Ask The Experts – Print on Demand

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Topics Discussed Below Include:
Discounts With Ingram
Actual Copyright Date Different Than Amazon’s
Printing and Distribution Source for Hardbound Versions
Bookstores and Libraries Ordering POD Books
How Bookstores Know that a Title is POD
Lightning Source POD Pricing for International Sales
Trouble with “Pre-Order” Listing Before Publication Date on Lightning Source

Question:

I’m a new author/publisher. I have middle grade and young adult books I plan to market to libraries with Ingram as the distributor, using LSI. My intention was to set the discount between 40 and 50%, as I had thought that was a standard library discount.

However, when I went to set up the account with LSI, I was told that all new publishers are being set up with IngramSpark, which has a set discount of 55%. I got ahold of someone in customer service, and they seem to be saying that if I set it at anything other than 55%, it would be a short discount. Is that accurate? Or am I approaching library sales all wrong?

Answer (12/2013):

Ingram likes to work on a 55% discount. They may not accept a small publisher at any other discount, but if they will allow a short discount on a title through IngramSpark, I’m pretty sure a library won’t balk at the cost. Libraries aren’t as per unit cost sensitive as retailers since they aren’t profit motivated.

We had a library title years ago and set a short discount on it to Ingram. Ingram was happy to handle it and, I’m sure, passed on the short discount to the libraries. The book sold for $195 and was almost exclusively a title for libraries. It sold quite well.

~ Stephen Blake Mettee, is the founder of Quill Driver Books (quilldriverbooks.com) and The Write Thought (TheWriteThought.com <http://thewritethought.com/blog/> ). He serves on the board of IBPA (www.ibpa-online.org) and regularly teaches writing and publishing. During his time at the helm of QDB, Mettee shepherded two titles into Book-of-the-Month Club selections and one onto the New York Times bestseller list.


Question:

Once I approve the “proof” from CreateSpace for our paperback version of the book, CreateSpace will mark that date as the publishing date. We need to approve the proof before we can order paperback ARCs for some reviewers. Our official book launch is not until January 28th though, and we will keep Amazon to a “private” setting until then. We looked at other printers, but so far haven’t found one that will print a 5.25 X 8, which is the size for our book and cover. Does it matter for selling, copyright, or award application deadlines that the publishing date will be different on Amazon than the actual launch/copyright date?

Answer (12/2013):

There are really great printers that will print 5.25 x 8 and we often see publishers print their ARCs at a digital press which can be more cost effective than CreateSpace and also solves the publication date issue. CreateSpace has some odd trim sizes so you’ll likely need a custom quote from a printer rather than a straight online quote request form which may not include 5.25 x 8 as an option. There are two schools of thought on the Amazon pub date and much of that centers around your planned marketing and PR. It is not uncommon for a book to be listed on Amazon prior to an official pub date. In fact, some authors and publishers choose to do this so that they can secure early reviews, feedback and launch an online presences. We don’t recommend that the book be available more than a month prior to the pub date if possible.

Another option to consider would be to use proofs as your ARC copies of the book. You can order up to 5 proof copies at a time and can sticker those as ARCs if you’d like. Regardless, you are setting the pub date for your book and sending out promotional materials with that January 28 pub date. If that’s announced pub date, stick with it. You are likely to be close enough in timing. Also, be sure to sticker your review copies as ARCs when you send them out.

~ Bethany Brown is the president of The Cadence Group, a design, editorial, marketing and project management provider for the book and publishing industry. To learn more: wwww.thecadencegrp.com; services@thecadencegrp.com


Question:

I am producing/publishing at least 2 books for one author and 1 for another. I have selected to use CreateSpace for the paper back and Kindle versions and use their Expanded Distribution for marketing. I may need a printing and distribution source for the hardbound versions, if the author(s) desire hardbound versions. I am not opposed to using one source for all three types of books.

Answer (10/2013):

I’m assuming you’re talking about printed versions when saying “hardbound.” At this point, you might take a hard look at Lightning Source and what they call Core Source – http://www.ingramcontent.com/pages/digital-asset-management-distribution.aspx and see if that covers your needs. You wouldn’t use Create Space in that instance.

~ Stephen Blake Mettee, is the founder of Quill Driver Books (quilldriverbooks.com) and The Write Thought (TheWriteThought.com <http://thewritethought.com/blog/> ). He recently served on the board of IBPA (www.ibpa-online.org) and regularly teaches writing and publishing. During his time at the helm of QDB, Mettee shepherded two titles into Book-of-the-Month Club selections and one onto the New York Times bestseller list.


