David Maturo: Two things I’m observing. One is the cost seems to be going up in order to publish, and the other thing is the content is swarming the market.
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 is part two of our conversation with David Maturo of Ex Libras. So now to the services–we’ve been talking in just kind of like general terms, but you’ve basically got two different services offered. You’ve got a black and white trade book service and you’ve got a four color children’s book service.
David Maturo: That’s right.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Now on the black and white trade book, which is most–you know, a trade book is a reading book, a poetry book, whatever, a book with words.
David Maturo: A novel. Yeah.
Ron Pramschufer: A novel. That’s it. It’s anything that’s not a colored children’s book or not a color book.
David Maturo: Correct.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. It looks like you’ve got a plan. Somebody pays between like 500 bucks and 1600 bucks. It’s like a set-up fee.
David Maturo: Correct.
Ron Pramschufer: What’s that cover?
David Maturo: That covers the layout of the book, the design of the cover, the change management if the author comes back with any changes. It is an a la carte. It covers distribution with Bowker’s Books in Print and Ingram. It will probably include a handful of copies, and depending on the service level it’ll include a registration with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, and I believe that’s about it.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Just playing around with the numbers a little bit. Somebody came out with a study years ago saying the average shelf book was 256 pages, so based on an average book of 256 pages, I see you’ve got it set at like a $21.99 retail if it goes through a reseller. That seems awful high. The retail prices, are they based on market or just strictly cost, which you need to be able to make in order to make it work?
David Maturo: It’s largely, and I’d say if not all, that it’s based on cost, and here’s why: The costs for printing books via print-on-demand technology–it’s a great thing–you can print as many or as few books as you need, but the unit cost per book is higher than offset press, and you know this.
Ron Pramschufer: Um-hum.
David Maturo: So you have that cost to contend with. You also need to provide the author with a royalty, and then when you present this book to the distributor channels everyone takes what they call is their reseller discount, so they get a 40, sometimes 50 percent of the retail price of the book. You factor all of those in and you need a higher book price, higher than your typical mass market paperback. You need a higher price in order to be able to make money on the book.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, but it’s a little bit like on the market and it’s a little bit like swimming upstream now. I mean, if you’ve got 50 books on the shelf that are 256 pages and they’re all $14.95 and you’re trying to squeeze your book through at $21.99, the person buying the book could care less what you paid for the book. You know, the market place determines the retail price, so you’ve gotta somehow learn how to make money within, you know, the market.
David Maturo: Well, that’s a good point and to some extent you’re right on the money and that has continued to present a challenge for Ex Libras and other POD publishers, however, one thing we’ve found–this is simply from polling customers, we’ve found that people who purchase books, especially self-publishing books, are looking for content. Okay. So now you have your friends and family who are looking specifically for the author. You’re gonna buy it no matter what the cost is within reason. Now those who are looking for specific content, you know, you’re looking for landscaping practices for golf courses in Pennsylvania; you’re looking for this content and they’re gonna buy it based on the content and not necessarily shopping based on price. Does that make sense?
Ron Pramschufer: Uh-huh. Just out of curiosity–I forgot to ask you earlier–this split between fiction and nonfiction–do you have any idea on that? We always tell people nonfiction is easier to sell, although there seems to be more fiction.
David Maturo: Yeah. Usually we see a ton of fiction. I can’t give your percentages, but it’s largely fiction, however, I don’t know if this is particular of the self-publishing industry, but we see a lot of nonfiction because there are people who have written memoirs or they’re writing a spiritual experience. They are unable to get their book published in the past and now they finally have an outlet, and so we see a lot of more and more a lot of religious nonfiction books. A lot of people just simply telling their stories, so there are a lot of nonfiction in self-publishing companies.
Ron Pramschufer: Well now we’ve got Bill Clinton getting up on national TV telling everybody over 50 to go write down your memoirs.
David Maturo: Yeah.
Ron Pramschufer: You know that was probably the biggest single boost to self-publishing that I’ve seen in the last couple of years.
David Maturo: Absolutely.
Ron Pramschufer: Although the example that you gave of the golf book, you know, the golf course book, I mean, that’s probably the one, if I don’t know, just guessing, you know, the books that are more successful than others would probably be those ones that have that real limited market that you can kind of target–
David Maturo: Exactly.
Ron Pramschufer: –and that’ll absorb the higher price even at a retail level.
David Maturo: Yeah. That’s really the entire model. You have specific content, but there is a market for that content, and they will look for, find, and purchase your book.
Ron Pramschufer: Um-huh. Now, how about an editorial service? I see you offer that, but it seemed like sort of a one size fits all like penny, penny and a half or whatever it was a word. Do many people pick up on the editorial service?
