What do I do with my OOP book?

March 26, 2010 | Written by admin

I've had several people write to ask if it's realistic to think they can take their old, out-of-print book, and make it available again themselves. (That is, to self-publish it, rather than trying to sell it to another publishing house, since that's become well nigh impossible.) I thought I should bring in an expert, so I ask my friend Jeff Gerke to respond to some questions on this topic. Jeff runs Marcher Lord Press, a publisher that produces and sells books through a publish-on-demand format. 

Jeff, how can an author who owns the rights on their own out-of-print (oop) book self-publish? 

We're living in the age of the small publisher and niche publisher. Most of the larger publishing companies haven't realized it yet, but a revolution is underway in book publishing that is akin to the YouTube revolution. With small presses–including print on demand (POD) operations–now anyone with content can produce professional-looking books and get them directly to the consumer who wants them, via the Internet.

In 2006 I began my investigation into POD as the technology I would use when I launched my own small Christian publishing company, which I did in 2008. Now that I see how easy and inexpensive it is to produce excellent-quality books through print on demand, I don't see why everyone isn't doing it.

The first question to ask about this author is probably, "Does she have all the files? As in printer-ready PDF for the cover, spine, and back cover? Typeset and printer-ready PDF of the interior?" If so, then she really is ready to go. Those are the only two files she'll need to supply. In that case, I'd have her use LightningSource (www.lightningsource.com). They're who I use for Marcher Lord Press. They're terrific. High quality books, excellent customer service, fast processing of orders, reliable shipping, reasonable rates.

Is it expensive?

It's been a couple of years since I signed up with them, so I don't remember if there were fees on the front end. I suspect there's some fee for getting set up with them as a publisher. But it would've been under $200, I think. Then there are lots of forms to fill out. When all the setup is done, uploading a book for printing is easy and relatively low cost. It's $40 to upload the interior PDF and another $40 to upload the cover PDF. If you want to generate a proof of the new title (which I recommend), they do that for $35, I believe.

Then the book will be available for printing and your writer friend can order as many or as few as she wants. Unit costs are based on pagecount, of course, so a trade paperback book of 200 pages or fewer might cost ~$5 to print, while a book of 700 pages (which I'm actually doing now!) can run about $10.50/unit. Then there's always a $1.50 handling fee. And then UPS shipping.

LightningSource will get the book listed with Ingram and Amazon, so that pretty much covers the bookstores. They'll also (for an additional fee) place the new book in some kind of catalogue that supposedly exposes the book to…I dunno…bookstore buyers and libraries, maybe? Not sure.

What other expenses are there?

Your friend will also need to buy an ISBN. You can get them from Bowker. They can be bought individually or in groups of 10 (which is what I do) or 100. And she'll need to register the book with the Copyright Office, which, if you do it online, is like $35.

I am signed up with LightningSource to be a digital download publisher, but I've never actually used them for that. I don't produce e-books, after all. Whatever e-publishing I do I do through Amazon/Kindle directly or off my own online store page. So I can't speak about how well LightningSource does on that, but I know they do it and I suspect they do it as well as they do everything else.

If your author needs editing, typesetting, and/or cover design, there are countless people in the industry who can help with that. And really, no author should produce a book that hasn't been seen and reviewed by someone else — an outside editor who can see the problems and make changes. For that matter, I can help her with that personally. I'm doing all three now. If she needs copyediting help, for example, there are plenty of freelancers out there.

Another option, if she needs all that, is to use a company that packages a bunch of services together. If she's a CBA author, for example, she could go to someone like BelieversPress. I'm a service provider with them (editing and typesetting). It's like a food court for Christian publishing freelancers. You can get editing, publicity, covers, typesetting, printing, sales, the works, through BelieversPress. 

So since you're here, what can you tell me about Marcher Lord Press?

How much page space do you have? [grin]

Marcher Lord Press is my indie publishing company. We produce only Christian speculative fiction–science fiction, fantasy, supernatural thrillers, vampire, alternate history, end times, superhero, spiritual warfare… Or, as I like to say, anything weird. (From a Christian worldview, anyway.) We launched in October 2008 with three novels and are now on the cusp of releasing our fourth list, on April 1. Our nove
ls have been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the USA Today faith and fiction site, and more.

The name of the press comes from the marcher lords in medieval history. On the border between two countries — England and Wales, for instance — the boundaries were contested and barbaric. The English created a series of castles on that borderline, called the marc or march, to maintain the perimeter and protect the homeland from invasion. The knights who held those castles of the march were called marcher lords.

When it came time to name my company, I turned to the idea of the marcher lord. I loved the connotations of a brave knight holding a keep on the borderlands, the tip of the spear against the enemy — and the bastion from which civilization could extend outward. Plus, I just love knights and castles. My company logo shows a brave warrior standing defiantly, flag planted in the ground and flapping fiercely in the wind. "This far; no farther," the warrior seems to say. 

