David Maturo: A traditional publisher makes an investment in an author. Nine out of ten they lose on, but that one out of ten will pay back for all of the other folks.
Ron Pramschufer: This is Ron Pramschufer and welcome to Publishing Basics Radio where weekly we try to help you navigate the self-publishing mine field. Today’s guest is David Maturo, former VP of Finance of Ex Libras, an Internet-based print-on-demand publishing company. Dave, what’s the difference between a conventional publisher, a self-publisher, a vanity publisher, a subsidy publisher, and a book printing service, and which one is Ex Libras?
David Maturo: Ex Libras is what we call a self-publisher, and the difference is a traditional publisher makes an investment in an author. Say you have Random House. They spend a great deal of money in marketing that author, building that author’s repertoire, and then they actually do an enormous print run of books, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a huge up-front cost. Nine out of ten they lose on. Not everybody is a Grisham, but that 1 out of 10 will be a Grisham and will pay back for the rest of all of the other folks.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay.
David Maturo: Now, a self-publisher is a company like Ex Libras. We require the author to make an investment in himself or herself. Okay. So that means that the author actually pays to be published. They pay to get data entry, copy editing, get their book laid out, and they buy their own copy. So that’s the fundamental difference in the investment.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and how is that different then from a vanity press or a subsidy press?
David Maturo: You’re making this chain and investment, but basically your end result is a stack of books that you can put in your garage. You’re also buying maybe a couple or thousand of books along with a publishing service and then you do whatever you need to do with them and it’s up to you to market and manage your own books from there. Now, a self-publisher will use something similar. You’re still making the same investment to get published, but there’s a print-on-demand aspect to a self-publisher that a vanity press doesn’t have. We don’t print books and give the authors a supply of books for them to stack in their garage or their basement or whatnot. We actually print the books upon order. There’s no in between, no warehouse, or anything like that. So essentially then the author can then sell their book and then we’ll print and distribute the books as needed.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Now basically you can’t be self-publisher without you, self, being the publisher, and the only way that you, self, can be the publisher is to go out and buy 10 ISBNs and basically start a publishing company. Now with Ex Libras, the author doesn’t own theISBN. Correct?
David Maturo: Well, technically that’s a good point actually, Ron. At least technically we’re a self-publisher, but we’ve often called ourselves a publishing services provider, almost like an Internet services provider, and in that way we are a tool, a _________, so to speak, for an author to go to the market, so what does that mean? That means that we purchase the ISBN so when you look up that ISBN in Bowker’s Books in Print you’ll see that that’s an Ex Libras publication; however, technically the publisher of the book, the front matter on the copyright page of the book is the author.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, but the publisher of record technically is Ex Libras.
David Maturo: That’s right.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. So you’ve heard of Vantage Press?
David Maturo: Yeah.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. So the main difference between Vantage Press, which I think they don’t really hide the fact that they’re a vanity press, and, oh God, they’ve been around forever. The difference between Ex Libras say and Vantage Press would be the fact that you don’t fill the garage full of books.
David Maturo: Yeah. That’s one piece and the other piece is that we really try to provide a fleet of products and services to help an author whereas with Vantage Press they lay out your book, they print your book, they pop ’em in your garage, and that’s the end of the story pretty much. With us, like I said, we can do the data entry, we can do the copy editing. We also provide a suite of marketing services to help people sell their book. Appropriately, we write up a press release, for example or put a press release on a news wire. We sell them posters and book signing material, things of that nature. But other than that, there aren’t too many other demarcations.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Well, how about the difference between–’cause I know 99 percent of the people who are gonna be listening here know where Google is and know how to enter self-publishing and you come up a whole slew of people, okay, and Ex Libras is probably up there in that first page and you’ve got places like AuthorHouse and iUniverse. Are they pretty much the same as Ex Libras?
