Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Glossary of Self-Publishing Terms

February 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Self publishing

Before you dive into self-publishing, it helps to have a few definitions clear.

Traditional publisher: When we talk about a “tradi­tional publisher” or a “publishing company,” we’re referring to a company that issues literary works for sale to the public but, most significantly, we mean that this company assumes the business risk of issuing those works. The company pays all the costs of producing salable versions of those works (whether books or audio CDs or other formats) and expects to recover costs, plus a profit, as the copies sell. Because tradi­tional publishing companies are in business to make a profit, they are highly selective about which books they will agree to publish, and this is the source of many authors’ frustration with traditional publishers.

Self-publishing means that it is the author who assumes the business risk of publishing their own literary work. The author pays all the costs associated with getting their work out to the public. The author may hope to recover those costs as the book sells, or she may be content just to get her writing out to an audience, regardless of the cost.


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Traditional book printer: Printing companies are not the same thing as publishing companies. Publishing compa­nies typically send books out to be printed by traditional book printing companies (sometimes overseas) where the pages of the book are printed in quantities of  thousands of copies on offset printing presses and bound using binding machines. The offset printing process requires the use of printers’ plates, which are expensive to create. By printing many cop­ies, the printer spreads the cost of the plates over the whole print run, which gives a moderate price per copy.

Small traditional book printers (especially local companies with a good reputation) can be an appropriate choice for self-publishing authors who know they can sell 1000 or more cop­ies of their book.

Print on demand (POD): This refers to printing and binding single copies of a book (or a short print run, usually meaning anywhere from 1 to 100 copies) using photocopy technology. Since POD printing machines produce copies directly from an electronic file (no printing plates are needed) and the binding machines used are highly automated, it is possible to produce a single copy of a book at a time for a very reasonable cost.

For the author, the advantage of POD technology is that it allows her to easily make her book available to customers without having to pay thousands of dollars to print large quan­tities of books. There is no inventory of books to store, and the POD publisher will often handle book orders, payments, and mailing of books to customers.

Print on demand publisher: There are many com­panies on the internet offering to print self-published books using POD technology and to handle order fulfillment. Un­like traditional publishers, they do not assume the business risk of producing books. They require that each author cover the costs of creating their print-ready computer file. Correctly speaking, these companies are “publishing services” compa­nies, not publishers.

Most such companies offer the author a menu of publish­ing services for a price. Services offered include: substantive editing, copy-editing, proofreading, book design and cover design, page layout, and marketing assistance. Since offerings and prices vary enormously, it’s vital that the self-publishing author be clear about exactly what services she needs. And she’ll need to research the best-rated companies and ask many questions of them so she can compare their services and prices and find the one that’s right.

Print on demand printing: Many of the smaller POD publishers do not have copying machines on their factory floors. In fact they may not have a factory floor at all. They may outsource the printing and distribution.

The largest POD publishers have their own in-house POD copiers, often Xerox DocuTech copiers, and automatic bind­ing equipment.

POD royalties and creator revenues: POD pub­lishers usually credit the author every time a customer orders their book and they refer to these payments as royalties or creator revenues. Some POD publishers allow you to set your own cover price and royalty amounts, others tell you what the cover price and royalty will be. If your goal is to make money from your POD-published book, pay special attention to these figures.

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