Get Your Book Read
Some online-publishing sites don't charge up-front fees, and unlike traditional vanity publishers, print-on-demand services don't require that you buy a single copy of your book.
BookSurge, Amazon's self-publishing arm, offers various fee-based services, each tailored for a specific breed of writer. Publishing fees for fiction books, for instance, start at $500 and range upward to $3600. The high-end package includes the talents of a professional editor who reviews your manuscript. Royalty rates--the amount you make per book sold--range from 25 percent of the list price for trade paperbacks purchased via retail channels to a mere 10 percent for those sold via wholesale. Frankly, these rates should be higher--particularly since you're paying to publish and market your work. Then again, you don't have to buy copies of your publication up front, and BookSurge handles the printing and distribution. (First-time authors at traditional houses rarely get much of a marketing budget anyway. They do most of their own publicity until they demonstrate that their title can sell.) Amazon and other online retailers will offer your title, and BookSurge provides tips on how to boost your Amazon sales opportunities.
If you prefer not to pay up front, Lulu, an on-demand publisher, will print your book, even if it sells only a single copy. The process is simple: You upload your manuscript at Lulu.com, and then follow a series of steps to select a book size, binding, cover art, and other features. If you're serious about marketing your work, however, you'll have to pay. Obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), for instance, costs $50. Lulu lets you set the book's price; it prints and ships each item, and its author-royalty rate is a very generous 80 percent. Lulu sells its authors' books at its site, as well. It's a good service for self-starters who are strong on marketing skills but light on cash.
Self-publisher iUniverse offers a Premier Pro package ($1300 to $1400) that includes guidance on polishing your manuscript, plus marketing assistance and a custom hard cover. There's even the (slim) chance that your book, if it's commercial enough, will appear in Barnes & Noble bookstores for eight weeks--or longer, if it's selling. The bargain Fast Track service ($400) publishes your work without editorial guidance, cover graphics, or illustrations. Choosing the best royalty rate requires a bit of homework, though. While 20 percent is the standard, authors who buy iUniverse's Premier Pro and Premier packages can take 10 percent if they agree to sell their books to wholesalers at a 50 percent discount. This sounds counterintuitive, perhaps, but if your book is cheap, wholesalers will show more interest. And despite the reduced royalty, you might make more money through volume sales. No promises of a best seller here; just an easier way to get your work published.
You might need a marketing degree to fathom the promotion and publishing choices at Xlibris, though the site's detailed FAQ section clearly explains the fine print. The service's $300 Advantage package includes printing a paperback version of your masterwork, while the $13,000 Platinum deal adds marketing help, including an ad in the New York Review of Books' Independent Press Listing. You can set your own book price (for an additional $249) and even your own royalty rate, although a higher rate also boosts the cover price. Xlibris's options may befuddle some wordsmiths, but business-savvy writers should be able to land a favorable deal.
CafePress.com makes one-offs of all kinds of stuff, including books. You won't get any marketing help here, but you won't pay any up-front fees, either. Simply choose the size and binding, and then upload your manuscript. You set the price, which determines your royalty payment. CafePress.com gets $10 for each book you sell, so if you set the price at $15, you make nearly $5 per sale. CafePress.com's online shop will even sell your book for you. One drawback: The available bindings are best suited for training manuals and photo albums rather than full-length works. The good news is that if your book doesn't sell, you're not out any money.