In a new occasional series here on the blog, ALLi's Communications Manager Jay Artale dips into our vast Author Advice Centre archive of information and distills the answers to some of the most frequent questions among self-publishing authors.
Before you dive headlong into creating a paperback version of your ebook you should ask yourself why you want a print version in the first place, which will give you all the information you need to choose the right print partner to achieve your self-publishing goals.
Many of the decisions regarding printing your books will depend on your goals. If you only intend to sell online, you’ll have fewer decisions to make. If you intend to try and get into brick-and-mortar stores, you have a lot more to consider. Quality and cost are considerations, but ease of use also comes into play when making your POD decisions.
Determine your POD goals
Choosing a print partner is not as much about money as it might seem at first. It’s a decision that can only be answered after you determine exactly what you want to do with your printed book. Here are five questions to ask yourself:
- Are you going to be primarily an ebook author with a few printed books for promotional purposes?
- Are you going to restrict print sales to online, through the pbook retailer and your own website?
- Are you going to limit yourself to a few local or handpicked bookstores?
- Are you going to go all out and try to get a distributor and do a print campaign with the associated trade-style publicity in newspapers and other media that is necessary to sell books in this way. If yes, why?
- Have you realistically budgeted time and money costs?
Ninety-nine percent of indie authors will find it a super-stretch challenge to sell widely through bookstores, even as they set out to conquer the world. Be realistic and you’ll save yourself money.
Print on Demand Frequently Asked Questions
We see the same Print on Demand questions popping up again and again, so we thought we'd address the most frequently asked POD questions here:
What's the best service to choose to produce my paperback?
You don't have to use a third party service to make your ebook available in paperback, you can do it yourself. In our How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service we provide you with a review of the following print distributors, and an in-depth comparison review between CreateSpace and Ingram Spark:
- Ingram Spark
- Lightning Source
Jim Giammatteo has reviewed each of these services, so that you don't have to. His POD comparison was based on a 6″ x 9″ trade paperback with 300 pages, B&W interior, cream paper, perfect bound, and gloss finish on the cover.
Should I use CreateSpace or Ingram Spark for Paperbacks?
The difficult part, being an author, is in being able to spend the time to validate a company and see if what they’re selling is, in fact, a good deal. Sometimes even a good company offers services that aren’t the best.
Any time that you are evaluating a vendor or a service company, look at what their intent is. In the case of CreateSpace, they offer a lot for free or at a very reasonable price, but is it so they can “upsell” you other services?
On the other hand, Ingram has no hidden agendas. They offer print services. They don’t charge a commission; they don’t offer cover design, or marketing, or layout, or ISBNs, or anything else. Ingram makes money when you sell a lot of books. That is their motivation – to sign up customers who will sell a lot of books. In other words, they want the same thing as indie authors.
Long ago I stopped looking at any company or service as good or bad. I look at them with one thing in mind – how can they help me achieve my goals?
The choice between CreateSpace and Ingram Spark isn't an either/or decision. Here at the Alliance of Independent Authors we recommend using CreateSpace and Ingram Spark for their strengths.
Use CreateSpace for:
- Amazon-only distribution, and don't sign up for their expanded distribution.
- US shipping to readers who order from your website, or for giveaways, or to send review books to bloggers, etc. They really shine in this department. It’s inexpensive and it’s quick.
Use Ingram Spark for:
- For all other distribution outside of the Amazon universe. That means every book that goes to B&N, or BAM, or Charter Books, or to libraries, or if they get ordered by bookstores, these books come from Ingram.
- Non-US shipping to readers who order from your website, or for giveaways, or to send review books to bloggers, etc.
- Independent bookstores in an effort to get in with them – use Ingram Spark because the quality is better and some bookstores may be averse to seeing a book come from Amazon's CreateSpace.
- An initial order for autographed books. After all, the people who ask for autographed books are most likely your best customers. Give them your best material.
Why does CreateSpace keep saying my books are out of stock when they're available all the time from Ingram Spark?
If you only distribute your book via Ingram Spark you may run into the out of stock scenario on Amazon. This is a little bit ridiculous because CreateSpace uses Ingram to print a lot of its own POD books. But rather than focus on the “why's” of this scenario, let's look at the how to overcome it. Your best option is to publish your POD books on CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, and then your POD book will never be out of stock.
Do I need my own ISBNs?
CreateSpace offers several options for ISBNs. The free and $10 options are only good if you only want to distribute solely through CreateSpace; they can’t be used anywhere else. The $99 option can be used elsewhere, but not if you opt into expanded distribution. Here’s why.
As we already mentioned, CreateSpace uses Ingram for distribution. So if you purchase the CreateSpace ISBN and opt for expanded distribution, when you go to publish with Ingram and use the same ISBN, it will show as already being in their system, as CreateSpace has it assigned.
There are a couple of ways around this:
- Buy the CreateSpace ISBN for $99 but do not opt into the expanded distribution.
- Buy an ISBN from Ingram Spark (less money) and use that for both Ingram and CS.
But the method recommended by ALLi is to use your own ISBN, bought directly from the provider in your country. In every country, a single organisation is responsible for selling ISBNs directly to publishers (and you will be the publisher of record when buying your own ISBNs.) Bowker sells them in the US, and Nielsen sells them in the UK. In some countries, the provider offers ISBNs free; costs vary around the world.
This article was created using excerpts from How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service by Jim Giammatteo and Orna Ross (Don't forget that all ALLi Members may download free ebooks of our ALLi Guidebooks as one of many membership benefits.)