Over a decade ago now, a revolution started. We all thought it would be the eBook revolution, and a ton of fiction authors bet their living and livelihood on it. But we were wrong. The eBook revolution never came, not the way we expected. Instead, it became a hybrid of multi-media, print on demand, and digital marketing.
But it did open up options for authors, including me. No longer were we tied to the “get lucky” or “get noticed” system of traditional publishing. Gone were the days of huge advances, and authors slinging books from their ivory towers to the masses unless you already had a big name. But you could build a pretty solid following for your books and your author brand, and actually make a living writing.
Beyond just author opportunities, the “self-publishing revolution” opened the door for other opportunities as well. Editors, cover designers, formatters, marketing, and PR professionals, and more of these professionals began freelance careers. Instead of sitting in an office in New York reading through the slush pile, an editor could be sitting on the beach editing a story they really loved.
With that came Print on Demand. As readers still wanted physical books, Indie authors and small presses needed to provide them for them. But doing print runs of thousands of books was not only not economically feasible, but it was also wasteful. So some companies jumped into the industry, including Amazon and Lightning Source (now Ingram Spark).
Soon small and medium-sized presses latched on to this model too. Why? Well, the answers are simple, and they matter to authors and publishers everywhere.
Print on Demand is More Profitable
One of our goals here at Unbound Publishing is to be absolutely transparent about our process and our profits, and here are the simple facts: we can’t operate as a company for long unless we are profitable. That means that printing books must come with enough of a margin that we can cover our salaries and operating expenses.
This is a part of why print on demand is essential to both paths to publication that we offer: we don’t want to pay for a warehouse to store hundreds or thousands of books that may or may not sell. We don’t want authors to have to order literally hundreds of books to get a discount so they can sell them to friends or family, give them away, or just have some copies for events of their own.
All those things cost money that diminishes the profitability of the company overall, and in today’s world is completely unnecessary. Here’s how it breaks down:
- We can do print runs for bookstores, events, pre-orders, and conferences of any size. We can drop ship orders direct from the printers, and never even touch the books.
- We can larger print runs as needed, or smaller ones. We can avoid doing print runs at all. Either way, we eliminate the structure necessary for distribution, making our company leaner and able to offer authors more royalties and vendors larger discounts.
- We’re not storing returns or bulk numbers of books. We don’t need a large storage area, just a small one to meet immediate demand. Our supply can be replenished quickly and as needed.
That’s how Print on Demand benefits us as a company, but what does that mean to those we do business with?
Print on Demand Gives Indie Bookstores Better Options
Yes, our books are available through standard channels like Ingram, Bowker, and in most cases the gorilla in the room, Amazon. But we, and bookstores, are not tied to them. Bookstores and others can order directly from us, get better discounts in some cases, and have the same benefits of ordering directly from Ingram.
However, we also understand how bookstores, libraries, and others might rather order through standard channels. It makes their accounting and invoicing simpler, and we respect that. Bookstores and publishers alike operate on slim margins, and we want to help our partners. We want the industry to be successful.
Print on Demand lets us offer bookstores and other partners more options when it comes to ordering and stocking books.
Print on Demand is Better for the Environment
So for some of you not in the publishing business, let me share something sad with you: do you know what happens to returned books? Well, if they are returned to the publisher, most of them are simply pulped and recycled. Good news? Sure, at least they are recycled, but all the shipping back and forth and even the pulping process take energy, fuel, and result in greenhouse emissions.
The solution? Don’t print books unless you need them. Fewer returns, less pulping, less waste, all things that are better for our planet. And if we do get books returned from bookstores?
Well, you could call those slightly used books. Then you can sell them for a small discount on Amazon, eBay, or other places, and someone still gets to read them. Other people will sell your books used too, so why wouldn’t you or your publisher?
Print on demand gives publishers and authors the ability to do what is best for the planet, offering products with less environmental impact. That’s good for everyone.
Print on Demand is Better for Authors
What about the authors of the books? Well, first of all, they have more ordering options, and can therefore save money when they order copies for themselves and events they might hold on their own.
Second, when publishers are more profitable, they can pass along those profits to authors in the form of royalties. This is what enables us to offer a graduated royalty system to authors: the more books they sell, the greater percentage of royalties they earn. Everyone can still make a profit, because we’ve eliminated the bloat of infrastructure related to legacy publishing and large print runs.
True, not all publishers pass along profits to the authors who are the backbone of their business, but that’s what sets us apart. We’re transparent about what it costs us to produce a book, the pay now or pay later nature of publishing, and the fact that for any kind of publishing to have a viable future, we need to lean into modern technology like print on demand to make sure it’s profitable for everyone.
Have questions? Have a story you are ready to publish or need help with ghostwriting services? Contact us using the form below. We’d love to chat about what’s next for you and your story, and how print on demand can be a part of your plan.