Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steps to Publication #4: Choosing a POD Printer


With my “Ready-To-Sell Package & eCombo Package” from Accurance, I am to get e-book distribution (which I kind of understand, being an experienced downloader and reader of e-books from Barnes & Noble and Smashwords), but I’m also going to get a books-printed-on-paper account set up for me, with the print-on-demand (POD) publisher that “best suits” me.

To quote from Accurance.com:
"Accurance has worked hard through the years to choose POD publishers and printers that we feel strongly [about] recommending to our authors. These companies must meet strict criteria for low price, high quality, experience, service level, and much more. Though we are always researching, we currently work with three such companies. Our expertise in publishing allows us to be able to match the perfect publisher to each of our authors, and then do all the work to get your book on the market. Currently we are recommending one of the three firms:
• LULU
• CreateSpace
• Lightning Source (LSI)”

Lightning Source (LSI)

Lightning Source, an Ingram subsidiary, is “the leading printer and distributor of print-on-demand books,” according to Wikipedia. Lightning Source works with publishers. According to the LSI website, a small publisher receives the following services:
Print to Order

           The publisher sets the retail price, wholesale discount, and return policy.
           We send the data out to our Distribution partners (including leading distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and others).
           They capture the demand from booksellers, libraries, and consumers and we print to fill the order.
           We collect the wholesale price, deduct the print cost, and pay the publisher the balance.
           The price for this service is $12.00 a year per title.
           To avoid book buyers having to backorder, Lightning Source guarantees that books ordered by Ingram will be printed and returned to their [Ingram's?] shipping dock within 8-12 hours, generally in time to be included in the book buyer’s regular order.
What services does Lightning Source provide for the $12 per year Digital Catalog Fee?
           Standardized BISAC subject coding with up to 3 subject categories.
           Detailed title listing in all daily catalogs Lightning Source provides to its U.S. distribution partners (e.g., Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, etc.).
           Detailed title listing in all daily catalogs Lightning Source provides to its International distribution partners (e.g., Amazon UK, Whitakers/Bookdata, Gardners, etc.).
           Title summary (annotation) inclusion in our enhanced bibliographic catalog feed.
           Thumbnail cover image preparation and inclusion in our enhanced bibliographic catalog feed.
That all sounds pretty good. Well worth the $12 a year. Especially if the following printing-cost info from “Self-Publishing with Lightning Source POD” (dated 2007) is still valid:
“Lightning Source as a printing option removes nearly all risk from being [an independent small] publisher. There is an initial setup cost of approximately $100, and apart from a few ancillary costs (e.g. purchasing an ISBN for your book) that is the complete financial risk. Once set up, the cost per book (for paperback) is around $1 flat fee, plus around a cent and a half per page (so a 200-page book costs $3.50 to print, while a 500-page book costs $7.40 to print). Finally, there is an ongoing listing fee of $12 per book each year. Mind you, this fee gets your book registered on both LS in the US and the UK (and as such, Amazon US and UK)—a trivial amount when you consider you can recoup it with two sales.”

What About Lulu and CreateSpace?

I have gotten the feeling, from my communications with the folks at Accurance, that they tend to steer their clients toward Lulu. Of Lulu, Wikipedia says:
“The retail price for the published item is determined based on printing costs, the author’s selected profit margin, and the fee charged by the distributor for distributed items. Printing costs for books are correlated to the page count, paper size, binding type, and color or black-and-white print. The author’s margin is partitioned into 80% for the author and 20% for Lulu.”
That’s pretty general: I need specifics. At Lulu.com, I couldn’t readily find info about costs and pricing, but here are interesting details from Crimson Melodies:
“CreateSpace offers much, much better prices on POD books than Lulu (seriously, half the price pre-retail markup) … printing a 280-page book on Lulu costs just over $10 before retail markup. On CreateSpace, that same book (if you invest $40 in the pro-plan) is only $5 before retail markup …

“For a 280-page, 6x9 dimension book, retailed at $12.99 (assume CreateSpace pro-plan):
Single Copy Cost
CreateSpace: $4.21
Lulu: $10.10 (actual manufacturing cost is $7.10, but $10.10 is your cost to buy)
(Coincidentally, CreateSpace says it costs $7.10 for one book without the pro-plan.)”

What Will My 400-Page Fantasy Novels Cost to Print?

The figures cited by Crimson Melodies alarm me. $10.10 for a 280-page book works out to about $0.036 per page. So for my 400-page novels, the cost of printing (before retail markup) could be around $14.50 at Lulu.

All things considered—and especially considering the thickness of the three books of WATERSPELL—I’m thinking that Lightning Source could be my best bet.

This is definitely something to discuss with my account representative (“Author partner”) at Accurance.

In a later blog posting, I’ll let you know which way we decide to jump.

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