My Publishing Journey (Part-II)

Part-I of this article is HERE!

My POD Journey

I have a flaw. I don’t have patience. If you want to get your book published by a traditional publisher, learn to have patience. Since I had already waited 7 months for the book to be accepted, I was not too keen to wait anymore. After researching on the subject, I zeroed in on Print on Demand or POD.

Print on demand (POD) as the name suggests is a service wherein a book is not printed until an order has been received and paid for. So, if there is a specific demand, the book would be printed. This ensures that there is no inventory or unsold stock. This also means a fixed cost per copy which is higher than offset printing. In offset printing, the setup cost (i.e. making the print plates) is higher but as the print runs are high, the overall cost comes cheaper than POD. 

POD is not without its share of risks, the main being content quality. Anyone with a manuscript, irrespective of its content quality can go for POD and get a book published. If you will, POD is a form of self-publishing minus all the hassles.

In India ISBN (unique book identification number) is given out free. In my case, I could either have got myself an ISBN for my book and published it under my own name or taken help of POD experts. I opted for the latter as it was easier and simpler.

The following are the 2 most reliable POD service providers in India:
    For authors who are outside India or who want to market their book outside India, here are a few options:

    After talking to Leonard Fernandes of CinnamonTeal, I decided that this Goa based POD service provider was the one I would tie up with. This was in June 2010. My journey of becoming a published author had just started.

    The entire process comprised of the following phases:

    1. Signing a standard author contract with the publisher
    2. Getting an ISBN allotted to the book
    3. Getting the cover page designed
    4. Laying out the manuscript for it to be print ready
    5. Printing

    Just like traditional publishing, POD service providers ask you to submit your manuscript. You can either edit and proofread your manuscript yourself or engage the POD’s services to do the same. The book cover design comes next and finally the listing. Most POD service providers have their own online bookstore. The listing is free but it comes for a price (more on that later). Once the book gets listed, all one has to do is shop for it online. After the payment is confirmed, the publisher would go ahead and print a copy and ship it.

    In my case, the above 5 took less than a month as I had already formatted my manuscript for a 5”x8” book. Priyanka Pereira from CinnamonTeal took real pains to get everything in place.

    Show me the money:

    The basic services of a POD provider are free. These include, ISBN allotment (in India at least it is) and book submission. Most of the POD service providers do not screen submissions but some do for language and the content. If you want to go beyond the basics (ISBN, printing, binding etc), and add proofreading, editing, formatting, cover design, marketing services, and the like, you will have to purchase these services separately. Now comes the second most trickiest and complicated part of getting a book published (I’ll talk about the No. 1 trickiest part later): Pricing the book.

    Let’s discuss the cost price of the book first. I’ll discuss this with an example. Let’s suppose that the book is of 195 pages. At a rate of 60paise per page, the printing cost would come to Rs 117. Now you add the printing cost of the colored cover page and perfect binding, which is Rs 60. He is the lowdown, point wise:
    • Cost of printing the book: Rs 117
    • Cost of printing the cover page and binding: Rs 60
    • Total cost price: Rs 177

    So Rs 177 is the cost of 1 copy. Now comes the “author’s cut” or royalty. As an author who thinks that you have delivered your magnum opus, you would obviously want some of the book sales proceeds to come into your pocket. Fair enough! Now here’s the deal. It’s a tradeoff between low royalty (and higher volumes in terms of sale) or high royalty (which might result in low sales volume). I’ll leave it to you to decide how much is too much.

    Now comes the price for listing and the commission. Yes you heard me correctly. The online book retailer takes his/her own commission for listing and selling the book. There are 3 options when it comes to retailing your book: the POD service provider’s online bookstore, 3rd party retailers (e.g. Indiaplaza, Flipkart etc.) and brick and mortar bookstores. Here’s how the pricing would work for the 3 options:

    1.         If you get your book listed on the POD service provider’s online bookstore, you will have to pay a commission of 20%. After the 20% is deducted you will have to pay for the printing cost of your book. After the printing cost is met, whatever remains will be your (authors) revenue.
      • Suppose you price the book at Rs. 250, then after deducting the 20% commission the price will be Rs. 200. From this you will have to pay for the printing cost of your book which will be Rs. 200-177. So the author’s cut would be Rs 23.
    1. If you get your book listed on Indiaplaza and Flipkart, you will have to pay a commission of 45% and 40% respectively.
    2. If you want distributors to market your book to brick and mortar bookstores, they will distribute a minimum of 100 copies. These 100 books will have to be printed at the cost of the author. The author will have to offer a discount of 50% on the MRP of each book. Books will be on returnable basis. You can receive a count of your books at any time on request from the POD service provider.

    Marketing the Book:

    Now let me come to the trickiest (discussing this as promised earlier) part of self-publishing or going the POD way. It's marketing. The downside of self-publishing or using the services of a POD service provider is the absence of marketing backbone. When I mean "absence", I mean it is not free or at the cost of the publisher. In traditional publishing, the publisher pays for the marketing which includes press releases, book launches and author signing. In self-publishing or POD, it comes for a price and this comes out of the author's pocket.

    If you have the money, you can go a long way in getting publicity for your book and selling it (provided it's worth reading). If you want free marketing, then you need to be smart. Not that I have sold billion copies and am a pro in this but I’m learning and trying. So here are my two paisa on generating that buzz for you book that will get it sold and fly off the virtual online bookshelf.

    1. Get someone of importance to review your book. Good or bad, at least people will know about your book.
    2. Check and convince a bookstore to stock your book and offer free book reading sessions.
    3. Offer a monthly newsletter that has information about your books in particular and the publishing world in general.
    4. Offer sample chapters of your book for free. You can the first chapter of my book here.
    5. Print personalized business card with your book's details and offer them to anyone interested.
    6. Network socially. This could be offline and online. Use the power of Internet to exploit the marketing buzz creating potential of Facebook, Orkut, Linkedin, Twitter etc. Believe me, doing this will result in creating and increasing the buzz at an exponential rate.
    7. Generate original content on the publishing industry and issues surrounding your book and publish them on your website, blog or ezine sites. You can even write on the aspects of being a published writer similar to this one.
    8. If everything fails and you have the money, hire a PR/marketing firm to publicize your book.

    At the end of the day, publicity or no publicity, marketing or no marketing, traditional or self-publishing, it is the quality of your book that will take it far or fall flat on its face. If your book is good, it will find a place in the reader’s bookshelf.

    The tools:

    We all have only one lifetime to achieve our dreams. If you want to see your book getting published during this lifetime, then you need to manage your time well. With all plot and sub-plot ideas, characters and settings, it is very easy to lose focus on your timelines.

    As a first time writer, it is very important to deliberately and systematically measure and keep track of your progress. 

    There are a number of ways to track your progress. Some may use free tools available online to keep track of your daily word count and some may use spreadsheets. For keeping track of the progress on my first book, I had come up with a spreadsheet which automatically showed whether I was “On Track” or is the project “Delayed”. This spreadsheet might come in handy for any writer and can be downloaded from here (The spreadsheet will open in Google Docs. You need to go to File-> Download as-> Excel). The cells have comments which would make user-input fairly easy.

    At the end of the day, I'd say, it’s the journey which matters, not the destination. I suggest you never lose touch with the pleasure of writing. Write what you would like to read. Getting published is just a perk but the satisfaction you'd get by writing a book is something that can only be experienced to believe it.

    All the best and wish me luck!

    Copyright (c) Pigtale 2005-2010. Images copyright respective holders.

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