As some of you might know, I’ve been negotiating my second and third contract. Both are now nicely signed and sealed, so I’m able to go into more detail than I could previously. I had said I’d been negotiating a big change. The change? Print. Was I successful? No and I think my decision to sign regardless is something we ought to discuss.
Larger traditional presses do print runs. They are generally a guarantee. Smaller presses? Not so much. I knew that going in to my first contract, and I didn’t argue as much then as I really should have. By not arguing then, I gave the publisher a rather good place to set up camp. This was even further built up because print runs are expensive, and profit isn’t certain. Hell, splitting even isn’t even a definite.
Now, I love my publisher. She’s honest, down-to-earth, and extremely patient. Every question I’ve had, she’s answered above and beyond my expectations. Considering I’m a scientist in my other life, I have a lot of questions, so this means she takes hours out of her busy schedule to have long discussions with me. With over two hundred other authors on her plate and a company to run (reading queries and manuscripts, etc), I find her willingness to answer even the most inane questions rather reassuring.
Therefore, when I asked about print, she didn’t just refuse. She provided numbers and rationalized why she would only pursue a print edition after a book reached a sale threshold. As the company does POD (print-on-demand) rather than an actual print run, the cost makes print not cost-effective especially when distributed through online sites like Amazon.
My literary heart broke. I reviewed the numbers several times and tried to rationalize it. She provided me with any additional data I requested, and I realized I had a choice to make. A publisher I enjoyed who would print my book when the sales supported it or refusing and possibly harming our professional relationship for the unknown. The decision was clear.
Am I disappointed? A bit. Traditional print runs are generally what most authors go into publishing expecting. While a contract with a threshold doesn’t remove that, a POD process isn’t the same as a print run. A print run means being in stores – physical presence and distribution. POD means a print version is available through website order and not printed until then.
As far as I’m concerned, a good relationship with a fantastic publisher is worth a little disappointment elsewhere. Plus, honestly, reaching a threshold isn’t that difficult if your book sells decently.