Why print on demand isn’t right for us right now

Tue 1 May 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | 6 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

Small Beer Sixpack: Goose IslandI keep reading about the death of legacy publishers (hey, that’s us!) due to their refusal to get into the ebook game (done that) or not being swift enough to change from old fashioned book printers to using print on demand. This is going to be a short post because here’s the simple problem with print on demand is it’s too expensive. (Unless we want to price our paperbacks at $20 . . . ! Which I don’t.) Another problem is that we would have to create a gallery that would allow each product to be ordered when wanted. So the printing would be more expensive and then we would essentially have to rework our online presence too.

Let’s use a 320-page book as an example. We’ve been pricing our trade paperbacks at $16 since we started publishing in 2001. From that $16, about 65% goes to the bookstore and the distro. So we receive about 35% = $5.60 to pay the author and for the art, copyediting, marketing, publicity, mailing, freight, returns, and whatever other costs there are, including, with luck, ourselves.

So why don’t we minimize our investment in printed books and only print one or two hundred at a time? Because we can’t afford to.

We always use recycled paper, which bumps up the printing price of all our books but we’ve always thought that if a publisher can’t afford that, they shouldn’t be printing books.

The book printer below quoted just under $2 a copy, not bad for only 2K books. The more books we can print, the lower the unit cost. That leaves us almost $4 for all those costs above.

If we go the print on demand route, we’d receive $0.83 per book, not enough to pay the author royalties, never mind anything else.

So until the print on demand unit price drops, we’ll stick to printing a couple of thousand copies, letting books sell through, and reprinting when the orders start building up.

Print on Demand (quotes provided May 1, 2012 from 2 printers):

100 copies
$517.00 · ($5.17 each)
$667.80 · ($6.67 each)

250 copies
$1,292.50 · ($5.17 each)
$1,458.89 · ($5.83 each)

Book Printer (quote provided Feb 16, 2012):

2000 copies (including freight to warehouse/office)
$3842.00 · ($1.92 each)