January 12th, 2009

books in a stack

Maybe it should be called Profit Solutions?

The New York Times Books section recently ran an article about the sale of the self-publishing company Xlibris. What interested me was that the buyer was another self-publishing company called Author Solutions, whose imprints include iUniverse and AuthorHouse. According to the Times, Author Solutions' sales for last year were 2.5 million copies of 12,000 titles. The single most interesting thing to me is that if you divide 2.5 million by 12,000 you get 208. This means their average self-published book sells 208 copies. I realize that's only the numerical average; lots of their titles must sell in the thousands, while other sell only in the dozens.

So how does Author Solutions make money? It is, of course, publishing with print on demand (POD) technology, so its up-front costs are much lower than the traditional model. And, of course, it's not paying any advances. But still, to make enough money that it can afford to buy up the competition, Author Solutions probably makes money off of its authors every bit as much as off its authors' books.

Self-published books tend to cost more than mass market paperbacks. Lulu, for example, doesn't offer mass market as a format, only trade paperback. Self-published authors thus encounter price hurdles as well as distribution hurdles in reaching their readership. I think if I were going to try the self-publishing route, I would go with CreateSpace from Amazon, just because my books would then be able to blend in (somewhat) on the Amazon platform; presumably, they could be sold as Kindle ebooks, too, which would be one of the few ways a self-published book can achieve the same level of instant accessibility that most books have.

No one ever said getting published would be easy—or if they did, they lied.





freehit counter