Print On Demand Point Of View

I saw a nicely detailed article this morning about Print On Demand (POD) in Australia. You can read it here.

However, there were a few details that I think could be either updated or extended. To make sense of this post, please do read Captain Honey’s one.

RIP

Firstly, it is worth noting that Createspace is no more, and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has assumed the functionality. Some have bemoaned the changes in service and the extended time before royalties are paid, but it is a done deal.

The available print on demand include paperback and hardback. However, don’t forget saddle stitch, which is available in certain sizes through Ingram Spark.

Formatting

When it comes to book formatting ready for print, there are a number of tools. Traditionally programs like Quark Xpress and Indesign have been used. However, I take advantage of a simpler program called Vellum. It’s not cheap (though cheaper than those previously mentioned) but is very easy to use. There is some trade off with flexibility. Vellum also formats ebooks beautifully. You can find out more about it here.

Draft2Digital, an ebook publisher support company is expanding to include print as an option, including automatic formatting. I cannot vouch for it, but check it out.

KPD and IngramSpark/Lightning Source (LS) use different paper. This means that if you use both services as I do for print, you need two different cover files from your cover designer to account for differences in spine width. I keep choosing wrap around cover designs. I am an idiot.

Don’t forget your ebook version will have different cover dimensions.

Proofs

Be careful with KDP. They have no ability to set a launch date for the printed versions. You may accidentally go live well before you mean to. As well, KDP will not ship proof copies to Australia. You must ship to the US and arrange someone to forward it for you. I’m going through this right now. IngramSpark allows you to override the launch date, so you can send yourself copies to check.

Price and Retail

One challenge with POD is the high per product cost. This is especially true for longer works. Children’s books are often priced lower than adult’s, and that can squeeze the self publishing children’s author quite a long. For example, The Steele Trap, my upcoming middle grade novel, is about 344 pages long. To make a single dollar of profit when going through Ingram’s distribution and using the standard retailer discount, the book has to be priced above $23. Dymocks Adelaide have been very nice to let me sell via consignment, and it will be interesting to see what sticker price we can go with. Otherwise, direct sales are much more viable for profit, but poor for finding customers.

Amazon tends not to show products as in stock if they are produced by IngramSpark (I suspect larger publishers have the power to stop this). It is said that book retailers often won’t stock a product with a whiff of Amazon, so Ingram is better for bookstore distribution. That is why I use both KDP and Ingram.

A big distribution warning: return-ability. IngramSpark warns that you will be unlikely to get any retail sales if you do not allow return-ability. However, this is a massive cost risk to you. At any point a retailer could return several copies in unusable condition, a dozen could, and you could be up for thousands of dollars to repay Ingram for printing them in the first place.

I’d love to use IngramSpark to handle sales, print and send copies of the books to customers as the post author says LS do, but I haven’t looked into it. Can it be done via IS?

Quality

In the US, it is said that the printers for KDP and IS can sometimes be the same, though there is a general view that IS is slightly better. My personal experience is that the cover stock for IS here in Australia seems that tiny bit stiffer. Sadly, there are no options for a heavier (better) cover stock. Re blurb, I would look into the online reviews. I’ve never used them, but I have concerns given what I’ve read. Colour matching isn’t a feature of POD, so be aware the final result may not be 100% as you envisioned.

Tips

There are promo codes going around all the time for IngramSpark. So check with your indie author community or do a google search before paying a cent.

There is a thriving indie author community, both in Australia and generally online. Take advantage of that community, share you knowledge and remember, we’re competing against other forms of entertainment, not each other.

Have a good weekend,

— R Max Tillsley

Robert Tillsley