Book Publishing A to Z Part 8 (Re-Air)
As you prepare your book for publication, there are a lot of details to consider that directly impact how much you can expect to earn from your book’s sales. But how do you strike that balance between earning an income and making your book attractive to as many people as possible?
In the final installment of the Book Publishing A to Z series, Coach Tam wraps up the list of important publishing industry terms with notes on distribution, from determining what size your book should be to figuring out your next steps after the book is published and out there in the world. If you want to maximize your book’s reach, you won’t want to miss this episode!
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- Factors to consider when determining the size of your book
- The role of wholesalers in the publishing and distribution process
- Why it’s beneficial to sell your book at a wholesale discount – and how much say you have in the process
- How to calculate your print cost and gauge your expected earnings
- One of the most misunderstood terms in the entire A to Z list
- How to distinguish between a vanity press and a legitimate author services company
It’s easy to be really passionate about the writing process and about wanting to share your story with the world and, at the same time, also be really lost to how the industry actually works. But if you don’t understand how the industry works before you publish, it can actually hurt your book’s success and impact.
If you missed the previous episodes in this series, you can check them out here!
Here are the final set of terms you need to know as you prepare to publish and sell your book.
In publishing, trim size refers to the dimensions for your finished book, and it applies to both paperback and hardback copies. As you prepare to go to print, there are a couple of things you should be praying and researching about with regard to trim size.
What is the average book size for your genre?
Chances are, you already have some examples of the type of book you want to write in your own personal library. So break out your ruler and find out the dimensions for those books. Or check out some of your favorite authors in that space — how big are their books, typically?
You want to get a sense of what the norm is, because the last thing you want to do is stand out in a bad way. Instead, you want to stand out in such a way that the prospective reader feels that you have met their expectations. Many genres have a standard size that applies to paperback and hardback books, and if your book aligns with that standard, you’re likely to make a much better impression than if your book is way outside of the norm.
What is your ultimate cost per book?
Trim size doesn’t just impact your book’s outer dimensions; it also impacts how many pages your book has, which in turn impacts the ultimate cost for your book. That means your trim size directly impacts your profitability as a self-published author.
Of course, this shouldn’t necessarily be your main driving force for making a decision on the trim size, but it is something to be aware of. If there’s a minimum royalty you want to earn for each copy sold, consider doing the math ahead of time so you can understand how the trim size will impact your cost.
How does your book look and feel?
In addition to trim size, there are several other factors that play a role in how your book appears to the reader and how big it ends up being. These factors include:
- Font type and size
- Line spacing
Overall, you want your book to strike a balance between looking good and being practical. In other words, think about it both fitting comfortably in the reader’s hands and looking great on the shelf.
This is another example of how helpful it can be to work with someone who has experience in this space. Many times, authors who try to do everything themselves want to do the right thing and put out a quality book — but they may not understand the impact certain decisions can have on their book’s sales.
For example, you can potentially lower the cost per book by making the margins very narrow, but this leaves a negative impression on the reader.
Instead of thinking mostly about costs, try to make the reading experience as enjoyable for the reader as you possibly can. Because when the reader has a great experience with your book, they will tell others, which allows your book to get out to more people and also leads to favorable reviews.
You’re probably already familiar with the concept of wholesalers, even if you haven’t thought about it in terms of selling books before. As you might expect, wholesaling in book publishing and distributing implies that there is a discount for the wholesaler who buys copies of your book to sell.
Now, you might be thinking, “I’ve put all this time and energy into my book already. Why would I want to work with a wholesaler and provide a discount?”
It might sound counterintuitive, but think of it this way: a wholesaler is a company that can open doors you would not be able to open yourself. They can get your book into the hands of people you would not be able to reach on your own.
Yes, you can reach people like your family and friends and people you send to your website through ads or other marketing efforts. But there are other places and people you can’t easily influence, and that’s where wholesalers come in.
Discounting your book and making it attractive to wholesalers is an excellent way to expand your reach. Remember, this is all about getting your message out to more people — you’ll have more chances to earn money later by putting out more books or introducing additional products and services.
Instead of trying to make a huge income from this one book, your #1 goal should be to get this book into the hands of as many people as possible. And wholesaling opens up additional opportunities for making that happen.
We’ve talked a lot about IngramSpark throughout this series, and they play a major role in the wholesaling process. One of the benefits of listing your book with IngramSpark is that they have a massive distribution channel that includes nearly 40,000 retailers and libraries. So when you take advantage of starting a partnership with IngramSpark, they become an extension of you in getting your book out into more retailers and libraries than you would be able to work with otherwise.
Here’s how this works. To get the maximum mileage for your book, you’ll choose a wholesale discount and agree to make the book returnable, and IngramSpark ensures your book is in the mix to be selected by various retailers and libraries to stock on their shelves. Now your book shows up in brick-and-mortar locations, which gives you additional credibility and reach, in return for that wholesale discount.
