Thursday, June 23, 2011


Well, it came yesterday.

A print-on-demand [POD] book that I had been working on with my old Afghanistan Peace Corps friend Doug Hergert. He wrote the novel. I did the cover art and designed the pages.

The POD looks like a real book: glossy cover, cream-colored paper, pages and pages of type all neat ‘n pretty. Yet it is only one of two copies, printed just last week in South Carolina by Create Space and shipped to me here in Honolulu.

The cost? About ten dollars for this proof. The cost for copies printed after the proof is approved: substantially lower.

The catch? None, really. CreateSpace is affiliated with They’ll take 60% of the list price, when and if you sell. In return, they’ll list the book world-wide in all of the countries where they do business. Sixty per cent seems like a lot, but typical. A publisher, especially a small one, has to give up 60% of the list price to wholesalers. Otherwise, the wholesaler won’t list the book so that it can be resold to bookstores, who also have to make a profit.

The good thing in all of this is that, if only wants 60%, you get what’s left over. And this part of the pie is much larger than it would ever be with a traditional publisher.

Did I forget something? Ah, yes. You have to generate publicity. You have to create a buzz. You have to sell your baby. As I mentioned in my last blog, self-promotion is also part of what publishers expect you to do anyway. The good thing is: now there is the internet and blogs and facebook and a zillion “hey, look at me” ways of getting e-attention. 

CreateSpace is not the only game in town. There is also Lightning Source, which is connected with Ingram’s, a huge book wholesaler with tentacles all over the world. It costs about $75 to make a proof with them, and they are also stricter in terms of what they want the digital files you send to them to look like. They make up for this “exorbitant” fee by being able to get your book out to bookstores, libraries, and schools world-wide, something, it seems, that CreateSpace is only just now getting in on. 

What Doug and I have found is that the world of print-on-demand is changing so quickly that what was true yesterday is not today. Quality improves daily. So does distribution for both CreateSpace and Ingram’s. And yesterday’s limitations in terms of digital requirements, recommended sizes, kinds of papers available are changing as well. In short, the POD book is evolving, as I write.

So, what am I, a children’s picture book author and illustrator, going to do about all of this? Simple. I am going to put out a few books. At $10 or so a proof, what do I have to lose?

As I mentioned in my last blog, I can do this so cheaply because I can illustrate and design the book myself. I am in a unique position to take advantage of POD books. But here is what I think is going to happen. Authors, illustrators, and book designers are going to form partnerships to produce books themselves. Why not? Author A and Illustrator B like each other’s work. They work on a project and contact Book Designer C, who also wants in on the deal. As simple as ABC, you have a mini-publishing business, which, if it works, will not only make money but provide a means of getting the artistic material out there.

My agent has started his own publishing business called Book Partners. It is only for the clients he represents. He has begun pooling together the talent he has and bringing on board an editor or two. What’s unique about this is that those who are part of the “pool” want a cut of the profits. There’s just that much to go around.

While producing a POD book might seem daunting to some, to others it is an answer to their prayers. Now they can get published.
Ah, but what kind of “published”?  SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has decided that you, as a self-published author, can only be a “pal” in their organization. You are deemed different from those who are “legitmately” published. How “yesterday” can they get!? SCBWI reminds me of how the copyists’ guilds must have reacted when Gutenberg-printed books (g-books) began showing up. The men running those guilds raised their noses so high that they weren’t able to notice when their halls grew empty and irrelevant.

Publishers and organizations like SCBWI 
are a little bit like dinosaurs 
oblivious to the changes 
that are about to 
take place.

Here are links to CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and to a children’s book produced by Book Partners. It is a beautiful book written and illustrated by Native American Virginia A. Stroud. If you want to spend a few dollars, you can not only get a nice book but check out the quality of a book that was printed on your demand.

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