Which Package-Providers Do You Recommend?
There are many reputable companies out there offering publishing services. Below, I use Matador as an example of what you might expect from a reliable all-in-one package provider. However, there are many other reputable services available, including York Publishing, Silverwood Books and Thomson-Shore. I have no connection to any of these companies and take no responsibilty for any contract you may enter into with them.
If you think an all-in-one package is the best option for you, I’d recommend Giacomo Giammatteo’s How to choose a Self Publishing Service 2016. This reviews and compares dozens of popular companies, both good and bad, as well as providing excellent general advice about the sector.
Matador is the self-publishing wing of Troubador, an established publishing house. It posits itself at the quality end of the market, promising books that are indistinguishable from traditionally published ones. It actually turns down 30% of fiction and 10% of nonfiction. This is an impressive indication of the pride they take in their brand. Many companies are all too willing to take authors’ money, regardless of the quality of their writing.
In terms of the contract itself, Matador promises honesty and no hidden costs. You’ll receive a full quotation, written in plain English, with the promise to check with you first, should extra costs be incurred.
It’s clearly stated that you retain the rights to your work and own the PDFs to your cover design and internal layout. The contract is nonexclusive, meaning you can have any or all of the printed books sent to you to do what you want with. You can also terminate, at any point, and have the remainder of your books posted to you.
Matador is able to fall back on many years’ experience in the book trade to guide you through the self-publishing process. You’ll receive constructive advice on issues such as design options, pricing, size of print run and the suitability of purchasing marketing packages.
The advice starts on their website with downloadable information sheets on every stage of publishing. Even if you don’t decide to publish with them, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting their site to get more information on self-publishing and the book trade in general.
Book Design & Pre Production
Matador provides a ‘pre-press’ package comprising the following:
- Typesetting – includes proof revisions.
- Cover Design – professional, custom design, not a template one.
- ISBN and barcode allocation – also includes registration and management of your book details on Nielsen’s website and the dispatch of your book to the relevant copyright libraries.
- Print Management
For most text-based books, this package comes in at £700.
Whilst printing is VAT exempt, design services, like this, usually carry a VAT charge. However, if you print your book with Matador, then the above services are counted as preparation for said printing and there’s no VAT to pay.
Copy editing and proof reading are optional but highly recommended extras. Matador employs full-time qualified editors and proof readers in-house. The fee for these services is judged on a book-by-book basis, depending on the level of revision needed.
Matador uses industry standard materials and production techniques, ensuring your book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published one.
The printing costs are reasonable and in line with those from traditional printers, such as Clays and Biddles. To give you an idea, I’ve provided a few quotes based on a text-based book with the following specs:
- B Format (198 x 129mm)
- 300 pages
- Interior: B&W, text-only
- Pages: cream or white 80gsm bookwove
- Cover: 240gsm cover board with gloss or matt finish
Matador also offers print on demand. The cost of this is a very reasonable £4.o4. This compares well to CreateSpace who charges $4.45 (approximately £3.50) for a lower quality product. Additionally, Matador’s postage rates are more favourable than CreateSpace’s, at least for UK customers. Postage is charged at cost. For a single copy, this will be around £3.
Matador offers a range of options:
Sell Your Own Books
At any point, you can have some or all of your books sent to you to distribute however you want. Postage for this is added at cost.
Sell Through Matador’s Online Bookshop
Matador sells its authors’ books through its own online store.
If you opt to make your book available here, Matador retains some, or all, of your stock and deals with sales, invoicing and fulfilment. Storage for up to 300 books is free. After that, there’s a modest fee on a sliding scale.
Matador takes a commission of 15% (of cover price) on books sold through their online shop. A brief look reveals fiction largely priced within the reasonable £6.99 – £9.99 bracket. They allow authors to set their own price whilst offering advice on sensible market levels.
