New Options for Writers Who Self-Publish

Book Expo, the granddaddy of book conferences, is traditionally the place where publishers meet with booksellers. But lately, there’s been a lot for up-and-coming self-publishers–not the least of which is UPublishU, a full day of sessions and exhibits specifically for entrepreneurial writers.

Because I work with writers interested in self-publishing, I viewed BookExpo this year through that specific lens. Here’s a recap of the most interesting things I saw:

– Hardcover print-on-demand books with matte covers become easier to produce.
Ingram SparkIngram, owner of LightningSource, has just launched Ingram Spark, a new print-on-demand site that allows entrepreneurial writers to produce hardcover books on demand, with matte covers. (Amazon’s CreateSpace still offers only softcover with gloss covers.) As of this writing, the service is entirely untested, but it’s well worth watching since LightningSource has already established its credibility in the self-publishing world.

– Ultra-short print-runs are now possible in four-color offset.
Four Colour Print Group LogoIf you’re working on a children’s book, a cookbook, a photography book or any other kind of book that depends on beautiful photos, you’ve probably been disappointed by the quality of the proofs you’re seeing. Digital short-run printing (using toner on paper) tends to lack the richness of color that four-color offset printing (using ink on paper) delivers. But four-color offset has been expensive, requiring you to order print-runs in the thousands of books for economies of scale.

But all that is changing. Exhibiting at BookExpo this year was Four Colour Print Group, a company that offers four-color offset printing for print-runs in the low hundreds of books. I checked them out carefully for a client of mine who’s doing a children’s book: the quality is much better than digital printing, and the cost is no higher than mid-range digital printers’ costs.

– Nook may be dead, but don’t count out Kobo.
Kobo eReader and ebooksWriters who publish ebooks tend to think that the only e-readers of importance are the Kindle and the iPad. But it’s becoming clear that the Kobo is still a serious platform for self-publishers. Why? Because it can get your ebook in front of patrons in indie bookstores.

Kobo, which used be Borders’ answer to Barnes & Noble’s Nook, has survived Border’s demise, and has even thrived abroad, becoming the number-one e-reader in much of Europe. Now it’s reappearing in independent bookstores in the U.S. with a new twist. If a patron buys a Kobo at her favorite indie bookstore, that bookstore gets a cut of every ebook she purchases for her Kobo. Indie bookstores love that program, and indie bookstore patrons (zealous supporters that they are) now have a way to buy ebooks and support their favorite indie bookstore.