Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Why and How of Indie Publishing Hardcover Editions

My husband and I are currently working on the hardcover edition of Toren the Teller's Tale, and I think the information we're collecting might benefit others, so here it is.

Why make a hardcover edition?

Hardcover editions are better for libraries. 

Having a hardcover means your book will be shelved on a shelf and not jammed into a carousel. (We learned this the hard way with our Dan Quixote paperback. After seeing how mangled it got, we created a new "school and library edition" paperback that fits a carousel better and has discussion questions on individualism, conformity and bullying in the back. The largest format that fits the carousels well is 5.25"x8", so I highly recommend sticking to that size when it comes to a paperback.)

J.A. Konrath recommends publishing your book in every possible format to open it to the most markets, and I agree.

Having a hardcover library edition is particularly important if you are considering doing school and libary visits, which are a good way to market a children's book and--more importantly--a potential source of additional income. 

While you'll probably sell paperbacks to students (if you decide to sell copies in connection to your visits), the hardcover edition will be better for readings and will probably appeal more to the librarian or library media specialist. It's less important if your genre is one that's rarely published in hardcover, like paperback romance.

So how do I make a hardcover edition?

Lightning Source is a good POD provider, because it does hardcovers and works with libraries. It's owned by Ingram, which is a distributor that works with everyone, particularly libraries. Working with Lightning Source will get your book into Ingram's catalogs, which are sent to libraries and schools. 

Lightning Source is, however, notoriously difficult to figure out. It can also be rather expensive, not only because of the setup fee, but because it asks that books be formatted in Adobe Acrobat as a PDF/X-1a:2001 compliant file, and Adobe Acrobat costs hundreds of dollars. We're currently trying to see if we can use Nuance PDF Create instead, but unfortunately Lightning Source charges for each upload that isn't formatted correctly. It's risky. One of the reasons we chose CreateSpace for our paperbacks is that the startup cost is $0. CreateSpace will even provide you with an ISBN (Lightning Source doesn't, so you have to buy your own). CreateSpace is also a lot easier to use.

We're still in middle of working with Lightning Source, but here are a few things we've learned.

While most libary books have jackets, there are some children's books that have laminated covers. 

I prefer laminated, because it doesn't rip and it's easier to clean. Some titles like this are the Wimpy Kid books, the Origami Yoda books, and Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider.  

This means that if your book is similar, there's no reason why it shouldn't have a laminated cover. All of these covers are matte, although they have glossy elements. I don't know if CreateSpace allows for glossy elements, but it does allow for some gold. Dragon Rider has the title and the author's name in gold, so that's something to consider if you're interested, although it will cost more.

The main thing we've been researching lately is pricing. 

How much should you charge for a hardcover edition?

This is what I found out. First, go to page 20 on this PDF document:

You'll find there are several options. 

Your book will probably be a small hardcover, as "small" refers to the dimensions of the book, not the number of pages. (My guess is that "large" hardcover refers mostly to picture-book dimensions.) Your book will therefore cost $6.00 + $0.013 per page (a book with a jacket costs $1.55 more) per copy to print. A 500-page book, for example, costs $12.50 to print.

But that doesn't tell you how much the retail cost of your book should be. 

Lightning Source recommends that you allow for sellers to take 55% of list price if you want the widest distribution. This lets the stores sell your book at a discount.

This means you should divide your printing costs by 0.45 to get the minimum retail price for your book, which in the case of a 500-page book would be $27.78. You should then add a bit so you're not selling at a loss.

The next question then becomes, "How much will the market bear?"

To find out, go to the current New York Times besteller hardcover list for your type of book. 

In the case of my 500-page children's/YA novel, that would be this list: 

While most books are priced below $20, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is listed at $29.99, which means this is the top of the range of what you can charge for this kind of book. Fortunately, that's stil $2 over the minimum, so it could work out for this particular book.

Don't expect to make a lot on hardcover editions. The main benefit is just to offer that option for those who need it, like some libraries.

Having a hardcover edition of your book can help you get it on library shelves

If you have any additional information, comments, or questions about hardcover editions, please add them below. Thanks, and I hope this helps!

1 comment:

LM Preston said...

I can say though that I was able to get library orders with my paperbacks. A good number of them since I have an LCCN and it's available to them. The cost of printing hardcover books just don't fit into our publishing budget so we have changed our format releases to ebook first, then paperback and if we see a need, then we will do hardback for specific markets.