Writing the book
Going from blog writing to book writing is quite a big difference, luckily I had a lot of help and we got it ready to bring to a publisher in about 6 months. The process of writing the book was a challenge in itself and I may just write an article about that at some point. The main tip would be: get help from a professional writer/editor, as that proved invaluable to me.
Finding a publisher
Once I was ready for publishing I started by reaching out to any publishers I could find. I googled them, I asked friends and family, and I asked my network for contacts and any experiences or recommendations. Despite contacting many different publishers, it did not lead to any book deals. I got the impression that as a first time author, it would be very difficult to get a book deal. This left me with 2 options, self-publish or co-publish.
With self-publishing you basically cover all the costs and effort yourself. You apply for an ISBN and you find companies who can prepare an ebook and print your hard copies and you basically just pay them for their services. You then need to do your own marketing or also pay someone for this service. Generally a lot of work to organize and manage this process from end to end. More than I was comfortable spending at the time, so I decided to look into co-publishing.
A co-publishing company had actually called me during my search for a book deal. They offered me their services after my contact was referred to them from a partner publisher I had contacted earlier. Their offer was a simple package-based fixed price. They had different packages covering ebooks, paperback and hardcover, supporting either black and white or colour internal visuals, all at different price points. They would also include marketing, and getting the book placed with various ebook and physical book retail outlets. Seemed like a decent deal, price was not bad either.
My expectations when deciding to accept their offer, was that this was a partnership. I expected them to be genuinely interested in getting a great book prepared and published, that they would support me throughout this process with a focus on giving me the best possible chance of success. I assumed that that is what "co-publishing" meant, and that the amount I paid was, understandably, to cover their costs and that they would work closely with me to drive sales and together make a profit off the book itself.
A "publishing partnership" did not seem to be the case. Their designer prepared it for printing with nice layout and formatting, but the contents were not reviewed beyond a legal check; editing was an optional add-on package. It became increasingly clear that they make their money off the package that I paid for, along with the constant up-selling of add-ons and extras using every cliche marketing trick in the book. The book actually selling seems just like a nice bonus to them on top of what they have already made from me.
This was further indicated by the fact that they don’t print stock copies, it’s all "on-demand", meaning they print copies of the book as and when a vendor orders stock. I totally understand this in terms of managing the risk, but on-demand printing is very expensive because you don't enjoy the bulk discounts. This higher price means that there is almost no margin, the publisher recommended a retail price of 20$ for the paperback and 40$ the hardcover but Amazon has them listed at 16$ and 25$ respectively. The eBook is more competitively priced as it is much lower risk and no stock is needed. This is really about managing expectations. Pricing of the books was avoided early in the process, they continued to indicate that pricing could not be calculated until final number of pages was known, long after I had signed the contract and the book was basically ready for printing.
The books are now in the e-store and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of sites that were listing it. I am planning talks and I have 70 copies of the hard cover for me to sell during those talks. Publisher seemed a bit disappointed that I only ordered 70 however, giving me offers of discounts and free copies if I buy 1000 copies of the book to sell and distribute myself. This is the norm according to them, “other authors buy even more copies on average”, and “oh, the deal expires in 3 days so I must be quick”.
One final revelation was that if your publisher is an American company, the American tax agency will withhold 30% of any earnings made from sales by the publisher, even if you are not american and even if the books being taxed were not even sold in america.
I am happy with the result itself. The paperbacks are great, the hardcover looks very professional, and I am proud to see my books on quite a few estores, and to hand out/sell copies to anyone interested. But the experience was a bit disappointing and not at all in-line with my expectations. I learned a lot from this experience and seeing the prepared pre-print PDF’s and the ebooks is very useful knowledge. Perhaps next time I might try self-publishing, or, if sales turn out to be reasonable, maybe I can get a real publisher interested.