Everything I Know On the Matter … Cheap

December 27th, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  6 Comments

Why Shouldn’t Authors Self-Publish?:

> So if it costs you somewhere around $13 a book to make it, if you price a 600 page book at $49.99, and you can sell it thru Amazon (which they buy at a price of $22.50) you will make $9.50 per book sold. That is assuming you do all the work yourself (of course).

So if we’re going to use the “total number of pages” to set the cost of a book, we’re looking at the self-publisher asking for $.08/page on a book that costs about $0.02/page to produce.

Two O’Reilly titles that managed to avoid the Great Banishment after the move (“SSH, The Secure Shell, The Definitive Guide” & “Learning GNU Emacs“) cost me $10 and $23 less, for about 530 pages each. The second edition of “Mastering Regular Expressions,” which I don’t own but which would probably be in my top 10 for “titles to add to my technical shelf” goes for $26.37 for 496 pages.

A few seconds with a calculator tell me our self-published author wants a 40 percent premium over what I’ll pay an established publisher for a technical book, and he’s charging me that premium to give up the editorial services of a publishing house, which will provide at least a copy editor and a proof reader.

Unless my primary incentive for buying books is indulging an irrational hatred for things that are edited and reviewed before publication, I don’t see what’s in it for me. At least not when we’re talking about the technical book market, which is saturated. As much as there’s a breed of author out there who’d never admit it, editors aren’t there to burden and bedevil writers as much as they are to help readers by bringing more organization, clarity and simple polish to the final product.

So let’s flip his model.

Maybe he’s paying $10 to make his book using the $0.02/page rate he quoted. Instead of paying a 40 percent premium to cut out the editorial polish, I’m going to expect to deduct a mere 20 percent for the inconvenience of wading through what amounts to a polished final draft with its attendant disorganization, typos and outright mistakes before I’ll consider buying it.

Using all the ballpark figures we’ve been throwing around, I calculate that the author’s going to lose around $.55 per book.

This isn’t a self-publishing hate screed, either. I know a few people who are at varying stages of considering/embarking on the self-publishing/print-on-demand path. They’ve got good reasons for going in those directions, including factoring in small losses in the name of doing some self-marketing.

This is all via reddit, where on a charitable day I’d assume this sort of thing gets 38 karma points so the reading community can peer review the author back into reality.

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