POD SECRETS REVEALED – How Many Book Sales Needed to Recoup Your Investment? – UPDATED 4/21/16

POD SECRETS REVEALED – How Many Book Sales Needed to Recoup Your Investment? – UPDATED 4/21/16
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The last version of this article was published in 2015. We have updated it to reflect the new prices being charged by POD publishers now. Please also see THE 2016 Print on Demand Price Comparison HERE.

Considering self-publishing? How many books will you need to sell to recoup your investment?

LISTED IN ORDER OF BREAK-EVEN STATUS:

  • BookLocker – 121 COPIES (setup fees: $675)
  • CreateSpace – 200 COPIES (setup fees: $1,151)
  • Lulu – 248 COPIES (setup fees: $1,089)
  • Infinity Publishing – 262 COPIES (setup fees: $1097)
  • Dog Ear Publishing – 277 COPIES (setup fees $2,198)
  • Xulon Press – 297 COPIES (setup fees $2,845)
  • Xlibris – 313 COPIES (setup fees: $1,723)
  • Trafford – 354 COPIES (setup fees: $1,474)
  • iUniverse – 414 COPIES (setup fees: $1,899)
  • Llumina Publishing – 469 COPIES (setup fees: $2,245)
  • AuthorHouse – 561 COPIES (setup fees: $2,799)
  • BookBaby – 597 COPIES (setup fees: $1,904)
  • Outskirts Press – 661 COPIES (setup fees: $2,095)

Fees are based on the least expensive package offering similar services. Details below.

Sometimes, starry-eyed authors look at the loud bells and silver whistles on some POD publishing company websites, and get caught up in the hype. Spending up to $1,000 or more is never a good idea when you can get essentially the same book for much less (most POD publishers use the same printer). Saving money up front means you’ll recoup the money you’ve invested in your book much faster!

How many print books do you need to sell to recoup the money you’ve paid to self-publish your print book, and e-book, with the most popular POD publishers?

Prices above are based on the least expensive package offered by each publisher on similar offers targeting U.S. authors. Fees include black-and-white-interior print formatting (based on a 200-page book) with up to 25 interior photos/graphics, original color cover design (some firms above only offer template covers with these packages) with up to 5 images (some above charge extra for more than one cover image – BookLocker does NOT), print proof, basic ebook formatting and distribution to the top four ebook retailers (some above, like CreateSpace, have distribution limitations, and some may charge more for ebooks with complex formatting), Espresso edition (not all above offer this), an ISBN for all editions, barcode, a listing on the publisher’s website, distribution by Ingram, and feedback on your cover if submitting your own (some above don’t offer this, or won’t give you a discount if you are submitting your own cover), all within 6 weeks.
IMPORTANT: Many of the firms above don’t offer rush/expedited publishing services. BookLocker usually publishes within a month – at no additional charge. BookLocker also offers a rush 2-week print publishing program for only $999, which is still less than all the other firms above.

NOTE: Many companies offer perks that others don’t and some try to upsell authors on extraneous services during the publishing process. Study each publisher and contract carefully before making your choice.

Prices also now include the cost of production files for those publishers who offer that. Some don’t give, or even sell, production files to authors when those authors leave their service. For example, CreateSpace does not give production files to authors under any circumstances, even if the author has paid them thousands to produce those files. Other POD publishers charge authors extra for copies of files they already PAID the publisher to produce! Ridiculous and extremely greedy! In the list below, BookLocker and Dog Ear give production files to authors on request at no extra charge. Other publishers either charge hundreds for them, or flat refuse to give or sell them to authors at all. This essentially forces the author to stay with that publisher unless they want to pay publishing/formatting/design fees all over again to someone else if they are unhappy with their publisher. We call this a forced marriage.

NOTE: Many companies offer perks that others don’t and some try to upsell authors on extraneous services during the publishing process. Study each publisher and contract carefully before making your choice.

Print book sales figures below are calculated as coming directly from the publisher’s website (royalties are usually lower for sales through retailers/wholesalers). The exception is CreateSpace, which is explained below.

LISTED IN ORDER OF BREAK-EVEN STATUS

For a 248-page, 6 x 9, full-color cover, black-and-white interior paperback book:

BookLocker – ONLY 121 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $675) – Deduct $200 if submitting your own cover to save even more.

