Work continues on my new book and I am making good progress on the writing and illustrations. The difficulties of bringing it to print, though, may delay or completely shut down the project.
My intent was to go through Amazon’s self publishing service, however, they don’t offer a coil or spiral bound option. My book is a field and road trip guide, something to take along in a car or truck. Something that would lay flat and not close itself like a conventional book.
Lulu.com does offer that option and I have been considering them. But I’ve been reading a detailed blog post on one man’s experience that seems extremely distressing:
Essentially, he exactingly formatted a .pdf to Lulu’s specifications, only to find their presses could not reproduce his work with that specificity. His first proof copy came out bad, the second, worse. Everything in his first proof was shifted up and to the left, leaving his carefully plotted margins worthless. Again, the second proof was worse. I could not go through this.
His advice is that Lulu might be great for a simple book with wide margins on every page, but for anything beyond that, forget it.
“Lulu.com is great for simple print jobs with WIDE margins of error, but for high-precision, detail-oriented printing, they just don’t cut it.”
My book would use double columns as with my old magazine. I know the look I want and I am finicky. I have a question into Lulu that has so far gone unanswered. The blog poster, Jeff Starr, also mentions terrible customer support. To be fair to Lulu, he did go through the entire process with them so he knows what he is writing about.
I mentioned my magazine. I had a local printing company run off copies of it and they were very good. I later had a printing company in Point Arena, California, publish a few issues and they were also excellent. But both were extremely expensive; good printing isn’t cheap and they want their money up front.
Today, in 2020, we live in the world of print-on-demand. Somebody orders a copy of a self published book done through Amazon and Amazon fulfills the order by printing it and drop shipping it to the customer. No up front costs as Amazon takes their cut when a book sells. Great. As long as what you have produced comes out the way that you want it. At a price someone can afford. I will continue looking around for a coil bound publisher with a good reputation.
Another choice comes to mind which is totally contradictory to my previous publishing experience. This would involve buying an enterprise level copier and then running off the copies myself. People could buy the title using PayPal and I would mail it off myself. This shouldn’t work.
Traditional printing presses win because the cost per page decreases with volume. Ink is fairly cheap, just let the press run.
Ink cartridges, on the other hand, never decrease in price as page count goes up. There is no economy of scale possible with an ink cartridge, your cost per page is always set. But there may be another way to work around this.
Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and most other distributors take at least 40% of a book’s cover price. This is standard and has been for decades in the book trade. Magazines, too.
A twenty dollar book, therefore, would result in $12 net to me. What if I took that missing eight dollars and threw it into buying a copier and cartridges and a maintenance contract? I’d control the entire process and could produce the title exactly the way I wanted. Much to think about, as the mechanics and economics of publishing are now getting in the way.
All of this is avoided when you work under contract with a traditional publisher, not a vanity press. My experience with traditional publishing though, was a disaster as I have written about before. I tried traditional, with the largest field guide publisher in the United States. 14 months under contract, only to have them change the book title, its orientation, and its release date without ever consulting me. That MS I submitted remains unpublished.
I now have no help with design or production or costs. This is better, though, that dealing with people I can’t trust. If I self publish, well, at least I can trust myself.
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