The Economics of Self-Publishing and Printing

Now is a good time to reflect on how things have progressed to this point. I just finished updating all of the sales data in my Bento database, and the grand total of books sold as of right now is 200. That is not a huge amount of books, but it sure seemed like a lot while Clenise and I were printing, cutting the pages apart, binding, trimming, and shrink-wrapping, not to mention filling orders and shipping. Many of these copies sold at the full $19.95 list price, but quite a few also sold to Amazon and other places at reduced prices. All of that would be fine if we hadn’t spent so much to produce the books. Paper has been a fairly big expense, as has equipment, but toner is the real killer. I knew toner would be expensive, but I didn’t realize how much of a problem it would be to keep buying it so frequently. Even that might not be so bad if the printers didn’t keep developing print-quality issues. One of the printers is still out of commission right now because it puts a bright blue band along one edge of the pages. The other printer is starting to develop a light blue haze on its pages. Clenise is great at diagnosing and fixing these issues, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep dealing with them, and the expense is mounting.

So, I’m starting to think about other options. One would be to convert the book to all black-and-white. I really like having the color photographs in the book, because of the nice appearance, but I believe we could save a large amount of money with a black-and-white version.

The other option is to contract out the printing and binding to a commercial printer or print-on-demand company. At this point I’m just starting to think about the possibilities; for now, we’re still geared up to produce books, and maybe we’ll be able to build up a reasonable sized inventory with our current supplies, and then see where we stand.

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