An affordable POD paperback? Surely not!

Yesterday I set up an account with Lightning Source, the printing company that almost all print-on-demand publishers use. Lack of funds at my end has prompted me to take the POD approach with Chion, rather than opting for a traditional print-run. The downside is that each copy of the book will cost slightly more to produce, but the upside is that the novel will never go out of print. Thankfully I’ve got the necessary skills in desktop publishing and graphic design in order to go straight to the printer, rather than using one of the existing POD publishers. Those publishers are doing a great service for budding authors, but they’re also part of the reason why the books need to be so overpriced: printing cost + publisher’s cut + author’s cut + bookshop’s cut = retail price. As for retailers, did you know that many bookshops demand 40% of the retail price? Ouch! However, for internet sales, a man in my position can easily restructure the equation thus: printing cost + author’s cut = retail price. This model is effective for sales that come directly to me through my website. Why tell your readers to go buy your book at Amazon? That’s throwing money away. If the author does all the promotion necessary to bring visitors to his website, why send them away to another? After all, when’s the last time you ever went to Amazon scouting for new talent?

It occurs to me that it will cost very little to put my first novel Ulterior back in print again using the POD model. However, I’m less than happy with the novel’s original cover (I’ve had a lot more Photoshop experience in the four years since publication), so I did a little digital sketching this morning and came up with something. This is by no means a final design, but I thought I’d share. Comments and comparisons welcome.

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13 thoughts on “An affordable POD paperback? Surely not!

  1. Jeffrey Allen Davis says:

    That cover is amazing! I wish that I had your talent. Movie making, writing, musician, cover artist . . . etc.
    Is there anything that you CAN’T do? I think that I’ve already asked you if you ever sleep.
    As for your books being done by POD, that should at least make distribution in the US easier,
    even if the cost through Amazon, etc is a little higher, I would think that it would still be less expensive than
    sending them from Ireland to the US. This could be a good thing.

  2. James Maxon says:

    Funny, I was working on my book cover last night too. Anyway, I don’t know the story, but the cover looks good. It has a mysterious and haunted feel. The thing that stands out however is the PhotoShop lens flare at the bottom left. I think the white lightning-like cracks should subtly speak for themselves. The flare brings too much attention to the spot, plus it does not make logical sense with the sun beaming through the windows in the upper right – if anything the flare should be there. Otherwise its looking good!

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    Thanks, Jeff. Although, to be fair, my graphic design capabilities are somewhat limited; I need to start off with some pretty decent photographic material, or I get nowhere. Most of the cover consists of simple special effects, such as lens flares. I could probably write “How to Bluff Your Way at Photoshop.” Incidentally, that’s a photo of the corridor outside my old office at school, taken during an evening event (probably the Carol Service).

    Regarding US distribution, I actually chose to avoid setting it up on my Lightning Source account. The problem is with me having a small US readership and LS-USA ending up paying me in small dollar cheques (which there is a fee for me to clear, I think). Further potential problems are caused when a US customer wants to return a book; LS sends it all the way back to me in the UK at my expense.

    Realistically, it’s an easier situation for me to simply invite US customers to buy direct from me with Paypal. My prices should be fairly cheap, regardless of shipping, because I will be buying stock from LS in large quantities (200 at a time), thus qualifying for discount.

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    You’re probably right about the lens flare. I actually just tossed it in as a quick fix to hide the hurried nature of the cracks. What I plan to do is re-install my old copy of PaintShop Pro 5, which had an effect called Stained Glass. I can’t find a similar effect in my Photoshop Elements. The Stained Glass effect is what you see coming out of the ground in the original cover of Ulterior.

    Interested that you thought the outdoor light was the sun. It’s actually another lens flare, and the photo was taken at night. I tried to give the impression of a mysterious light blazing through the window – perhaps unsuccessfully.

  5. James Maxon says:

    I use PhotoShop CS1 and it has the Stained Glass effect under: Filter > Texture. PhotoShop Elements might not have it since it’s a toned down version. PaintShop Pro works good too, but I haven’t messed with it for many years now. As I remember my friend’s brother started the company Jasc. Anyway… I guess I said “sun” without thinking too much about it, now that you point it out it makes sense as a “mysterious light blazing” since the time is obviously night. So it might just have been me, not the photo that missed that.

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    Ah, yes, I’ve located Stained Glass in Photoshop Elements. However, it doesn’t appear to be the same effect. On PaintShop Pro, the effect was part of the app’s Animation Workshop. The filter worked by taking every bright spot on your canvas and superimposing streaming light trails at an angle of your choosing, just like sunlight streaming through stained glass. I was able to perform a big sweeping arc, then isolate the frame of animation that looked the most effective and use it for the cover.

    The real trouble with the blazing outdoors light is that in reality it would blaze right across the corridor and illuminate the wall opposite. As you can see, it doesn’t do that. Still, I guess all I was aiming for was a touch of the surreal (and to make my very dark title stand out), so I’ll probably hang on to the effect.

  7. Critical Mick says:

    Good Day Sir!

    You left one important point out of your entry: _when_ is Chion going to be available?

    The notion behind the story caught my interest when originally posted. I’ve been looking forward to its appearance.

    One word of advice: the crappy production values of many self-produced books means that POD titles have two strikes against them befor ethey even step up to the plate. (I don’t know what the Rugby or GAA equivalent of that is. Trust me, though. It’s not good.) Keep posting high-quality stills and make it clear to the potential buyer that they will be purchasing a real book, complete with page numbers, proofreading, etc.

    Oh, and thanks for the podcast plugs! Here’s one from a fellow zombie fan: check out the short “Cheap Labor” series on succeedinevil.com !

    Thanks and all the best,

    Critical Mick

  8. Eddie Mullan says:

    looks great man

  9. Darryl Sloan says:

    Cheers, Eddie. Next I’m gonna experiment with superimposing the alien’s head near the top of the picture. I’m conscious that the cover, while stylish, is still a bit ordinary.

  10. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hey, Critical Mick, thanks for your support. Chion will be available at some point in September, probably towards the end of the month. One way or another, I am determined to stick to the September deadine. Keep your eye on the blog.

  11. Critical Mick says:

    Will do, amigo! If Chion’s half as good as the zombie podcast, we’re all in for a treat.

    BTW, are there any other original Irish f/sf/h/crime authors that you’d recommend? Might make a good topic for a future blog entry. I have found depressingly little to date.

  12. Darryl Sloan says:

    There’s an Irish bloke called Philip Henry from Coleraine. His first novel, Vampire Dawn, is worth a look.

    Kealan Patrick Burke is another Irish newcomer to the horror scene. However, he defected to the USA to marry a bird, but he sometimes features Ireland in his fiction – particularly The Hides.

    Another Irishman-turned-American is Harry Shannon. I haven’t read much of his work, but he might interest you in particular, because he writes both horror and crime.

  13. Critical Mick says:

    Many thanks, Darryl! I look forward to exploring their work.

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