PublishAmerica's CEO discusses how they can print books for free
Letter from PublishAmerica's CEO: Why we publish every book for free
May 08, 2012
Why do we publish everyone's book for free?
Nobody else does what we do. No one else takes a chance on so many authors, produces their work, formats it to the best printers' specs, creates unique cover art (and all the illustrations if it's a children's book), issues two or more ISBNs, and makes the book available to just about every bookstore worldwide, all at no charge. Oh, and since January of this year we do it in beautiful hardcover, to boot. Why?
More after this book review, A Lace Cap and Two Boys by Edmund DuBois (email@example.com):
It's the year 1663, and right away we're in the middle of a frontier village massacre in what is now known as New York. Indians have turned on the men, women, and children and have taken the women and children as captives, among them Lucienne and her two sons. The immediate horror is meant to shock the reader, as it obviously does Edmund DuBois' characters.
As the novel progresses, one son discovers his spiritual connection with nature and animals, and his acceptance of Indian culture grows, to his mother's dismay, as her own physical and mental capabilities wane. Lucienne and her boys are moved around until everyone else is rescued except for them. Instead, they are captured yet again and kept for ransom—by the French! With an ending to cleanse the palette, Edmund DuBois restores our faith in humanity, even after some of his characters have shown the malicious side of human nature.
What's most interesting about A Lace Cap and Two Boys is the author's attempt to make us see both sides of the conflict. Edmund shows life through the eyes of the settlers and the Indians alike, and instead of painting them as different, he portrays humanity as a whole.
Nothing is free in this world unless it's good business. Many weekly local newspapers are free. That's because it increases the paper's circulation, which is of interest to advertisers who pay for the paper and make it profitable. Movies are, well, not free, but low-priced and all theaters charge roughly the same (nationwide average is under $8). It's because once you're in the door they sell you $8 popcorn, and there's nowhere else to go. PublishAmerica buys its company cars from a dealer that makes no profit on the sale. Why? Because now we're driving those cars and they require maintenance and repair. That's how the dealer makes his money.
We publish books for free because it's good for authors, and also because it's good business. A few days ago I explained why book publishing comes with a built-in market. Authors buy books. We don't require them to do that; they volunteer. They become points of sale, book re-sellers. And we gladly facilitate it by offering really good discounts. It's inherently risky. You can never predict which of your free services will generate no sales at all. But that's what free enterprise is all about: taking risks.
Do we make our profit by selling books to authors? No, we don't. That's because of the "80-20 rule", aka Pareto's Principle. A century ago an economist observed that 80 pct of the land in Italy was owned by 20 pct of the people. He also noted that in his own garden 20 pct of the pea pods contained 80 pct of the peas. When he researched it further, he concluded that just about everywhere in life, give or take, 80 pct of the effects are generated by 20 pct of the causes. In other words, a company makes 80 pct of its profit from 20 pct of its customers, but also deals with the fact that another 20 pct of its customers require 80 pct of its time. Generally there's a 10 pct margin of error.
PublishAmerica is no exception to the rule. Bookstore sales comprise between 20-30 pct of our revenue, but since those are high-margin sales, they often add up to 80 pct of our sales profit. (The other day someone suggested on Facebook that PublishAmerica discourages bookstore sales because we don't like paying royalties. Ha! We LOVE bookstore sales, and gladly surrender the royalty.) Additionally, we do spend 80 pct of our time answering 20 pct of our authors. Of our staff, 20 pct carry 80 pct of the responsibilities and results. And we have reason to believe that 80 pct of our authors are happy campers while 20 pct need all the hand-holding. 20 pct of our books never sell a single copy. But 20 pct of our authors buy into 80 pct of our promotion services. And sure enough, 80 pct of our book sales come from 20 pct of our books.
Hence why we publish every single book for free. It's good for authors, and it's good for business. We lose money on almost half of all the books that we publish. But we make a profit on the other half. Which half? If only we could predict that beforehand. But we choose to take the risk, and give those books a home for free. Because we know that at the end of the day 2 out of 10 will fulfill Pareto's Principle, and take care of 80 pct of what we need. The rest will take care of, well, the rest.
Rocket science? Not at all. Just a matter of attracting large numbers. Because that's where the power is. And free attracts, always.
On the soapbox today: Steven K. Scherzinger, American Freedumb, (firstname.lastname@example.org): "In an election year, wouldn't it be nice to know how the government is elected, things we can change, Freedom is key. "
Also open mic for Vishwa Prakash, Who Stole My Soul? A Dialogue with the Devil on the Meaning of Life, (email@example.com): "Who Stole My Soul offers answers to the purpose of the human soul and will inspire the reader to make a spiritual quest of their own."
I invite you to talk back to me. I don't guarantee a response, but I do guarantee that we listen. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line write Attn. Willem.