<<< Rated “Outstanding” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>>

List: $15.95

Royalties: 35% or $5.58 (BookLocker’s print royalties are always based on the list price; NEVER on net profit!)

121 copies need to sell to break even. (Only 85 copies need to be sold to break even if you submit your own cover.)

<b>BookLocker also offers a D.I.Y. Program, a Paying Plan Program and a RUSH publishing program (2-week publishing package). </b>

CreateSpace – 200 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,151.00)

<< Rated “Pretty Good” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $15.95 (assuming the same list price as the sample book at BookLocker.com above)

Royalty: $5.75 through Amazon; more through the CreateSpace ìEstoreî (per their online calculator). Most people will buy the book through Amazon, not CreateSpace. Why? Because there is no way to get to the CreateSpace ìestoreî from the CreateSpace homepage. In fact, there is no central ìestoreî page, nor an ìestore bookstore.î Customers who can’t find the estore (we couldn’t find it, either, and CreateSpace authors have complained about this on the CreateSpace forum) will buy the book from Amazon with a royalty of only $5.75 for authors. Since Amazon (which owns CreateSpace) gets to pay authors significantly less when a purchase is made through Amazon instead of CreateSpace, they have zero incentive to create a central, easy-to-locate CreateSpace Estore.

200 copies need to be sold to break even if the books are purchased through Amazon.
129 copies need to be sold to break even with CreateSpace if sold through the CreateSpace ìestoreî (if anyone can find it!).

MORE DETAILS ABOUT CREATESPACE’S SETUP FEES ARE HERE.

For ebook publishing, does NOT offer epub (which everyone else uses). Only lists/sells ebooks on Amazon. Does not sell ebooks on Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, or anywhere else. Does NOT publish hardcover books (most others here do). IMPORTANT: CreateSpace was previously called BookSurge. Read more about BookSurge’s problems HERE. We ordered some BookSurge books and one looked so bad they inserted an apology note inside, saying it was the best they could get from their supplier. They ARE their own supplier! Another one arrived with the interior pages appearing upside-down. Read numerous complaints about CreateSpace, posted to their own forum, HERE. Pictures from one angry author are HERE. Other complaints are HERE and HERE and HERE. No expedite/rush service is mentioned on their website.

Lulu – 248 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,089.00)

<< Rated “Just Okay” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $21.96

Royalties: Approx. 20% or $4.39 (Assuming royalties comparable to other POD companies since authors choose their own. Lulu’s calculator only allows royalty dollars, not percentages, to be entered.)

248 copies need to be sold to break even at Lulu. (If you assume around 35% royalties, which are comparable to BookLocker’s, that would force the list price up to $33.35 and the author would need to sell even more copies to break even.) Most people won’t pay that much money for a paperback. Lulu’s own forum has complaints from their authors about Lulu’s high list prices.

LIMITATIONS: Lulu has had customer service and quality problems. Lulu does not mention production files on their site, and never responded to our email about that so it appears they don’t give or sell those to authors. We will post an update if we ever hear from them. Read THIS to learn more about Lulu’s ongoing problems from unhappy authors. More complaints are HERE. No expedite/rush publishing option is mentioned on their website.

Infinity Publishing – 262 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1097.00)

<< Rated “Outstanding” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.>>

List: $13.95

Royalties: 20% or $4.19.

262 copies need to be sold to break even at Infinity.

Unfortunately, there are several complaints listed about Infinity Publishing HERE and HERE. No mention of an expedited or rush option on their website. Their contract does not specify who owns the rights to production files.

Dog Ear Publishing – 277 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees $2,198.00)

<< Rated “Outstanding” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.>>

List: $14.95

Royalties: 30% or $7.92

277 copies need to be sold to break even at Dog Ear Publishing.

Their website says “Dog Ear is $300 LESS EXPENSIVE than the Nearest ‘Discount Publisher’.” But, they, of course, didn’t include BookLocker on their website. And, they’re one of the most expensive services on this list! For print publishing within a month + ebook publishing, they do NOT have the lowest price. Not even close. Without the expedited option, their price is still WAY too high. Dog Ear DOES give production files to authors. Some complaints about Dog Ear Publishing HERE.

