Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One More Reason

Now I have another reason to add to my growing list of reasons of why I'm glad I self-published. Reason number, I don't know, maybe 25: The high cost of putting your book on a book store's web site. 

The plan to have a book signing at Barnes and Noble in October got pushed back to December when I found out I had to have Fable available for purchase by the stores first. I went to createspace and they kindly helped me through setting it up for their purchasing site, Ingram. 

While I was in the middle of doing this, the guy helping me on the phone did the figures for me to see what my royalties would come out to be after creatspace's, and then B & N's. Guess what, I was negative royalties. 

So, needless to say, I had to raise the price of the book. But I had to raise it $3.00, just to get $1.36 per book. I was not pleased. I felt bad because it also raised it with Amazon. The good news is, Amazon kept the price down still.

My first question, to myself, was how in the world do traditional published author's make any money? No wonder they have to charge 25.00 to 30.00 just to make something. And if you are a new author, the chances of you selling books at that price are much slimmer than a New York Times Best Selling Author!

Which brings me back to reason number 25. 

So, those of you that plan to still go through a traditional publisher need to remember the high cost of just having their name on your book. First, they have their cut, then the cut of the book sellers. You will be lucky if you make a buck. 

Just food for thought.

On a lighter note, we finished Fated and after we run through it one more time, maybe a couple more weeks, it will be ready for our beta-readers! Getting really close! 

I hope those who have read Fable are excited about Fated. Just remember this is a side book, one history story of Djenrye, not the second book in the series. But we will start on that real soon!

Also, we will have a table at Denver's MileHiCon this year. October 18-20, so if you are looking for something to do that weekend come on by! I will list the link here for you to check out where. It would be great even if you just stop by for support! Milehicon

Have a great week everyone and if you have any comments, please feel free to share them. I love hearing from you!

Love, lisa


  1. Yes, this was something I noticed immediately when I was pricing my first print book, The Legion Rises: Omnibus. I had to sell it for $15.99 (a 366 page book!) to make something like $1.17 per copy through extended distribution. And to make matters more complex, extended distribution is handled through Lightning Source (for US, UK, Australia, Canada, and a few other countries, and then a variety of third-party digital printers for other countries), which uses different paper, which has different thickness, resulting in a different spine thickness.

    I ordered a copy of The Legion Rises from Amazon.ca for $16.85 CAD just to see what the difference would be. Thankfully, I'm not disappointed. I think this is Lightning Source's white paper, which is a sort of natural ash-like colour that I feel works just fine for a novel. I only think that because the thickness of the book is closest to their white paper specs. The paper is thinner, which I like, since although the paper used for the CS books are very high quality, it's unlike most books you get in the stores. LSi's cover stock is also slightly thinner.

    Beyond the paper, three things struck me as significant:

    Firstly, the cover image seemed slightly blurred, which is likely due to the colour processing having a different nozzle angle when it applies the toner to the cover stock. It may be that the printer has a lower resolution, but last I heard LSi had one of the highest printing resolutions in the business.

    The second thing that struck me was that the colour was much better. I had a strange experience with the proofs for the book. The spine and back cover use a pale blue that was especially pale in all but the first proof printing (after the third proof, I said to heck with it and just left it). The one printed from Lightning Source has a much nicer colour. There's more blue in it and it is as good or slightly better than the original proof, which, while still not quite the CMYK specification that InDesign and Photoshop had, you're almost always guaranteed to have some difference in colour due to different colour profiles and different toners or inks used in process.

    And finally, the book is about 1/16" wider. Yes, that's right. Instead of 5.25x8", the book is 5.31x8". This is to accommodate the size of the cover, which was made for a thicker book. The spine is roughly 1/8" thinner than the CreateSpace version. The book is also maybe a few hairs taller, which is likely a reflection of the printing, cutting, and binding process used at LSI.

    Of course, having said all that, there's a possibility that it wasn't printed by Lightning Source. We have a few printing outfits in Calgary alone that could have printed it. I deduced that it was most likely LSi from a few things. Firstly, the package originated in Ontario, where Amazon.ca's warehouse is. It doesn't make much sense to ship a product half-way across the country only to ship it right back simply to make sure it has Amazon's precise packaging (and if they use the outfit regularly, they'd just keep the printer stocked with packing materials).

    The second is the tracking barcode in the back of the book. The US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) requires book manufacturers to include a barcode in the back of the book and a tracking code that encodes the printing date and location. In my case, this particularly copy was printed in Lavergne, TN on September 17, 2013. Lightning Source happens to have a location in Lavergne.

  2. But of course, back to pricing. I am torn. My Shadows books have been put on hold mainly because I've been so busy doing other things to be able to finish formatting them. But I don't think I will enter either into extended distribution. More likely, I will spend a bit of time and great thought into starting a slightly larger publishing operation (which is to say one with a business name, at the least) and start using LSi as well as CreateSpace. This way, CreateSpace will only print books with CreateSpace. There's a small chance they will outsource, but if they do, they're likely to use Lightning Source, which means they will likely print from my source and not Amazon's.

    And by doing so, I can price cheaper, because I don't have to sacrifice such a wide margin. Extended distribution through CreateSpace requires you to give up 60% of your list price, leaving only 40% to cover your sales revenue and printing costs. Bookstores are unlikely to order books that can't be returned (i.e., those sold by CreateSpace) and that don't have a good discount. But, the discount given to extended distribution is actually only 40%, because 20% goes to Amazon (at least, I'm fairly certain it is; you pay 20% to Amazon when selling direct through CreateSpace, so this seems a safe assumption; plus, bookstores often buy at a 40% discount).

