The small print

BOOK publishing has come a long way since Johannes Gutenburg invented the printing press. Gone were the days of the clay tablet and no longer were books only available on request or commission from pedantic scribes.

Today, thanks to advances in technical innovation, the all-singing-all-dancing print on demand digital machines can produce a book of reasonable quality on a low print run at an affordable price.

For a self-published author, there’s a few ways to get printed copies of your book in hand without bearing the burden of the initial cash outlay. Create Space provides a POD service but is not much use to publishers who are looking to distribute their books outside the mighty Amazon market. Amazon is a retailer and other retailers, such as Barnes and Noble, will obviously not buy from direct competitors.

Even if you wanted to self-distribute a paperback published on Create Space, once the unit cost of the book is set on Amazon, there is no scope for selling directly to other wholesalers at a discounted price.

Bearing in mind that Amazon has become a leading retailer in the book trade, however, it would be foolish to overlook them.

I’ve taken a look at FeedARead which, I am told, produce books of reasonable quality. They will also distribute and market, to a certain extent, your titles but will not accept ISBNs belonging to other publishing companies.

Then there’s the choice of speculating to accumulate and investing in a small print run. The largest and most popular POD printing press in the UK appears to be CPI and, from their website, look slick and professional in what they have to offer. They have their own specialist who deals with authors and an in-house distribution service.

The best quote I received for short-run printing was from Glasgow-based Bell & Bain (no relation) Ltd who use the Muller Martini Sigma Line system for producing POD books. They appear to have invested heavily in a POD system to work with both self-published authors and publishers.

All these different ways to print a book, and an author or publisher may use one or any of them, has a bearing on the ISBN. The 13-digit number that makes your book unique is an essential marketing tool for maximising distribution.

Let’s say, therefore, that you want your paperback to appear on Amazon and FeedARead but you also want the freedom to distribute the book yourself or use an agency. That means you will require at least two separate ISBNs for the Create Space and own printed editions, plus the free one from FeedARead for their edition. If, as you must, produce e-versions of the book, then those editions will also require separate ISBNs, depending on what service you use.

With so many different versions to juggle, the printing process can get a bit confusing. What is essential is that, save for the prelim pages, ALL versions of the book are the same – there’s always the danger of making changes to one and forgetting about the others.


2 thoughts on “The small print

  1. rosgemmell says:

    It’s a fascinating and frustrating journey, Sara – hope you find the right solution in the end! And I hope this doesn’t appear twice, but does appear at all!

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