Is book printing a good idea for indie authors? That’s a loaded question. There are many things to consider regarding cost, inventory, distribution, and even colour reproduction.
Book Printing Lessons Learned the Hard Way
If I knew eight years ago what I know today, I would have given very different advice to a high-profile author regarding her book printing options. At the time, I figured she was a certain best seller in Canada. Not only was she a prominent Canadian athlete, but she was regularly hosted by our national media to speak about her sport.
With guaranteed publicity exposure like that, I was confident she could easily print and sell 2,000 copies of her book. I even assumed she would sell them out so fast that she’d have to print another 2,000 within a few months. We mutually (naively) agreed to this large offset book printing option so she would pay a lower cost per unit. We figured she would save money in the long run. And she would ultimately earn a higher profit per unit on all the books she sold.
In hindsight, we should have had a more in-depth conversation—the discussion I now have with all my authors. Never again will I ever make book printing recommendations based on one’s professional status, popularity, media exposure, or assumed readership. Why? Because this author still has a garage full of books that she never did sell … a fact that bothers me every day. I wish I had done things differently for her. Below is a list of the questions I wish we had clearly answered before printing any books.
How will people know where to buy the books you’ve printed?
During my book publishing career, I’ve worked with two sports icons and other prominent business professionals on their book projects. I’ve learned that, many times, the most successful people are also the most humble people. They don’t boast about their accomplishments. In fact, they don’t enjoy talking about themselves at all. This makes selling books a real challenge. Because the only way to sell your books is to talk about them. And you cannot just mention, “Hey, I’ve written a new book,” and leave it at that. You must come right out and say, “I’ve written a new book, and here’s where you can buy a copy.”
You must ask for the sale in order to make the sale. Over and over and over again. Until all the books you’ve printed are sold.
This author rarely ever mentioned her book during all the media interviews she gave, never mind informing people they could buy copies directly from her. She had the book listed on her website, but she seldom mentioned her website address to the media. Perhaps she thought her website had a strong enough SEO that it would easily attract relevant traffic to her book. And perhaps she also thought, once that traffic arrived, book sales would automatically result.
Rarely does it ever work that way. No matter who you are, you must ask for the sale in order to make the sale. Or hire someone to do that for you.
Here’s the irony in all this: her book is a best seller on Amazon several times over. People went there to buy the digital print-on-demand paperback version of her book, but very few visited her website to buy it direct. So, this bestselling author still has several hundred printed books collecting dust in her garage.
How are you going to distribute the books you’re storing at your home?
When we decided to print her books, we knew she could easily store them in her garage for free. Storage was no problem for her at all. But we never discussed the logistics of actually distributing those books to the buyers who would later purchase them from her website, and this is a critical detail to think through.
Sure, you can expect to pay a lower cost per unit when you print books in bulk. But what is your cost for packaging and delivering each book down the road? Are your buyers able to pick up their books in person? Or can you deliver en masse in person (e.g., selling direct at the back of a conference room at speaking events)? If not, you’ll have to pay for packaging, delivery costs, and possibly even customs fees for buyers who are located outside your country. All these costs can add up and take a huge chunk out of your profits.
On the other hand, if you’re passing those costs onto your buyers, it may prevent them from purchasing from you at all. It might be easier for them to just order your book from ecommerce sites like Amazon that can offer them a much lower shipping rate than you can.
Will local bookstores inventory and sell your printed books for you?
No. They won’t.
For the authors who believe you’ll be able to print and sell direct to popular “bricks and mortar” book retailers, I highly recommend you download and read this additional FREE ebook: Why Traditional Bookstores Won’t Carry Your Book on Their Shelves … and Why That’s Okay. The truth is, if you want your book placed in a local bookstore’s inventory, you must play by the peculiar rules set by the traditional book supply chain. And, believe me, peculiar is the best word to describe these old rules … as I’m sure you’ll agree once you read the book.
As well, most “bricks and mortar” booksellers (e.g., Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and Blackwell’s, et cetera) and libraries will only purchase their books through established distributors such as Ingram Content Group. They simply won’t deal with individual authors on anything more than a per-event consignment basis.
3 Book Printing Tips for Indie Authors
The above questions are far from the only considerations you must make when deciding on your book printing options. In 3 Book Printing Tips for Indie Authors, I discuss many more.
There is much to think about, much to consider when it comes to book printing. For example, printers can be finicky machines at times. Have you ever wondered why, sometimes, a colour image looks different on your computer screen than it does in a printed document? This has much to do with the way the colour file was created by the designer as well as the type of paper it is being printed on and the type of printer being used. If colour precision is important to you, then you need a professional designer to help you design your book before you print it.
Before you engage in any type of book printing at all, be sure to read the above books and answer all these questions for yourself. It could save you a lot of time and money.
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