Interviewee: If you have a fourteen ninety-five book, you have to give away sixty-five percent, and you’re paying five to seven dollars for this book, you’re losing money every time you sell a book.
Ron Pramschufer: This is Ron Pramschufer, and welcome to Publish Basics Radio, where weekly we try to help you navigate the self publishing minefield. Jan, who’s a publisher?
Interviewee: We have on our website ten steps that you must take if you want to be a publisher. And that involves more than writing, editing, and designing. It involves writing a marketing plan, doing research on your product. It involves so many things. We’ve compacted it into the ten simple things that will tell you whether or not you’re a publisher.
And typically what happens is that many authors think that they are publishers, but they are not willing to invest the time to do all of the other stuff to help sell the book. That makes them more of an author, as opposed to a publisher.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, how about the ISBN issue? Is that one of the ten points?
Interviewee: Oh of course. You should have an ISBN. But you know an author could get ISBNs for their book stating that they are a publisher, which happens a lot of times. You know? Somebody decides to come into publishing because they haven’t been able to find a publisher for their product, or they don’t want to do the editing that a publisher says they’re going to do. Many reasons.
And then they go out and get an ISBN. That is a step in the publishing process. Just obtaining an ISBN does really, in my opinion, not make you a publisher. It does in the eyes of Bowker. But it doesn’t in mine.
Ron Pramschufer: Alright. Okay. Now what’s the difference between a traditional publisher, a vanity publisher, and a self publisher?
Interviewee: Well sometimes they all merge together, unfortunately. And it’s kind of hard to define them. But let me go through a couple of steps. Many people begin as self publishers. Many people within PMA have begun as self publishers, because they know a topic better than anybody else, and they decide to publish on that topic.
And some people just continue to be author/publisher, and have had some degree of success. However, there is another step that’s taken by many self publishers, which is they start publishing about a theme or a topic, and they find out that in order to be a publisher, and an author, and all that it requires— In order to build a company, they want to stay around the same theme, but they develop other authors.
And that pulls them into the world of independent publishing. When they start taking on other authors, probably on the same subject matter, because they do know that subject matter very well, that moves them into the world of becoming an independent publisher.
But the vanity part is very, very difficult to describe. There are some easy ones. There are some major houses in New York, who go around the country, and they put ads in newspapers, say that they’re looking for manuscripts.
Ron Pramschufer: Attention authors!
Interviewee: Attention authors!
Ron Pramschufer: Full page ad.
Interviewee: We are seeking— And you can just give me x amount of money, anywhere from five to thirty thousand, even more expensive than that in some instances. And they tell you that your book is wonderful. Many times they don’t edit your book. They, in fact, let misspellings that you have in your manuscript go straight through to the printed copy.
They will print your book for you, or design a book, print it for you, deliver you about— maybe, I don’t know, ten copies of the book. And then in six months, when this book doesn’t sell through, they will tell you that now they’re going to trash your book, or this is your opportunity to buy x amount of copies at fifty percent of the cover price. Now you’ve already spent thirty grand for this book. That is vanity. That is typically vanity.
Ron Pramschufer: Alright. And may I add in there now subsidy. You know all these different words. I love— like George Orwell. You know? 1984’s like my favorite book. Okay. Subsidy publishing seems to be something that’s grown out of vanity. Vanity’s bad. Subsidy’s good. Is there any difference?
Interviewee: Yes, there is a difference. Subsidy could be vanity. It could be something else as well. But subsidy, at this point, also could be vanity. You have to really search out what is meant by subsidy. If it’s a sharing of roles, it’s a publisher who is willing to work with you to market your product, to do the sales on your product, and you’re subsidizing the print, and you have a fifty-fifty relationship, that might be something that is legal.
But I would definitely search every subsidy publisher out there, and find out their good points and their shortcomings, by talking to other people who are working them. I know some very good subsidy houses, and I know some very dreadful subsidy houses.
Ron Pramschufer: Alright. And cooperative, the word cooperative publisher came in a couple of years ago, and kind of disappeared. It was sort of the same thing.
Interviewee: It’s the same thing as subsidy. It’s a sharing of costs.
Ron Pramschufer: As long as you’re truly sharing.
