April 27, 2011
POD SECRETS REVEALED - How Many Book Sales Needed to Recoup Your Investment? By Angela Hoy, Co-owner of BookLocker.com | printable version
Previous installments of this series can be found HERE.
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. Saving money up front means you'll recoup the money you've invested in your book much faster!
How many books do you need to sell to recoup the money you've paid to self-publish your POD Book with the most popular POD publishers?
Prices below are based on the least expensive package offered by each publisher on similar offers targeting U.S. authors. Fees include setup, original cover design, print proof, ebook creation, up to 25 interior photos/graphics, an ISBN, barcode, a listing on the publisher's website and distribution by Ingram (listing on Amazon, etc.), all within 6 weeks. Sales for figures below are assumed to be coming from the publisher's own website (royalties are usually lower for sales through retailers/wholesalers).
NOTE: Many companies offer perks that others don't, some try to upsell authors on extraneous services, and a few even claim ownership of files the author has paid them to create! Study each publisher and contract carefully before making your choice.
For a 248-page, 6 x 9, full-color cover, black-and-white interior paperback book:
Booklocker.com - $517 setup (deduct $200 if submitting your own cover)
NOTE: Booklocker.com is owned by the author of this article.
Royalties: $5.58 (35% - always based on the list price; never on net profit)
**93 - copies need to be sold to break even with BookLocker. (Only 57 copies need to be sold to break even if you submit your own cover.)
CreateSpace - $1022.00 Setup
List: $15.95 - CreateSpace is owned by Amazon. It allows authors to set their own list price but if you try to set it to zero on their calculator, it shows a negative royalty ("-6.46") . We're using $15.95 here, which is around the average list price from the companies below, and the same list price as BookLocker above.
Royalties - $5.75 (assuming the author has paid extra for the "pro plan")
**178 - copies need to be sold to break even with CreateSpace.
NOTE: There is no "CreateSpace Bookstore" so we've used the Amazon royalties quoted on their site. CreateSpace pays higher royalties for sales through their "estore" but there's no link to it on their homepage and nobody can seem to find a general site for the estore anywhere. The estore appears to be just specific book pages set up for authors and potential buyers must have the author's specific estore URL to get to the book. This makes purchases by casual surfers virtually impossible and most public sales of CreateSpace books are made through Amazon anyway. Even if all sales went through the elusive "estore", and if the author signed up for their Pro Plan, they would still need to sell 114 copies to break even.
iUniverse - $999 Setup
List: $17.95 - $21.95
Royalties: $3.59 - $4.39 ("20% of the payment the publisher actually receives" for sales through publisher's website)
**223 - 278 - copies need to be sold to break even with iUniverse.
AuthorHouse - $1517 Setup
List: $10-$18 (AuthorHouse prices books much higher on Amazon and through other bookstores!)
Royalties: $4.70 - 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 they did provide. For more info. on how hard it is to get numbers from this company, click HERE. We're using $4.70 as the royalty payment, which is the average of their stated royalties of $0.70-$8.69 per book, depending on which package the author chooses. Some of the AuthorHouse packages cost thousands of dollars.
**323 - copies need to be sold to break even with AuthorHouse.
Trafford - $1324 Setup
List: $19.49 (NOTE: Trafford did not respond to an author's request for information so the average list price provided here is from a sample 6 x 9, 248-page books found on their website.)
Royalties: $3.90 - Assuming 20%, which is the highest royalty listed on their website.
**339 - copies need to be sold to break even with Trafford.
Xlibris - $1972 Setup
Royalties: $5.00 (25% of the list price for books sold through the publisher's website)
**394 - copies need to be sold to break even with Xlibris.
NOTE: If you want to be able to alter your list price and royalties, Xlibris makes you pay them $249 to do so!
Lulu - $1131 Setup
List: $17.92 assuming the author chooses a $1.97 royalty per book (only 11%).
Royalties- $1.97 (11% - see previous line)
**574 - copies need to be sold to break even at Lulu. (If you assume 35% royalties, which are comparable to BookLocker.com's, the author would need to price their book even higher! Even if they weren't forced to price the book higher, at a 35% royalty, authors would still need to sell 180 copies to break even.)
WARNING ABOUT CONFUSING LIST PRICES AND TRICKY ROYALTY OFFERS
Authors need to keep in mind that high minimum list prices forced on authors by some POD publishers can send potential buyers running! When comparing different POD publishers' royalties, you should look at royalty percentages, not flat dollar amounts, 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 authors later learn the royalties are based on the publisher's net profit, not on the list price. You should only use a POD publisher that offers a flat percentage based on the list price for print book sales. That way, you always know exactly how much you're going to get for each sale and you won't be surprised by hidden fees later that the publisher can change whenever they want.
While a high dollar royalty figure might look impressive, pricing a book higher than the market will bear means you may never recoup your losses because nobody will want to pay too much for your book.
Some POD publishers claim to pay "100% royalties." Don't be fooled by that play on words! What they mean is you get 100% of what's left over AFTER they've taken out the printing and other administrative and handling fees, which is how everybody does it. Some are just more honest when explaining how "royalties" work. Do the math BEFORE you sign a contract.
To read more about list prices, royalties, and author discounts, click HERE.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. 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."
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal.
Submit a manuscript for consideration.
Angela is Publisher of WritersWeekly.com and Co-owner of POD firm BookLocker.com.