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Print on demand: Your book, your way

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BY KEVIN RHOADES
If you are thinking about publishing an outdoors book but feeling disenchanted with the old-style, traditional book-publishing paradigm, check out print-on-demand services.
A Google search of the topic resulted in 13 million hits with thousands of articles and scores of books written on self-publishing and POD services. What follows is a summary of my notes from outdoor-writer conferences and online research.
As a book author you must first decide whether self-publishing is for you. Outdoor writer-book author Michael Furtman said in more than one conference session that self-publishing might be the better venue if your creation is more of a niche nonfiction book that appeals to a regional audience, particularly if you have a means to promote your work.
Furtman also said if the author enjoys the creative aspect of the process, such as page layout, creating artwork and working with printers, then self-publishing can be more profitable over traditional publishing.
Another aspect is the outlook for sales of your book. It’s assumed upfront that a niche book will have less sales potential compared to a book geared to a national audience.
Co-founder of Falcon Publishing and longtime book-acquisitions editor Bill Schneider says authors can be successful selling books in quantities that typically won’t interest traditional trade or specialty publishers. “You can make money selling 500 books a year with print on demand,” he said.
Benefits of POD:
– You don’t have to break your bank account publishing your book; after your manuscript is perfect, the print set-up fee can range from zero to a few hundred dollars.
– Since you have the ability to print your book on demand, there is no need to store books in your garage.
– Authors can retain all rights to their work instead of giving up many rights to the trade publisher.
– The POD service initiates printing, packaging and mailing so you won’t waste time operating as a UPS store.
– Lightning-fast turnaround time: Place your order for any number of books and your orders are shipped the same week. Authors can order book quantities as small as one.
– Authors have total control over their work, from start to finish.
Bottom line: It’s possible for authors to make more money, even 50 percent or more per book sold by POD publishing, compared to the small advance plus minuscule royalty via traditional, old-line publishing.
One downside to print-on-demand publishing is that the unit price per book will exceed that of printing a thousand or more books through a traditional offset printer.
Other shortcomings:
– It may be difficult to get mainstream, national brick-and-mortar booksellers to work with POD services because of nonstandard purchase requirements and book return policies. But you did your homework upfront and determined your book is best aimed at a local or regional audience, right? Knock on the doors of local bookstores. Also send review copies to colleagues who have outdoors columns in magazines and newspapers.
– You won’t receive much help with marketing. But you knew that from the outset, correct? If you do a lecture circuit, sell books to your audiences. Outdoor photographer Tom Ulrich experiences enormous success with this.
– Your book may receive wholesale distribution only from your POD service. But you plan to set up a website dedicated to retailing your book, right? You’ve also established social networking venues and multiplied marketing efforts there, yes?
Bottom line: If you decide self-publishing by way of print-on-demand services is for you, turn shortcomings of self-publishing into opportunities. Bestsellers have been born out of self-published authors including “What Color is Your Parachute,” “In Search of Excellence” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
It is essential your book’s content is first-rate, professionally edited and devoid of errors. Make sure your page design is simple, text easy to read, and that your book cover and title will catch the eye of potential buyers. If you are uncomfortable doing one or more aspects of the post-production, remember you can tap into the vast network of expertise within OWAA’s membership – there are plenty of outdoor communicators with skills and know-how to lend a hand.
If your POD book is more successful than you thought, you can still print a couple thousand copies through a traditional offset printer. This will lower the unit price after you test your masterpiece with print on demand. With robust sales, you might attract a traditional, old-line publisher. But if your book is as successful as “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” you won’t need one.♦
Kevin Rhoades specializes in outdoor book layout, newsletter design and websites for outdoor communicators. His first book, “Stalker of the Wild – Days in the Life of Wildlife
Filmmaker Bob Landis,” will be published early in 2011. He lives in Missoula, Mont. with his wife, Andrea, and two sons. www.kevinrhoades.com.

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