Too many authors spend all their time on writing, then scrimp on book design and book marketing. They hope that their publisher will handle all the details of acim design and book marketing, so that they can just sit back and rake in the millions year after year. Then, if these same authors decide to self-publish, they’ll quickly get lost in the morass of print on demand publishers and the time and money sink hole of self-publishing. In fact, most authors would rather die than think about book marketing, or spend money on book design.
In 2005, around 172,000 books were published with an ISBN number, according to Bowker, which compiles publishing statistics. An ISBN number will get you into Books in Print, and allows your book to be distributed to bookstores and online sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. According to some sources, nearly one quarter of these books were printed by Print on Demand (POD) companies.
I’d estimate that number to be much higher, as many small publishers are having their books printed by Lightning Source, which also provides printing for many of the larger POD companies. Additionally, Lulu Press, who publishes over 1500 books per week, says that only about 5% of their books get an ISBN number. That’s another 80,000 or so books circulating in the market each year, although most of Lulu’s books are only sold through Lulu Press on their web site.
It only takes 300 book sales to get on Lulu’s all-time top 100 bestsellers list. 300 books! For some people, that can be attained simply by selling books to their extended family. While AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and other big players in the POD market might print more books with ISBN numbers, their sales records aren’t much better.
Some sources estimate that the average book sells no more than 150 copies, and other sources put that number at below fifty copies. In many cases, authors end up losing money on their books, which is why Lulu Press is so popular. At Lulu, you can upload your book interior and cover (you do all the design work), and have a book on your doorstep within days – all for the “cost of printing” (which is highly inflated, by the way).
The services and prices of POD companies vary widely, which is why we’re in the final stages of creating a comprehensive guide on self-publishing. It can be a confusing morass of information and data, with many unsubstantiated claims. The truth shall be revealed.