Just the facts Ma’ma, nothing but the facts!

In Australia there are many options for independently publishing. In truthfully and brutally relaying my experiences as I investigated them, and joined the long list of self-published authors, I am not trying to discourage anyone from independently publishing, just trying to help them avoid any mistakes I have made. 

At http://www.selfpublish.com.au/book_publishing-where_do_I_start.html you will find many different options. I will briefly cover a few of the options I explored.

 PARTNER PUBLISHERS: A partner publisher charges a fee for publishing your book. They will tell you it is for editing, setting the book up ready for printing, cover design and organizing the distribution. (from around $3,000 – $7000+ depending on the firm – last time I checked) But in my experience, if you tell them that book is edited, set up, and the cover design is complete, they still don’t reduce their fees. As far as distribution goes, they will put it on online bookshops – most overseas (which is something you can easily do). 

 A partner publisher accepted my manuscript. I decided to investigate further before I signed the contract. I went back to their website and set out to buy one of the books they had published. This is what I found.

Most of the online bookstores they use are in America only, and linked to a POD system over there. Australian buyers then have to pay postage from America. If someone goes into a bookshop in Australia and ask them to order the book, the staff will check their stock list and find it is not there. If you persist and tell them the name of the partner publisher the staff will check if the store has an account with the supplier and if not most won’t buy it in. If they do, the publisher will charge such high postage that it makes the book far too expensive for most buyers. The book I was trying to buy had $9.50 added to it for postage. This made the book (a children’s book) $29.50. Most parents won’t pay that much for a children’s book. The partner publishers I have checked out do not actively sell to bookshops or have a book distributor in Australia.

 INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHING WITH POD (print on demand printers)

ON-LINE PUBLISHERS:

There are quite a few. I have had experience with only one so I will talk about that one.  CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon, will publish your book for nothing but the cost of the six books you are required to buy. You have to set the book up print-ready to the specifications they give you. They place them for sale on Amazon and print them when they get an order.  But they do not promote them at all, and because most Australians won’t buy from Amazon because of the freight charges, promoting them in Australia is pointless. Promoting yourself in America is difficult and costly. The profit from CreateSpace is small and they will only pay Australians by cheque, and charge $8US to write you one. There is also a tax problem to sort out. I have published a book this way and I don’t recommend them.

 There is now an alternative, Lightning Source Australia. http://www.lightningsource.com/international/index.aspx?loc=en-au

Lightning Source is a subsidiary company of Ingram, a large book publisher in the UK and America. Once again, you have to supply them with a file set up ready to print but the difference is they are now set-up to print and distribute it to bookstores in Australia, will also do the book as an eBook, and place it in their American and English POD systems as well.

 There is a cost: They charge for the set-up at their end, for advertising in their trade magazine, a catalogue fee to store it on their system and for a proof copy. I worked it out to about $250 per book per country. The other advantage is you make about $3.00 per book. They now pay from Australia and in Australian dollars. I will be publishing Book 2 in my series with them.

 AUSTRALIAN POD PUBLISHERS

 For those of you who want to independently publish and sell them yourself through a website or directly to the bookshops, this is an option, but be careful of the company you choose.

The advantages are:

If you are not able to set your own book up ready for printing and want a cover designed they will take care of it, but you will have to pay them upfront to have this done. You can order a few as you want to start with, to send out for marketing purposes: reviews, etc. library visits etc.

Then they print as many as you need when orders come in. Some POD publishers offer different distribution and marketing packages and the cost varies depending on what you choose. But once again, most are only offering online, overseas distribution through International POD companies.

Disadvantages:

The unit cost is high. And if you want to use an Australian distributor, you may have to print as many as 300 for stock for them.  These 300 are given to them on consignment. They do not pay up front. The individual cost of the book must be a low as possible if you use a distributor. They will take 68.5% of the retail price. This commission is then split between them and the retailer. I am using Dennis Jones and Associates to distribute for me. But if you go to http://www.publishers.asn and you will find a list of distributors.

I choose to do this, and to get the price of the book down to where I would make some profit through the distributor I had to buy 1,000. To print just the 400 I would have needed for them and for marketing, the unit price was $6.95. Now if the book is going to sell for $20 and the distributor is going to take $13.70, your share is only $6.30. So paying $6.95 would leave you with a debit not a profit. My 1000 cost $4.90 each, so even at this price, my profit is minimal. If I printed 3,000 to start with I could have got the price down to $3.50 each, but I wasn’t willing to outlay that much first time. Of course, once you add the price of the cover design, the eBook conversion and distribution option I choose, the cost of the ISBN, etc the unit cost goes up again.

 Below are my costs when I used Publicious, a POD publisher on the Gold Coast.

 1 ISBN with barcode (includes Global Bowkerlink listing) –  $50.00

1000 copies of your book 198mm x 129mm, 224 pages colour gloss perfect

bound cover, 80gsm white bond paper – ($4.90 per copy)   – $4900.00

1 Delivery of printed books to your address                                – $100.00

1 Converting files to ebook formats (224 pages – $0.90 per page)    – $201.60

1 Ebook distribution (includes FREE ebook ISBN)                             –  $210.00

1 Advance proof copy                                                                                 $30.00

Total                                                                                                          $5491.60

Cover design:                                                                                             $400.00

TOTAL (without the extra cost of the animal illustrations)                 $5891.60

Or a unit price of $5.90, which leaves a profit per book sold through a distributor at just .40c, or a profit of $400 on the investment of nearly $6,000. Not a good return. However, if the books sold more than the 1000, the unit cost for the new print run would be just $4.90, and the profit on the 2nd thousand would be $1.40.

Now if I sold 10,000 at that profit margin the profit would be worth having. However, being realistic, I know the average children’s book sell only 3,000 to 5,000 copies. So if you are going to use a distributor and they sell only a few copies, it is not worth it.

When you sell the books yourself, the profit level is much better – $14.10 per book. If you sell directly to a store, the profit is $5.00. The more books you can sell yourself, through your website, doing launches and book signings etc the more profit you can make. This can help balance the poor profit from the distributor.

At this point the number they have sold and the number I have sold are about the same. But because of the cost of marketing, the books I have given away for reviews, etc I have made no profit or recouped any of my investment to date, however it is early days yet and my marketing to schools is just starting to pay off. I am still hopeful that I will at least sell the 1000 I have printed.  Publicious has sold no eBooks through their distribution system.

I will keep you posted.

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