I've had several people write to ask if it's realistic to think they can take their old, out-of-print book, and make it available again themselves. (That is, to self-publish it, rather than trying to sell it to another publishing house, since that's become well nigh impossible.) I thought I should bring in an expert, so I ask my friend Jeff Gerke to respond to some questions on this topic. Jeff runs Marcher Lord Press, a publisher that produces and sells books through a publish-on-demand format.
Jeff, how can an author who owns the rights on their own out-of-print (oop) book self-publish?
We're living in the age of the small publisher and niche publisher. Most of the larger publishing companies haven't realized it yet, but a revolution is underway in book publishing that is akin to the YouTube revolution. With small presses--including print on demand (POD) operations--now anyone with content can produce professional-looking books and get them directly to the consumer who wants them, via the Internet.
In 2006 I began my investigation into POD as the technology I would use when I launched my own small Christian publishing company, which I did in 2008. Now that I see how easy and inexpensive it is to produce excellent-quality books through print on demand, I don't see why everyone isn't doing it.
The first question to ask about this author is probably, "Does she have all the files? As in printer-ready PDF for the cover, spine, and back cover? Typeset and printer-ready PDF of the interior?" If so, then she really is ready to go. Those are the only two files she'll need to supply. In that case, I'd have her use LightningSource (www.lightningsource.com). They're who I use for Marcher Lord Press. They're terrific. High quality books, excellent customer service, fast processing of orders, reliable shipping, reasonable rates.
Is it expensive?
It's been a couple of years since I signed up with them, so I don't remember if there were fees on the front end. I suspect there's some fee for getting set up with them as a publisher. But it would've been under $200, I think. Then there are lots of forms to fill out. When all the setup is done, uploading a book for printing is easy and relatively low cost. It's $40 to upload the interior PDF and another $40 to upload the cover PDF. If you want to generate a proof of the new title (which I recommend), they do that for $35, I believe.
Then the book will be available for printing and your writer friend can order as many or as few as she wants. Unit costs are based on pagecount, of course, so a trade paperback book of 200 pages or fewer might cost ~$5 to print, while a book of 700 pages (which I'm actually doing now!) can run about $10.50/unit. Then there's always a $1.50 handling fee. And then UPS shipping.
LightningSource will get the book listed with Ingram and Amazon, so that pretty much covers the bookstores. They'll also (for an additional fee) place the new book in some kind of catalogue that supposedly exposes the book to...I dunno...bookstore buyers and libraries, maybe? Not sure.
What other expenses are there?
Your friend will also need to buy an ISBN. You can get them from Bowker. They can be bought individually or in groups of 10 (which is what I do) or 100. And she'll need to register the book with the Copyright Office, which, if you do it online, is like $35.
I am signed up with LightningSource to be a digital download publisher, but I've never actually used them for that. I don't produce e-books, after all. Whatever e-publishing I do I do through Amazon/Kindle directly or off my own online store page. So I can't speak about how well LightningSource does on that, but I know they do it and I suspect they do it as well as they do everything else.
If your author needs editing, typesetting, and/or cover design, there are countless people in the industry who can help with that. And really, no author should produce a book that hasn't been seen and reviewed by someone else -- an outside editor who can see the problems and make changes. For that matter, I can help her with that personally. I'm doing all three now. If she needs copyediting help, for example, there are plenty of freelancers out there.
Another option, if she needs all that, is to use a company that packages a bunch of services together. If she's a CBA author, for example, she could go to someone like BelieversPress. I'm a service provider with them (editing and typesetting). It's like a food court for Christian publishing freelancers. You can get editing, publicity, covers, typesetting, printing, sales, the works, through BelieversPress.
So since you're here, what can you tell me about Marcher Lord Press?
How much page space do you have? [grin]
Marcher Lord Press is my indie publishing company. We produce only Christian speculative fiction--science fiction, fantasy, supernatural thrillers, vampire, alternate history, end times, superhero, spiritual warfare... Or, as I like to say, anything weird. (From a Christian worldview, anyway.) We launched in October 2008 with three novels and are now on the cusp of releasing our fourth list, on April 1. Our novels have been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the USA Today faith and fiction site, and more.
The name of the press comes from the marcher lords in medieval history. On the border between two countries -- England and Wales, for instance -- the boundaries were contested and barbaric. The English created a series of castles on that borderline, called the marc or march, to maintain the perimeter and protect the homeland from invasion. The knights who held those castles of the march were called marcher lords.
When it came time to name my company, I turned to the idea of the marcher lord. I loved the connotations of a brave knight holding a keep on the borderlands, the tip of the spear against the enemy -- and the bastion from which civilization could extend outward. Plus, I just love knights and castles. My company logo shows a brave warrior standing defiantly, flag planted in the ground and flapping fiercely in the wind. "This far; no farther," the warrior seems to say.
As a Christian SF/fantasy company we're out on the fringe in a number of ways, but that fits with the imagery of the marcher lord...and my penchant for being the rogue indie out doing his own thing. Come check us out at www.MarcherLordPress.com. Maybe you have it in you to be a marcher lord author yourself. And certainly there is someone in your circle who would love a fantasy or science fiction novel as a gift.