How to Interview a Publisher
It’s tricky to choose a printer or publisher because they may provide different services, at very different prices. You may hope to shop around by asking the price, but the answers you receive can be misleading. Publishers will have different fees and pricing packages than printers, and different bulk rates, too. Instead of trying to compare apples to oranges, think of selecting the printer or publisher who is the best match for your needs.
Before you begin checking out publishers, decide whether you have any intention of selling your book. This is the primary difference between a publisher and printer, and can narrow your search. A publisher will provide an ISBN and arrange for your book to be available for distribution. To market your book, the publisher will do more for you than provide a printed book, and of course you will pay more for those services.
If, like many authors of family histories, you don’t intend to commercially market your book, then you actually want a printer, not a publisher. In addition to businesses that advertise printing, you will find many businesses named “Publishers” will do your printing, so don’t rule them out. You’ll want to specify that you don’t want an ISBN to sell the book, and have them quote “just printing” prices.
Make a list of printers and publishers you are considering and call them with your interview questions. If they do not have the exact services you want, move on. You don’t want to compromise on something so important.
Question 1. Do you provide printing services for books without an ISBN?
State that you do not want any marketing services.
Question 2. Can you print my book to my specifications?
Ask about the size, hard or soft cover, (or both), color interior, acid-free paper, and a sewn, not glued, binding if you want your book to last. If you are looking for specialty features like faux-leather covers or embossing, specify this now.
Question 3. Will I retain all rights to my book?
Even if you receive an unequivocal “yes”, make sure there will not be any rights issues you didn’t anticipate. Clarify by asking, “Will I retain the rights to any files I upload to you?” And, “If I want to print the same book with some other printer, or decide to market the book on amazon.com next year, is there any conflict?” This should shake out publishers with contractual terms you don’t want.
Question 4. Do you have a minimum order? Are there set-up fees in addition to the cost of the books?
Depending on how many books you need, fees may seem negligible, or they may be a deal breaker.
If you’ve resolved all the issues in questions 1-4, you can now compare apples to apples, as you can get a more accurate price from the printer.
Question 5. How much will my books cost? Is there a bulk discount?
Some printers offer discounts after 10 books, some after 25, etc. This may make a big difference.
Question 6. What if I want to order more books later?
Some printers will have different terms for reorders. They may or may not keep your files. For family histories, it is good to have a plan for reprints in the future.