Print-On-Demand: Who Does the Printing?
Here is the important bit: As I pointed out in my last blog post, there are only two companies that do print-on-demand. Any other “self-publishing company” that offers you a print-on-demand service is only going to run your project through either CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, something that you can do yourself quite easily. These “self-publishing companies” earn money by sleight-of-hand—hiding the actual cost of printing and what your royalties would be if you accessed the POD services of CreateSpace or Ingram Spark directly. Sometimes they report that the cost to print the book is higher; other times they quote a “royalty” without revealing how they got to the bottom line. Either way, you, the author earn less than you should.
Save Money with Print-On-Demand
As with any other product, the greater the number of middlemen between the manufacturer and the consumer, the greater the price paid by the consumer. Cut out the people in the middle, and you will save money.
To prove my theory, I tested print-on-demand pricing on CreateSpace, Ingram Spark and BookBaby. BookBaby is a self-publishing company that has recently supplemented its eBook distribution services by offering print-on-demand to its author clients.
I selected a trim size of 6” x 9”, black ink on crème paper, paperback with perfect bound binding (glued spine with color laminated cover), 200 pages, with a cover price of $10.99. My goal was to determine the “publisher compensation” offered by each print-on-demand company. Remember: the publisher is YOU!
Ingram Spark offers two wholesale discounts: 55% and 40%. (Bookstores require 55% to accept an order.)
The publisher compensation estimates for my book from each of the companies is as follows:
- Ingram Spark (40% wholesale discount): $3.09
- Ingram Spark (55% wholesale discount): $1.45
- CreateSpace (40% wholesale discount): $3.34
- BookBaby: $1.23
Yes, you read that correctly: assuming a 40% wholesale discount, you would be paid over $2.00 less by BookBaby than you would by going directly to the Ingram Spark or CreateSpace website.
CreateSpace, when used only for distribution to Amazon, really doesn’t operate like a “self-publishing company.” They charge for printing and the 40% wholesale discount, but don’t take any additional revenue for themselves. The difference above between Spark at 40% and CreateSpace at 40% is CreateSpace’s lower printing cost, but CreateSpace printing is wildly inconsistent and not as good as Spark’s. Yes, authors are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Other “self-publishing companies” include Lulu.com and Outskirts Press. On their website, Lulu.com gives an example of publisher compensation for a similar book as above, but with a cover price of $14.95. When the book is sold on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, authors receive a whopping 70 cents per book. Outskirts Press provides a royalty calculator on their website but the royalties dropped into negative territory when I reduced the cover price below $11.95.
Perhaps you will save some time and anxiety by going through BookBaby or other self-publishing companies. The mystical world of printing and distribution induces anxiety in many authors, who would rather just get rid of that headache when given the option. But, assuming you sell 500 books, you would keep an additional $1,000! Aren’t you worth it? (Note that there may be account set-up fees – sometimes refunded. Be sure to clarify all costs up front.)
Working with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark
A few tips about working with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark:
- Both CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/) and Ingram Spark (https://www1.ingramspark.com/) provide easy-to-use forms on their website to calculate options and costs.
- You will need to set up an account and upload cover and interior files that meet their exacting specs. You can create these files, or you can avoid a lot of frustration in this area by hiring an experienced book designer.
- CreateSpace books generally are listed on Amazon a day after the proof is reviewed by them and accepted by the author. Ingram Spark takes a little longer, for reasons that are unclear, but may be due to the retailers themselves or Amazon giving priority to CreateSpace books.
- As mentioned in my last post, skip Extended Distribution at CreateSpace and choose Ingram Spark for that instead. Thus, the wholesale discount at CreateSpace will automatically be 40% and the wholesale discount at Spark for Extended Distribution will be 55%, ensuring that bookstores will place a special order (which is why you’re using Spark in the first place!).