Question:

I’m planning to start a small publishing house, focusing on literary fiction by women. I know that print-on-demand technology would allow me to produce books without a lot of startup capital. And some POD books from small presses are earning literary awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly.

On the other hand, I keep reading that brick-and-mortar bookstores and library systems are very unlikely to order POD books (for example, Linda Carlson’s July 2010 Independent article “Pitching Books to Indie Stores and Libraries”). Is this still the case, and if so, do you think it’s likely to change anytime soon?

Answer (08/2013):

Today, I don’t believe the awards care if a book is POD or not.

Indie bookstores want to order from Ingram—the largest wholesaler. If you use Lightning Source which is owned by Ingram (as The Write Thought does) to set up your books as your POD provider, your book will be listed in Ingram’s database and available for orders.

The publisher gets to set the discount LS will give resellers—such as Ingram–when they order a copy (We set ours at 50%, but I’m not sure of the best strategy here—might be a research item for IBPA.) and if the book is returnable if the retailer doesn’t sell it (we don’t allow returns, again this may not be the best strategy.)

I can pretty much guarantee an independent bookstore won’t order non-returnable books to put on the shelf, but most or at least the savviest ones will special order a title if their customer requests it.

This doesn’t bother me too much since independent bookstores generally don’t carry independent publishers’ titles unless an independent publisher is large enough to have sales reps who make live sales calls on the store. This is even if the books are available from Ingram and returnable. (Sad, but true.)

BTW, I just read an article that says 44% of book sales happened online last year. I predict it will be over 50% in 2013. This alleviates the problem of not being on bookstore shelves. Discovery of a title happens in other ways today than a customer browsing shelves. Good for independent publishers, bad for independent bookstores.

If you set your books up as POD in LS, they will automatically take care of seeing that they are available on Amazon and B&N.com as regular, in-stock titles. They will do this in other countries too if you allow it. When an order comes it, the book is printed, bound and shipped in something like 24 hours.

I do think libraries, should you get a librarian’s attention, will order POD titles from Ingram. Some even order from Amazon. Libraries don’t usually care if a book is returnable. They plan on keeping it anyway. The trick is to get the person in charge of collections at a library to notice your book and make the decision to order it.

The same PDF that you supply LS with can be supplied to other printers if you want to order books for, say, back of the room sales or for the author copies. We often find that, even with the discounts an IBPA member gets from LS, it is cheaper to print large quantities elsewhere. (We use BookMobile.com sometimes.)

IBPA members get big discounts on the set up fees LS charges as well as discounts on print runs.

We use a different ISBN for printed copies (so one ISBN for printed copies, one for POD, one for Kindle, and one for e-pub versions) sold outside of the LS-Ingram—mostly through American West Books, a sister company–so we can make them returnable to AWB.

~ Stephen Blake Mettee, is the founder of Quill Driver Books (quilldriverbooks.com) and The Write Thought (TheWriteThought.com <http://thewritethought.com/blog/> ). He serves on the board of IBPA (www.ibpa-online.org) and regularly teaches writing and publishing. During his time at the helm of QDB, Mettee shepherded two titles into Book-of-the-Month Club selections and one onto the New York Times bestseller list.


Question:

We’re a small publisher who uses Lightning Source as our printer and Ingram as distributor. Bookstores we visit often look us up then say they don’t handle POD’s, although we have cases of books in stock and they are returnable. Does some data file indicate that a title is a POD? How do they know?

Answer (05/2013):

The answer the question from the publisher is not really black and white –

First, there is no POD/LSI indicator on IPage. POD titles now show a random on hand quantity rather than 100, which was a giveaway. We have worked to make any reference to POD invisible on IPage. However, direct distribution clients of LSI do receive files directly from LSI as part of their service offering so that these accounts can promote availability and speed to market.

~ Nancy Stewart, a 30-year veteran of the book industry, holds the position of lead buyer at Ingram Book Company where she oversees the buying and operations of a wide variety of publishers. Previously she was general manager of Mills Bookstores, an independent bookstore group in Nashville, Tennessee. Nancy is past president of the Women’s National Book Association and currently serves as WNBA representative to the United Nations. She has served as volunteer and book sales director for the Southern Festival of Books and president of the Nashville Area Booksellers Association.


