Budget Printing

offset printingBudget printing services is what many young writers will be looking at once they've exhausted the traditional publishing routes.

Indeed many poets start quite the wrong way round by submitting their life's work to a prestigious publishing house, forgetting that publishers will look favourably on poetry only if the author has accreditation in workshops, commissions and publications in serious poetry outlets.

Would-be novelists are also apt to be surprised that their labour of love is not ecstatically received.

To see why, writers need to understand the literary scene and the economics of publishing. Only 1% of manuscripts find a publisher, and only some 250 copies are sold, on average, of each ISBN number.

Publishing: Facts

Even professional poets often earn more from adjudicating competitions and running workshops than from royalties on their publications.

But if poetry doesn't pay, nor very handsomely do other forms of literature. Novelists, for example, must turn out a commercial product year in and year out. Many writers do not have outgoing personalities, and special efforts are needed to market them: TV interviews, readings and a blog are probably the easiest approaches.

Affordable Printing Services: Example

Two matters concern publishers: the reputation of their publishing house, and whether they can at least cover expenses.

Suppose you approach a publisher with your collection of poems and stories based on your home town and its characters. Of course you'll include a media kit and emphasize that you're well known on the local poetry-reading, radio and book-signing circuit, more than capable of making the publication sell. Here's what the publisher does:

1. Checks the credentials: that you are indeed who you say you are, your previous books exist and have been successful. A few telephone calls will establish these.

2. Estimates likely sales figures. He learns that your home town has a population of 50,000, and its local newspaper enjoys a circulation of 15,000 (calls to friends, local library, Bowkers). Experience has told him that only a few percent of newspaper readers will buy poetry, say 500. Allowing 10% loss in spoilage, review copies, etc. he has 450 copies to sell. Figures in US$:

 

publishing costs @ $3.50/copy

 

($1750)

ancillaries (distribution, warehousing, etc.)

 

($350)

gross sales @ $6.95/copy

$3127

 

bookstore commissions @ 40%

 

($1112)

marketing expenses

 

($500)

totals

$3127

($3712)

net profit

 

($585)


Hardly enticing. A loss, even though no royalty is paid, and he hasn't costed for his own time. Supposing every copy is sold, eventually.

3. But perhaps he's a would-be poet himself, or feels that your prestige will enhance the firm's standing in the community, or that price can be increased to $8.95. He asks for the MS, reading it carefully and getting opinions from the local writers circle and a retired English professor. Everyone likes the work. The publisher therefore invites you in for a meeting and is sufficiently impressed by your confidence to offer a co-publishing contract. A print run of 500 copies, no royalties, and you put up $1000 of the publishing costs. Yes, you. He has $2100 at risk; you can bear the other $1000.

Serious poetry is never a bestseller, but novels can be. In this second example you have managed to interest a large publishing house in your manuscript. Everything looks promising. You're personable and articulate, ideal for a TV chat show or late-night arts program. You have a good thirty years of writing in you. What you produce now is phenomenally good. The publishing house does its sums. These are 'back of the envelope' figures, all in units of 1000. The book retails for $12.95, royalties are 8%, and bookstore commissions average 40%:

 

no. sold

receipts

costs

profit

printing & distribution

royalties

bookstore commissions

management & publicity

1

13

6

1

5

3

(2)

2

26

8

2

10

3

3

10

129

21

10

52

5

41

100

1,295

135

104

518

12

526

1,000

12,950

1,250

1,036

5,180

25

5,459


Everything depends on the book proving a bestseller. This is how the publishing house calculates the odds: figures again in thousands:

 

no. sold

% odds

profit

what you're worth to them (odds x profit)

1

30

(2)

-0.6

2

50

3

1.5

10

17

41

7.0

100

2.9

526

15.25

1,000

0.1

5,459

5.46

total

100

28.88


The figures are notional, but suggest that the publishing house has a 98% chance of making less than $7,500. That's barely worth the effort, but they're banking on the future, your second or tenth novel.

You have a 80% chance of earning no more than $2,000 in royalties. For many months or years of effort, that does not amount to a working wage. But of course you sign the contract: self-publishing won't be easier, and you'll not get better terms elsewhere.

Both author and publisher are clearly chasing a dream, but that is the nature of fiction publishing, and explains why publishers (and agents) need textbooks, self-help, cookery and gardening titles to survive.

 

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