So You Wanna Sell Picture Books?
Any new venture takes time, determination, and lots of hard work. Obviously. And there's still no guarantee of success (let's keep the discussion to financial success and not the success and satisfaction of taking a story from idea to market).
Inflation Hits Everyone at Some Point
In today's inflationary and supply-constrained environment, it's doubly hard to make a profit. Or maybe even triply? Hmm...Anyway, as a POD publisher, you rely on your printer to print and then ship your books. Unfortunately, printing costs have gone up. Way up.
(Side Note: To me, POD is a massive advantage over printing hundreds, or even thousands, of books and then having to store and then ship them once a sale comes through. And there's no guarantee that a sale will come through. But that's a whole other discussion for a completely different post. Not to mention the distribution channels afforded you via certain POD companies that may be off limits if you went solo. But I digress. Fact remains, whether you take stock of physical inventory or drop-ship, printing costs are a major factor in your book publishing profitability.)
I've been very happy with our POD partner in all aspects of getting a book to market, but they aren't immune to market pressures. As their costs rise, publisher compensation shrinks. And that was super apparent on the latest Little Brown Spider book upload. Even before these market pressures, margins are super slim for POD books.
Margins are super slim for POD books, especially hardcovers, whether times are good or times are challenging.
Pricing a Book for Success
Don't be under the illusion that you're going to sell your hardcover picture book for $22.99 and keep $16 of it. Or $12. Or $6. Or...well, you get the idea. You're looking at razor thin margins. You can certainly price your book at a level that nets you a handsome profit, but it won't be commensurate with every other picture book out there. And then there's the part of actually selling your books. Of course, the choice is yours.
(Another Side Note: There are other printers/distributors in the industry that let you keep 100% of book profits, minus printing costs, but there's a sizeable, initial price tag attached to using them. Maybe this model works for you. I'm not convinced.)
Stone Hollow Press books are priced in-line with typical picture books of its type and offer the industry standard discount rate to retailers. With that said, here's the publisher compensation for the second Little Brown Spider book on its initial release back in August 2021 and now, August 2022.
The Little Brown Spider
The Giant Caterpillar
8" by 10"
As you can see, there was a massive drop in compensation. Not that the publisher compensation number was a big number back in 2021, but you're looking at, effectively, a 50% drop in revenue per book in one year.
Is It Really Worth It?
To me, it's completely worth it. Not carrying inventory, printer quality, available distribution channels, excellent support, and industry know-how are key factors in helping establish a small-time book publisher. It's probably not the road to riches, but it's the best way to get books in the market and seen by, well, you!