The thrill of publishing one’s first book is joyful, a dream come true, right? Oh, the anticipation of getting my children’s picture book into print and out there in the marketplace! I attended lectures, workshops, and conferences to acquire the information I needed to become an indie publisher. I’d heard horror stories from authors who’d been scammed by vanity presses, paid too much for a web design, or didn’t know an ISBN from the BOE or a DBA, POD or LCCN. That would not be me.
I bought a block of ten ISBN numbers. After all, if one costs $125, ten at $250 is more than a bargain. Smart, huh? I set up my own Butterfly Books imprint and obtained a resale license from the state Franchise Tax Board. I was now a sole proprietor ready to do business and offer the world my first kid gardening book, Mrs. Feeny and the Grubby Garden Gang. This of course was after I’d hired an illustrator and book designer whose charges will remain undisclosed.
A couple months down the road, I discovered that there was a second Butterfly Books imprint, owned by a lawyer who had filed his the same week as I did. What are the odds? A lawyer? Oops! I wisely and quickly created another imprint name to avoid conflict of interest or infringement or who knows what. I’m now Black Garnet Press.
My book was to be a typical children’s picture book: full color, 32 pages, 8” x 10”, and hardbound. I priced it at $15.95, in the mid-range of this genre. I found a company here in the U.S. that would print them, one, ten or 100 at a time. This is called Print On Demand (POD), and the company I chose after much research and advise was Lightning Source International (or LSI), an arm of the huge Ingram distribution company. (My first book, left, Mrs. Feeny…)
The company would take only 20% of the selling price. Wow, and I would get 80%. We’ll round up to $16 for the ease of it. So 20% of that price is $3.20, and my 80% is a whopping $12.80. Got it?
However, the cost of printing the book was and still is $9—which of course comes right out of my 80%. So, $12.80 – 9 = $3.80, my “royalty” on the book. That’s actually not unlike the BIG publishing companies’ payouts. Not bad, so far.
Say I consign the book, an agreement that is typically 50-50: the shop nets $8 on a $16 sale and so do I. That means I receive $8 for a book that costs $9 to print and forget the royalty. How’s that for a business model?
I decided not to purchase 2000 of them from a printing company in Korea or China—I know authors with 1800 of them still in their garage. It really IS less expensive to print over there, but who needs that many books?
Granted, children’s full color, hardbound picture books are among the most expensive to produce. Turns out that LSI doesn’t offer dust jackets nor does it print the title and author on the spine. Arrrgh! Are there lessons to be learned here?
(Adventures of the Hotel Sisters, published December 2015. Collection of 1920s short stories for middle grade readers. I’ve learned a lot over the years!)