David Maturo: Yeah, that’s correct. Well, let’s see. AuthorHouse is almost exactly like Ex Libras. They’re a self-publisher. IUniverse technically is a self-publisher, although what they’ve been doing, they’ve been trying to migrate away from the traditional model, and here’s what I mean. IUniverse signed up I believe with Kensington Press and what they do is they’re now more selective with the publication. So companies like Ex Libras and AuthorHouse, with the exception of pornography, hate literature, and just nonsense in general, Ex Libras and AuthorHouse, they will publish any content. We don’t discriminate against content. That’s the business model. The business model is that regardless of your content, whatever you want to write about we believe that there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to make it to the market and the audience should be able to see your book and be able to read your book.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. When reading through the Ex Libras brochure and I’ve read most of these other company’s brochures, too, everybody seems to make a big selling point that the author retains all the control, and I guess that’s the difference between, I don’t know, the old vanity presses, I mean, what’s this mean really, that they retain the control? I mean, they retain the copyright. Right?
David Maturo: They retain the copyright. They own the rights of the book, with no strings attached, which means that, okay, so I published a book with Ex Libras and a major additional publisher says, “Well, this is fantastic. I want to publish your book.” They can go immediately and go right to that publisher with their material and they can publish the book. They don’t have to sign a release to get the materials back from us. Now the end product that a self-publisher creates, the end PDF file, the end book, is the property of the publisher, however, their original manuscript is theirs.
Ron Pramschufer: So this fee that they pay up front doesn’t really cover the printing file? You say the publisher owns the printing file?
David Maturo: Correct. Because the publisher has put in their own work and their own institutional practice into the book. The publisher then owns that piece of it, however, the original work is still the author’s, and that is not really the case with the traditional or–I’m not sure about the vanities, but it’s definitely not the case with a traditional publisher.
Ron Pramschufer: Why do you think it’s such a big deal, you know, these services not wanting to give up that digital file?
David Maturo: You have a revenue stream when the customer comes in, and forgive me for saying the words “revenue screen with the customer”, right?
Ron Pramschufer: Yeah. Okay.
David Maturo: We’ve all got mortgages. We’ve all got to eat.
Ron Pramschufer: Exactly.
David Maturo: We all believe in the greater good of bringing the content to the masses, but at the same time this is a business and we need to survive, and so when the customer is going __________just a few opportunities to gain revenues from a customer, and those areas are the publication revenues and then the book revenue, and some of our analysis is that we can reduce the price of a publication service and forego some revenues in order for them to enjoy book revenues toward the end, and that’s good for the author; it’s good for the company; it’s good for everybody. So to give up the digital file would then basically harm that revenue screen and not make the model work as well.
Ron Pramschufer: Because it would easier for people to leave?
David Maturo: It would be easier. People can go get their books printed anywhere where you don’t necessarily have to–once you have that file you could present that file to any printer and printers are–you’ll forgive me for saying it, but there are legions throughout the country. So you could get your book printed anywhere. We prefer to keep it all in-house.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Now just out of curiosity. What is the average number of books sold per title?
David Maturo: As you know, it could run the gamut. We’ve had some authors who literally have sold no books or one or two books and some authors who have sold thousands of books, some over 10,000. Typically, we average all of that out, and statistically speaking, we see that the average customer sells about 150 units per title.
Ron Pramschufer: So out of 150 books what would you say percentage-wise people buying books themselves?
David Maturo: Yeah. Typically 64 percent of all the books sold are authors purchasing their own book.
Ron Pramschufer: So when it’s all done, okay, the average person is gonna sell, oh, you know, whatever, 150 books out of which 60 percent are gonna be bought by himself, what do you think is the average expenditure per author?
David Maturo: Well, we know that for Ex Libras and we know that through conversations with other players in the space that it’s anywhere between $1,000.00 and $1500.00. Our experience has been close to $1,000.00. People will typically buy another $400.00 of ancillary services to go along with it, so purely in the package they pick, it’s gonna run a $1,000.00 per customer and then people will buy things like the copy editing, the data entry, marketing services, and will spend somewhere around $1,400.00 in the life cycle of their publication.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and plus the books that they buy for themselves.
David Maturo: Yeah. That doesn’t include the book.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Great. Dave, thanks for giving us the inside scoop. It’s been great talking to you. I think it went real well, Dave.
David Maturo: Glad to be a part of it.
Ron Pramschufer: From Publishing Basics Radio, this is Ron Pramschufer. See you next week.
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