Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Indian Correspondent shares self-publishing experience first with Power Publishers and recently with Amazon Kindle

Given below is an exchange (slightly edited) I recently had with an Indian correspondent who was OK with public sharing of it:

Correspondent (C) wrote in response to initial part of my recent post: Need information/suggestions about printing 100 copies of 75 page paperback book,, sent to him over email:

Dear Ravi

You pose an interesting question and one I have thought about a great deal over the last few years.

First, you talk about the cost of printing a document in paperback format. What I have learned is that this is just one part of the cost. Unless you have a reliable and easily accessible outlet for the book, you will also have to distribute it (sell it). That is where the main problem lies.

I used Power Publishers in Kolkata to publish my --snip-- book, --snip--. Their charges differ depending on the number of pages of the book and the services you require from them (e.g. cover design). Their website gives more details.

You can decide on the selling price for the book (and this must cover their costs and profits). They will pay 30% royalty to you for books sold from orders placed directly with them and 15% for books sold through other sites.

Power Publishers will also make your book available through various websites like Crossword, Flipkart etc and now also Amazon. So people who want the book can order it from those sites. They will print on demand, which means they will print say 100 copies and then print another lot of 100 copies if there is demand.

What they will not do is market the book. It is entirely up to you to make your book known to potential buyers.

I will be happy to answer any questions.

I (Ravi) (R) responded (edited):


For me and for some other Sathya Sai devotees - we prefer not to market or advertise it much. Sathya Sai also preferred this style, at least in his initial years.

So I just want to have a stock of 100 paperback copies of this document/book. I would offer it to interested people who visit me (or let me know over the Internet). I may put up some copies in outside ashram Puttaparthi bookshops (two of them are rather noted and located on the main road and close to the ashram entrance). That's it. I would be perfectly fine if I don't manage to sell even the first print of 100 copies. I would take it as Lord's will given my low-profile way of life.
[About Power Publishers part:]
Interesting info. which may be useful in other scenarios. In my case, I am really looking ONLY at a printer and NOT a publisher as I want to be the publisher myself and not have anybody else having any control over that.

C wrote (slightly edited):
Reading my message again, I thought I should make it clear that I am not recommending Power Publishers, merely showing how that kind of option may work out. There are other similar publishers.

In fact, for my recent (book), I chose not to go through Power Publishers and spend quite a lot of money upfront; instead, I produced a Kindle version and a print-on-demand version, both through Amazon, at no initial cost to me. The technology used for the print-on-demand version means each copy is expensive ($2.99 for the Kindle version, $7.50 for the print version) but it seems to be acceptable for a few people who insist on printed books.

R wrote (slightly edited):
The "no initial cost to me" part is very, very interesting to me! Amazon self publishing was mentioned by one correspondent to me in this conversation. I had a quick look but felt that it may not be suitable for me. Your input changes it for me. I will closely study its self-publishing offering.
[About "($2.99 for the Kindle version, $7.50 for the print version)":]
Hmm. This suggests, I repeat suggests, that the print-on-demand technology used by Amazon is such that it can produce small number of copies (in tens rather than hundreds or thousands) at some level of expense ($7.50 at the current exchange rate of around Rs. 65 to 1 $, makes it around Rs. 488/-).

BTW tried to look up your new book on Amazon. Amazon India does not seem to list it against your name. But lists your new book.

Now the big question for me is: will Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allow me to self-publish my book at a low price for Indian customers, and at no initial cost to me?

This KDP List price requirements link:, states a Rs. 49/- minimum price for less than 3 MB book (which is where I guess my book will fall into)! Note that the equivalent USA dollar minimum price for less than 3 MB book is $0.99. The royalty is 35% for this low price but that should be fine for my particular needs (it is 70% for Rs. 99/- and $ 2.99).

What will be the printed book price for a Rs. 49/- Kindle book equivalent published using KDP? Perhaps the lowest price in India for such a print-on-demand book (if available for Amazon India KDP) would be Rs. 300/- or so. That makes it problematic for me.

However, KDP seems to have no lock-ins for print & distribution (except that if it finds a competitor selling at a lower price, it seems that it drops the price on KDP to that price/minimum) & no copyright claims certainly by Amazon on the self-published book. So even if the printed book option of Amazon self-published book will be too expensive for me, going through the process of "no initial cost to me" self-publishing a Kindle ebook version of my book would be a good learning process and would open up an important, but non-exclusive, distribution channel for the ebook (and expensive print-on-demand book).

I am EXCITED by this! Thanks a ton --name-snipped-- for sharing your own and somewhat recent experience of self-publishing with Amazon KDP (and the contrast to your previous self-publishing experience with Power Publishers).

C wrote:

'At no cost' does not take into account the cover design. I was fortunate to have a friend design the cover for me. Otherwise, you must expect to pay something for it.

The print-on-demand version allows Amazon to print even one copy if needed. This is unlike the offset printing technology where the major cost is preparing the plates and mounting them on the printer. The cost of paper is relatively small, which is why it makes little difference to the total cost whether you print 100 copies or 1000 copies.

--- has an old HMT offset printer so the capital cost to them is small. They print 100-200 copies in a typical run, depending on the likely demand.

The Amazon print-on-demand cost does not include shipping. I ordered a printed copy of my book and it cost me about Rs.850 when it reached me (the extra cost was for the shipping). So even if your book costs about Rs.300 when printed, there will be a shipping cost to add to this. If you order 100 copies at a time, you may not save much and you will have to give an explanation to Indian Customs (who will be dead keen to charge you duty!).

I gather that someone in Hyderabad has a printer capable of doing print-on-demand. I don't have any details.

Hope this helps.

R wrote:
Very valuable input --name-snipped--. Thanks.
Terry wrote (slightly edited):
I found this rather confusing,  It sounds terribly complicated and costly.  I prefer writing the book, editing the book, and getting it published for my clients.  They pay a fee for my services, but they come away with a product they are proud of with no hassle.  I do everything for them.  In fact, I have helped people who thought they could never write a book do so.

I (Ravi) responded (slightly edited):
Thanks for your view, Terry. I think that people who have the money to use services like that offered by you, should seriously consider using these paid services. It is for those who are not in a position, or for some reason do not want, to spend that kind of money for such services, that Amazon Kindle Direct (self) Publishing is attractive at least for the ebook version. The quality of the book may suffer due to lack of professional advice like that of yours, but that's the compromise that some people have to make.

Terry wrote (slightly edited):
My prices are very moderate.

I (Ravi) responded:
Noted your response. Thanks.

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