Lots of people think self-published authors had to print and then store zillions of copies of their books before Print on Demand came around. Actually, that wasn’t always the case. Some of us went an alternative route to avoid large up-front costs. Today, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane to my early days as a self-published author.
Long ago, in the late 90’s, I wrote a book titled How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist. Even though I had a full-time job as an office manager, there was no way I could afford to print REAL copies of my books. I laid them out as two columns on landscape pages in my word processor, printed them, cut out each page, and then pieced them back together (with tape) so they would appear in order in a folded booklet. I then took those taped pages to a place called Minuteman Press (similar to Kinkos), and had them copy the taped pages for me onto regular (say cheap) copy paper. They also copied the “cover” on card stock.
I would pick up my order a day or so later and then I’d have to put all the pages together and staple the binding. I couldn’t afford a special stapler and it was hard to get the stapler close enough to the binding without bending the pages. So, my staples weren’t always perfectly vertical…but nobody complained.
I would then mail copies of the booklets to paying customers. People knew about my book only from WritersWeekly.com back then. It didn’t have an ISBN and it wasn’t in the bookstore systems. But, I did quite well with it anyway!
Sure, it was cumbersome but it was the only logical way for me to affordably sell my self-published booklet. I later decided it might make sense to email copies of the MSWord file of my book to readers. Those files would cost less than the printed booklet, of course, and readers wouldn’t have to pay any shipping fees. Boy oh boy, sales really took off after that! I had unknowingly created one of the very first ebooks – long before ebook was a word. However, there were still many readers who wanted a real, paper copy of my book so I did have to keep copying, stapling and envelope-stuffing, albeit on a smaller scale.
At that time, I was also laying out, copying, etc. monthly issues of The Write Markets Report, which is my monthly, subscription-based publication featuring new and updates paying markets for writers (which I get directly from editors of the featured publications). That was FAR more time-consuming than simply taking the original pages of my book to Minuteman Press every couple of weeks or so because The Write Markets Report, of course, changed each month. It was SUCH a pain and I couldn’t stop publishing the print version of The Write Markets Report fast enough. When I stopped publishing the print version and switched to email delivery only, sales soared! Since I lowered the price due to lower production costs, and since there was no shipping involved, my readers were very, very happy. I only lost a handful of old print subscribers but I gained dozens of electronic subscribers (hundreds over the years).
Today, we still only sell The Write Markets Report only as an electronic periodical. It is sent out monthly via an email that tells readers how to download the new issue (a pdf file) from our server.
After spending so many hours binding and stapling copies of How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist, I was relieved when Print on Demand became available. The difference between my new, full-color cover, glossy paperback versus my old, flimsy booklet was jaw-dropping, to say the least. I cried when I held the first Print on Demand version of the book. And, of course, my Print on Demand book was drop-shipped directly to customers by my printer so I no longer had to stuff envelopes and print labels. Hallelujah!
I know, from emails I’ve received from authors, that some do still go the copy-shop route when printing their own books, and that’s great if it’s working for you and if you’re successfully selling copies of your own book! I know how great it feels to not only write but also to personally manufacture a product that others are willing to pay money to read!
I’d love to hear from other authors about the progression of your self-publishing adventures over the years! Contact me at: angela – at – writersweekly.com