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How to Beat the High Costs of Self Publishing

You asked about book production and printing and why self publishing is so expensive …

This blurb from Dan Poynter’s May 2008 e-zine for publishers and authors might help to explain:

"PUBLISHING COSTS SOAR — WILL BOOK PRICES FOLLOW? Rising energy costs are affecting both paper and trucking. Publishers are responding by consolidating more shipping, improving returns management, revising trim sizes and using cheaper grades of paper. Some publishers feel trapped; prices can’t be increased with prices already printed on the covers. 2008 is going to be a tough year."

A late 2007 article in our file states that the price of paper in China (where most full color books are published) increased 10 percent in 2007.

And as prices soar, online booksellers offer books at DISCOUNTED prices and Amazon threatens to sell books at a cost not based on the book's published retail but on the publisher's discounted selling price.

What's a small publisher / self-publishing author to do? Is there any hope of making a profit? Of reducing costs?

15 Steps to Dramatically Cut Your Upfront Book Production Cost - The Only Way to Realize a Profit

To reduce what you are charged by your book layout production firm*:

  1. Have your entire book written before you submit it to layout.

  2. Use other good quality, professionally published books as a guide, so you get it right before submitting to layout.

  3. Apply for the ISBN and Library of Congress Catalog Number early.

  4. Have your ideas for the cover clearly defined.

  5. Sketch out any ideas you may have for specific pages or sections of the book.

  6. Completely write the information for your copyright page or leave blanks to be filled in: Who is the author? Editor? Illustrator? Photographer? Cover designer? Production studio?

  7. Do you have permission to use the photos and graphics you are including in your book? Who gets the credit for them?

  8. Number the photos/graphics and cross-reference to those numbers in the text precisely where those photos/graphics should go.

  9. Include captions for the photos, including pertinent information (name, date, place, occasion) and a photographer’s credit.

  10. Know what size your book will be: height and width.

  11. Know the retail price you want people to pay.

  12. Submit the entire package to your production firm with nothing missing: copyright page, introduction, prologue, acknowledgments, dedication, all chapters and sidebars, how to order more copies, about the author, photos/images, tables, charts, etc. – complete and finished – don’t leave anything out. Also include text for the front cover, back cover and spine. Again, use other professionally produced, similar type books as your guide. Do not feel you must include all the pages mentioned here; pick the most appropriate ones.

  13. If you can visualize it, make up a little dummy book to show your layout artist where and how you want certain items and pages.

  14. Keep revisions and changes to a minimum after you’ve submitted your material.

  15. Insist that your production firm (or whoever is responsible) obtain estimates from at least three established book manufacturing printers so you can compare prices. Verify that the specifications you present to the printer include things like shrink wrapping, shipping/delivery, sales tax, color proof of the cover, proofs of the text and other options. Ask questions about the estimates and ask how pricing can be (A) reduced without cutting quality and (B) guaranteed not to exceed a certain amount.

We hope this information is helpful. Just let us know how we can assist you with your book project.

*Applies to firms that invoice based on hourly rates or charge "extra" for assisting you with your book contents and planning and for making revisions.


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