Original questions are great, but the repeat questions, the ones that keep coming up, are great at showing me where there are gaps in successfully conveying information. I have been asked repeatedly, mostly author-editor-types, “who is the publisher, who printed it, is it on Amazon.com” type questions. So here is a brief Q&A, in case it saves any would-be published authors some footwork. The long answer and related stories are below.
Who is the publisher? Me. I self-published, in the most stripped-down sense of the term.
So you did it all yourself? Well, I had 3 people pre-read early drafts and give in-depth feedback, then I asked a million questions of about 15 people, then it got a final proofread by Chris. But besides all that help, yes.
Who designed and layed out the cover? Me (the art degree does occasionally come in handy).
Same with the pagination, photos and formatting? Yup. And conversion to PDF, for which my printer supplied special drivers to create the finished print-ready format.
Who printed it? DiggyPOD (their link is in text below) and they did an awesome job with both customer service and quality.
Is it on Amazon.com? Nope. It might be someday, but my margin is too slim to kiss it away to them in this printing round.
Where can I get a copy? Direct from my website or at SoulFood Books.
Is it available as an e-book? Not now. More specifics about why in the text below.
What is your cut of the cover price? About the same as a traditional publisher gives to an author – 10% to 15% depending on how you calculate it.
And for the in-depth story of how the book became a physical book, read below:
During the writing process, once I decided that I actually would have to print this thing, I looked at traditional publishers and thought about pitching to a traditional press. I fast learned that the vision of what I had in my head: a novel-style story, interweaved with color, coffee table-style photos, was not something that any traditional publisher will touch with a ten foot pole (the exception being universal guidebooks and ‘how to’ books). So I looked at self-publishing houses. That, I thought, would save me the trouble of pitching to a publisher, cost me a bit, give me a decent marketing, some distribution, along with an ISBN and listing on Amazon.com and even final editorial, if I wanted to pay extra for it. Lovely. How enticing! But after a little more investigation, I found that not only do self-publishing houses want you to jump through a bunch of hoops and don’t really do anything significant to market their authors, but none of them offered the finished print option I had envisioned either.
That’s right, even if I payed them for the service, they would not print it the way I wanted them to. So much for “self-publishing”. So I went to the version of publishing that would allow me to select my own printer, and thus allow me to print a mostly word-style book with a bunch of full color photos inside, exactly where I wanted them (not just 10 plates in the center) and not charge me for full 4-color press across every page of the book. (Those of you who care, will find it interesting that color printing is about 8-10 times as expensive as black and white, novel-style printing for both the publisher and the printer. And I found that most print houses won’t split a print job into partial black and white, partial color because collating and bindery becomes unmanageable. They want to either print all color or all black and white).
Here is where I segued into considering digital-only mediums like e-books. But that was short lived. My vision was for a solid-state book that can be held in the hand and flipped through. An actual physical book, with paper pages feels more timeless, less disposable and more “completed” in my mind. These things were all important to me. I wanted my grandma to be able to read it, and my grand kids (without retro software). I realize that many readers think this is old-school and that I should buck up and allow the book to be sold for $4 in a digital format. I am not there yet. I am thankful that just as many of you have piped up and agreed with me that print is a “more fitting” medium for this particular book. When all of the standard digital readers display gorgeous photos by default AND e-book conversion prices go down (yes, you have to pay to license each of the reader-friendly formats so that they can convert your book) then I’ll consider it.
Back in the world of print, I spent about 8 hours online (in bite-sized chunks) scouring the internet for a printer that would print color pages in black and white books and place them where I wanted. I have printed with Blurb before, and they do a decent job printing all-color books at a premium. I priced this book out and it came to $129 per copy – just my cost to print it. That didn’t include shipping. I checked other similar printer/binderies and found $86 was the lowest price for printing each individual book in full color, regardless of quantity.
Then, one night while I was picking through print shops, distributions houses and 4 color presses online, I must have entered just the right combination of keywords into Google, because I magically found DiggyPOD and they somehow managed to fit all my criteria: Mostly black and white pages, but color pages too, as many as I decided, quality paper choices, perfect bound, manageable quantities, print from PDF, printed in USA. And they could do it for a price that I thought people could afford. Magic.
So nope, you can’t get it on Amazon, you can’t get it at BN, but you can get it right here. And I have about 40 copies left from the first printing. SoulFood Books is the exclusive retailer. They also have a few left last time I checked, in case you are a fan of in-person purchases. Once the first printing runs out, I do have a longer term plan, but you’ll have to wait and see how that unfolds in a future post.