We’ve written before (“University Offers Free Tools for Authors,” July 6, 2010) about the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) superb author resource called the Open Publishing Guide (OPG). As part of RIT’s commitment to an Open Source approach, when solutions are developed, the university releases them to the public free of charge through the OPG lab’s web-site http://opg.cias.rit.edu/. The site includes reference sources, public domain graphics and a whole slew of other interesting and extremely useful tools.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of OPG resides in its “Self-Publishing Advisor” tool. This on-line application helps an author narrow the list of print-on-demand (POD) service providers to the most appropriate ones. I’ll show you how it works by using an actual example based on my book Due Diligence: The Individual Trustees Guide to Selecting and Monitoring a Professional Investment Adviser. The publisher of the book shut down several years after publishing my book in 1999. The rights reverted back to me (along with a few hundred unsold copies) and I’ve been toying with the idea of a second edition for some time now. Here’s the challenge – it’s written for a niche market, not something a traditional publisher likes. I could go the POD route and offer it through the FiduciaryNews.com web-site I write for. I entered the following criteria into OPG’s Self-Publishing Advisor: 1) This is a text-only (i.e., no photos) book; 2) It’s softcover; 3) Since the book is already done, I’ll be using my own template; 4) There is no color in the book (except for the covers); 5) I’ll be using a Perfect Bound binding option; 6) I have no need for editorial service (this is a revised edition and, besides, my wife is an unusually talented proofreader); 7) I don’t require any design assistance; and, 8) I chose the option to market my book.
Here’s the list offered by Self-Publishing Advisor (and a quick thumbnail of my comments as to their relevance to my project):
BelieversPress – as the name implies, this firm focuses on Christian topics and distribution. I’m pretty sure they’d publish my book (although they do require a statement of faith). They estimate the cost (not including shipping) to range from $5.37 to $4.12 per book.
Blurb – comes highly rated. The downside is you’ve got to put the Blurb logo on your book (or pay extra). The cost (not including shipping) appears to range from $7.95 to $10.95 a copy.
BookSurge/CreateSpace – this is Amazon.com’s company. BookSurge is merging into CreateSpace, so we don’t know what the final result will look like. Despite the advantage to Amazon.com, some have expressed concerns about CreateSpace. It’s unclear if the merger will clears these up. The cost is between $4.70 and $2.70 per book.
CafePress – allows you to create books as well as slap your mug on mugs and tee shirts. The price is $11.80 per book.
Infinity Publishing – is a self-described “author-oriented” book publisher. Well, this appears to be less of a POD service and more of a vanity publisher. Scratch that.
InstantPublisher – requires a minimum purchase of 25 books, so it’s not really the best solution for POD. Still, if I’m needing a large quantity of books to bring to a show or conference I’m speaking it, this might be a viable solution. The cost for 25 books is $8.04. The cost for 100 books is $4.50. Of course, that doesn’t include shipping.
iUniverse – also appear to be a vanity publisher.
Lightening Source – is a large-scale POD publisher for the more advanced user. In fact, the service is not available to authors, only publishers. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue for me. The service also is probably the best when it comes to distribution. It appears the cost is about $3.20 per book (not including shipping).
Lulu – is one of the more popular sites for self publishing. The cost here (not including shipping) is between $4.90 and $7.70 per book.
Morris Publishing – tends to keep things simple. It also appears to be a pure printer and not a POD publisher. For 100 books, the cost is between $4.46 and $4.58. For 200 books, the cost is between $4.01 and $4.13.
SilverWood Books – is a British company. I won’t even bother. The price is in British Pounds.
Xlibris – is a full-fledged POD publisher. Well, at least that’s what they say. It really looks like a full-service firm, not really what I’m looking for.
Here’s the real nub, it took longer for me to write (and you to read) the above than it took to generate the actual list of candidates. I did have to do a little data mining to find the price per book on each site (and, as you can see, I still had problems). With this thumbnail view, it looks like BelieversPress, CreateSpace and Lightning Source might offer the list expensive way to manufacture a single copy of a book (which is the way people usually order).
I encourage you to kick the tires yourself and see how you like this tool. Leave a comment below to let all the readers know what you find out.