Xulon Press – 297 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees $2,845.00)

<< Rated “Outstanding” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $15.99

Royalties: Based on “publisher’s net profit,” which they claim is $9.59 (but only $3.30 for sales through other retailers, like Amazon).

297 copies need to be sold to break even at Xulon Press.

NOTE: This firm claims to pay “100% royalties” but, as you can see, you’re not getting 100% of the list price, which is what some authors assume when they read that type of marketing verbiage. They are paying you what’s left over after everybody else takes their cut. That’s what everybody does! Other firms just present the information in a better way. See more about “100% royalty” claims HERE. As you can see, “100% royalties” at this firm is NOT the best deal!

There are some pretty scathing comments about Xulon Press HERE.

Xlibris – 313 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,723.00)

<< Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $21.99

Royalties: $5.50 (only 25% of the list price for books sold through the publisher’s website)

313 copies need to be sold to break even with Xlibris.

Charges expedite fee of $349 (included in setup fees above) for publication in 2 months instead of 3-4 months. Charges $10 per image (included above); $20 per table. LIMITATIONS: Limit of 1 cover image. Claims ownership of files you paid them to create. You have to pay them $150 more for those. NOTE: Xlibris is owned by Author Solutions, which also owns AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford (all featured here) WordClay, and others. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against this firm in the past. See several complaints about Xlibris HERE.

Trafford – 354 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,474.00)

<< Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $16.67 (many of the 248-page, 6◊9 paperbacks on their site have this price)

Royalties: $4.17 (only 25% of list price for books sold through the publisher’s website)

354 copies need to be sold to break even with Trafford.

Warning: Has a variety of ìextraî charges like $2 per page (included in price above) if your manuscript is submitted with incorrect headers/footers, page breaks, line and paragraph formatting, etc. Charges $5 extra per image (included in price above). Expedite service (“rapid release”) is only available for the $7,999.00 (!!) “Folio” and more expensive packages. NOTE: Trafford is owned by Author Solutions, which also owns Xlibris, iUniverse, AuthorHouse (all featured here) WordClay, and others. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against this firm in the past. See several complaints about Trafford Publishing HERE.

iUniverse – 398 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,899.00)

<< Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $16.95 – $19.95 (based on samples from their site)

Royalties: $4.24 – $4.99 (or ì25% of the payment the publisher actually receivesî for sales through publisher’s website)

381 to 414 (average of 398) copies need to be sold to break even with iUniverse.

Has a variety of “extra” charges like $2 per page if your manuscript is submitted with incorrect headers/footers, page breaks, line and paragraph formatting (included in price above), more than 25 photos/graphics, more than 2 images on your cover, tables, etc. LIMITATIONS: They claim ownership of files you already paid them to create and they will NOT GIVE YOU COPIES. $500 extra for “express service” is included above. Otherwise, turnaround is 3-4 months. NOTE: iUniverse is owned by Author Solutions, which also owns Xlibris, AuthorHouse, Trafford (all featured here) WordClay, and others. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against this firm in the past. Read several complaints about iUniverse HERE.

Llumina Publishing – 469 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $2,245.00)

<< According to Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, “I know that you can find a better option for the money.”>>

UPDATE SEPTEMBER, 2016. We have heard from two authors who say they were notified by Llumina that they are going out of business. Llumina has not responded to our requests for information. 

List: $15.95

Royalties: $4.79

469 copies need to be sold to break even at Llumina Publishing.

Does not give authors their production files. Charges extra for footnotes/endnotes, charges extra for Ingram distribution, and charges extra for ebook distribution for firms other than Amazon. Complaints about Llumina Publishing are posted HERE and HERE.

AuthorHouse – 561 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $2,799.00)

<< Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $19.95 (Average of sample 248-page, 6 x 9 paperback books for sale in their store)

Royalties: $4.99. The AuthorHouse rep did not provide their royalty/list price chart on request so we’re going to assume the average of the list prices we found on their site. We’re using $4.99 as the royalty payment, which is the average of their stated royalties per book, depending on what program the author chooses.

561 copies need to be sold to break even with AuthorHouse.

Charges extra for photos/graphics ($5 per image after the first 25. Expedite fee ($500) is for publication in 45 days instead of 4-6 months (included above). LIMITATIONS: Claims ownership of files you already paid them to create. You have to pay them extra for copies – $250 for interior and $250 for cover (included above). NOTE: AuthorHouse is owned by Author Solutions, which also owns Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford (all featured here) WordClay, and others. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against this firm in the past. Numerous complaints about AuthorHouse are published HERE and HERE.

