Certain reviewers and certain authors’ societies are still snooty about Print on Demand (POD). They believe it is only for self-publishing amateurs. Yet it has been used for years in the educational and academic worlds so a book isn’t printed until it is sold. It’s an ideal system for books that are only going to sell a few copies. And if you do get a big order, the price you have to pay is competitive with discounted bulk off-set printing.
There is no doubt that per unit it is a lot more expensive, particularly on small print runs. Our books’ printing costs, including any shipping and admin charges work out at between 2.00 and 4.00. A traditional publishing house can obtain a unit value of 20-40p on the same size books thus making a much bigger differential between the recommended retail price (RRP) and unit cost. However, this is more than made up for by other overhead costs: nice offices in London, salaried staff and contracted outsourced staff. Small presses don’t have those.
Lightning Source (LS) makes it particularly easy for the small publisher: For £7.00 + VAT per title per year they will make the book available world-wide, keep it hooked up to over 32 distributors / wholesalers, print locally to keep down costs and waive all admin and shipping costs. Even if, say, Amazon UK wanted just one copy of your book, they feed the digital information into the machine with that of all the other books Amazon UK wants that day. They are shipped together. We don’t see the money for 90 days but LS does all the invoicing and chasing. We get a monthly statement and details of how many books have been sold in which country and the money is put directly into our bank account. This is wonderfully admin and risk-free for us.
Our clients also have the advantage of getting a brand new book, very quickly. Notice, the Book Depository buy from us, via LS, and they insist on books being available within 24 hours of ordering. LS naturally comes up with the goods. Customers don’t get warehouse-stressed goods. There are no warehouses at publisher / printer end.
There are environmental issues here as well. LS uses paper from sustainable sources. No paper is wasted as only books that are required are printed.
No book need ever go out of print. Of course, from time to time you may want to revise a book. It takes about 48 hours to digitize your amendments and costs up to £52.50. So, it’s relatively simple, quick and inexpensive. An author who has grown may wish an earlier work to go out of print. For that reason, our contracts tend to run to three or four years and are renewable thereafter by mutual agreement. In practice we actually only pull the book if the author requests it. And sure, we’ll sell the rights on to one of the Big Six if they request it and our author agrees.
POD ought to get a better press. LS, though a bit of a monopoly, is a good company to work with. Generally the books are of good quality and any problems, of which there are few, are dealt with swiftly.