by Graham Best
(San Diego, CA)
The Tightrope Walker's Dream
Pros and Cons of Blurb.com: a review.
Blurb printing helps and hurts self publisher.
I'll start with the down side of this adventure in the life of my amazing children's book. Pricing! It simply costs too much to the consumer to buy my book through my print-on-demand vendor, Blurb.com.
Visitors to the official website for my book read about it, and then a lot of them click the link to buy the book, but they seldom finish the sale (because of the high prices, in my opinion). They discover that the cheapest version of my book costs over $20 at Blurb, when they are accustomed to getting equivalent softcovers in bookstores for $7.95, such as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.
I understand why they decide against buying my book once they see the Blurb price. Some people buy it anyway, but most don't.
My message to fellow writers/illustrators is that print-on-demand has its uses, but the high prices of the books make it a dead end for selling very many books containing illustrations or photos. If your book is a picture book like mine, it will probably be in a high price bracket with a POD company, and your potential customers won't often pay that much.
The plus side of print-on-demand is that, if you have some technical chops, you can arrange your book nicely and create a very professional version of it without a formal publisher, all for free. You simply upload it to Blurb using their software bundle, and then people can buy it.
They can also preview it at Blurb's site.
Have a look (click preview) if you want to see how nicely a book can come out using this approach.
I think my book looks amazing, and the time I put into setting it up to my satisfaction was well worth it.
Another plus side is you can sell some books this way, but probably not many, no matter how much marketing you do to direct traffic to your book. Still, you will be able to print them up and give them as gifts, and the people who really love your book will buy a few.
Finally, I'm thinking the real value of print-on-demand may be that it puts me in a position to submit my book to formal publishers in a nice presentation, rather than sending them muted print-outs from my home computer on typing paper, or from scans of my illustrations, etc.
Because my book is full of colorful illustrations, it was costing me roughly $30 a manuscript to send it to publishers, who don't always send it back. Now I can send it for roughly $19.95 (or less if I buy in bulk) as a beautiful blurb.com book.
Blurb review summary
So POD offers me the opportunity to expose agents and publishers to a very high-quality version of the book, and it will cost me less than it was costing to send them amateurish printouts on typing paper in manuscript form.
It is also much faster for me this way, since print-on-demand does the printing for me, and I don't have to spend an hour per manuscript at home monitoring the printing process, which involved keeping an eye on ink levels and collating pages and quality assurance routines, etc. That part of my submission process was an unsustainable headache.
My only concern now is that agents and formal publishers who receive a blurb.com version of my book will think I have already published the book myself so they won't want to publish it too. Perhaps I will quietly address such things in my cover letter.
The Tightrope Walker's Dream.
Read another Blurb review on this site.