Getting Published or E-published/The Cost Of Publishing


QUESTION: Dear Bill Frank,

When I nearly completed my manuscript I was feeling, What a relief! But now, my new road blocks are seemingly worst. I am unemployed. I felt writing a book would be the terrific way to make an income, but it seems long gone are the days of an advance towards your book. The upfront fees to write a book is horrible if you are already struggling! I even went on, but I'm a little embarrassed to Tweet the project. I decided maybe I can purchase a cheaper costing ISBN and barcode, and then I would need a printer, and distributer, but even Lulu or Blurb wants $$something$$. Is there anyway under the sun around this, where I won't be robbed of my royalties to save cost by cutting deals? I need startup cost for my book fees. I have a cover designed already, and I worked a good deal on editing. Yet, printing, distribution, and marketing remain problems. I'm trying to do for myself to earn a buck, any suggestions in a tough economy when labor statistics are saying one thing, but companies hiring actions are saying something else?

Also, I spoke with a spokesman from a major Publisher, and she asked me my Book title, and I told her the title, Should I be concerned about that? I will await your reply. Thank you.

PS: My subject category is Christianity.

ANSWER: Dear William,

Thanks for your question. Congratulations on completing your manuscript! That's quite an accomplishment.

You adequately laid out the obstacles to publishing a book in your question. Without knowing exactly what your budget is for the project (and how much of that budget you've already spent), it's hard to answer the first part of your question with any certainty.

Your idea to crowdfund the book is an intriguing one. Many authors have tried it, but it's been my experience the ones succeeding at it had two things going for them. 1) They had completed a book proposal prior to launching the crowdfunding campaign. (The book proposal may have been a relic of their initial attempt to have the book published through a traditional publisher) 2) They produced a "killer" video outlining their project. Crowdfunding is cool, but if you're embarrassed to Tweet about your project, it may not be the best alternative for you. Besides, some financial pundits say there's a bubble in crowdfunding that's about to burst. We'll see.

As a rule, a traditional publisher will not want a manuscript from a first-time author unless that author has a large audience already. it's too risky otherwise. Do you have a following? A blog with lots of followers? A Facebook fan page that has a lot of LIKES? If you do, be sure to always mention that when pitching a publisher or an agent.

To publish yourself requires you accept the responsibilities (and risks) of a publisher. Those include editing, cover design, printing, storing, shipping & fulfilling orders to consumers, distributors or bookstores. As you pointed out, there are costs associated with every one of those responsibilities.

One alternative you didn't mention was to publish your book on Amazon through its publishing services. This reduces your responsibilities because Amazon takes on the printing and some of the distribution from you. In exchange, Amazon will keep a percentage of the purchase price of each book sold.

While publishing through Amazon defrays your production costs of publishing your book, it also increases your marketing expense. Now, your book will be one of the hundreds of thousands of books Amazon sells. You will spend more money to make your book stand out on Amazon than you might otherwise spend.

Choosing an alternative comes back to your budget if you plan to make money with your book. How many books do you have to sell at what price to be profitable? Beyond profitability, how many books do you have to sell to "earn a buck" as you say? How much is earning a buck in your mind?

To your second question, you needn't worry about the major publisher knowing your book's title. The spokesperson may not be in the Christian genre and the title will mean nothing to her. Even if she is, the publisher has a team of editors working on titles for their books that are SEO optimized, catchy and witty. It's unlikely that your title will fit any of the books they're working on.

Continued success with your book project.

Best regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Bill, thank you for your assistance. After careful consideration, I'm starting to feel Blurb's Self-Publishing company may be my best course of action. But with such a rough economy, I imagine the competition would be fierce. In many ways, I wish I could rewind the economy back to the 1980s, during a time when it seemed publishers provided authors an advance for their work (or is that merely a fanciful conceptualization?). It seemed opportunities were easier to come by.   

From what I can ascertain, if a person uses CreativeSpace by Amazon, they are forced to use an ISBN provided by them, and that means all sales are through Amazon only. Is that good are not so good? That would mean no Ingram and no B&N. This would be my first book. An income? To tell you the truth, I really wouldn't know what to expect. Bill, there is much scripture from the Holy Bible in what I write, and I figure, if God wants it to sell through the traffic of other books, He will make a way for that to happen. I was wondering could I make a living in this manner, but only God knows if that will manifest. I already have a Twitter account. I slowed activity on it, to write more aggressively for my book. Do you know if paying for more followers on Twitter actually works? Even if it does, Who can keep up with that amount of people to follow back? I will await your reply. Thanks. William

Hello, again, William.

Your decision to go with Blurb instead of CreateSpace is sound. What you say about CreateSpace is true. They capture you by issuing the ISBN and limit where you can sell that ISBN.

If selling to bookstores is your goal, then you will not want to limit yourself to Amazon exclusively. There are several points to consider, however.

1)  Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world. It didn't exist in the 1980s, the halcyon time you refer to in your email. Today, though, an author can't afford not to be present on Amazon. Blurb will put you on Amazon and into Ingram, too. It's the best alternative for you if selling through bookstores is your goal.

2)  Blurb doesn't tell you a few things about selling through Ingram that you should know. First, Ingram will pay you slowly for any books you sell through them. Typically, they delay payments 3-6 months because of an antiquated practice in the book trade known as returns. A bookstore may return a book to Ingram after 90 days and get a full refund. This practice began in the 1930s during the Depression when nobody was selling books. The books are in the bookstore on consignment, essentially. The bookstore may return the book no questions asked and in any condition. That means a certain percentage of books will return damaged and unsaleable. Second, simply having your book available in Ingram doesn't mean bookstores will buy it. Ingram has no salesforce visiting Barnes & Noble or Book-a-Million to pitch the latest books. Ingram is an order taker only. To stimulate interest in your book, you will have to market to the consumer (to have them "pull" the book through the distribution chain by ordering it at their local bookstore) and the bookstores (to let them know your book is available and to whom they should sell it). This marketing requires an investment in time and money.

To your point about buying Twitter followers, I can share my own experience. It's a fool's errand. You can buy as many followers as you like, but that doesn't mean they will be potential buyers of your book. Furthermore, it doesn't mean they will spread the word about your book to their followers. It's a long-shot gamble, and not a good investment, in my experience.

Finally, having a business plan for your book will help do several things. First, it will solidify your thinking about how and where you will market your book Second, it will give divine providence an idea of what you're trying to accomplish with the book. How can God act if he doesn't know what your expectations are for his help. Third, it helps Blurb, Ingram and other entities you will deal with to know you are serious about your book and have given it thought.

Good luck in your next steps with your book.

Best regards,

Getting Published or E-published

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Bill Frank


I help authors become publishers. I'm a self-publishing consultant with resources in editing, graphic design, printing, distribution and marketing. I can help you turn your manuscript into a published book. I identify the best distribution channels for your book. I also help you build a marketing plan to sell the book. I specialize in non-fiction books and I take fiction books on a selective basis.


Book layout and design; book printing; channels of distribution and book marketing.

Publishers' Marketing Association. Book Publicists of Southern California.

MBA in Marketing and Finance. BA in Economics.

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