Question:

I currently have twelve titles in print along with six in the works to be published this year. All are through Lightning Source POD with distribution to US, Australia, UK and EU. All titles are reprints of classic and early books on crafts, trades and industries and all are from my personal library.

My question concerns pricing of books for international sales. Lightning Source requests that the publisher enter a retail price in the currency of the country the title will be sold. Currency exchange rates change all the time. As a small publisher, I don’t use any sort of bulk upload of data, instead doing all the data entry and any changes title by title.

Short of checking on exchange rates monthly, is it possible to simply enter the US dollar price under the US section and leave the other country prices blank: will Lightning Source then sell the book to the other countries under which I have signed distribution contracts at whatever the going exchange rate is or will that mess up the works? Before asking my Lightning Source rep, I’ld like to get some idea of the process as at times their answers are a bit on the vague side.

The second part of the question involves Bowker but is similar in context. If add multiple countries but for each enter only a US dollar currency under the retail price, will the seller in the country in question sell at whatever the exchange rate is? From what I can tell from the Bowker website, that is supposed to be what happens but it’s really not all that clear.

Answer (04/2013):

In regards to the LSI portion, LSI does not have a currency conversion option, as the operating costs are different from facility to facility. They will see a publishers compensation calculator on the LSI website. Through this tool the publisher is able to enter the manufacturing specifications and experiment with retail price and discount in each available currency to be sure that each title ends up in a positive margin with that country’s operating costs. Sales reporting will be provided in the market currency through which the title sold, and the publisher has the option of receiving their payments in market currency or in USD.

For The Bowker part of your question – the conversion is based on the current exchange rate.

~ Janice Schnell is a Content Acquisition Account Executive for Ingram Content Group. Janice joined Ingram in January 2007, and has extensive knowledge of book publishing and offset and print-on-demand book manufacturing and distribution. In addition to Janice’s traditional book experience, Janice is well versed in digital content solutions for publishers. Ms. Schnell currently sits on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association.


Question:

I’m a small independent publisher (and IBPA member) and have decided to move forward with Lightning Source for our upcoming release. I’ve set a pub date for March 2012 (still 5 months away as of this writing). Lightning Source is telling me that since they are POD printers, they won’t list my book with their distribution partners “for pre-order” in advance of the pub date… if it’s available, it’s available now, and if I make it unavailable until the pub date, it will take at least a month to appear (Amazon, Ingram, B&T, B&N, etc.)

I have a very strong marketing campaign. Galleys are already out. The book is already uploaded as an upcoming release with Booklist, Library of Congress, and many other places, with a release date of March 16, 2012.

What would be the best way to go about this situation? I’m concerned because I don’t want the book to be “on the streets” before the pub date, but I also don’t want to make it inaccessible to the many wholesalers, book stores and hundreds of other channels I’ve been cultivating in advance of the release!

Answer (11/2011):

It is true that Lightning Source is not set up to take backorders at this time. It is also correct that it takes three to four weeks for the title to appear on other sites – IPage, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, etc. I would like to note, though that the you have done a very good and thorough job of advance work. Having a marketing plan in place, galleys, and listing the book with LOC and Booklist are all good ways of creating demand and potential sales.

I believe the best thing to do is to set this up with LSI as close to the pub date as possible allowing for the 3-4 weeks time needed for Amazon and other accounts to list it – say the third or last week in February. I would not worry about having the book on the streets before pub date. First, it won’t be that much before – a few days at most and galleys are already out there. Second, while you have a firm date for the release of the title, it is unlikely that this will be of as much importance to accounts as you may imagine. If your advance marketing has done its work, then accounts will likely order as soon as it appears – or shortly thereafter.

In short, I think you have done just what you should to market and create anticipation for your title. While yes, in the traditional world of publishing ordering in advance is part of the process, keep in mind that in many cases accounts backorder so that they will be sure to get copies in case the publisher does not print enough. It isn’t that they really want to wait for the book. There is a great deal to be said for having the book available right now – as yours will be – and never running out.

~ Nancy Stewart, a 30-year veteran of the book industry, holds the position of lead buyer at Ingram Book Company where she oversees the buying and operations of a wide variety of publishers. Previously she was general manager of Mills Bookstores, an independent bookstore group in Nashville, Tennessee. Nancy is past president of the Women’s National Book Association and currently serves as WNBA representative to the United Nations. She has served as volunteer and book sales director for the Southern Festival of Books and president of the Nashville Area Booksellers Association.


We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.


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