Before you publish your book
There is a difference between publishing your own book and having it published. Have your book published means you authorize a mainstream publisher to publish your book, either as an e book or hard copy. This publisher will pay you a certain amount of fee for a start and will certainly pay you again if he wishes to publish another edition later on unless your hand over the copyright of that book to him. The disadvantage is that you have to edit your work the way they want it to be.
Your copyright is under your full control and you may authorize another publisher to publish the same title later on. The advantage of having your book published is that you need not worry about advertising the title which is always expensive. The publisher does it for you.
However, if you wish to publish your own book, then all expenses incurred will be your full responsibility. But don’t let the printer or the book distributor cheat you. Every printer will tell you it is cheaper to have 2000 copies printed, for a start. It is not true. He only wants to charge you more because the more paper and ink you used, the more he can charge. You will have to cough out more money. For an unknown author, in any part of the world, 1000 copies would be a good start.
After your book has been printed, the next job is to find a book distributor, to represent you. He will consign your books to bookstores where he has an account. For his commission and the commission of the bookstores, he will normally charge you 60% of the sales price, leaving you only 40%. This is the standard market rate and your books will also be displayed for only 12 months after which the bookstores will decide whether or not to allow you the space in his valuable shop.
Moreover, at the 60% rate you are also allowed to display the book in standing position, with only it’s title and author’s name visible. For your book to be displayed horizontally on a table or rack with the front cover clearly visible, you need to pay more.
Some bookstores may only allow you three months to display your books. They can simply tell the distributor to collect the unsold copies after three months and close the account. One bookstore confirmed that if a title does not sell more than five copies during the three months, it is normally removed for good.
The next thing you have to look into is whether all those bookstores carrying your books, actually display those books in their shop. One author discovered that of the 29 bookstores carrying his books, six of them actually did not show the books in the shops. The books were in the storerooms. The best way to find out is to visit the shops as a customer and ask the supervisor to show you where the title is. It is no use if the book is only listed in the PC. It must be displayed in the shop.
One author published his book in England and shipped some of the books to Asia for sale, without going through a distributor. To his horror, many months later, he found his books not displayed in the shop which the books were consigned to. The books were in the storeroom, still in the box. Was the supervisor really made a mistake or was he waiting for some “coffee money” which was very common in that country?
If you want to bypass the distributor, you have to pay over $1000.00 to have your book displayed for 12 months. Here again, the style of display is the same. You need to pay extra for your books to be displayed horizontally, with the front cover facing upwards.
The normal agreement you signed with the distributor does not include displaying your books during public book exhibition. For this service you are requested to contribute from $100.00 to $150.00 for a one day display. If you don’t contribute, your books will not be displayed at all.
In Malaysia, the bookstores will not release the names and addresses or the telephone numbers of their existing book distributors to you. So you have to spend money to advertise to find a reliable distributor. After you consigned your books to him, what would happen if he collects the money on the sold books and walk away? You will find that his phone number and address are no longer valid. This is some thing you have to risk and to learn by experience.
Unless you are sure the printing cost and the cost of marketing your books can be recovered, it is better to try publishing it on the Internet, on print-on-demand basis, where you may not have to cough out an initial cost. Here the printer does it on demand basis and they normally charge those books at a very much higher rate. But the advantage is you decide how many copies you want and the pay for them and you owe the publisher nothing. I deal with www.lulu.com You can give your books, free of charge to your friends or you may sell the books on your own. If the response is good, you may consider publishing it locally.
However, please be careful with the Print-On-Demand publisher. I came across one, and it requested less than US$1000.00, telling me that my book would be marketed on the internet with 25000 bookstores. That was a very good deal to me. But when I wanted to have the email addresses of those 25000 bookstores as a guarantee that the promise was true, I received no reply until today, more than one year already. Haven’t I the right to check with each store whether my book has been listed?
One fact you must know is, don’t expect to be rich by writing, if you wish to get to the top. So, please stick to your 9 to 5 job, but carrying on writing, just like you playing golf or shooting the basket.
My final advice is, only George Bush, Clinton or Obama, if they happen to write a book, can easily sell 2 million copies. But for an average guy on the street, less than 99 % of those who published their own title can sell more than 1000 copies of whatever titles they have published.