A company called Books On Demand has been printing the Philippine editions of my self-published books (they're the tiny paperbacks I started selling in November 2011, in case you have one in your possession right now). Prior to discovering them I was using CreateSpace, which is great too, except they were printing the books out of the US and I was spending a lot on shipping. Books On Demand is just in Ortigas! So so cool.
Anyway, I just had a nice conversation with them today, and I think I should maybe post some of the questions I often get about how we work together. Because we think some people don't yet realize how easy and affordable it all is.
What does one need to do to get their book printed?
Prepare your book the way you want to see it laid out in print. They have some guidelines, which you can request, and they'll accept your PDF file. Send also your front cover, back cover, and spine images.
What I do: My books are simple and usually just text (with some illustrations), so I just send a layout done in Word and saved as PDF. Could it look better? Of course, but I do it this way to keep my costs low. So far my layout costs are zero. My covers are done by more artistic people, so I just get a hi-res JPG of them and email them over.
How many copies do they require an author to order and buy?
Of course, it'll be an expensive single copy if you decide to do that, because they have to put some work into making sure your book looks good. As with most things that scale, the price per copy goes down the more copies you order.
What I do: I take pre-orders, and accept payment prior to delivery. This way my first order is always way more than 1 copy, so I can negotiate for a lower per-copy rate. And I don't end up paying for excess copies out of my own savings, nor do I have zillions of copies lying around waiting to be bought. I tried that and don't really have the space to keep that going.
How much does it cost to print a book?
My books are small, an estimated 4.25 x 6.75 in, and rarely go over 150 pages. I'm able to sell them at P300 apiece, which means it costs less than that to produce them.
I must mention that I don't make a lot of money from selling them at P300, so the markup isn't that huge. I've also started giving away the profit by offering cupcakes to the people who buy this edition. But it's not about profit anyway. (Business experts, don't yell at me.)
If the book isn't in the best shape yet, will they help out?
Books On Demand can help with the editing, layout, cover design and even the publishing legwork (getting an ISBN etc) for a fee. I don't use these services myself, but I've seen them do this for other client authors.
Can they ship a book order directly to the buyer?
Yes they can.
What I do: I tend to pick up the books myself, from their office in Ortigas, because I usually offer to sign the paperbacks ordered directly from me. They've offered to do the shipping for me and I'd actually recommend it. Shipping in many cases costs less than setting up a meetup, and more practical when the buyer is in a province or faraway city.
What kinds of books do they print?
A wide range of stuff. The thing to remember is that if it's a conventional enough book, then they can print it. You're in effect hiring them to print your book, instead of submitting a book for their approval. You're in charge.
So yeah, this is how I do it. This means I don't have that many copies of my own books at home anymore. When someone places an order, I just send off an email to Books On Demand and tell them to print my book. Sometimes they print five books at a time for me, sometimes just one. And then I pick it up, ship it to the buyer. And maybe buy cupcakes.
It's not that difficult. Writing the book, that's what's difficult. So go do that, and then get your paperback already.
(PS. Are they paying you to talk about them? They sometimes sponsor our Author at Once workshops, but no I don't personally receive anything to talk about them. Just a happy customer.)