Let’s take a look at the royalties you’d receive on a standard 300-page, text-only, B Format paperback. For our first example, we’ll assume that you’ve opted for print on demand, meaning the printing cost is £4.04:
If, instead, you opt for a small print run, your production cost reduces significantly. Consequently your per-copy royalty increases. The below is based on a print run of 250 copies:
Obviously this is only a saving if you sell the entire print run, something which can never be guaranteed.
Whichever printing method you opt for, the buyer pays postage at £3 per book. This pushes the price up and makes it a less attractive offer for them. On the plus side, the website, when I visited it, offered some enticing discounts such three-for-two and coupons for money off individual books.
Matador sends royalties quarterly by bank transfer, along with a statement outlining sales, discounts and the number of books left in stock. In addition, you have 24/7 access to sales data on Matador’s website.
If you print a hundred copies or more, your book will be available for customers to order through bookshops (both online and bricks and mortar). This chance at wider distribution has obvious advantages. However, it comes at a cost. Most bookshops charge a commission (known as a trade discount) for selling your book. This will be anywhere between 35 – 55% of the cover price. In addition, Matador charges their usual 15% for processing the order. Let’s look at the economics of this with a £7.99 book which costs £2.35 to print:
Forty four pence might not look like much but at least you’re in profit. As discussed in my post on bookshop distribution, this is more than you’d manage if you were supplying bookshops as an individual. This is largely due to the fact that Matador covers postage costs. They’re able to do this as they’re a big company and part of Troubador, a traditional publishing house, meaning they have large consignments of books heading to major distributors and bookshops on a regular basis.
Matador is an excellent choice if you want to see your book stocked on the shelves of bookshops, rather than simply available for a customer to order in. Being part of an established publishing house, they have an in-depth knowledge of distribution and sales networks. They boast a dedicated sale team (Star Books) who hand sells books to bookshops, wholesalers and library suppliers. If you want to take advantage of this service, it costs £150 + VAT.
In order to be eligible for sales representation you must print under Matador’s imprint, rather than using your own ISBN. You also need to invest in a print run of at least 300 books and take out a Book Trade Marketing Package (£300 +VAT).
This service gives you the best possible chance of being stocked in UK bookshops. However, Matador doesn’t make excessive promises; they don’t claim that your book will be on central display at Waterstones up and down the country. Instead, they encourage authors to focus on local and specialist bookshops where they’re more likely to find success.
Royalties for books sold through bookshops will be received later than those sold directly by Matador. Bookshops operate on a sale or return basis so will only pay once a book has actually sold, not when they agree to stock it on their shelves. Even then, it could take up to four months for the payment to be processed.
Amazon, is a huge marketplace that, as a self-publisher, you really need to access. However, selling through them is problematic due to the large commission they charge.
Amazon’s standard commission is 60%. On a small print run, it’s virtually impossible to make a profit on these terms:
The only way to break even is either to increase the price of your book to unprofitable levels or print in the thousands, neither of which I’d recommend for a first-time self-publisher.
However, there’s a slight twist to this. Whilst Amazon takes 60% on titles sold through Amazon Advantage, they only charge 35% for print on demand books. As Matador has the facilites to produce POD books, they’re able to take advantage of this lower commission rate.
It’s still not possible to break even on our example £7.99, 300-page book:
However, if you set your book price at £8.99, you can make a small profit:
£8.99 is a marginally higher than ideal but still within the bounds of what I would consider reasonable.
Matador recognises how hard it is to sell on Amazon in an economically viable way and gives you the opportunity to opt out of Amazon sales, if you so wish. I’d thoroughly recommend you do this and explore different methods of accessing this market, such as CreateSpace.
Matador offers eBook formatting, conversion and distribution services. Just as with your print book, the advantage of using a package provider is that they take the whole process off your hands and produce a professional-quality product. I’ll discuss the content and cost of these services in my upcoming posts on eBooks.
