Every day, hundreds of new ebooks show up on Amazon and other sites from self-published authors, but many consumers still prefer to read physical books. A few print-on-demand services are stepping in to fill the gap, however, giving aspiring authors a way to get their books into the hands of readers, without the high volume or high price most large publishers require.
A New Model
The traditional model for authors has been to sign a deal with a publishing company, often with no advance. It is then up to the publishing company to handle the printing, distribution, and promotion. The downside is that the author hands over the reigns to a publisher that may or may not spend much time or money promoting their book, with little control. Those who tried to skirt this model and go the self-published route would often be forced to place an order of more than 1,000 books, at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000.
With the availability of several competing print-on-demand services, authors can now place a small order and have their books published in a very limited run. An author can print 10 copies before a book signing or speaking engagement, for example, and not be out thousands of dollars if the books don’t sell. Some print-on-demand companies such as Lulu will even ship books directly to customers, giving the author up to 80% of the proceeds, for virtually no upfront risk. Createspace from Amazon can even help authors find an editor or get their manuscript converted to ebook formats as well.
Room for Niche Authors
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of these new models is that it provides more room for authors to explore a smaller niche, one that might not sell well enough otherwise. Writing about promoting a book to a niche market, Joel Friedlander says, “Although (a book) appeals to only a small segment of the population, (it) is perfectly tailored to just that group of people.”
This trend promotes more diversity, even if it means fewer books that become huge bestsellers. In fact, a report from Bowker notes that the number of overall book titles released have increased in recent years, even as the number of books from traditional publishers continues to decline.
Authors in Control
Another major benefit for authors is that they can exert more control over their works. Author Mark Edwards sold his book The Magpies through a print-on-demand publisher. It has allowed him to explore multiple options such as ebook and print-on-demand paperbacks, and to release his novel much more quickly than he could have with a traditional publisher. “Ten years ago, if a book didn’t find a publisher, that was it – the book was dead. Now things are very different. This is the best time ever to be an author.” he says.
There are certainly some downsides to the print-on-demand model. Without a traditional publisher, authors may not have access to a talented editor, and they certainly lack the distribution and promotional opportunities that a large publishing house can provide.
Still, the future of self-publishing is bright, and more and more authors are getting onboard every day. Whether or not self-publishing models ever truly replace traditional models, they provide a number of choices and opportunities that authors in the past have never possessed, and that is definitely a good thing for authors and readers alike.