Part II; The POD Provider
This part of the process deals with getting your now completed manuscript, both sections in pdf format, to a POD publishing provider. POD stands for Print On Demand. POD publishing is a system of printing, whereby one copy of your book is digitally printed only after a sale of that book has been completed. The old method of self-publishing entailed have a small run of your book printed, then handed over to you to market and sell. Some included packages whereupon the marketing and sales task was handled by the same publishing, at a cost of course. The POD method allows a self-publishing author of getting a manuscript to print without the upfront printing costs or warehouse full of printed books to deal with. There are the downsides to this process in that any provider of this service makes their share of the sales through book sale royalties and/or printing rates. As I mentioned in Part I, I use more than one provider for my printing, and that decision is premised upon my target audience and the type of book I want to have printed. The example being one provider for hard bound photo books and one for commercially viable paperback books. This will be the first decision you will need to make. The intent of your book project, then defining your target audience. For the purposes of this blog it will be assumed that the intent of the author is selling their book in the open market. The process as I am laying out in this blog, is the culmination of my own experiences in POD publishing and what I have learned from publishing seven books using this method. The third part of this series of articles focuses on the marketing and showcasing of the finished book, and I have my own web-page, with this blog, as an example of where this process can lead based upon my own work therein, with the help of some very professional people who have assisted me along the way to get to this point. The provider who I use for my paperback books is Create Space, which is the publishing arm of amazon.com and is their service provider for POD publishing. There are other such service providers that offer their own services for POD publishing, some in hard bound printing and some for paperback. A few do both. For the process I am laying out here, I consider hard bound books in general and photo books in specific to be Specialty Books, such as Coffee Table Books or commissioned books for clients or family. The process being presented in this blog is more focused on general trade paperback books, in traditional trade sizes, for the general reading public in the fuller spectrum of reading interests. I will, however be addressing the more specialized books like the commissioned book, the Specialty Book, and Photo Books as Coffee Table Books. At that time I will discuss the provider and benefits of using their free software to lay the book out before uploading it for print, and other variables about visual book publishing. My reason for choosing Create Space as my POD provider was due to the tools, and avenues available for advancing a self-published book. Becoming a 'member' entails filling out your name and email address and choosing to start a new book. Changes as they are, the exact process for this may change over time, however it remains a very simple and easy process taking less than an hour for beginners. Once a member, the author is able to see the listed book, with easily discernible steps to the process listed, and easily accessed to complete the process of have the book printed. The steps include the title to the book, author, format for the book's cut size, and other information having to do with the book’s specific information. Once the author has given a new book a title and author information, the book is automatically assigned two ISBN numbers. One for the US and one for Europe. Free. I bought my first three ISBN numbers for $10/ea and that was on a promo three numbers for $30 from Bowker. That price has changed a lot over time. Create Space sells the ISBN number for a book for $10, and that gives the author the ability to use their own Brand, or author name in the Book’s listings. That's the first advantage. The book, when all the material is in order and the two pdf files have been uploaded, a proof is reviewed before the author can click on the 'release' button. In the past that meant after the two files had been viewed on their end, and had been passed as printable, the author ordered one copy in proof form (a PROOF band was on the back page) when the author accepted the proof as correct, the release button could be chosen and the book became listed on amazon.com's database of salable books. That is still an option, however, one can bypass that option and accept the book as is without having to order a proof book first. That system is now in an updated digital form of proofing, whereupon the author can now review the proof layout, shown through their viewer, in 3-D to see how it is going to look in print. The advantage of course being immediacy, as after viewing the author can authorize a release of the title right there. No books to mail. This process allows the author to see firsthand each stage of the production, and how the book will look in print. The book will have the ISBN numbers, and be listed on amazon.com, but at this stage it won't be listed in the extended pool of book related databases, such as Books In Print database which is the one used by bookstores to look a book up by title or author. It also does not include universities and library listings. For this service, there used to be a onetime fee of $25 for the "Extended Channels" option. Those channels included “Books In Print” database, libraries and Universities, Amazon Europe and Create Space Direct. Those options are now free.
For any serious author the$10 cost for the ISBN number is not only reasonable for the ability to use your own Brand or Name, but essential. In my view, reaching this level of service at Create Space is a Basic Service level for POD publishing. The book will be printed professionally, at a reasonable cost to the author, after the printing price, Amazon also gets a royalty percentage, and after these two deductions are made, the author receives their share automatically. Corporations, being corporations, will always seek to have maximum control over procedure and profit. Not necessarily in that order, sometimes to the detriment of the provider. For those authors who have perused through the pages of a Writer's Market or other listings for traditional publishers, and see the road to their door has become ever more steep, with a heavy focus on using agents, which turns out are more difficult to get to see than publishers, and they get 15% of your royalty. From my own reading of their methods and requirements was the average royalty ranged from 5% to 8%, minus the agent's 15%, leaving the author 4% to 7%; of a $15 book. If you have a calculator at hand it will likely tell you the same as mine. 5% of $15 is around .75 cents a copy. If you have an agent your share drops to .60 cents a copy. The first time print runs seemed to begin around 2500 copies with some reaching 5000 copies. If you still have that calculator out you will note the end result for the author is slightly depressing. Not so much for the simple beginning or the royalty size, but for the hoops to make it through to even reach that spot, and the time to print variable, which for many of listed publishers was two years. It would be my guess that in today's world of digital printing and providers of POD services, the publishers listed in the books described above are not likely representing the vast majority of authors of the future. There are far more aspiring writers who see themselves as emerging authors than there are publishing houses of the old paradigm willing to even take a look at them. This is not good or bad or right or wrong, just simple reality, and an opportunity. An amazingly effective method of giving any willing author an outlet for their work. The above material covers the many positive attributes of the unfolding world of digital publishing. There are always the restrictions and format demands for any provider. They are few in this process. The only format criteria is that the files being uploaded are in pdf format. Most writing programs offer the ability to save a file in pdf format. Your book, is the two pdf files you have saved; the interior of the book, or the written material, and the cover design. Two pdf files; they are your book.
The last portion on creating your own book has to do with the cover design. That task may be something an indie writer might want to tackle on their own if they feel they have some talent in that department. I confess to having done this to some of my books, as I was a commercial photographer for thirty years and had layout/design experience, and used photographs as the backdrop. I also used Microsoft Publisher as my layout platform as I was familiar with the tools. I also have a very good photographer friend with over thirty years experience as a graphic designer, who most graciously designed the covers for my last three books. The acceptable wisdom for this task is finding a professional to design your cover, being that is the first thing the reading public will see of your book. Annoying as it may be, books do tend to be judged by their cover. A crappy or amateurish cover does not invite a potential reader to see if the writing is any better than the cover. Sad as that is. Should you feel inclined to do your own work, I would highly recommend showing it to as many avid readers as you can, for their hopefully honest opinion as feedback before committing. That at least gives the author an idea of how their design holds up.
My final comments to any aspiring indie writer, or self-published author (they are not always the same thing) is simply this. Do not despair the hurdles and obstacles to the process of getting your book into print. If you are anything like me, the end result of seeing your book in print is the objective, not fame or fortune. Although only an idiot would disparage that result. It just isn’t the sole reason for your effort. Also understand that like any art form, the buying public expects to see consistency over time before investing in your work. For an artist or photographer that means a portfolio of work that demonstrates the ability to do more than one fine print. The broader the portfolio the more attention and attraction for the buyer. Very much the same for the reading public, which will gravitate towards an author with a list of books of consistent quality in print. That takes time, and quality writing. The rest is just logistics.