Print on Demand Hardcovers

The journey to get the hardcover of Starlight Jewel finished and out there was a bit of a process. Initially, I wasn’t going to do a hardcover edition. Then someone commented, “It doesn’t really cost you anything to do it, why not?” So I decided to go ahead and set up a hardcover edition on KDP. The thing about KDP hardcovers is that they’re case laminate—you know, like a textbook. No dustjackets, no old-school feels. But my thought was that there would be very little interest in a hardcover. After all, this is my first book, no one even knows if they like my writing yet.

However, quite a few people expressed the desire to have a hardcover, which started to make me nervous about my nonchalant choice to settle for the KDP hardcover. When my writing mentor said he wanted a hardcover, dust jacket or no, I could no longer stomach my choice. This was less than two months out from publication. Case laminate author proofs had already been ordered (though they took a month to arrive). But I couldn’t stomach the idea of signing a textbook and sending it to someone that I have immense respect and appreciation for.

Thus began the search. The requirements for me were that it would not involve case laminate in any form, and that it would involve a dust jacket. The other factors I wanted to consider were quality, price, availability, and name recognition. So naturally, Ingram Spark and Lulu came up as strong contenders, being two of the biggest print on demand companies in the industry.

Ingram Spark

Ingram Spark is known for its quality printing, as well as its hard-to-work-with website and occasional printing mishaps. I had read this in many reviews, that the site was not user friendly and had a lot of “glitches,” but I thought, whatever, maybe they’ve ironed it out after so many complained. So I started filling out my information. I get to the “city” box and type in Virginia Beach. It says this is invalid. I check my spelling. It’s correct. I type it again. Still invalid. I try making it one word, VirginiaBeach, in case their system has some bizarre bias against spaces. Still invalid. I made it all lower case. Still invalid. I send a support email. After a few days with no response, I sign back in and try again. This time, when I click the city box, a dropdown menu appears automatically, where I can find my city. It seems the first time I was on the site, a glitch occurred, and the dropdown menu didn’t trigger like it was supposed to. That it still let me type in the box, and still didn’t recognize a correctly entered city, is silly. Apparently if I had typed it in as it was in the dropdown menu, VIRGINIA BEACH, in all caps, it would have worked. I’ve never heard of anything so absurd.  Either have a text box or a dropdown menu, don’t have both. If you have both, make sure they both actually work!

Eventually IS got back to me, but after that… well I decided to go sniffing around elsewhere. Especially since the minimum price for readers to buy my book through them would be $27.68, and that would be with not a penny of royalties for myself and would not include the cost of shipping.

Lulu

Lulu. I dipped my toe in and leapt quickly back out upon realizing the price for readers would be a minimum of $45.74… Not including shipping. That is far too pricey for a regular edition of a hardcover and frankly, I would not be okay with my readers paying that much. I don’t care how much you love me or my writing. That’s not an acceptable price. Though if your book is not a chonky 494 pages, maybe they’ll be able to print it at a reasonable price.

I also looked at Lulu Direct, which would’ve allowed me to list the book on my site (and only on my site) and list it at whatever price I wanted. Even so, it would be charging me $27.44 for each book. So my minimum price, with no royalties/profits, would be $27.44, not including shipping and without really knowing how shipping prices are calculated at Lulu.

Barnes & Noble Press

So I dove deeper, looked at tons of smaller companies, and then in the depths I found Barnes & Noble Press. I was baffled, as B&N is such a big name, but it didn’t come up on any of the PoD lists that I looked at. Not One. Very strange right? Yeah, well, I’m now discovering why. First off, I’d like to point out that they could capitalize on a niche in the PoD world easily, during a time when their brick-and-mortar stores are struggling, and they simply aren’t. Like the rest of these PoD companies that are happy to profit off of us, they do not seem to really have any interest in making the process more smooth or the product more professional.

I kept pushing with B&NP because I can print a hardcover there at $26.99 and still get $2.27 in royalties. Cheaper for readers without cutting me out of the royalties. We still get a very nice digital cloth cover, and we still get a lovely matte dust jacket. These are the pros. In the current economy, this seemed like the biggest factor to consider.

Now for the cons.

The first issue with B&NP’s hardcovers is that under the dust jacket, the covers are completely blank. No title on the spine, nothing. It seems to me that it wouldn’t be incredibly difficult or expensive to make a machine that just stamps some silver titles on the covers, but hey, what do I know? Not a dealbreaker for me, but certainly a disappointment.

The second issue is with their very unclear and misleading wording. “You will not be able to edit this” means “you will not be able to publish this.” And for how long? A week or two. Request an author proof? You go into 1-2 week review where you cannot edit or publish. After the review is done, you can then order the author proof (different from requesting one, “request a proof” actually means “request the ability to order a proof”) and again, you can edit or publish the book for another two weeks until it ships. No, they aren’t reviewing it during this time. It’s just in jail for no apparent reason. Do they need to do a review when you publish? Yes, and they’ll tell you 72 hours, but expect it to be longer. Mine was more like 96 hours—and no, they didn’t find any issues. I assume it’s because the weekend was involved. Can you cancel an author proof to get your book out of jail? No. No they are unable/unwilling to cancel.

The third issue is customer service. They do not respond quickly or attentively. Expect the bare minimum.

Fourth issue, 24 hours after my book went on sale at B&N, they hadn’t added my cover image to the listing. I emailed. 24 hours after that, they added it. Except… the image for my book was smaller and lower quality than other listings. Their response? They used the image I gave (a large, high resolution cover image) and the other books were not published through them. So basically they punish you for using their service by not giving you a listing on par with people that just sell through them.

Fifth issue is that they don’t ship to the UK—or most countries. I am so sorry non-Americans, I did not know.

Sixth issue is that if you want to make any changes at all to the manuscript, they take your book off sale for 4-5 days. Which is quite silly. That’s where I’m at now, in 4-5 jail because there was a typo, “iin” and of course those pesky quotation marks. All the same, my hardcover looks lovely!

In short, I’ll be figuring something else out for book two’s hardcover. I hate to say it, but I’m kind of just hoping that Amazon gets itself together enough to offer cloth hardcovers and dust jackets.

More Thoughts from the Pen