Desirable, covetable, collectable
I fell in love with the physical book at an early age and so creating a set of desirable, covetable and collectable novels has been one of my goals. It has also been my aim to see my books on the shelves of bookshops (although I know from my experience of being trade published that this process is by no means automatic).
As a newbie to the world of self-publishing, I was sold the idea that Print on Demand provided the ultimate solution. The ability to print only what I needed and to update any create new editions easily was certainly alluring. There were three main problems:
- Reluctance on the part of bookshops to stock Createspace titles. To date, my titles have been stocked by a limited number of indie bookshops.
- Inconsistent quality. I received several botched batches. On one occasion, I had to cancel a launch event. And, while the quality of book covers and paper improved, these production problems cropped up more frequently. The last straw was when a proof copy ordered in the UK that was so badly cut the text was affected – and I couldn’t get either Amazon or Createspace to accept responsibility. My concern is that this quality was being shipping to Amazon’s direct customers – in order words, my readers.
- Profitability. The other pressing issue was that I was making a loss of £5 on every paperback I sold. In fact, removing myself from the equation seemed to be the only way to stop the rot.
Earlier this year I was invited to speak to the London Writers’ Club at the London Headquarters of Clays Ltd. My talk was preceded by a demonstration of Clays’ production process. If you have ever wondered about the enduring lure of the printed book, just pass samples of book covers and paper around a room of writers and watch them touch; watch them smell. I was one of those who decided to investigate further. The following week, Clays Self-Publishing had a presence at Indie Recon and by then a personal relationship had been established.
“The self-publishing market has developed hugely over the last few years, and this year we have seen real maturity. This is the reason that we created Clays Self-Publishing: to give authors the opportunity to create books that are indistinguishable from a traditionally published book.” Rebecca Souster, Clays Ltd
I placed an order for 200 of each of my five titles with Clays, spending just over £2000 (B format paperback, Ensocreamy paper 70/135, Cover: 4/0, matt laminate, standard cover board, Delivery to 1 UK address, storage of one box of book per title). The same order with Createspace would have cost £4003.87, using their medium shipping option.
However, I incurred costs in getting to the stage where I could place my order with Clays. Arguably, some of these costs were unnecessary, but a certain amount of work was required to convert the files from the US book sizes used by Createspace to the UK book sizes used by Clays and I didn’t want to use interiors that were clearly based on Createspace templates. Your costs might be less. On the other hand, as you will be producing a long print run, you may want to opt for a final proofread. (I did this myself. Twice.)
Interior formatting: £600 (money well spent!)
Book cover formatting: £240 (resizing, revised spine width, adding price and barcode, updates to reinforce branding, one updated cover design)
10 ISBN numbers of which 5 used: £ 72
Total: £912 (or 91p per book)
Plus each book must bear its share of what I call production costs (copy editing, cover design, proofreading, etc.) £1520 divided by 1000 assumed sales (actual number of sales may be lower) = £1.52 per book.
Total cost via Clays:
£1.94 (printing, average price)
£0.91 (reformatting, etc.)
£1.52 (production costs)
Total: £4.37 (first print run only); £3.46 (subsequent print runs – this is where it gets interesting)
Total cost via Createspace
£1.52 (book production)
And now for the not so good news…
Potential profit via Createspace
- Direct sales at full price: £3.47, less cost of attending event, booking stall, travel, etc. (Average loss £5.00 per book.)
- Sales via indie bookshop (30% discount): £0.77, less any delivery costs (loss of £1.83 per book).
- Profit if sold via Amazon: £-0.88 (I get average 90p less share of production costs.)
Potential profit per book via Clays
- Direct sales at full price:£4.62, less cost of attending event, booking stall, travel, etc. (Loss will reduce to £3.85 per book)
- Sales via indie bookshops (30% discount): £1.92, less any delivery costs = potential loss (current postage per book is £2.60, usually hand-delivered)
- Sales to Gardners via Clays:£0.58
In other words, I won’t break into profit until I place my second order with Clays – but I will have a product that I’m proud to sell and will show people I mean business.
This is not Print on Demand
Some points worth remembering:
- The responsibility for preparing the files to the required standard is yours. You won’t receive a proof copy, although your files will be checked carefully before Clays go to print. (They picked up on a minor issue with one of my covers.)
- You will need to purchase your own ISBN numbers (Don’t forget to complete the New Titles forms afterwards.)
- To avoid incurring additional charges, you’ll need to supply the cover complete with a barcode. I used the free barcode generator tool at http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/#submit
- The higher the number of books ordered, the cheaper the unit price becomes. If I had been able to afford to pay for (and store) 300 of each titles, the average price would have come down to £1.50.
But what about distribution?
All titles are registered in Gardners’ catalogue. Clays supply ten copies to them initially and then fill orders placed by Gardners from the stock they hold. (One box of approximately 50 books is stored free of charge. Additional storage is available for a fee). You will be asked to complete a Gardeners New Titles Spreadsheet and a Waterstones’ Trading Application Form. When the supply held by Clays runs out, you have the option of placing another order or sending any excess copies that you still have.
Gardners buy your books for a 50% discount, Clays take 12% of money received from Gardners and you are left with circa 44%. Gardners will offer your books to retailers at a 35% discount, which makes your book very attractive.
You can specify whether or not you will allow ‘sale or return’. Clays pay you direct for sales, however, this takes up to 90 days due to Gardners’ terms of credit. In addition, you may receive orders via Nielsen’s. It is up to you to check their website to see if orders have been placed.
The service received from Clays was second to none. Clays’ detailed guide for self-publishers is available for download via their website. Added to this, their dedicated self-publishing consultant, Rebecca Souster, walked me through the whole process, so that it didn’t feel overwhelming at any point. I couldn’t work the spine width calculator because I didn’t understand the terminology. Rebecca did it for me. I wasn’t sure how to fill in forms. Rebecca was on hand. I spotted a stray apostrophe in the first chapter of one of my titles at the eleventh hour, and then found that the person who had formatted the interior was on holiday. Resolved with the minimum of fuss.
By the end of the process, I feel as if I have built a solid relationship. I was touched that Rebecca seemed genuinely excited to see how my books turned out. She was concerned to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I know that some Print on Demand services excel in customer service, but this was personal. And the quality of the books is far beyond what you could hope to achieve from a Print on Demand service. I’m delighted.
OVER TO YOU
Have you tried traditional printing for short (or longer) runs? Please feel free to share your experience via the comments box.A viable alternative to #POD for indie authors by @janedavisauthor about @ClaysSelf-Pub Click To Tweet