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The Print Book Business Plan: Robin Cutler

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RobinCutler013112-square-bwWhat does it take to make a print book profitable and distributed through multiple bookstores? Basically, what do we have to do to make a print book profitable, if distributed through Ingram, Bertrams etc? What is the difference between US and UK, Canada, Australia etc in terms of distribution models?

Print Books aren't Dead

Despite the publishing prophecies from five or so years ago claiming that readers were moving in mass to their e-book devices, we now know that in 2016 and into the foreseeable future, the printed book continues to dominate the market as the preferred format for reading. The truth turned out to be that a huge number of people still prefer the experience of turning pages, browsing shelves of titles and carting around a reading device that hasn’t changed much in the 1500 years since bound pages replaced the scrolls of antiquity.

As it turns out, there are some genres such as romance and thrillers where many readers prefer their content served up effortlessly and often for free to their iPad, Kindle or Kobo. But even now the most ardent advocates for e-publishing from a few years back are now suggesting that a multi-format strategy may be the best approach for indie authors today.

Multi-Format Book Strategy

I have recommended for years that it’s best for authors to make their content available in as many formats and as widely available as they can afford. With a publishing industry that is changing so rapidly, there’s no way to predict an audience for your book or even know where and how readers prefer to purchase. With platforms such as IngramSpark that combine distribution directly with eBook and print on demand(POD) technology, this strategy is fairly easy and inexpensive to realize.

So let’s look at what a multi-format strategy with broad distribution will cost you. Since professional editing should be something you contract for regardless of format, I’m not going to factor that into the decision to produce multi-format versions of your work. The same goes for a professional design of the cover. But you will need to work with a designer that can produce both print and eBook interior formats of your book.

There are inexpensive template tools on the market for around $50 that can format an MS Word document for both POD and eBook distribution. I particularly like Joel Friedlander’s “Two-Way Book Design Templates” you can find at  www.bookdesigntemplates.com/ because you can format your book for both print and eBook at the same time. In addition to the formatting expense, you’ll be charged a one-time title setup fee of $49 (39 GBP) to upload your print title into your IngramSpark account. If you order 50 print copies within 60 days of setting up your title, the setup fee is refunded back to you.

Before your files are formatted, you’ll need to select a trim size for your book. It’s always best to select a size that can work for POD and that is industry standard because it will save you money. To see the list of standard trim sizes offered in POD go to www.ingramspark.com/plan-your-book/print/trim-sizes.

Publishing Compensation Calculator

To estimate the printing costs and what you will earn from a sale when a bookshop or library orders you book from Ingram go to myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/PubCompCalculator.

Using the calculator, you can also play around with pricing and a discount off that price (from 30-55% off in the US; and 35-55% in all other markets) that you will need to offer bookshops to sell your book. This calculator tool is essential to use to determine exactly what you earn on every sale and can determine the ROI (return on investment).

ingram-pic1Granted, not all books lend themselves to POD because of the design or size. Additionally, when a book really starts selling well, POD might not be the most economical way to go. But for most indie authors and publishers, POD offers an ideal solution for:

  • testing the demand of your book without investing thousands in inventory
  • the ability to update content whenever you want
  • removes the burden of packing and shipping your book directly to your customers
  • perpetually makes a title “available” on retailer sites like Amazon

Ingram ipage

ingram-pic2Lastly, I’m happy to announce that Ingram’s easy-to-use online search, order, and account management platform (iPage) used widely by US retail and library customers will now be available to UK bookshops and libraries.

All titles that are setup in IngramSpark with UK pricing will now be available in iPage so that bookshops can more easily order with detailed information on indie titles. As this service grows in popularity among UK bookshops, we think that indie authors can’t help but benefit, especially as we curate lists of indie titles by genre matched to bookshops in the UK.

Look for more information about this service in the IngramSpark newsletter. If you’re not an IngramSpark customer, you can sign up at http://www.ingramspark.com/subscribe


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Author: Indie Author Fringe

The Indie Fringe Author Conference takes place three times a year, in line with London Book Fair in April; Book Expo America in May and Frankfurt Book Fair in October


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