I’ve had the pleasure of being part of the Ingram Content Group publisher services team for eight years. During this time, I’ve educated publishers about the business models and the benefits of print on demand (POD), and I’ve consulted with content creators from various industries on how to make the most of their content. Whether you are producing books, magazines, journals and/or other content, I’m willing to bet there are additional print and digital opportunities you can exploit to grow the reach of your content to more readers worldwide.
Here are a few opportunities that you should investigate:
POD can, and should, be used as part of a distribution strategy. With the newest technologies, printers are able to manufacture smaller quantities of titles in a wide range of formats, and some printers have order quantity requirements of just a single copy. As a result, it’s easy to create a file that is multiformat compatible for release of a title in paperback, hardcover, black-and-white, color, and combinations of these while investing in little to no inventory.
Today’s options also let you create special editions, collections, or other configurations of your content.
And as digital formats have evolved, it has become much easier to turn print titles into e-books. Companies such as PressBooks and Data Conversion Laboratory offer simple conversion of content to e-book formats that are compatible with the systems used by most major retailers.
One key to selling your content is the discoverability of your titles. If readers can’t find it, they can’t buy it. The more formats that are available in the market, the more times a title will appear in search engines.
Publishers that have acquired the international print rights to titles can easily make those titles available in markets around the world through a variety of POD partners. For instance, Lightning Source and IngramSpark provide opportunities to distribute content worldwide through multiple retail and print partners, and CreateSpace has options for making titles available worldwide on Amazon sites. All three companies work with in-market printers or have options for shipping content into various countries to fulfill orders.
Using those providers, you don’t need to have inventory sitting in a warehouse in other countries to have content available to consumers there. The more broadly content is available for discovery, the better the opportunity for sales.
Global availability doesn’t apply just to print. While publishers may license or not acquire print rights to titles for international use, they generally retain international rights for e-books. And content distributed digitally can reach consumers quickly no matter how far away they are.
It is wise to make e-books available in all currencies supported by your e-book distributor(s). The barriers to entry for e-book retailers are low and there is no need for a bricks- and- mortar presence, which means that there are e-book retailers serving almost every country in the world. Again, the more widely your title is exposed, the better the chances that it will sell.
Out of Print Titles and Backlist
POD options now provide ways to keep titles available that were taken out of print because their sales did not justify an offset or short print run. Setting titles up with Lightning Source, IngramSpark, and CreateSpace helps publishers keep them active in retail channels without stocking inventory.
While the print cost per copy might be higher than it would be with a traditional offset run, the market will often bear a slightly higher retail price for demand-driven content. And of course if a title was out of print, it would earn nothing for its publisher. In other words, it’s worth paying the higher unit cost to have titles always available and always in stock instead of out of print.
The situation is similar for slower moving titles classified as backlist that retailers often won’t backorder from wholesalers. Setting backlist titles up in a POD distribution program will provide availability, and sales can be realized that would have previously been missed.
If digital files are not available for a title, you can work with one of the many companies that can scan and create print and e-book files for minimal fees, enabling publishers to bring these titles back into print.
The effective management of inventory is often a key component of a successful publishing program. Although there is no perfect formula for always having the right inventory on shelves, publishers that develop a multifaceted strategy can better control the amount of cash tied up in inventory, warehousing, and shipping costs.
A blend of offset and POD book manufacturing and distribution allows for this approach. For new titles, an initial offset run can make sense, especially when you know the demand for a title. If demand is consistent, another offset order might be warranted.
That said, POD is a great alternative. Wholesalers and retailers are developing programs to capture sales during unexpected spikes in demand. Ingram has a Guaranteed Availability Program (GAP) that uses POD solutions from Lightning Source, and Amazon has its In Stock Protection (ISP) program with CreateSpace. The goal of these programs is to have print files on hand so orders for a title can be filled even when stock is temporarily exhausted.
POD also gives publishers options for placing orders and drop shipping to clients that help lower the inventory needed in their warehouses and avoid storage, picking and packing fees. Publishers simply pay the print charge and shipping fees.
In some cases, printers with multiple locations can print closer to the end destination, lowering shipping cost and cutting transit times.
The Bottom Line
By using these and other resources for print and digital content distribution, you can manage your publishing business more effectively and make the most of your content. Attending conferences such as IBPA’s Publishing University will help you achieve these goals too, as you network with other publishers and find out how your peers are managing their publishing programs.
In short, keeping an open mind and being willing to try new strategies and tactics in a changing marketplace helps publishers continue to grow.
Janice Schnell Butler joined Ingram in January 2007 and is a key account sales manager for Ingram Content Group with expertise in book publishing, offset, and print-on-demand book manufacturing, distribution, and digital content solutions for publishers. She serves on IBPA’s board of directors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org