BookBaby – 597 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $1,904.00)

<< All other firms here have been in the print on demand business longer than Bookbaby. >>

List: $15.95

Royalties: $3.19 (or 20%) based on their site.

597 copies need to be sold break even at BookBaby.

Does not sell print books through their own website.

When an author initially contacted BookBaby, rather than the rep simply answering her very specific question about the royalty percentage (she provided him with the page count, book size/type, etc.), the rep told her she had to register with their website. Why not just give her the quote? Why waste everybody’s time? After another shove from the author (where she said she wasn’t yet ready to choose a publisher since she didn’t yet know their royalties, and repeated her original question), only then did the rep provide her with the actual royalty percentage.

Authors should NOT have to register for a website, and jump through hoops, by being forced to ask the same question all over again, just to find out how much they’ll earn when they sell a book!

Prices, at first glance, appear low on their website. However, you later learn the ìcomplete publishing packageî does not include interior formatting, nor cover design. You need to pay more for those services. The interior formatting price looks fair until you realize it’s only good for a book up to 50 pages. Read the fine print to determine the real costs. There are complaints about Bookbaby HERE. Bookbaby’s ebook program was rated 7.4 out of 10 The Independent Publishing Magazine. Their print program was only rated 6.9-7.0.

Outskirts Press – 661 COPIES NEED TO SELL TO BREAK EVEN (setup fees: $2,095.00)

<< Rated “Pretty Good” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. >>

List: $14.95

Royalties: $3.17 based on their online calculator.

661 copies need to be sold break even at Outskirts Press.

Outskirts used to charge authors an additional $998 for their production files but we can no longer find that option on their website. Their rush service costs $99 extra and takes 7-10 weeks instead of 13-17 weeks. BookLocker can get your book on the market in only 2 weeks for $1,096 less! You can read detailed Better Business Bureau complaints about Outskirts Press HERE. Author Michael Marcus wrote a book about Outskirts Press called: Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy: The Strange Story of Vanity Publisher Outskirts Press. How Do They Stay in Business? You can see that HERE. More complaints about Outskirts Press are HERE and HERE.

Outskirts Press is yet another firm that claims to pay “100% royalties” but, as you can see, you’re not getting 100% of the list price, which is what some authors assume when they read that type of marketing verbiage. In fact, the Outskirts royalty rate is very low!

When comparing royalties, you should look at royalty percentages, not flat dollar amounts, when shopping for a POD publisher because most allow you to price your book higher than the minimum list price anyway. And, you should demand to know what that royalty is based on. Some POD publishers appear to pay a high royalty, but only pay it based on their net profit, not on the list price. You only learn what you’ll really earn if you read the fine print, and whip out your calculator. And, even then it can be tricky to figure out. Xulon Press’ website says: “If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. The great news about tracking book sales and royalties is we do all the work.” Why don’t they just give real numbers based on the list price of each book so it’s not “overwhelming” for authors?!

BookLocker’s print royalties are based on the list price of the book so authors always know exactly how much they’ll earn for each print book sale.

To read more about the fees charged by these companies, click HERE.

RELATED:

PRINT ON DEMAND (POD) PRICE COMPARISON

POD SECRETS REVEALED Series

MORE CREATESPACE COMPLAINTS (Part III)

Lots of Imprints and Lots of Complaints! Could You Unwittingly Crawl into Bed with Author Solutions?

More Lulu Complaints – Thinking Of Using Lulu To Publish Your Book? You Might Want To Read These Authors’ Complaints First!

Complaints about AuthorHouse, Complaints about Xlibris, Complaints about iUniverse, Complaints about Trafford, etc., etc.

POD SECRETS REVEALED: You Pay…But THEY Own the Rights?!



About The Author

AngelaPortrait72dpismall_400x400

Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.

BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."

Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.

PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!

Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.

Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.

Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)

See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.

ANGELA ON TWITTER
https://twitter.com/AngelaHoy

BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!
http://www.facebook.com/booklockerbooks

ANGELA ON TUMBLR
http://angelahoy-writersweekly.tumblr.com/

Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
http://24hourshortstorycontest.com/



Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE