The Process of Self-Publishing A Children’s Book. Part 2 What are print-on-demand options for self publishers?

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If you are just joining this blog, we left off with the journey of self-publishing a book on Kindle for Amazon.  It might be a good place to start.  If you are back for more about this crazy journey you are in the right place.  In the Fall of 2020 during a global pandemic.

I had a book on Kindle that was downloaded more than 500 times.  The downloads trickled when I stopped giving the book away for free.  Several people have still downloaded it for Kindle, but for the most part I stopped putting a lot of effort into it because Kindle is not the greatest place for picture books. 

Younger children want a book they can hold in their hands.

Kids, especially younger children tend to want to have a tangible way to experience a book, one like ours that is filled with illustrations is even more important to be printed in a size that makes the illustrations come to life, but also can be held by little hands.  

Print-on- Demand options at Amazon

In the Fall of 2020, I began exploring options for self-published authors to acquire a printed version of “The Night of the Lights.”  The first place I looked was on Amazon.  After publishing the kindle version of the book there I thought it might make sense to have a print on demand version of the book available on Amazon as a secondary format.  The problem is that Amazon is not really set up to print children’s books that are illustrated. 

Now if you wanted a novel format the on-demand printing option on Amazon might be a great solution.  It allows authors to only print the number of books that they need.  They do not need to hold onto large amounts of inventory and the books are printed when someone orders them. 

The trade off for print-on-demand

There is a significant trade of for print on demand books.  It is simply profit margins.  When the printer has all the risks, they take most of the profit margin.  So, print on demand services may only render a few bucks or less of profit on a book. Going by the numbers, it is difficult to make a lot of money on this method unless you sell a ton of books.  IF you do, that is wonderful.  IF you do not… You do not have thousands of books in the basement of your home.

Print-on-demand pros and cons

There are so many print-on-demand companies out there that use this model for independent authors to sell books.  Some include Book BabyIngram Spark,  Blurb and so many more…

There are some big pros for using a service like these. 

  • Access to more resellers: One of which is having access to sell on Amazon, and many of the big book retailers in the United States and abroad.  While this sounds like an amazing option it does not account for the fact that the resellers take a big chunk of profit from you and many of these listing services cost extra.  That means you are paying more to have it printed on-demand, and you pay additionally to be listed in other areas.  None of which guarantee that your book will even sell.
  • Quality Control: One of the biggest cons I can think of with print-on-demand is quality control. How do you know that the books that are being delivered are being printed to your standards?  Would you even know unless a customer complained?
  • Cost Per Book Copy: Yes, the amount an author has to dish up to get a book printed in the on-demand format is minimal compared to buying them yourself, but the printer also makes the most off the books sold. There is also less room to offer discounts on the back end.
  • Read the fine print: You might not just be agreeing to allow the on-demand service to print your book, you may also be limiting your ability to have it printed elsewhere.

Print-on-demand was not for me.

I was not willing to pay that much and not have the creative control over the finished product.  In addition, I could have spent all the time, energy, and money into developing my product on one of those platforms and I had to agree that they would have the license to print the book for X amount of time.  What if they sucked? When I saw that in the small print I was mortified.  I did not want to give up my creative license to them for my content that I created, illustrated, and set up.  Why on earth would I do that?  For the convenience of them being able to print it on-demand?  NOPE.

Conclusion:

Print-on-demand may be a great option for some self-published authors, but there were too many hooks on that line for me to feel comfortable with taking the bait.  I did not want to give up the integrity of the projects that I poured my heart into.  I would need to find a different route to self-publish the books on my own terms.  While that meant more risk, it also means more creative control. 

UP next, how I found LIVE Publishing and a team I love working with…

Elizabeth Orley

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