Thursday, July 8, 2021

I Fulfill a Request for a Signed Copy of My New Book: RTTC Bears in the Wild

RTTC Bears in the Wild
I can see why authors participate in book signing events. Not only does it promote the book, but such an event also is good for the author's sense of accomplishment. Readers show up and not only buy a book but also want it signed by the author. Of course, this is all true only if readers show up! I've read accounts of the opposite happening; when no one shows up to a book signing, then we must look deep into those waters of personal motivation.

Recently, I was asked through Facebook Messenger for a signed copy of RTTC Bears in the Wild. The reader had given her copy of the book away to a friend and contacted me asking for a signed copy. It had been a long time since I'd done this, and since I knew her from online, I told her I'd mail her a book and then contact her about how much it would cost.

The cost of printing RTTC Bears in the Wild is about two and a half times more than a book of similar pages but without the color photographs. When determining the cost of the little book, I had to factor the increased printing cost, of course. Also POD (Print on Demand) costs are higher than traditional mass printing. I like the POD publishing model, though, for a several reasons. One is that there are no upfront printing costs that the publisher and author must then recoup. Another is that there are no storage issues for the books--500 or 5,000 books take up quite a bit of space, and then there are also the issues of protection of the book, too, to ensure that water, humidity, and insects and rodents don't damage the book. Finally, there is the environmental plus with POD publishing that only those books purchased are printed. Trees are cut down to print books that are never read; energy is needlessly spent for printing that isn't needed. All these issues morph, of course, when discussing ebooks. The environmental discussion still deals with energy consumption, though.

I have a downstairs cupboard full of copies of my books--mostly my first three books. I've learned my lesson, though, and no longer buy a hundred copies of a new book. Ten copies will do, and I can always order more. I don't do promotional book signings, especially in my home town. I guess I feel that I just want to connect to readers online and not have to put my local friends through the decision-making process of "Oh, should we go to Tom's book signing? Do we have to buy a book? I don't want to hurt his feelings by not showing up." I have placed my books in a local book store, though. That was easy and seemed reasonable. I've also considered selling my books at the local Farmers' Market. I could set my table up next to a friend and spend a fun Saturday morning maybe selling a book but certainly chatting with folks. And I could buy a week's worth of zuchini--or maybe manage a swap!

It turns out that it's less expensive to buy a book from me personally than buying it online from Amazon. When a reader buys a copy of one of my books from Amazon, I receive sixty percent of the sale price. The rest goes to Kindle Direct Publishing for printing. KDP describes it as follows: "KDP offers a fixed 60% royalty rate on paperbacks sold on Amazon marketplaces where KDP supports paperback distribution. Your royalty is 60% of your list price. We then subtract printing costs, which depend on page count, ink type, and the Amazon marketplace your paperback was ordered from." This sounds pretty good--six dollars in royalties for a small book using black ink. However, those distribution marketplace costs are taken from the royalties, so in truth a ten-dollar book would maybe get an author two dollars for royalties. Here is a link from Martin Publishing Services (click here) if you're interested in learning more. 

Another reason that it costs less to buy a book from me, rather than from Amazon (for the three books I've published exclusively via KDP) is that I do the packaging and mailing. If I were to charge for the hour it takes me to package the book and then take it to the post office, then . . . well, I really can't even consider that if I want to consider economics. It is fulfilling to mail a book off, though. There's a personal connection established by writing in the book and then mailing it off. If I were doing this all day long in order to make my living money, then I'd have to raise my prices. Occasionally mailing a signed copy to a reader? That's a gesture of respect.

Henry David Thoreau once commented on his publishing of Walden, something along these lines--"I have a library of one thousand books, of which nine hundred are the book I wrote." I've managed to not "save money" by privately printing a large number of books, where each book printed would indeed cost less than POD publishing. However, I have cut my upfront costs to almost nothing and also don't have to stare at a roomful of books and wonder, "What am I going to do with all those darn books?" The good news is that rather than worrying about how I can sell more copies of my recent camping book--I'm just going camping!


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