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December 15, 2011 / benrovik


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Making ebooks with MobiPocket Creator is incredibly easy. But to think that putting together a physical book and having it printed up can be only a little bit tougher, and still cost virtually nothing up front? It’s like we’re in the future!

I’d love to pick the brain of some authors who have used CreateSpace. The royalties are bad relative to e-books. Sell your physical novel on Amazon, and they take 60% of the list price plus a fixed printing cost, which is a bare minimum of $3.66. Say you want to selling a 100-page novella by having it printed on-demand through CreateSpace? You better be okay with pricing it at $6 or more, because you’re literally not making a cent at any price below that.

There’s a way to bump up your royalties share by paying $39 up front to get your book into the “Pro Plan.” I’ve been playing with numbers and can’t figure out exactly how the Pro Plan changes the formula, but it definitely makes a significant difference in how much scratch you take home. It’s pretty easy to see how just a few dozen sales could let you recoup the $39 cost (which lasts for a year and costs $5/year to continue beyond that).

I don’t see the path to self-published authors making a living through print-on-demand books this way. Unless you’re printing short books and charging more than $10 apiece, the margins are so slim you just need astronomical sales to add up to much of anything. And I feel like the higher the price, the less astronomical sales become.

But it’s certainly better than older models of self-publishing, and vanity presses even a decade ago. Fronting thousands of dollars to have your book printed, and then having a basement or garage filled with copies that you had to store, schlep, and hawk yourself? That’s a ton of risk for an author to take on. If the rewards are more elusive for CreateSpace’s on-demand model, at least the author isn’t absorbing anywhere close to the up-front costs that used to be unavoidable. $39 to be able to supply physical copies to those customers who don’t want ebooks? Smells worth it to me!

Next step: price-comparing other print-on-demand services!

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