Making money on your first book
by Lp Camozzi
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Profiting from pasta
This kids' musician made money publishing his first book.
I wrote my first book - "Pasta Pazoo: More Better Spaghetti" - in 1995 and made a few feeble attempts at getting it published through traditional channels. Then the real world called, and I shelved the manuscript until my middle daughter was about to graduate with a Fine Arts degree.
So I fine tuned the words with the help of a professional editor, and Marielle went to work on the pictures.
How are you going to make money on your book? Well, you're going to have to watch costs.
Meanwhile I was getting quotes for professional graphic design, image scanning and printing - easy for me with my background in advertising. I got a fair deal from my graphic designer friend, but printing was going to be an obstacle. The best I could find was about $6.00 Canadian a unit for a soft cover 16 page book.
I had also checked out a couple of the self publishing print-on-demand houses but recognized that they were simply taking advantage of budding writer egos. They weren't cheap on a per unit basis.
I was almost prepared to proceed with a short run, money losing investment to promote myself. But in the interim, I decided to do a little online research about offshore printing sources.
Bottom line is that I found a printer in India who could print and ship hard cover books to Canada for around $US1.00 per unit. The Chinese printers I found were about double that number.
Once the graphic designer had finished the scans and final layout, all we had to do was FTP a graphics file to the printer's website along with a 50% deposit. I had a completed proof couriered to me within two weeks.
Even with shipping by slow boat, I had my books in a couple months. The book was released in the summer of 2005.
The downside? Despite a superior customer service orientation, the across the board printing consistency was not as good as you'd see in Canada, or even China for that matter. But I had those copies to give away as review copies/gifts/etc.
Key things I've learned about profitable self-publishing include:
a) use a professional editor and graphic designer as outside resources
b) don't describe your book as self published
c) don't use a white background colour on your cover
d) make sure you comply with all ISBN registration and importing regulations for printed material (there is no duty by the way)
e) insist and/or pay for quality control at the printer - or get a make good
f) give away one book for every five you sell - you can afford it
g) don't waste time with big book chains, because it's a consignment business.
Getting into the black
I have broken even on all my costs with sales of less than 500 units. I marketed on my website, at gift bazaars, in personal selling situations, through readings, and in the occasional independent bookstore.
The book has actually received some very positive book reviews. (It was recently compared to Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie). It was even turned into a 30 minute community cable storytime show in the USA.
So two years later, I'm really now just beginning to market to North America - with 1500 books left that represent pure profit.
A profitable future
Would I do it again? Absolutely, but I will invest more in the quality of illustration scans and printing next time. My second book is written and is currently being illustrated by my daughter. Hopefully it will be published in 2008 - with partial proceeds from my first book.
(In fact, Lp has now written about how his 2nd book made money.)
I would encourage any children's book writer to self publish if you actually want to make money on your book. You'll save yourself the three year waiting list and aggravation of dealing with an overworked children's book publisher.
P.S. and if you need a good illustrator, I know one.
Visit Lp's site, where you can buy Pasta Pazoo and even sample some of his kids' music.