One of the greatest advantages of the small press is that publishers can operate in a financially secure way. If they use a Print on Demand company, such as Lightning Source, they can set up titles so that they pay for nothing until after the customer has paid. All three publishers I’m involved with – Bridge House, The Red Telephone and Chapeltown Books use Lightning Source. Lightning Source, for £8.50 a year per title – this includes VAT – hooks publishers up to distributers world-wide. We have to offer a discount – we choose 35%. We price books to cover that discount, printing costs and a reasonable profit. We offer our authors deals if they buy five or more copies – usually 75% of RRP plus free shipping.
There are overhead costs per book: set-up with LS costs about £52.50. It’s good to have a proof copy. That’s another £21.00. If we use a cover artist, that’s about £250.00. Or we can buy a stock photo / illustration for a lot less – about £8.50. This includes a license for about 250,000 print copies and unlimited web usage. Sometimes we even create a cover ourselves. We have to supply one copy to the British Library and sometimes the other Legal deposit libraries request a copy. Review copies we send out at our discretion. It may depend on how much money is in the bank. Authors receive 7.5% royalty on net price, going up to 10% once 1,000 copies are sold.
We do full editorials – first edit, line edit, copy edit and proof read. Our books are carefully designed. More often than not the partners themselves do all of this, though if we’re cash rich and time poor we’ll outsource. We sometimes outsource and pay by profit share. The contractor does work initially for free but gets a permanent royalty. The partners take a profit share. So, they earn only a very little but one day, if we get a best-seller …
When we publish to Kindle there are no upfront costs. We receive 70% of the RRP, without VAT, and we pass 50% of that on to the author(s) minus a small royalty for any partners who have worked on the book.
We tend to keep a couple of books’ worth of set-up costs in our bank account. There’s never a time when we can’t set up a new title. If that did happen, we’d wait.
We have no fancy offices to pay for in London and we have no staff salaries to cover. We do pay an annual subscription to the Independent Publishers’ Guild (IPG). This is our only general overhead. But it is useful. It makes us feel professional, they have important information and they can often help us solve problems. That costs just over £200 a year, including VAT.
All of this leads to several other advantages, which I’ll discuss in further blog posts.