    This is very similar to relationships between publishers and wholesalers. The wholesalers will buy from the publisher at 40% of list price (a 60% discount) and then sell to the bookstores at 60% of list price (making 20% of list price in revenue). Bookstores will then sell the book in whatever manner they choose and return whatever doesn't sell. With CreateSpace, you can't accept returns. With Lightning Source, you can, but all books are remaindered when they are returned and your account is charged for the printing price.

    My book costs $5.24 for me to print from CreateSpace. Had I printed my book with Lightning Source, at 366 pages, the book would cost $6.39 to print. Now as you can see, that's 22% higher than CreateSpace.

    With extended distribution through CreateSpace, the book is priced at $15.99 so that I can make $1.15. Through Lightning Source, with an equal discount to stores (assuming 40%), total revenue would be $15.99 x 60% - $6.39 = $3.20. Assuming a 50% discount, it would be $1.60. Either way, you have a higher revenue than with CreateSpace.

    However, that $3.20 is also all you make when selling on Amazon et al. With CreateSpace, it's $4.35. The only time you make more is when you sell direct. It would be $9.60 in that case. Selling from CreateSpace's store would get you $7.55. Selling direct would cost $10.75.

    So to sum. A 366-page book at $15.99, with a 40% discount to retailers (assuming part of the 60% take on CS extended distribution is 20% to Amazon):

    Retail Channels: $1.15
    Amazon US, UK, and Europe: $4.35
    CreateSpace: $7.55
    Direct Sale: $10.75

    Lightning Source:
    Retail Channels: $3.20
    Amazon US, UK, and Europe: $3.20
    Direct Sale: $9.60

    This gives you a bit of thinking, of course. On one hand, in my opinion, if my book was in fact printed by LSi, the quality is a little better, particularly in terms of the colour of the cover. The paper is more natural, which makes it easier to accept as a professional product. There's just something not quite right about the CreateSpace cream paper. It's very heavy stock.

    If you are going to have a lot of retail sales or international sales, the only way to make money is using Lightning Source. If you can live with a little less than money, you can lower the price some. But you could also lower the discount. Amazon, I know, will by with a short discount of 20%. Just to give you those figures: $6.40 retail/Amazon at $15.99, $12.79 direct.

    1. I feel your struggle Ryan. This is why we have done so much better selling outright, as opposed to online. That is where we've made the most money and also was able to have the money to put out the next book. Another reason why launch parties and book signings, not to mention the Milehicon will make us the money we need to put out next years book. We have made very little through Amazon and Createspace comparatively. I believe ordering your book and doubling the price which is a reasonable price none the less, is the way you get ahead in this business. At least it has for us so far.

    2. The problem with selling my own books by hand, which I could do, is that I cannot legally do so without first obtaining a business license from my city, which costs about $140 for the first year and renews for $120 on an annual basis. Print has already cost $200. $109 of that is the joy of international shipping, another $13 for mailing a copy to the government for legal deposit. $52.01 for printing fees, including a few gift copies, and $27.05 for extended distribution (which I won't do again; I'll likely use LSi for future distribution beyond Amazon). Thanks to UPS paying $1.35 on my behalf to Canada customs, they charged me $10.50 as a brokerage fee (on top of the $1.35) for shipping those 5 copies I used as gifts. All of that is in Canadian dollars, of course.

      Conversely, e-books have cost me nothing but time and I make some money. It's not much, but it's more than print has made me, and my e-book revenue is up 55% from last year already (sales are only up 6%; I just have more higher priced e-books now), and the year isn't over yet. I look forward to seeing what 2014 does for me, since I will finally be in the position I was aiming for at which point I begin actually marketing my books instead of just sitting there waiting for sales.

    3. Yeah, here in Colorado you have to sell 1000.00 worth before you have to get a business lic, which is 60.00. We might go over that with the MileHiCon, we'll see, I know what you mean about all the costs adding up though, I've paid for most of the stuff and have had to borrow from the book acct. for things here and there, but I paid it back. The cost of having a table and vendor passes is 200.00 which we have paid out of pocket. I'm sure we will show a loss this year. :-(

  3. *sigh*

    Blogger ate my last comment. I don't know if it thought I was spamming or something due to my rapid-fire responses or not, but here I go again.

    Lightning also charges differently for printing when it makes sales through the distribution channels. I forgot about that in my early post. Their international express shipping is also prohibitively expensive ($86 to Canada), but their usual ground ($14) isn't too bad, especially when coupled with a 10% discount for books printed in volumes of 1-99 when shipped through their economy program, which means it will take up to 5 business days to begin printing.

    They have flat rates for books 24-46 and 47-106 pages, roughly $1.50 and $2.50 when purchased direct by the publisher, and $1.48 and $2.30 when sold through Lightning's distributors.

    For that 366-page book, the book would cost $5.66 to print through Lightning's channels, so $3.93 with the 40% discount and $7.13 with the 20% discount.

    Also, unfortunately, there are annual fees per title to keep the book in their database and their proof fees can be brutal if you don't produce professional files to their standards (which usually requires Adobe Distiller and InDesign, though plenty have done work with them using just MS Word).

    Just my ten cents.

    (I'd give just two cents, but we don't make pennies in Canada anymore, so I used to the smallest change I've got--nickels.)

  4. Thank you Lisa. Good, and sound information. Did you guys survive the floods? I pray that all is well. Blessings.

    1. Hi Johnny! How's everything in your neck of the woods? Miss you!