Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Cost of Doing Business

Many folks claim it is too expensive to self-publish. And, indeed, it can be mighty costly, especially if you go the old route and do an actual print run. POD technology has made it possible to print a few (or no!) books at a time and as a result made publishing a book about the equivalent of buying a digital camera.

Dare I say that POD has made experimenting with writing and publishing a possibility for (too) many people who never would have made the decision to publish if it meant investing $10,000 or more. That is the beauty of it. It is also the ugliness of it. We talked before about why indie film and indie music get so much respect. And the answer (or, at least, one of the answers) is that you cannot produce a CD or a film for $499.

But many folks argue that paying to have your work in print is, sort of . . . lame.

Here's the truth: we've all paid to see our work in print.

From personal experience . . .

When trying to find an agent, I spent the following:

Postage: $127.39 (granted, I made the mistake of sending my first three manuscripts overnight, also includes SASEs)
Copies of MS: $187.00
Toner Cartridge: $49.00
Phone Calls to NY & CA: $26.45

TOTAL: $389.84

Once I found an agent, I was responsible for all the copies, postage, phone calls, and galleys for foreign rights (all per AAR guidelines)

Total (so far): $427.00

So, I am in for $816.84 and there are more expenses on the way.

Now, I'll admit that I am about to earn out my advance, so the investment was worthwhile. But--there are many folks who do not earn out their advance. Worse--they do not even sell 1000 copies. Even worse--they did not get an advance to break even, or they did not get an advance at all.

And at that point, the author is in the red about the same as the POD author (assuming the POD author did not opt for tons of add-ons.)

There are two main differences here:
(1) The traditional author has a greater chance of breaking out (depending significantly on the publisher)
(2) The level of respect is greater for the traditional author.

But as we've discussed before, one again these two lists are merging. The midlist and the PODlist are becoming unified in more ways than one.

Things are changing.