Self-Publishing Your Book – 6 Tips for Print on Demand Publishing


Self-published author Gang Chen describes how he earns $30,000 a month with “print on demand” (POD) publishing, and why he’ll soon self-publish his third book with Outskirts Press. He’s a primo example of self-publishing success!

“The economy wasn’t so bad when I started thinking about self publishing my first book, Planting Design Illustrated,” says Chen. “I had some interest from traditional publishers, but they wanted to make quite a lot of changes and add a co-author. These were changes that would have made me dislike my own book!  So, I turned to self publishing.  At the time, making a lot of money was not at the top of my priorities. I simply wanted to publish my own book in my own way.”

To learn more about creating a “print on demand” book from start to finish, read The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit! Publish Your Non-Fiction Book with CreateSpace and Amazon (pictured) — it’ll guide you every step of the way. And, here are Gang Chen’s tips for self-publishing success… 





An Example of Print on Demand Publishing –  Guest Post by Gang Chen

I self-published my second book, LEED AP Exam Guide in September, 2008. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most important trend in development and is currently revolutionizing the construction industry. My book had the benefit of being published at the right time, at the right price.  Four months later, I earned royalties of $31,207.68 in one month. I earned even more the month later.

6 Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

1. Write a valuable book. This step is easily overlooked, but it is Number One on this list for a reason. Your book must provide some sort of value or benefit for the reader.  In my case, my books are both non-fiction, and fairly niche. I earn the lion’s share of my royalties from my LEED AP Exam Guide, which provides a mock exam, study guides, and sample questions for the LEED AP Exam. 

2. Make sure your book can deliver. Self-publishing non-fiction is an easier proposition on the self-publishing front than fiction. But even fiction books are valuable, if they provide the type of “escape” your reader is seeking.  Whether you write non-fiction, fiction, poetry, or something else entirely, the book must deliver on its promise. You might do everything else on this list, and you might even find some short-lived success, but ultimately, the success of your book comes down to its strength and the book marketing efforts you put forth.

3. Identify your target audience. Who is your reader? If your answer is “everybody” you need to reevaluate your goals and recalibrate your expectations. No book is meant for everybody. In fact, perhaps counter-intuitively, the smaller your audience, the more success you will find. Look at my books: Planting Design Illustrated and LEED AP Exam.  That small, target audience is precisely the reason my books are well-known in the proper circles.  Do I care that someone who reads Harry Potter has never heard of me?  No.  Is it incredibly important to me that students and professionals in the field of green building design and construction have heard of me? Yes. 

4. Recognize the type of book you’re self-publishing. You should be realistic about the type of book you are writing, and the type of publishing you are doing.  If you are self-publishing your book (regardless of whether you are doing it yourself or through the publishing services of a print on demand company like I did), don’t try to force your book to be something that it’s not. Your book is not a mass market paperback like those you find in a grocery store. Nor is it the latest hardback, discounted 80%, like those you find at Costco.  As a self-published author, both of those scenarios are too risky, and to be frank, you probably don’t possess the means to take on that kind of risk. So why try?  Self-publishing authors publish trade paperback and hardback books that can be available regionally (perhaps), locally (probably), and online (definitely). 



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5. Price your book appropriately. Do market research to determine the prices of similar books in your category.    Look on Amazon.com for similar books (you’ll need to be aware of these books anyway, when it comes to marketing yours). Examine their page count and price point.  Make an honest assessment of your book in relation to the other books in your category.  Does your content justify a higher price? Does your page count suggest a lower price?  Your method of publishing should be considered, but should not play a definitive role in the price of your book.

6. Publish your book wisely. My main consideration when choosing my publisher was not how much my royalties were going to be. That only became important to me after the book was published.  The publisher I chose, Outskirts Press, pays me 100% of the profits of the book and lets me set my own pricing. iUniverse pays 20% of the profit. Xlibris pays 10% of the retail price. But by paying 100% of the profit, Outskirts Press allowed me to set the retail price to whatever I wanted, and now I earn the entire benefit of increasing my price.

Self publishing is working for me. My royalties are increasing every month and I’m working on my third book, which I will also publish with Outskirts Press. 

If you have any thoughts or questions on print on demand or self-publishing, please comment below…

Gang Chen is a LEED AP and a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).






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6 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Your Book – 6 Tips for Print on Demand Publishing

  • Eero Sorila

    Thank you for your informative advice Laurie and Gang.
    I’m a Vancouver based freelance photographer and writer. My second adventure travel book through Xlibris, SWEET PAIN global adventures of a frugal photographer has just been published.
    Because I have the copyright for the book do you think I can now transfer the manuscript with 87 photos to Outskirts Press and have them print the book and take over the marketing from Xlibris.
    Thank you in advance for replying at your convenience.
    Eero Sorila

  • Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Author of books on various LEED exams, architecture, and landscape architecture

