Term Paper: Self-Publishing Assessing Children's Book Self-Publishing Alternatives

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Self-Publishing

Assessing Children's Book Self-Publishing Alternatives

There are many self-publishing companies globally today, each vying for new and experienced authors who find the traditional publishing industry and its processes to constricting and difficult to deal with. Many first-time authors turn to self-publishers who rely on Print-On-Demand (POD) technology to transform their written manuscripts into books within a matter of days or weeks instead of months through traditional publishing channels (Economist, 27). The primary motivation for many first-time authors in using self-publishing and Print-On-Demand services is the opportunity to get their voices heard with greater clarity and freedom of expression than traditional publishing channels allow for (Economist, 27).

When traditional publishing channels are used, often authors get a small advance extended for their fiction or non-fiction children's books. Yet in exchange for this small advance authors often find they lose significant control over their books' creative direction and positioning in the market, cover design, and distribution strategies (Economist, 13, 14). If the sales of a children's book does not earn back its advance and a profit, both author and publisher are disappointed and the relationship to produce more books is strained. This continues on in a cycle until either the author moves on to publish on their own or the publisher shifts direction to another genre or area of books. In short, the traditional publishing model for children's books churns quickly.

The churn of authors across traditional publishers is a major factor why experienced writers turn to self-publishing and print-on-demand services. Authors can manage the process on their own with much greater freedom than is the case when working with traditional publishing companies. There are well over 60 of these self-publishing or print-on-demand publishers globally with just a few standing out as exceptionally excellent at children's book publishing, production, marketing and distribution (Cole, 14). The intent of this analysis is to critically evaluate self-publishers and print-on-demand services and make a recommendation as to which is best for the publication of children's books. The advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing are analyzed for the first-time author as are the risks, costs and relative levels of investment as well. Children's books which have gone on to be best-sellers on Amazon.com are also discussed in this analysis. In addition, books that have not attained a level of success are analyzed as well.

Assessing the Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

Despite the common perception that print-on-demand or self-publishing restricts the distribution of books and makes them inaccessible across e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores, in fact the opposite is true. Print-on-demand publishing today accounts for 6% of all books sold in the U.S., predominantly through multi-tier networks (Economist, 27). The cost advantages of print-on-demand include alleviating inventory carrying costs, matching production only to known demand, and for the author, gaining a greater sense of just how their books' subject is resonating with readers.

As a result of these factors retailers are increasingly supporting print-on-demand services and the ability to in some cases produce the book literally as the customer waits, as is explained in a recent Economist article Business: Just press print; The boom in printing on demand (Economist, 27). Retailers are actively supporting this strategy of print-on-demand because it has the potential to significantly reduce carrying costs, reduce supply chain integration problems, and also makes them more responsive from a customer service standpoint (Tan, 23).

For the first-time author the assurance of their book actually being published is a major motivator. Unencumbered by the traditional publishing company's approach to screening book ideas and relatively slow process of editing and producing them, first-time authors have been able to get their books produced in as little as three weeks' time (Economist, 27). The costs of print-on-demand services vary significantly, yet a first-time book author can have an excellently produced first book produced for less than $1,000. Second, first-time children's authors have much greater flexibility of defining their books' content, look and feel, and messaging (van der Velde, Ernst, 570). Third, first-time authors also often receive greater levels of technical assistance and guidance as they go through their initial publishing experience. From the authors spoken with who have published with Lulu.com and iUniverse, this consultative approach to getting their books published significantly reduced their anxiety and increased the quality of the finished book. LuLu.com and iUniverse each have a knowedlgebase that is question-driven to further help first-time authors get responses to their questions. With Lulu.com claiming to publish approximately 20,000 books a month (Economist, 27) their approach to streamlining the book production process is working. Lulu.com is the only publisher who specializes in the production of children's books and as a result has seen significant growth in this area as well, as can be seen by the total number of children's titles they have produced.

For self-publishers and print-on-demand services to compete effectively with larger, more diverse traditional publishing companies they need to become more of a content aggregator over time (Penenberg, et.al.). Lulu.com for example works with Barnes & Noble, Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com and Ingram book distribution to give its authors the greatest breadth of distribution possible (Penenberg, et.al.). Often traditional publishers will only work with a subset of these distribution channels. Print-on-demand services see the potential of content aggregation across all of these channels, further extending the competitive advantage of their service. This turns into a significant competitive advantage for any author as they can attain much wider distribution and a greater audience for their books quickly by working with print-on-demand services over traditional publishers.

Another significant advantage for first-time and experienced authors of children's books is the opportunity to get reprints done quickly and at lower cost compared to traditional publishing companies. Self-publishers are more focused on time-to-market than their more traditional publishing counterparts and have print-on-demand services and processes in place to expedite getting a book printed and out. The lag time of having to wait for another edition, as is the case with traditional publishing, is no longer a constraint for authors choosing to use print-on-demand services. If an author chooses to modify the book and wants to increase the page count by adding in additional aspects of the story line, self-publishing can much more easily deal with this than a traditional publishing company (Cole, 14).

For all the advantages of self-publishing and print-on-demand there are just as many disadvantages. First, the quality of the books from a color, paper quality, and printing standpoint vary widely (Lewis, 52). Until an author receives their book there is no way of knowing with certainty how the actual production process, including selection of materials actually is compared to claims from print-on-demand publishers. Second, the quality of color printing on the cover can variety drastically as can the imagery and focus of the cover. Third, self-publishers often discount books heavily in order to gain distribution with many at 55% of the purchase price, leaving the author to choose either to inflate the price or get a reasonable profit per book or drop the profit down to in many cases less than $2 per book (Voss, et.al.). Fourth, the success or failure of any book that is produced through self-publishing is entirely dependent on the authors' willingness and energy to promote it over time. This translates into entire marketing campaigns and programs aimed at selling the book through as many channels as is possible including the use of social networks. The larger self-publishers including iUniverse and Lulu.com offer social networking marketing services as an add-on service. Fifth the quality of editing varies significantly across self-publishers and it is advisable given this analysis to pay for the additional editing to make sure the book is peer-reviewed and accurate from a grammatical and structuring standpoint. The better print-on-demand publishers offer a baseline editing service as part of the packages they sell. The editors who provide feedback are often given up to six weeks to work with an author. This amount of time is provided to make sure the author and editor have the opportunity to work through multiple revisions. Editors who work for print-on-demand publishers will also have two to three book projects running concurrently with each other. For the first-time author they challenge then is to be relatively quickly with providing feedback to keep the editor focused on their specific project. Lulu.com and iUniverse offer professional editing as an additional service, and it is often worth it to have a new book thoroughly reviewed by these teams. The experiences of best-selling authors show that these editors have the ability to tie together plot lines, increase the realism of characters and create a more unified book as a result. Sixth, all authors considering going through self-publishers must be cognizant of the entire mix of titles the publisher produces, and this includes adult, crime or suspense titles as well. Over time self-publishers may gravitate to more tabloid-style writers to increase sales. For first-time children's books authors this is a major concern as families will be shopping for their books. Finally for all authors who… [END OF PREVIEW]

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