As a result of the combined stupidity of Brexit and tragedy of Covid-19, alongside the concomitant shortages caused by the supply chain crisis, the escalating costs of paper, ink and shipping has meant that our printers are having to charge us significantly more than they were even 2 years ago. Like many indie publishers, we use printers with digital presses so that we don’t need to print and store thousands of copies of each title in advance – but that also means that each time we print a copy of a book for sale the production cost may well have increased.
When we launched Elsewhen Press, we chose to price our print editions at £9.99. That was generally considered to be a reasonable price for a trade paperback, and was recommended as having a psychological advantage because it is (just) below £10 – although I’ve never been convinced how true that is! For most of our books, that meant that we could earn a little income after covering the printing costs and paying the author their royalties. Over the last ten years we have been determined to keep to that price, to the point that for some titles we now lose money for every copy sold through retailers.
This is now getting to the point where it is unsustainable for us, so we have to address this problem, or stop producing print editions of our books. As you can see from the above, there are two ways to try to manage this problem: reduce the production cost and/or increase the cover price.
We have been looking at ways to reduce the production cost of our books. This has meant that we have started to use POD printers for our newest titles, and changed the trim size of our books from 215x135mm to 203x127mm (which is apparently the most popular size for paperbacks, anyway). Apart from slightly lower printing costs for some of our titles, this also means that the sales and distribution is now handled directly by the POD service rather than by us, and our titles can become available in retailers that previously eschewed our books. For example, if you look for our latest titles on Amazon you will see that the paperback edition is shown as ‘In Stock’ and available for delivery within a day or two directly from Amazon – what’s more Amazon can offer customers far better shipping terms than we ever could. We also now use the Ingrams POD service, which means that our new titles are now available through Barnes & Noble and other retailers in the US and elsewhere, as well as in UK bookshops through the wholesaler Gardners, so even if readers don’t want to buy from Amazon they can get our books through most good indie bookstores.
The result is that in many cases we have been able to keep the list price to £10, although for longer books we now have to price some of them at £11 or £12. Obviously, if the costs keep escalating as some commentators predict, we may have to increase the cover price of all of our books again. Meanwhile, we will gradually be moving our backlist titles over to the new POD services and trim sizes, which should make them all more readily available to potential readers.