    Here are my responses to your questions:
    1)Does OP arrange for the books to be printed and sent to the on-line stores like Amazon, or do you have to get them to the on-line stores yourself (or make the arrangements).
    Response: OP arranges for the books to be printed and sent to the on-line stores like Amazon. I do not do anything.
    2) You said that “the 100% profit is the difference between my books’ wholesale price and the base price that OP charges me” so how does that translate in terms of a % of the book’s retail price. The way I have set my retail price works out so I receive a little over 20% of the bookstore retail price. What is the % of the retail price you receive?
    Response: This is a good question. The advantage of using OP is: the base price is fixed, so you can actually control the percentage of your royalties by setting your wholesale price, i.e., by setting your own retail price and the percentage of your discount to the wholesalers. OP allows you to set your wholesale discount from 20% to 55%. I discovered for POD books, the best thing you can do is to set the wholesale discount at 20%. This is the minimum percentage that you can use to get your books to bn.com and amazon.com. Most of the books are sold at amazon.com and bn.com anyway. I am not crazy about getting my books into a physical book store. So, as long as bn.com and amazon.com and other similar online retailers carry my book, I am perfectly fine.
    I simply find out what the prevailing price of similar books is, than I set the retail price so that it’ll match the prevailing price after 10% discount from Amazon.
    So, the percentage of your royalties varies for each book, but you can do some simple calculations and find out for yourself for your own books with the info in this post.
    See link below to OP, you can find the OP base price calculator and other useful information there:
    http://outskirtspress.com/agent.php?key=11011

  • Gini Grey

    Thanks for your response to my questions Gang. I totally relate to you not wanting to sell books individually – I’m the same. That’s why I love that self-publishing companies like AH hook up with a distributer to get them to the stores that sell them for me.

    I have a couple of clarifying questions.

    1)Does OP arrange for the books to be printed and sent to the on-line stores like Amazon, or do you have to get them to the on-line stores yourself (or make the arrangements).

    2) You said that “the 100% profit is the difference between my books’ wholesale price and the base price that OP charges me” so how does that translate in terms of a % of the book’s retail price. The way I have set my retail price works out so I receive a little over 20% of the bookstore retail price. What is the % of the retail price you receive?

    Thanks

    And Laurie, to answer your question about whether it was worth going the self-publishing route – I’m not sure (but can give it some thought for an interview if you like). At first it seemed great, but then something changed: the wholesale price to bookstores went from a 30% discount off retail to a 15% discount. Neither AH or Ingrams would tell me why (or who was getting the 15% because it wasn’t me!).

    Bookstores have since been reluctant to purchase my books (except for on-line stores, they don’t mind). I’ve had people contact me to say that their local bookstore wants to add on an extra charge to bring the book in (except for Indigo Chapters, they sell it at the regular price)so these people hope I will sell it to them (which I only do at workshops) – so I have to redirect them to Amazon etc.

    I think I’ll try the e-book and kindle route and see how that works.

    Gini
    .-= Gini Grey´s last blog post ..Life =-.

  • Gang Chen

    Gini,

    I do NOT sell my book at my site, because I do NOT have the desire or the time to do handle the package, shipping for each individual book sale. I want others to do these for me.

    I depend on bn.com and Amazon.com and other Amazon sites (Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.jp) to sell my books. I just set my book’s whole sale discount at 20%, whoever is willing to help me to sell the book with this whole sale discount will be able to sell it. Most of the time, Amazon will keep 10% for themselves and then sell my books at 10% to the readers. I even find my books at Target’s website.

    The 100% profit is the difference between my books’ wholesale price and the base price that OP charges me.

    I set my own retail price: so I control the whole sale price and in turn the royalties that I will get.

    The startup cost is pretty low, depending on which package that you choose. It ranges from a few hundred dollars to about $1000.

    I always pay extra for editing (about 1.4 cents per word) because it is very important. I can control the content of the book very well myself, but editing is essential. English is my third language (not second) and I want a professional editor to editing it for me. You book will be read by thousands of people, every error that is not corrected during editing WILL be discovered by someone at some point.

    My POD books sell much better than my e-books, but I still want the e-book option so that people have one more choice and my e-books are available anywhere people have access to internet.

    Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Author of books on various LEED exams, architecture, and landscape architecture.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Gini,

    Thanks for your insights into self-publishing — would you do it differently, if you were to do it again? Was it worth it? Maybe we should do an interview!

    I’m excited to self-publish my e-book, but I don’t think I’ll go the print route. But, we’ll see…

    Anyway, I’ve let Gang Chen that you asked this question, and hope he responds!

    Laurie
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..How to Create a Strategic Writing Plan – Tips for Organized Writers =-.

  • Gini Grey

    Thanks for this article Laurie and Gang. It’s good to know there are self-publishing companies that give you 100% of the profits. I’ll have to explore the company you mentioned further to see what the start up costs are etc. as I self-published with AuthorHouse and I receive 20% of the retail price (which I set) from book store sales and 40% from their website sales. I understand that this is because they are hooked up with a distributer (Ingrams) that receives a cut and so does the bookstore, so once the book has been printed (and POD books cost more to print in small runs)there is only 20% left for the author.

    Do you sell your book mostly from your site, and do you have to arrange for Amazon and other bookstore sales (rather than through a distributer) in order to recieve 100% profit?

    Thanks,

    Gini
    .-= Gini Grey´s last blog post ..Life =-.