Questions About Print-On-Demand Publishing
Q. What is the print-on-demand process and how is it different than the traditional way books are printed?
The Traditional Process
With the traditional printing process, a quantity of books are printed up in advance and then orders are filled from that inventory. This is the way traditional publishers generally manufacture their books because, on a per book basis, the cost is cheaper.
But there are big trade-offs to doing it that way.
First, the traditional publisher must predict the quantity needed. In other words, they have to predict the market demand for a book – a potentially difficult task.
Second, traditional publishers have to come up with the up-front cash to pay the printer for all those copies of the book. That cash remains tied up in the form of unsold inventory until they can convert it back to cash by selling all the books.
The Print-On-Demand Process
Print-on-demand is the process of manufacturing a book when the customer orders it. Since the books are made to order, you don’t have the problem of predicting the quantity needed. And since you collect the money from the customer before printing the book, there is no need for an upfront investment nor do you have money tied up in unsold inventory.
The only upfront cost is preparing the electronic file from which the books will be printed. But that is far less than what one would have to pay doing it the traditional way.
The downside of print-on-demand is the per book cost doesn’t get cheaper the more copies one prints. It costs the same no matter if it is one copy or 100,000 copies.
Q. What is the difference between a print-on-demand publisher like BookLocker and a traditional publisher?
Traditional publishers buy all rights (you no longer own the book) to your book in exchange for an advance (many authors don’t get advances anymore) and royalties ranging from around 8%-12%, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. The royalties are usually paid to you annually after the accumulated amount is greater than the amount of the advance. In exchange for you giving them all rights, they take your raw manuscript and turn it into a professionally edited and designed marketable product. They pay for a print run to produce copies of the book for distribution. They then negotiate with distributors sell the book to stores, which then sell it to the consumer.
Traditional publishers take all rights and most of the profits because they are taking all the risk. It is their money funding the book as it goes from manuscript to finished product.
Print-on-demand publishers provide the infrastructure to print and market the book yourself.
Exact services vary by company, but at Booklocker we offer the following:
You own all rights to the book and can sell them whenever and however you want.
You keep more of each sale – 35% royalties on print versions, 70% on ebook versions, and 15% if sold though a distributor.
Ingram (the largest book distributor in the world) distributes the book traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores, as well as online bookstores (Amazon.com, BN.com, etc.).
The book is sold directly to the customer via our Web site (Booklocker.com).
Essentially, BookLocker handles all the details of printing, distributing and fulfilling sales for you, and then we cut you a check for your share of the profits every month (provided it is more than $20). For more specific information on BookLocker’s services, see our FAQ: Questions About the Services of Our Print-on-Demand and Ebook Publishing Company.
Q. Why should I go with BookLocker versus a traditional publisher?
Well, there are some benefits to working with a traditional publisher.
If your manuscript is accepted, there are no out-of-pocket costs. They will do all the editing, formatting,design and printing involved in creating a book for the marketplace.
They can reach a wider market, in some cases, because of their relationships.
If you can negotiate a particularly good advance or commitment to marketing, it might be a better payoff for you than you could achieve using your own means.
In some circles, there is more prestige in having a traditional publisher’s name on your book.
But there are some downsides to working with a traditional publisher too.
You give up all rights to the work and how it is eventually packaged and marketed. If you don’t like what they are doing with the book, too bad. You no longer own it.
They often woo authors with the promise of marketing plans, but if you search online, you’ll find that many traditionally published authors become disillusioned with the marketing strategy and amount of resources the traditional publisher actually commits. Ironically, many authors end up marketing their own books because they are frustrated with the poor strategy and execution of the publisher.
There are some myths about being traditionally published too.
Authors sometimes assume their book will actually be in all the bookstores. This is usually not the case. Most books published traditionally do not appear in all bookstores, or even most of them. There are simply far too many books than there is shelf space.
Traditional publishers usually accept returns (buying back unsold copies from stores) and offer deeper wholesale discounts – making the books more tempting for bookstores to stock. But if those books don’t sell, the returns will be taken out of the author’s future royalties. And though it is rarely enforced, most traditional publishing contracts have a clause that allows the publisher to request that the author even pay back the advance if the book doesn’t generate enough sales.
If you just want to hand off a manuscript to someone and be done with it, then maybe a traditional publisher is the right choice for you.
But if you have an aptitude for sales and marketing and can see how you could build a business around selling your book, you should consider just doing it yourself. You get more of the profit and more control over the process. And you keep all rights until the right situation to get the maximum value presents itself.
BookLocker makes it easy for you to do that by taking care of all the printing, distribution and fulfillment for you. For more specific information on Booklocker’s services, see our FAQ: Questions About the Services of Our Print-on-Demand and Ebook Publishing Company.
Q. Are there some POD publishers posing as traditional publishers?
Yes. Just like in every industry, there are companies that mislead and cheat consumers. This industry is no different.
For example, there’s one firm online that claims to pay an advance (it is only a dollar) and to edit books as a traditional publisher would. But their editing process is really no more than looking for typos in MSWord. Their business model appears to be squeezing money out of the author later by encouraging them to buy books for their friends and family at grossly inflated prices. And their contract locks you in for seven years.
The key distinction between shady POD companies and reputable ones seems to be over the issue of rights. No honest POD firm will ask for any rights other than the right to sell the book for you. And you should be able to revoke that right when you leave them.
The best POD firms will ask for the non-exclusive right to sell the book – which means you, or anyone else you allow, are free to sell the book too. And they will allow you to terminate the relationship quickly, and in turn terminate their right to sell your book. (At BookLocker, we ask for non-exclusive rights to sell the book and you can terminate your contract with 24-hours notice.)
If you are going to give rights away to a company, you need to be sure what you are getting in return is worth the value of the rights you are giving way. And any firm that asks for all rights and a fee to publish your book should be avoided.
Always check out the firms you’re considering working with in the online forums before sending money. The best sites for this are:
- WritersWeekly’s Whispers and Warnings
(This is BookLocker’s publication for writers).
And always read the contract before you sign it. BookLocker’s contract is available for review here.
Q. What is the process from when you accept my manuscript to the time the book is ready for sale?
Usually the process takes 4 to 6 weeks from the time you submit your final files to the time you get your print proof.
Q. How do I submit a manuscript for consideration?
The submission process is two steps.
First, you fill out a form. We’ll use this to create a log of your submission.
Second, after you submit this information, we give you an email address and an ID number. You use that email address to send in a file of your manuscript and you’ll put the ID number in the subject of the email.
We don’t require any special formatting to submit a book for consideration. We only ask that it be a text, pdf, rich text or MSWord document.
All we ask is that you don’t start the process until your manuscript is complete and ready for review.