Print Book Marketing
Matador’s print book marketing starts five to six months ahead of publication. This allows time to get review copies out, disseminate information to appropriate media and meet seasonal buying timetables. The packages below are all optional, add-on extras
Book Trade Marketing (£300+VAT)
The aim, here, is to get your book noticed, not by individual purchasers but wholesalers, library suppliers and bookshop buyers.
The cornerstone of the package is a professionally designed Advance Information (AI) sheet. Matador then uses its databases to create a bespoke list of targeted retail buyers to send your AI to, depending on your book’s genre and subject matter. In addition to this, you’ll receive twenty copies of your AI to use when visiting local bookshops.
Matador also undertakes to mention your book in one of its e-newsletters and give expert advice and access to marketing fact sheets.
Starter Media Marketing (£400+VAT)
The aim of this package is to get your book noticed by the media. Matador, however, is realistic and practical. They don’t claim they’re going to get their authors on prime time national television. Instead, they focus on local and, where appropriate, specialist media.
Just as the AI was the cornerstone of the Trade Marketing Package, the Press Release is central here. Matador produces a professional-standard document and uses its databases to create a bespoke list of either local or specialist media, as best suits your book.
They’ll then liaise with the media for you, should they reply with requests for more information or an interview. They undertake to keep your Matador book page up to date with reviews, events and endorsements and tweet about any media coverage you receive.
They’ll also help identify those most likely to review your book and, where appropriate, send them a copy, along with the Press Release.
The package includes 20 copies of the Press Release for you to use in your own promotional efforts and the usual advice and support.
Enhanced Media Outreach (£700+VAT)
If you’re really determined to enhance your book’s profile and gain national media coverage, Matador can hook you up with a PR company. This really isn’t recommended for the average self-publisher due to the cost involved.
As the internet is more direct and moves at a quicker pace than the print world, the marketing period for an eBook shrinks from 6 months to the 6 weeks immediately prior to and after its release.
The aim of the packages outlined below is to attract the notice of online bloggers and reviewers. In addition, Matador strongly encourages its authors to be proactive and get out on social media, themselves, to promote their books.
Starter EBook Marketing (£250+VAT)
This package offers information and advice on how to market your eBook, including links to awards and bloggers who might review your book.
It also boasts inclusion on NetGallery for four weeks. This is a site you’d find financially prohibitive to access as an individual. It’s basically a review marketplace, disseminating information about new releases to journalists, bloggers and booksellers and getting review copies out to the people you want to reach.
Extended EBook Marketing (£350+VAT)
This includes everything in the Starter package but also boasts the preparation of an EBook Press Release (EPR) and an extra week’s exposure on NetGallery.
Enhanced EBook Media Outreach (£500+VAT)
An expensive, specialised package, run through a PR company, for those with the potential to garner national media interest.
Starter Social Media Marketing (£300+VAT)
Social media is key to promoting your book. This package focuses on those who don’t know their way round Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and don’t feel confident enough to learn on their own. It sets up accounts, builds branded pages and follows relevant people.
It promises a week of daily tweets when your eBook’s released and then to tweet/post any material that you send for a further three weeks. At the end of this time, the pages are handed back to you with instructions on how to use them.
This is a useful service if you’ve not seen a computer in the last ten years and don’t feel confident on social media. However, I would argue that most people can do the work themselves, saving a lot of money, whilst more effectively building up genuine interaction with potential readers.
Social Media Consultation (£50+VAT)
This is a one off telephone consultation for authors who already have Facebook and Twitter pages. An expert examines your social media accounts and gives up to an hour’s input, advising you how to improve your presence and branding.
As well as these core packages, Matador also offers a number add-on extras, such as the production and dissemination of book video trailers, the creation of author websites and professionally designed postcards, bookmarks, posters and leaflets, all individually priced.
The above is intended as an example, only, to give you a general idea of the services offered by a reputable package provider and how much it’s likely to cost. I have no connection with Matador and if you take this route to self-publishing, I would encourage you to investigate a range of companies to discover which best suits you and your book.