A Guide To Self-Publishing Part IV

Posted on: 23 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The fourth in Johnnie Johnson's five part series on self-publishing deals with printing and pricing your book.

One of the great problems of the self-publisher is how great the print run is to be.

Bear in mind that fiction is not as easy to sell as non-fiction.

And although you might have had a wonderful life of startling fascination, not everyone will see it that way. Your autobiography may be just what your family are dying to read, another slot of family history filled. But it will not necessarily engage the interest of total strangers.

I would advise the autobiographer to have his work printed on demand. Take your disk to a printer who will run off one copy or ten copies or a hundred if you’re confident enough that an account of your years in accountancy - sorry, accountants, I mean any kind of workplace! - is absolutely riveting. But if it is riveting you can always go back for more. You don’t need a great print run.

POD printers generally seem to charge a penny a page and about 60p for a colour cover. So your 200 page book works out at £2.60. Remember, however, there are other costs.  I estimate that you will have paid somewhere in the region of £800-£1000 to have the layout done. And there are other costs too which I shall come to later.

Non-fiction is really easier to sell than fiction. But it is targeted as specific readerships. Introducing Crochet To The Senior Citizen will have a readership though possibly it will never make a best seller. A Short History of Lower Bogworth may appeal not only to its 700 inhabitants but the many tourists to this gem of a village may latch onto it. And local historians throughout the region may find it absorbing. Check your market. And let them know about your book. Don’t overstock if you’re using POD. It isn’t necessary.

As for fiction I should not recommend having more than 1,000 copies printed. In fact 500 might be a wiser idea. You will have to remember that you cannot sell all of the copies.  Inevitably you’ll give some away but don’t be too generous. Then there will be review copies.

There’s the inevitable half a dozen copies that you are obliged by law to send. Five of the copies are sent to the Agent for the Copyright Libraries, 100 Euston Street, London NW7 2HQ and one copy to the Legal Deposit Office, The British Library, Boston Spa, West Yorkshire LS23 7BY.

So how to price the book supposing that it has cost you £1000 for the layout and £2.60 for each of 500 copies? That is an outlay of £1300 and that does not count the ink, paper, phone calls, petrol you have already spent and potential post and packing if copies are to be sent through the post.  But let’s stick with the £1300. And say you have given away 25 copies. It seems that each copy ought to be sold for about £2.90.

Not so!

Say you sell through bookshops.  They will want at least 35 per cent discount though local bookshops may take pity on you and reduce that figure. But what if you sell through the big chains?  They will probably ask for up to 50 per cent and they will be merciless if you start asking for discount reduction. And then there is good old Amazon! Great to see your book there rubbing shoulders with the big boys. But they will knock off 60 per cent.

Advice on how to work out the cover price is varied. There are those who suggest that the book should be five times the unit cost. But wait a minute, that means your book would retail at £14.50. The question is, will people buy it? For that amount you can buy three books for the price of two at the big chains. Don’t price yourself out of the market.

Perhaps the best advice is to charge about three times the unit cost. That would bring your cover price to about £7.50.

What if you will receive requests for the book through the post? Well, you have made some allowance for that in your estimated costs. Some writers even advertise the book as ‘post free.’ You can bear free post and packing.

By Johnnie Johnson

About The Author

Johnnie Johnson and David Arscott have written more than 60 titles between them, both fiction and non-fiction, and have a broad experience of both mainstream and self-publishing.

Now the two local authors with a wealth of publishing experience between them are organising a day's seminar in Lewes to take writers through the process of organising your book, hardware and software, designing a cover, preparing your book for the printer, costing and pricing and promotion and distribution.

Their seminar is at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes, on Tuesday, 21st October, from 10am until 4pm.

The fee is £100 a head, including morning coffee and tea in the afternoon. The Tavern serves snacks and lunches.

For further details contact David or Johnnie by Tuesday 30th September on:

Johnnie Johnson: 01323 725524 or johnhijo@btinternet.com
Website: www.johnniejohnson.co.uk

David Arscott: 01273 470100 or pomegranatepress@aol.com
Website: www.pomegranate-press.co.uk.

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