Okay, obviously I’m not here to write about dogs. Several readers have asked me to do a basic breakdown of the process and… gulp… the cost of producing a Blind Eye Book from start to finish. I can only assume that these intrepid readers are looking for inventive new ways to go bankrupt. And boy howdy! Making print books is an excellent and noble method by which to dispose of all your money, so here we go.
Well, first I’ll explain a little bit about manufacturing print books. There are basically two ways to do it–either a person can go through a POD or “print on demand” process or an offset print process. Well, there is a third option—digital interior with offset color cover, but I’ll just stick to the basics here.
In POD, books are manufactured when customers order them. The cost per book is higher, and there are some restrictions about size and page count, but POD companies, like Lightning Source have distribution deals that allow the books to be ordered into most print venues. So basically, if you make a POD book you can be sure that it will be available to order into most places books are sold.
In offset printing, a bunch of books are manufactured simultaneously. The cost per book is lower, and as publisher, you have more creative control over what the book looks like. Offset printing is also the current standard in the traditional book industry. The downside is that without a print distributor it becomes very hard to get the books to your customers. There are some consignment programs, such as Amazon Advantage that allow you to sell your product, but your book will basically be invisible to anyone who does not already know about your company or shop at Amazon.
Blind Eye Books makes offset books, so that’s the production process I’m going to go through today.
First we start with choosing a manuscript. At BEB we have various criteria for what content constitutes a title in our line. Once those criteria have been satisfied and the contract has been signed the dreaded (for most authors) editorial process begins. First there is the content edit. During this phase, I read and make comments on the larger aspects of the MS. I don’t get paid for this at BEB, but the going rate for this sort of edit is 20 dollars an hour. Most people can edit between 5 and 10 pages an hour so if I was speedy, I would be paid about 800 dollars for a 400 page MS.
After the author returns her content edits. It’s time for lines. That’s when I go through the MS again, looking at how the sentences are working. Going rate for this is the same as the content edit, so if I got paid, I’d get another 800 dollars for that.
After that, comes the proofreader. They charge between 2 and 4 dollars per page so, lets average and say that our proofer costs 1200 bucks. (At BEB we do pay for proofreading, since it doesn’t fall within the skill set of either myself, or my lovely wife, Dawn.)
Now, if you were producing your own book and wanted to economize on the editorial process by hiring only one professional, make it the proofreader. The reason for this is simple–proofreading mistakes are the ones everybody notices. Few readers will think, “the author didn’t maximize the resonance created by the pixie dust in her text,” or “the flow of this text could be improved by using dependant clauses to join up some of the shorter sentences.” Butt nearly Everybody will bee abel to tell that there is lots of mistakes errors in this sentance and they will tell ewe about it. Believe me.
While the words part of MS is getting solved by me, Dawn is busy at work on the book production. I give her the original, uncorrected MS, and she forwards it to the cover artist along with a basic synopsis. The cover artist returns an image file, which Dawn uses to design the book cover. Cover artists can cost anything from 200 dollars up. For our last illustration, we paid 500, so that’s the number I’m going to use in my calculation.
Now you could always just draw or photoshop the cover yourself, but if you do, make sure to show it to some other people whose opinions you trust before putting it on your book. For example here is Sam Dawson’s cover for our new book Irregulars.
And now here is my own drawing for the cover.
And here’s one that I photoshopped.
I think we can all tell who the professional artist and graphic designer is, right?
Now that there is a cover and polished words to put inside it’s time to make the book itself. This means doing the layout for the cover, in addition to typesetting the inside of the MS. Going rate for that would be $1,125 dollars if Dawn didn’t know her stuff.
Once the book all put together, it’s time to take a deep breath, a double shot of whiskey and write to our manufacturer for a quote. The most recent quote I got was for 2000 copies of a 480 page book with a 4 color cover. Total cost: $7, 395 plus around 900 dollars for shipping.
The final cost of production is a more modern fee: digital conversion of the text files for ereaders. This costs about 200 bucks.
The grand total? A whopping $12,920!
And we haven’t even paid the author a dime yet. 🙂
Now, without the book production and manufacturing costs, which is to say if the author decided to go with a POD company, the cost would still be $3,500 for a 400 page book.
So you can see that manufacturing and selling your own print books is not exactly the path to riches. There are some reasons to do it, though and should you decide that you’d like to take the plunge there are certainly cheaper options and strategies.
Got any questions about making paper books? Need a scheme that doesn’t cost nearly thirteen grand? Or even three and a half grand? Tell me your needs and budget and I’ll give you my best ideas!