Hi guys, okay a fair warning, I am going to be asking a rather heretical question here, but first a little background: for over ten years now I have been maintaining a comparison of POD publishers and this past week I had a rather nasty argument with the owner of a particular outfit. In a nutshell, he claims that authors are better off paying him more than £3,500.00 to set up a book because he produces books that are of above average quality when compared to other POD outfits (and keep in mind that I only have his word when it comes to that particular claim). Anyway, seeing how you can have a book published via CreateSpace by paying something like $35.00, and that’s including both expanded distribution and one or two rounds of proof copies depending on your book’s length, I found myself wondering how much does quality really matter.
Oh, I’m not talking here about not having a nice cover design or a good interior layout (I do realize that those things are important), I am talking about the quality of the materials that go into making the physical object we know as a book. I mean when I think back to all the books I have ever read what I remember first and foremost is the plot, that is followed by the quality of the writing as such and maybe the cover. The interior layout only comes into play if there is a problem with it, but the manufacture and the quality of the paper? The truth is that that’s not something I, as a reader, have ever given much thought to (not as long as the thing doesn’t fall apart in my hands the first time I open it, and sometimes not even then)... and yet as an author at times I can’t help but to worry about it. Anyway the question I wanted to ask is this: would you pay more than £3,500.00 to have a book that’s a little nicer (and to be fair, that fee does include all design services and a few extras which you would have to supply on your own via CreateSpace), or would you prefer to either save your money or to have the freedom to allocate it as you see fit?
I don't know what 3,500 Euros is in USD, but it is probably a lot, and I wouldn't pay a lot to get my books published. In fact, the only amount I pay is the distributor's share of the book's royalties and the cost for production and supplies.
I don't make a lot of money, so I cannot afford to pay much to publish my books. Even if I did make a lot of money, I probably wouldn't spend much on publishing, because I like to save money, and I bet the quality of the man's books is not worth his high fees. I also question how much different the quality of his books are that it would make much of a difference to readers. CreateSpace and Lulu's print books are sufficient in quality and worth the cost.
That's pretty much my take too, but still I keep seeing publishers with fees well into the four digit range and I can't help but to wonder why would authors be willing to pay such fees, especially since there are viable alternatives out there. It's just a head-scratcher as far as I am concerned and I wanted to see how others felt about it.
I wonder that too - why some authors pay for high-priced services, especially when the quality is not worth the additional price. They probably are not aware of their other options, or they are fooled by the "high quality" gimmick.
Your comparison of POD publishers is fantastic! Thank you for maintaining that list! (I'm sending you some traffic)
I'm of the opinion that the quality of what's on the pages is far more important than that of the pages themselves.
I've never been one to believe that books, in and of themselves, are sacred.
What's sacred are the thoughts and feelings they convey, and those are just as well conveyed in newsprint as vellum or anything in between.
The exception would be books that rely on visuals to convey their message, like photography or children's books with lots of illustrations, or reference books and books meant to be heirlooms or conversation pieces, because a large part of their value is in their durability.
It's what's inside a book that matters. Print and binding quality only matter insofar as they aid in conveying or preserving it.
I'd say for most novels, "high quality" print versions are overkill and may make the price per copy prohibitive for some of your audience, in addition to reducing margins unacceptably for no real gain.
Too much concern for quality puts the "vanity" in Vanity Press.
Glad to hear you liked the comparison! I agree that there are some specialized books in which quality does matter, but the truth is that even in those instances we have a situation in which POD can't really compete in terms of quality. The way I see it, if your break-even point is above 1,000 copies you are better off going with an offset print run.
It depends on the market, off the top of my head I can only think of two markets where the investment might pay off.
Is your market collectors? (in which case you'd probably want leather bound, prestige format, etc).
Businesses? (to establish yourself as an expert).
Actually you would be hard-pressed to find a POD publisher who does leather bound books, plus in terms of print quality POD doesn't usually compare with offset, at least not favorably, so that one's basically out.
Businesses may be a more believable group, I hadn't really thought about those (though if you are trying to establish yourself as an expert a vanity press is unlikely to do you much good).
Still, thanks for your input! and for pointing out that there are some exceptions to my own perception
I meant writing a book to promote yourself as an expert and making money off of speeches etc.
Oh, sorry, I had misunderstood that one.
I personally would never pay for a service like that. Instead I’ve built relationships with professionals I can work with and will deliver exactly what I want.
First I hired a real live editor to proof my books. I found her by throwing out a request for volunteer proofreaders on Facebook -- something I still do with every book. Usually I get ten people willing to look over my manuscript. After years of searching I found a lady I adore who is ready willing and able to correct my terrible grammar and is not afraid to tell me when I’m heading in the wrong direction. I pay her $500 per book.
I found my cover guy on eLance.com. I was able to review the work of over 50 talented illustrators and found the one that clicked for me. Kip Ayers. I pay him $350 per cover but he gives me exactly what I ask for.
Finally, I have a lady who does my interiors, Gwen Gades of Purple Penguin. Depending on the length of the book she charges $300 -$400.
Anyone who can read can now set up a Kindle file with the step-by-step directions on Amazon so, to me, that is non-issue.
The one thing I would recommend is to not pinch pennies too tightly. By paying a fair price, when I need something I usually get it without any extra charge.
I totally agree. Identify the services you actually need, pay a fair price and establish a solid relationship with a professional you trust in each one of those areas without a middleman, and don't pay for things you don't need.
As a reader, I agree that quality of material is only an issue when it detracts from my enjoyment of the book (story, writing, etc.). My guess is that, for the most part, only collectors would be overly concerned with the quality of materials.