David Maturo: I’d say around 20 percent will pick up the editorial, and it’s copy editing, not content editing, of course. Grammar, punctuation, things like that, word specificity.
Ron Pramschufer: It’s like a step above the spellchecker.
David Maturo: It’s a lot more than that. Anybody can do a spellcheck using Microsoft Word. This is a lot in terms of, like I said, word choice, grammar, punctuation. There’s a whole lot that’s in there, and it takes days for an editor to read through a book because they actually have to read the entire book and then edit the entire way through.
Ron Pramschufer: From what I understand you can pay a whole lot more, I mean, people end up paying thousands of dollars on editors–
David Maturo: Sure.
Ron Pramschufer: –and it’s not just the difference in the hourly rate, I mean, there’s more that’s done. All right. So. You all got involved with children’s books how many years ago? It was a couple of years back. Right?
David Maturo: I was actually on the product development team. We developed that in 2002. We launched it April 2002.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and how well has it been doing?
David Maturo: It’s doing, well, I’d say 25 percent of the business at this point. It’s become popular. It’s not as popular as we thought it was going to be. We thought it was going to overtake the _______ business, but that’s probably more about marketing the product than it is about _______.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, ’cause this is one area back in my former life when I was a printing salesman calling on places like Random House and Modern Scholastic. They print and they print hundreds of hundreds of thousands of these 32-page children’s books, and as I talked to people that were thinking about small quantities, a 32-page children’s book bought by scholastic at 100,000 copies is probably costing them like 30 cents on the printing and they’re retailing it for like $1.99, $2.99. When you get a self-publisher come in and wanna do the same thing, their cost is significantly higher than what the competition’s retail price is.
David Maturo: Yeah. That can be expensive.
Ron Pramschufer: You know, and I’ve looked here kind of on a 32-page paperback children’s book you’ve got a retail of like $14.99. Is it that same 65 percent break on– I just can’t imagine many of these books being sold through commercial channels. I can see the author buying them. I can see maybe the author sending somebody through the Ex Libras web site to buy some. I just don’t see $15.00 paperback, 32-page book selling through any other channels.
David Maturo: They do sell through the channels, although it’s fewer. I can’t give you a percentage on it, but we have 64 percent of typical author’s buy their own book. It’s higher for a picture book, so you are correct. The pricing is higher and that’s simply because the print-on-demand technology has advanced pretty substantially for black and white and it’s not quite there for color yet. In fact, that’s why when the product was launched in 2002 it economically was just not feasible until that time. We were looking it. We looked at it year after year until finally we could make it work.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and does the same thing on the color, you know, obviously color costs more than black and white. Their upfront investment is like between $1,000.00 and $2,500.00?
David Maturo: That’s correct.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and that includes all original illustration, or is that templates, or how does that work? Do they supply their own illustrations?
David Maturo: They supply their own illustration. We can point people in the right direction. We actually used to provide an illustration service, still do if an author really needs it, but it’s not a main service like it used to be because it’s just a very challenging thing. You’re competing with an author’s imagination, and a designer’s ability, an illustrator’s ability to capture. It’s a challenging product. We haven’t quite figured it out yet.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. And the color book is the same as black and white? After they get down, they don’t own the file?
David Maturo: That’s correct.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, and then distribution. I wasn’t aware. Is the print on demand available for color, or is that done a different way? Like the Ingram Channel?
David Maturo: We don’t yet provide that distribution. The book is listed in Bowker’s Books in Print and any reseller can come directly through ________ and buy the book from the author, but we don’t quite have a distribution worked out yet, although–
Ron Pramschufer: But nobody else does either, do they?
David Maturo: Nobody else does either, and that’s simply because the only POD printer that Ingram allows into their chain of POD publishing is Lightning Source
Ron Pramschufer: Which they happen to own.
David Maturo: Which they happen to own.
Ron Pramschufer: (Laughter) You know. So.
David Maturo: And Lamingstore is just starting to work out their color printing. They’re allowed to print color. They can print color, but they don’t have it worked out, the distribution yet, but that’s something that they are working on.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Where do you think we’re all gonna be 10 years from now? This whole industry?
David Maturo: I think what we’re seeing is there’s a Lulu enterpriser than just came out, Publish , iUniverse. There are a number of publishers that are coming out, and basically we’re flooding the market, and two things I’m observing. One is the cost seems to be going up for people in order to publishing, you know, $1,400.00 is not a easy expenditure for anybody, and the other thing is the content is just swarming the market. So I think that two things that we’ll see is more of a movement toward the Publish America and iUniverse model, which is being a little bit more selective again about the content that comes through and also seeing lower prices for the service because it’s exorbitant for people.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Great. Dave, I really think you opened some eyes today. Thanks for joining me. For Publishing Basics Radio, this is Ron Pramschufer. See ya next week.
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