As a Christian SF/fantasy company we're out on the fringe in a number of ways, but that fits with the imagery of the marcher lord…and my penchant for being the rogue indie out doing his own thing. Come check us out at www.MarcherLordPress.com. Maybe you have it in you to be a marcher lord author yourself. And certainly there is someone in your circle who would love a fantasy or science fiction novel as a gift.


Posted in Current Affairs, Publishing, Self-Publishing

  • http://yarnspinnerbuck.com yarnbuck

    Thanks (again) Chip. This is a cut-and-paste-keeper.
    Sorry I missed you in Nashville. Heard it was good.

  • http://aprilhenrymysteries.com April Henry

    What I’ve done with my OOP mysteries is to make them available as ebooks on Kindles (through Amazon) and on all other readers (through Smashwords). I started with Word files and then followed instructions. Now I sell several hundred copies of my books each month, and more importantly, books that I loved are being read again.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jillwilliamson Jill Williamson

    Cool post, Chip/Jeff. I didn’t know all that about the marcher lords. I think you should publish a novel about one of those guys, Jeff. That would be cool. :-)

  • http://faithfictionfunandfanciful.blogspot.com/ Lynn Squire

    CreateSpace, an Amazon POD company that I’ve used. Based on the prices you listed, it is cheaper than Lightning Source, includes the ISBN number, and when I used it, included listing for libraries and bookstores, as well as distribution for bookstores, and of course the book was placed on Amazon. You may want to check it out.

  • http://www.donnaPerugini.blogspot.com Donna Perugini

    What an interesting interview. It covered the novels very well, but I’m wondering about Christian children’s books.
    I’ve done everything Jeff mentioned in the posting, but would like to see more info to cover the marketing end beyond a social networking platform.
    My niche would be churches, their bookstores, Christian schools,(my intent is to speak here) homeschoolers. How do I reach them?
    Is a large mailing of postcards on target? How about sending a book with cover letter to each church address? My concern is will it get into the right hands? Yet there is good reason to let them know the books have been re-issued. I’d hate to waste the money if it’s ‘off the mark’.
    As always, you have my attention! Thank you!

  • caroline from canada

    I think there is another option. Writers Lee Goldberg and Joe Konrath have both blogged extensively about their experiences in placing out of print titles up on Kindle. They are giving numbers, and sharing their experiences regarding pricing, cover art, etc. Even doing the calculations on what they are earning on current titles through their publishers vs. their own self published Kindle titles. The numbers are good, and the costs less prohibitive. They have both also done a lot of posts about the various self publishing options and why they are good or bad. Check them out.
    http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/
    (there are about 14 posts called You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire)
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jillwilliamson Jill Williamson

    I agree about Kindle. Marcher Lord Press books are available on Kindle. It’s a great way to sell your books. You can do it yourself and it’s free.
    Donna—Look into homeschooling conventions and homeschooling organizations by city or county. See if you can get a table at an event or visit their group during a national book reading week or something they could connect to their curriculum. For churches, schools, and libraries, call and ask for the person’s name and mail your materials directly to that person.
    I’d also look into speaking at MOPS groups if I were you. Mothers of Preschoolers is a national organization for Christian moms with little ones. They are always looking for volunteer speakers and they’ll let you put up a book table. And, when one MOPS leader loves you, they’ll tell the others group leaders and you’ll get more offers to speak.
    Brainstorm all the ways you can get in front of Christian parents and grandparents, too. Maybe local Christmas bazaars and such, gifts to ministers and lay people with small children. I’m a pastor’s wife and when I find a book I love, I will often give it again and again.

  • Lauren Sylvan

    It doesn’t cost anything to set up with Lightning source now, though it may have back when. And they dropped the setup cost to $35 each for the bookblock and cover. What I love about them is that, unlike other presses, it’s the same price for a large 6″ x 9″ trade paperback as it is for a smaller 4.5″ x 8″ size, so I always go with the larger format and reduce my page count while still having nice wide margins and a 10-point font.
    At least once a year, they run a special where setup is free if you order 50 copies.
    Another important advance for POD on the radar: lightning source has partnered with the makers of the espresso book machine to make titles available on their technology. These nifty POD machines, about the size of an old-type xerox copier, can produce a paperback book on demand in minutes right at the point of sale. In a couple of years, we’ll see them in bookstores, helping solve the returns problem in the publishing industry.

  • http://www.laurapauling.com Laura Pauling

    I’m not sure if it’s quite the age of the niche publisher yet. Though, I could see it happening. I can pick out self published and/or small press book right away. The print is smaller, the cover is not as awesome. I don’t know how Marcher Lord Press books come out, but I don’t think the quality is equal yet.

  • http://www.borderlinepublishing.blogspot.com Angela Meuser

    I’m with a new, short-run publisher and I just have to say that your book will be as good as you make it. We have books that have been picked up by Barnes and Noble and books that are endorsed by experts like Les Parrott and a book that was rated “best book of 2009″ by Rabid Reader. There are lots of reasons to self-publish. Just do your homework and be intentional in your decisions. Thanks Jeff, for sharing your experience.