Books for Children with Color Illustrations

In the next couple weeks, Lightning Source is expected to announce the official pricing for their color print-on-demand services. Publishers who participated in the Beta program have told me that the pricing ranged from nine cents to ten cents per page, depending on the cut size. The problem, from the standpoint of the publisher, is that all the pages in the book are charged at the same rate, whether they all require color or not. This means that "normal" size books, in the 150 to 300 page range, will cost the publisher between $15 and $30 just in printing costs, before the distribution discount.

Fortunately, if your business is publishing books for children, especially the early ages, you're probably in the 20 to 40 pages per book range. With this pricing, a 20 page children's book illustrated with color, like one my sister showed me yesterday, can be published with POD and gain access to distribution at a cost of about $3.00 per book. If the cover price is set to $5.95 with a 25% discount, it still leaves the publisher with a two dollar per book profit, pretty good for hands-off distribution of a six dollar book. The downside is we're talking about softcover pricing and relatively lightweight paper stock, not ideal for children.

On the bright side, it will be possible to publish very niche titles for children in full color, and even if you won't get rich, you can start building a list that may sell for many years. One example that comes to mind is highly localized books. Small publishers utilizing POD will be able to publish a book about visiting the local park, or even the local dentist. Might help take the fear out of visiting the dentist if the child has a picture book about a happy kid getting a cavity filled by the actual kindly dentist. The dentist may be your biggest customer. In fact, I may have just invented a new niche for children's books, personalized versions for local health care professionals.

My sister works in the area of books for religious children, and religions often have very local flavors, based on leadership and tradition. Ethnic groups in a particular geographical area may also share interests and values that they want to get across to their children through color illustrations. Educational books for children can also be targeted to very specific areas that simply couldn't have been supported under the traditional offset model unless they were being published at a loss.

What it boils down to is that POD for children's books has (almost) arrived. I wrote an article earlier about using the standard B&W print on demand to publish books for children based on limiting the subject matter and presentation. That approach doesn't work very well for most authors who write and illustrate books before they start thinking about finding a publisher or self-publishing, so the inclusion of color illustrations in the POD arsenal is a sea change. It means that aspiring publishers can now get a color children's book out without spending thousands of dollars on printing, but it doesn't change the need for marketing if you're planning on publishing as a business.

No comments: