By the time I realized that the bids I was getting for a color book were way too expensive, I had already discovered a couple helpful things. One was the Aeonix list of printers. Another was a Yahoo group for self publishers with a crazy number of posts – often numbering in the hundreds per day.
I read and lurked and read and lurked, eventually buying the most highly recommended book on the subject, Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual. I also loved the super short A Simple Guide to Self Publishing, but Poynter’s book is a classic for a reason – it’s thorough. You know what you’re getting yourself into. (It’s most helpful for people doing offset runs, but we’ll get into Lightning Source and Aiming at Amazon later.)
I must also say here that a few books on this topic were terrible. I won’t denigrate anyone, but really, the pie-in-the-sky books talking about getting rich and preventing big houses from destroying your great work of art really seemed misleading. Part of what makes self-publishing the eyesore of the industry, with often well-deserved derision, is this equating big houses with the Evil Empire that Does Not Love My Great Work. Most of the people in publishing from Random House down to the individual at Lulu, are doing this because they love books.
But my problem: should I take the risk on an overseas printer broker? Everyone said I would have to.
I sent bids off to three. All came back with extraordinary numbers. $3 a book. $2.20. One even low balled at $1.81.
I was aghast. And suspicious. For one, these brokers were sending bids within a few hours even though they were printing in China. Obviously they were estimating based on their experience, as China was sleeping.
Sure, they probably knew their stuff. I should trust this, right? But still, alarms were a’ringing.
So I started Googling these outfits. I couldn’t find much information at all. It seemed the brokers were just individuals who might have a web site, but no cross referencing anywhere, no certainty that they were reputable. I drafted an email asking for references but really, who can’t get a good reference? I couldn’t necessarily verify that either. I didn’t send them.
Then I started reading horror stories. Brokers who took your money then disappeared. Books that were off color or fell apart. A common scenario was a shipping charge that increased dramatically at the last minute, and if you didn’t pay, you didn’t get your shipment. I looked at my bids. Sure enough, all three said, “Shipping charges subject to change.” ACK!!!!
I’ll tell you straight out that I wasn’t playing with fun money. I would be taking on debt to print my first run of books, and I wasn’t really completely sure how I would pay for them. If something happened, I would be in serious financial trouble.
I was discouraged enough that I dropped the whole idea for almost a month.
Helpful links from this post:
The best starter books are Poynter's tome The Self-Publishing Manual and the shockingly brief A Simple Guide. Books specifically about Print on Demand will come later.
Start looking for a printer for your book at Aeonix's list of printers.
Get lost in a sea of information by joining the Yahoo group for self publishers.