Now, keep in mind that you are not in this space alone. You are competing with traditional publishers who are putting out books in your category, and they are absolutely offering wholesale discounts and returns. Plus, other self-publishers are taking advantage of the opportunity to work with IngramSpark, which means their books are in the mix, too.
So, if nothing else, offering a wholesale discount is all about leveling the playing field and ensuring you have equal opportunity to get your book and message out to the masses. Yes, it’s a bit of a sacrifice on the front end. But ultimately, you will come out on top.
Finally, know that you have some say in this process. Typically, you can choose how much of a discount you want to offer within a range of about 30%-55%.
However, keep in mind that the lower the discount, the less attractive your offer will be to retailers. Since your goal is to get your book into more hands, consider going with that 55% discount instead of closer to 30%.
When it comes to the profitability of your book, or how much you’re actually going to get in hand for each copy sold, there’s one other factor to consider: unit cost. This is the base cost of printing and putting that book together.
Earlier in this series, we discussed print on demand, which allows you to have books printed as they are ordered without needing to get a minimum number of copies at one time. However, this service is not free. There is a unit cost for that convenience, flexibility, and the actual costs of putting together, printing, and shipping the book.
The structure for this unit cost varies depending on which distributor(s) you use (such as Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, etc.). So you’ll want to make sure you understand the cost factors involved when choosing how to distribute your book.
The good news is that there are online calculators you can use to determine your unit cost. You’ll plug in information about how many pages your book will be, the trim size, and other details about what the interior of the book will look like (such as what type of paper you’ll use), and then the calculator will help you determine the unit cost per book based on that information. Then, to get an idea of how much you can expect to make for each book, all you have to do is deduct the unit cost from the retail price.
Of course, if you’re working with IngramSpark and offering a wholesale discount, this will impact your earnings per book. So make sure you use the correct calculator for your distributor, so you can get an accurate unit cost estimate.
Remember, your goal is not to get rich off the book. Realistically, by the time you subtract your costs and factor in the wholesale discount, you’re likely looking at somewhere between $1.50-$4.00 per copy. That means you’ll need to sell a lot of books to hit a high income level.
The more exposure and traffic you can drive to your book, the better chances you have of selling more — and for authors with a mainstream audience who can sell thousands of books, those numbers do add up very quickly — but let’s face it: this is not the path to riches for most people. Especially if you’re new to the author space and are still building up your brand and reputation, it’s going to take time to see those higher numbers.
That’s why it’s so important to be thinking about your next steps. What can you do to leverage your book to build a business that earns an income and gives you overflow? Maybe it’s offering an online course or a coaching program, or maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, be thinking about it now, before you start putting your book out into the world.
The final term in the Book Publishing A to Z series is vanity press, and this is also one of the most misunderstood terms we’ve discussed. Often, both aspiring and published authors refer to any service that helps an author put out a professional book as a vanity press. But that’s not entirely accurate.
So let’s set the record straight. If you need help in a certain area, and you are not getting a traditional publishing deal, it is reasonable to expect that you will need to pay for certain services. After all, a person should get paid for the work that they do. So just because there is money associated with getting the book ready for publication does not necessarily mean that this service provider is a vanity press.
To be very clear, if your book gets picked up by a traditional publishing house — if you land a traditional publishing deal — there is no money expected from you as the author in that case. So if someone tells you they are offering a traditional publishing deal, but that you need to pay for something, then you should run. That kind of offer is not going to give you what you think it will.
That said, there is a difference between vanity presses and legitimate author services that help self-published authors put out good quality books.
With legitimate self-publishing services, you can get help with bringing your book to completion. Under this model, you might pay for things like editing, proofreading, printing, and/or marketing services.
Ultimately, these services help you excel in areas that you’re not naturally gifted or talented in, and they can also save you the time and frustration of navigating sites like Fiverr or Upwork to find quality talent. So just because you pay for these types of services doesn’t mean it’s a vanity press.
A vanity press does the opposite of what legitimate self-publishing services do. Instead of prioritizing quality, vanity presses focus on getting as much money from you as they can. They won’t care about editing and proofreading your book to make sure it’s the best possible representation of you, and they’re very likely to nickel and dime you for every step of the process.
In contrast, legitimate author services will give you a set price for your project with everything you need — from proofreading to formatting to cover design — already included.
When you’re choosing a partner to work with, it’s very important to do your research, even if you’re looking at a bigger publishing house with a pay-to-print model. Look for reviews online, just like you would when choosing a restaurant or a hotel. That will give you an idea of how the company’s reputation has panned out over time.
Then, always set up a consultation to gain more insight and ideas on what that self-publishing service can bring to the table and whether they’re the right fit for your publishing goals.
Remember, part of this process is being a good steward of what God has entrusted to you — and part of being a good steward is carefully vetting the people you work with and asking the right questions.
Looking for more self-publishing tips, guidance, and information on legitimate self-publishing services? Join us in the Christian Authors Network Facebook group to learn more!
My name is Tamara “Coach Tam” Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) “get you”, 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.
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