In a previous post, I talked about the disadvantages of POD (print on demand) publishing. To summarize:
Loss of control/rights
So, if traditional publishing is the longest of shots and POD is a bad deal, what’s left? For me, the choice was relatively easy. I started my own publishing company, Hardway Press. (I like the name because of the Las Vegas dice connection – as in “four the hardway” – and also because it symbolizes all the work that goes into producing a high-quality book.)
Ever since the advent of competitively-priced short run digital printing, there’s almost nothing I can’t do on my own. I get to hire the graphic artist, the interior layout person, the editor and the printer. For a control freak like me, that’s a dream come true. And the proof is in the product. I believe my books compare favorably to anything coming out of the big publishing houses.
While it’s true that the upfront costs are higher than POD (roughly $6,000 out-the-door for the first 1,000 copies), I make up for it quickly by retaining half the retail price. And I get to keep all rights, should Hollywood come a-knocking. (Actually, they’ve knocked a couple of times but never stayed for dinner.)
I can hear you asking, “What about distribution?” It’s true that small indie presses don’t get the major chain store coverage the big guys do. But that’s not as important as it used to be. For one thing, traditional publishing is a consignment business. That means retailers like Barnes & Noble can ship back your books anytime they want to. You have about 90 days to prove you can move product, almost impossible without an extensive (and expensive) book tour. Then, when you get those books back – slightly used, no less – what the heck do you do with them?
Here’s a statistic you might find heartening: more than half of all book sales take place out of stores. In other words, retailers are becoming less relevant. (Just ask Borders, which has one foot on the banana peel.) That’s certainly true in my case. Most of my sales have come from the Internet, personal appearances and special promotions.
Alternative distribution channels are becoming less alternative all the time. My favorite story involves Robert Kiyosaki, who self- published the original “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” As sales languished, a friend took pity on him and offered to feature the book in the boutique area of his car wash. Not exactly primo book-selling territory (competing with those little smelly pine tree air fresheners). But it proved to be just the exposure he needed. Nine zillion sales later (give or take), the book has become legendary (offering solace to those of us trying to crack our first zillion).
Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. It’s a tremendous amount of work. But it does offer a logical alternative. And there’s a certain kind of magic in getting your work out there. Until you do, one thing’s for sure. Nothing’s gonna happen.