscape has changed now that print on demand is more prevalent.

PRINT ON DEMAND

For print copies of your book, print on demand (POD) is the way to go. Gone are the days where you had to order hundreds of copies of your book and hope to be able to sell them. Now you just set up your manuscript as a PDF or EPUB and upload it to a POD publishing platform and you’re set.

Amazon is a big player in the POD side of things as you would expect. Their Createspace platform allows you upload and modify your manuscript before publishing. They also offer free and paid services for editing, formatting and cover design. Once your manuscript is ready to be published, it will be made available on Amazon.com. You can set your own price although there is a minimum price in order to cover costs. Because of the added cost of printing the actual book, your royalty is much lower, just 30% of the list price (of course you would also be selling your print version for more than the ebook, so you can offset this a bit).

Uploading to the standard distribution (which pays 30% of the list) only reaches Amazon.com. This is great for Americans, but not that helpful for international writers. If you want to get your book out to the rest of the world, you have to use Amazon’s expanded distribution channel (EDC). According to Amazon, this gets your work out to the rest of the world, provided the rest of your world only includes Europe, the UK and Australia.

There are two problems with EDC. First, Amazon.ca is not included so there is no guarantee selecting it will get your book into Canada. It seems to be hit or miss, from what I have read of other writers’ experiences. Second, even if you do get your book on Amazon.ca, you will only see 11% of the list price as a royalty.

Another big player in the POD category is Ingram Content Group and their IngramSpark platform. Ingram is the world’s largest wholesale book distributor (even Amazon uses them). Their IngramSpark platform is geared towards the self-publisher and is similar to Createspace, but there are a few differences (see chart below).

CS vs IS

The big difference between Createspace and IngramSpark is that there is an upfront cost to use IngramSpark of $45 USD. There is also a yearly fee (currently $12 USD) to keep your book in their catalogue and, therefore, available for order. I haven’t actually compared a book printed by Createspace to one by IngramSpark, but supposedly, Ingram is the winner with a better print quality. They also offer the option of creating a hardcover, something you don’t have with Createspace. Finally, because Ingram has worldwide distribution with printing facilities in many countries, you can ship almost anywhere at reasonable prices and expect delivery in a reasonable time frame. Createspace falls short in the international shipping department (that Amazon mentality that the US is the only country in the world coming to play again?). One funny bit of information is that CreateSpace actually uses Ingram for international distribution so your book may end up being printed by IngramSpark even if you don’t choose that platform.

When going with a print book, you have to consider the discount cost (which is why the royalty per list price is so low). If you want your book stocked in a physical brick and mortar store, then not only does the distributor need to be paid, so does the store selling your book. This all cuts into your return of course. For example, on a $15 sale, Createspace takes $9 and you get $6. From that you need to deduct the cost of the book, which is $4.55, leaving you a profit of $1.45. From this example, you would think that the bookstores get $9, but they don’t. They don’t even get close to that. Createspace passes on about 45% of the discount to Ingram (who they use for distribution) and then Ingram takes their cut. The result is that the stores receive about 25% as a discount. That’s not enough to make them even consider stocking the book, but they will order it if a customer asks.

If you don’t care whether or not your print book ever makes it into an actual physical store (i.e. is only available online) then it pays to use IngramSpark and set your discount at 40%. This will ensure you get the most return on your book no matter where it is sold. With Createspace, you take the big hit with their EDC for international sales.  The chart below outlines this.

IS is better than EDC

Basically, IngramSpark pays you the same royalty, no matter where your book goes.  Createspace grabs back another huge chunk of your payout in order to use their EDC (which is actually so they can pay IngramSpark!).

Next time, I will talk a little about third party distribution.

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