Print on Demand vs. Offset

Gathering Strength:Conversations with Afghan Women was a book that demanded to be written. I’d been conducting interviews with Afghan women during my trips to their country in 2003 and 2010, and didn’t realize until the last day of that second trip that I needed to write a book so I could share the insights of these women with a wider audience than I could reach through my lectures.

I knew I would self publish from the beginning. I understood that once I signed a contract with any publisher I would be signing away many of my rights to the book. Since I was an unknown first-time author, I would have little bargaining room, even if I hired an entertainment lawyer to represent me. (If you do publish traditionally, your entertainment lawyer’s negotiations may earn you his/her fee many times over.) By self publishing, I would have the final say editorially, which was very important in maintaining neutrality on a controversial subject. Self publishing would also give me more control over the layout, cover design and publication date.

Should I publish Gathering Strength in print or as an e-book? Many authors first produce an e-book and use the sales from those offerings to finance the printed versions. This is an especially good option for those on a low budget planning to write a series of books. They can gather a following via their e-books and when they’ve gained enough traction, publish on paper. I decided that since I want Gathering Strength to be taken as seriously as anything traditionally published, I should create a print version first and then its e-book version. I believe that if one is creating a print book, it’s also important to print electronically since this market is growing rapidly.

My first decision was whether I wanted to use offset printing or print on demand (POD). Offset is used for larger print runs, sometimes as small as 500 copies but becomes a good value when ordering 2000 or more. POD prints one book at a time as it is ordered.  I was tempted to go offset because the book price when I ordered 2000 (of course my book would be popular enough to quickly sell 2000 copies—NOT! Especially when I’m the only one doing distribution) was less than a third of the one-book POD price. However, this didn’t give the whole picture unless I planned to store those 2000 copies in my basement, find customers, and ship them out myself. That’s where a distributor comes in, a company with connections to the major networks that can handle storage and fulfillment. I found out that to get my book distributed, I’d have to be a publisher with a series of books. Additionally, I’d have to pay the distributor a fee for book storage and their services which would bring the per book price close to the POD cost. I won’t go into the possibility of printing 2000 copies of a book with previously uncaught errors...

Please stay tuned for my next blog detailing my printing and publishing strategy.

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