Luigi Pagano on Self-Publishing
Posted by Luke Neima on Mon, 07 Apr 2014
Every now and then I get a query about self-publishing: how to go about it, who to approach, what to look out for. So I asked Luigi Pagano, a fantastic ABCtales poet who has published half a dozen collections with different presses over the past ten years, if he might share some of his experiences with the ABC community. And he happily obliged:
I’m Luigi – some of you may know me already – but for those who don’t I’ve been an ABCtales member for ten years and have self-published five poetry collections in that time. Today I’m going to tell you a little about my self-publishing experiences.
My first poetry collection was entirely home-produced. Despite what you might think, this is a feasible solution, but it would not be my choice now. It is economical but it is also very time consuming. I made 100 copies and sold the lot, keeping the price to a minimum and absorbing postage cost when I had to deliver.
When I started out I had some knowledge of how to format pages for a book, but though I was already in possession of a desktop PC and a printer I still had to buy paper, printer ink, a long stapler and staples. To make the book I formatted my document in landscape with a central column to space out two pages, and then printed on A4. Once printed and numbered these sheets were folded in two to form an A5 booklet. Then I added a cover and stapled the sheets together. A simple but effective binding.
I found out that if you plan to sell your book in bookstores, to libraries, or through online retailers like Amazon.com, you need an ISBN (you don’t if you wish to sell the book yourself). I had an ISBN number so I used it - but as a consequence I had to provide legal deposit copies to the British Library (and five other libraries upon request).
For my next collection I decided to try something different, and farmed out the project to a Print-on-demand company. There are plenty advertised on the net, and after getting a series of quotes I finally decided on PrintonDemand-worldwide.com. They offered me the best quote, and were happy for me to send them a PDF copy of the book as I wished it to be printed, although in most cases you’d be given strict submission guidelines to follow. They were easy to work with and I was happy with the finished product – they require payment in advance for first-time customers.
Most print-on-demand companies will send you one (and only one) free proof copy. If you require further ones, say after editing, they’ll charge you. This happened to me once when I made the mistake of omitting a blank page - as a result the rest of the pages were not in the right sequence. To give you an example: inside the cover I had a title page, then a copyright page followed by a page that could have been used for dedications or left blank, two pages with the index of 80 poems, another blank page and the first poem which was printed on the right hand-side. Without that blank page at the beginning my entire layout was upset. So my advice for using print-on-demand companies is to be very careful that you have everything perfectly in place before you send it off.
My third venture was to publish eight books in digital format. This was a very easy process – all I had to do was provide word-processed manuscripts to an online conversion service. I used Smashwords.com, who converted them free of charge, listed them on their site with prices set by me, and circulated the information to various retailers such as Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and many others.
With Smashwords Authors control the pricing, sampling and marketing of their books, and receive 85% of the net sales proceeds for sales on Smashwords.com and 60% though their distribution network. That might sound like a good deal but no payment is received until the amount accrued is $10 - and when payment is made it’s subject to 30% U.S. tax, Smashwords being an American company, regardless of where actual sales take place (I believe this applies to Amazon too). It isn’t worth trying to get an exemption for the small sums involved. In 2013 my gross income was $12.44, less $3.73 tax leaving me with a net $8.71. Converted to pounds sterling, that become less than £6. Wow! This was for poetry; maybe prose fares better.
My latest printed anthology was through Lulu.com. They provided easy to follow instructions and the final product could be viewed online for several edits. They give the choice of “free ISBNs” but these are specific to Lulu - so I don’t see the point. They offer distribution packages, too, but I suspect they would not generate sufficient sales to justify the added cost. But Lulu should be considered as a printer, as the finished product is very good. The only drawback is the shipping cost - which is in my opinion, and many others’, disproportionate.
To sum up - I’ve had a wide range of experience, and I still haven’t found the perfect solution yet. But I hope these might provide a place to start for those who are thinking about self-publishing for the first time, themselves.