Friday, April 1, 2011

We can publish ebooks for free?

Really? Let’s look at that. Publishing houses are quick to tell us that the only difference between an ebook and a print book is the actual cost of printing, that all of the other overhead and costs associated with the book remain the same. But an individual publishing a book does not have this overhead, right?

An individual doesn’t have office space and utilities and that sort of expense because they are already paying those as part of their living expenses, but computer and internet and printers and those sort of expenses would qualify as overhead.

The publisher has to provide levels of editing. Most books, no matter how good a person is at writing and editing really does need a third party to put an objective eye on a project and give it at least a good copy edit if not a substantive edit to be a publishable project. Too many self-published books do not do this which contributes to a reputation of lower quality books. Getting this edit done can be a substantial expense and that is definitely overhead.

The publisher involves people in titling and cover production. A good cover is vital in getting a book considered whether it is sitting on a shelf in B & N or in an online bookstore. If the author also happens to be good in graphic arts they may can reduce this overhead (if they already have the appropriate software) otherwise it has to be contracted out. That is a production cost and more overhead.

The big advantage of a publisher is sales and distribution. They pay significant amounts for good distribution channels and have people working in sales to get the book out. This is pure overhead for the self-publisher who has to try and replicate this activity by getting their name out, getting exposure, advertising if they can afford to do so. The publisher is spending money on staff to do this. The author is spending money as well if they consider their time worth anything. That is significant overhead and there are a lot of other things I’m not going into.

I’m not arguing against self publishing or doing ebooks, I’m doing some of that myself. I am cautioning those involved to recognize that they are not free to produce, however. Just as the big publishers have overhead to produce either print books or ebooks so does the individual doing it. We should identify that overhead and factor it in when we are considering doing it and as we proceed with such projects.


Raquel Byrnes said...

This is eye opening. I hope it serves to dispel the myth that getting a book ePublished well takes more than hitting 'send'.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thank you, Terry, for showing us the other side of this issue.

I think the pendulum will swing back towards the middle as authors find that the realities of self-publishing and epublishing are not as peachy as some have said.

Happy Weekend,

Linda Glaz said...

The young lady who just garnered all the attention for making millions on ebooks needs to read this. While she hit the right group at the right place and time, she could use some editing. But hey, she's making the bucks, so maybe it's a moot point.

Tammy Doherty said...

Anybody who thinks you can produce anything for free isn't living in the real world :-) Plus, people should remember that you usually get what you pay for - so if eBooks were free they probably wouldn't be worth reading!

I'm self-pubbed. I respect everyone involved in getting my book printed and available. But one thing about the self-publishing industry that I would like to see change is the pricing set on books. My publisher (Xulon) sets their prices by page count. I assume most self-pub companies do, as it reflects the work involved. The self-pub prices are much higher than trade paperbacks by traditional publishers. I have some novels here put out by traditional publishers and they are $12.99 to$14.99. In the case of my 3rd novel which is just over 350 pages, the retail price is $20.99! Of course, it's less on Amazon, but that's not the point. If it were priced within range of traditional publishing houses novels, I think there would be better sales figures.

I get a good price if I buy a lot of books myself - but I don't have a big discretionary budget nor do I want to do online sales for myself. So I advise people to go through Amazon.

That's just my 2 cents (which looks like about a nickel in word count!).

Tammy Doherty

Eddie Jones said...

Terry, you pretty much nailed it. Even for our small press the break-even point is around 300 books sold. That recoups our editing costs, design and set up fees. Then we begin spending bucks on blog tours, PR for media... and it adds up. Thus far we've managed to recoup our costs on every book. (2011 releases, pending.) So yes, it costs money to publish. The flip side is, an author is in the game, sort of. As long as you have a bat and ball the game is the same, regardless of the size of the field, style of uniform or small number of fans in the stands.

(Any typos associated with this posting are solely the responsibility of Eddie Jones and in no way reflect the quality of work offered by Hartline or staff.)