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Self-publishing drives firm's jump in revenue

Rochester Business Journal
June 15, 2012

Book1One, a Rochester-based short-run book manufacturer, has increased its revenue by an average of 36 percent annually for the past three years, capitalizing on a rise in self-publishing.
 
Book1One is a subsidiary of the Riverside Group, a full-service post-press company in Rochester. Peter Pape, president and CEO of both the Riverside Group and Book1One, said Book1One's sales grew 43 percent in 2011, setting a company record.
 
The overwhelming majority of Book1One's business comes from authors who are self-publishing, a practice that has become more popular and cost-effective because of digital printing and the Internet, Pape said.
 
R.R. Bowker LLC, the official U.S. issuer of International Standard Book Numbers, reported that more than 211,000 self-published books were released in the United States in 2011, nearly double the number in 2010.
 
"Some years ago, if you wanted to self-publish a book, you had to lay out a considerable amount of money for printing processes," said Steven Huff, director of adult programs at Writers & Books Inc. "Today, anybody can just go on online and upload your book. We see more people at Writers & Books coming in with their self-published books, wanting to put them in our bookstore. It's the combination of digital printing of hard-copy books and Internet publishing that has made self-publishing more common."
 
George Kittredge, marketing director for Book1One, attributes the company's growth to greater interest in self-publishing and the services the company offers.
 
While mainstream self-publishing websites such as Lulu.com or Blurb.com offer a full range of publishing services such as design, e-commerce and third-party distribution, Book1One offers the basics.
 
Kittredge said the majority of Book1One's orders are for fewer than 1,000 copies, and a customer can order a single book. The company prints, binds and ships books to the customer, leaving the author with full copyright.
 
Book1One's online price calculator indicates that for a typical novel of some 250 pages, a customer would pay slightly more than $9 per softcover book for 100 copies and a bit less than $8 each for 1,000 copies. For hardcover, the price would be slightly more than $11.50 each for 1,000 books and more than $16.80 each for 100 copies. Prices also are affected by features such as color pages and a particular type of cover.
 
"For people who want the full suite of publishing, the services offered by larger online companies can be valuable," Kittredge said. "But most of our customers aren't interested in mass retail. And for those who are, printing a short run can be a way to build a core customer base."
 
Pape came up with the idea for Book1One in 2005, when the Riverside Group began getting inquiries for orders under its minimum of 250 copies for binding service.
 
"I started to see that there was an increasing need that we couldn't fill," he said.
 
He assembled a team to figure out how the company could make money from printing one book. The answer was short-run, digital printing.
 
Book1One began taking short-run print orders that year. Back then, it outsourced the printing to other shops while handling the binding services itself.
 
In 2008, Book1One bought a digital printer and began doing all printing and binding in-house. Pape said Book1One now accounts for some 25 percent of the business at the Riverside Group. Book1One has six employees.
 
Kittredge said the company's customers include people who want to print photography and technical books, students printing theses and dissertations and elementary schools printing yearbooks.
 
Five out of six customers find Book1One through its website, he said. Most orders come from outside the Rochester area.
 
"The popularity for self-publishing continues to grow, and it's becoming easier and easier," Kittredge said. "Everyone can be an author now."
 
Writers & Books' Huff said that while self-publishing saves money, it does put the burden of marketing on the author.
 
"The gatekeepers in the publishing industry can be hard to get past," he said. "However, publishers do have a direct stream to booksellers. They can get your book out there. Without them, writers have to spend the time marketing their book, rather than writing their next one."
 
Rochester resident Diana Perez self-published her first book, "A Conscious Spirit," through Indiana-based AuthorHouse.com, a brand of Author Solutions Inc., last August. The deal made the book available online through Amazon.com Inc. and the website of Barnes & Noble Inc., with AuthorHouse taking a percentage of the sales.
 
She said it still takes great determination to write a book, but the process of self-publishing was relatively easy.
 
"I think it definitely would have been harder 10 years ago," Perez said. "With the way the media and the Internet are now, everything is at your fingertips. I've met a lot of determined writers who want to get their work out there, and I point them towards self-publishing."
 
Still, with a larger number of writers, mainstream publishers have jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon, especially for e-books. Sales of e-books rose 117 percent last year, the Association of American Publishers reports.
 
In 2010, Barnes & Noble launched Pub-It, a website that allows anyone to self-publish material using simple software. Amazon.com offers royalties of up to 70 percent to encourage writers to use its Kindle Direct Publishing system to self-publish e-books.
 
Lulu.com reported that the number of self-published e-books on its website grew by 22 percent in 2011, while the number of self-published print books grew 9 percent.
 
Kittredge said Book1One does get orders from people who have self-published their books online but also want them in print format. However, neither he nor Pape seems worried about e-books cutting into Book1One's business.
 
"I think we've seen that there will always be a demand for print books," Pape said. "Some of the things we print, like family photo books or commemorative books, aren't ideal in an e-book format, and print books will always make great gifts. As I like to say, people don't have bookshelves in their homes to put e-books on."

6/15/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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