Interviewee: Exactly. As long as you’re truly both sharing the costs, and sharing what expertise that you have. You know the person normally that is doing subsidy, is normally bringing in expertise on editing, and design, and in marketing.
Ron Pramschufer: Now here’s a tricky one. This has like in the last four or five years, this has kind of crept in. What is a POD publisher?
Interviewee: Well I don’t believe POD should be used in the same term as publishing. POD is a technology, and it’s a very good technology. It’s print-on-demand. But it is not a publisher, in my opinion. POD is a printing process. And what it allows people the opportunity to do is, many times, get a few copies of a book with a minimal investment.
And if they do the proper steps of getting it designed, getting it edited, they can have a decent looking book. However, the industry is not ready to accept POD books. And when I say the industry, I mean primarily the bookstores and the libraries. And you have to look into the cost of these books, because a POD book will typically come in costing anywhere from five to seven dollars, whereas a traditional print of one thousand to two thousand, the cost on that book will come in typically between a dollar fifty to three dollars. Usually three dollars on the high side. It’s usually between a dollar fifty and two eighty.
But if you have a fourteen ninety-five book, you have to give away sixty-five percent, and you’re paying five to seven dollars for this book, you’re losing money every time you sell a book.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh right. Okay. Now I’ve got two more different publishers here. A small press publisher. What would that be described as?
Interviewee: Well it has varying descriptions. But I personally would describe it as a publisher who’s just hit the scene, who probably doesn’t have a publishing program plan. Most publishers will come into the arena— a publisher will come in— with ten, maybe ten titles.
An independent publisher will usually hit the ground with about ten titles. And then plan to have x number of titles each and every year coming into their program. And I would say that is a little bit more of a publisher.
Whereas a small press publisher is a publisher who comes out with maybe their first title, with no plan whatsoever. They may grow into an independent publisher. They’re not precluded from doing it. But typically, they usually don’t have a plan.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh okay. That was my next question. Independent publisher. That’s a step up from a small press publisher?
Interviewee: Well it is, in that they normally have a marketing program plan. They will have a plan to develop an active backlist. And they will have a plan to develop x number of front list each and every season. And you know the book publishing industry has two seasons. Maybe they’ll only go after one of the seasons, but they will have at least a plan that they’re going to come out with two to five titles a year.
Ron Pramschufer: Alright. Now, three names here. Authorhouse. IUniverse. Exlibris. Where do they fit in this group of traditional, vanity, self publishing, independent, small?
Interviewee: They are what I consider— I know they call themselves publishers. But I still consider them primarily print-on-demand people. They offer a decent service to people who want to get their books into print. But they are print-on-demand, so I consider them more so printers. Although I do know that IUniverse has two different tiers of people. And they offer different services. Personally, I still consider them to be print-on-demand.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. ‘Cause it’s funny, because at first, I did the interviews with all the presidents of IUniverse, and—
Interviewee: I know Susan Driscoll very well. We know all of ‘em.
Ron Pramschufer: She’s a sweetheart. And Authorhouse. And the Finance VP at Exlibris. You know? And it seems like between ‘em, you know the bottom, bottom line is with all the bells and whistles, they average somewhere between like a hundred and two hundred books. You know, that that’s their average sale. And that like sixty-five percent of them are bought by the author.
Ron Pramschufer: And another seventeen percent are bought more or less by an author, through the website. So it doesn’t leave many that are being sold out in the channel.
Interviewee: Right. The POD can sell on the website. But you’re right, because you see the libraries and the bookstores, more so the bookstores, are not allowed to buy these books. Because first of all, most of them are non-returnable, although some of their policies are being changed, so that they are accepting returns.
But more importantly, it’s doing the math, seeing how much you’re paying per unit, and seeing can you afford to paper the bookstore shelves with books that cost seven or eight dollars, that you may get back damaged? I tend to think not. And the bookstores won’t buy them. They just know that these people cannot afford the returns.
Ron Pramschufer: Alright Jan. Well it was really great talking to you this morning.
Interviewee: Good talking to you as well. Thank you for calling.
Ron Pramschufer: For Publishing Basics Radio, this is Ron Pramschufer. See you next week.
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