Having worked with several independent authors of late I am struck by the opportunities and difficulties in the arena of book publishing today. With on demand printing it has become possible for anyone to self publish a book with no cost up front. You create the artwork, set the inside of the book and save it as a PDF, and your book shows on Amazon and Kindle in a matter of days.
The books are literally printed one at a time on demand, a kind of glorified xerox in a way. But, this type of digital printing is at about 95% of the quality of traditional offset printing which isn’t worth doing unless you print thousands of pieces. The trade off is the per piece price of digital printing is quite high at at least several dollars a book, whereas offset comes in at a fraction of that. However, the independent author doesn’t want to be sitting on 5,000 copies of a book only to find they can sell 500 of them in year.
With on demand printing the author can buy at a special price however many units they need at the time, though buying in bulk is cheaper. A downside though is if an independent bookstore wants to buy the book wholesale directly from the on demand printer the margin isn’t as good as from a traditional publishing house. A clever author however will broker ‘one ups’ to independent bookstores directly from their own inventory, or even place books on consignment.
So all in all on demand printing in print form and ebook on Kindle, B&N and Apple are great ways for an upcoming author to get their own name out there, generate some success, and then be taken seriously by a traditional publishing house if the title catches fire so to speak. The ultimate goal of the independent author however should remain to ultimately be signed by a more traditional publishing house.