It is against this background of printing business in Oyo State that we now want to discuss some reasons why writers will want to take their manuscripts directly to printers, bypassing the traditional publishers.
Arguments in Favour of Writer-to-Printer Publishing
As hinted above, perhaps the greatest attraction to writers in doing this is the assurance of getting their work on the market. Most well-established publishers are simply not so interested in unsolicited works, especially fictions for general readers.
Coupled with this is the fact that their resources are stretched enough in this economic recession in producing commissioned and school books that there is little or no allowance to accommodate anything else. The choice left to many writers then would be the printers.
Another advantage to self-publishing of course is that the author is able to control the price of the book. He may decide for instance to sell at different prices to different audiences based on affordability if it would be to his benefit. This is not a usual thing with traditional publishers.
With self-publishing also, publication is almost instant. Instead of waiting for two or three years when you are not even sure your work will be published, the author can get his work as soon as payment is made. With this, the book gets to market faster than it would with traditional publishers.
Changes to author’s work is usually at the discretion of the traditional publishers. With writer-to-printer self-publishing however, the author can effect changes anytime he wishes and as he deems fit.
An author who self-publishes does not need to wait till the end of the year before he collects money for his labour unlike when he publishes with the traditional publishers.
The returns may be monthly, weekly or even daily. In addition to this, the profit is 100%. He does not need to share his profits with any other party.
One great argument in favour of writer-to-printer self-publishing is that it may in actual fact be a shortcut to getting your work published by the traditional printers.
This is likened to most employees who would not hire a worker who has no work experience. Since the poor man cannot get experience without getting a job, if he starts his own job and develops experience on it, he might be in great demand by the best employers later on.
After self-publishing, if the book becomes a success story, especially if it is adopted by a state education ministry, the author will not need to sweat before he gets published by the best of the traditional publishers if he still so wishes.
Dangers in Writer-to-Printer Self-Publishing
Many books that are taken to printers are badly written, bedevilled with grammatical mistakes and inappropriate for the target audience because of lack of professional editing and formatting.
The printer considers it not his own headache and an apology for a book is thereby unleashed on the market. And if truth be told, books like this have fraudulently found their ways into the list of books of many of our ministries of education.
As a teacher, the writer had come across a storybook in the approved list of books in a particular year where there was one grammar mistake or the other on at least half of the pages of the book. This, I am sure, could not have happened in a book from a well-established traditional publisher.
In quoting Mosuro as cited by Ajibola (2008) in her paper, Drawing Lines of Demarcation between Publishers’ and Printers’ jobs, ‘… ISBN are being formulated by some printers and assigned without contacting the institution in charge of the issuance.’
This would be a serious issue if ascertained to be true. ISBN is a unique number given to a particular book, which distinguishes it from all other books internationally.
Generating fake numbers is highly unacceptable. But it is true that even when ISBN is paid for, an unscrupulous printer may still deceive an unsuspecting author who may consequently find himself in a grave trouble. This is anotherserious downside to self-publishing.
In writer-to-printer self-publishing, it behooves the writer to market his own works. But then, there is a limit to how far he can cover within the country as an individual unlike the traditional or mainstream publishers who have, over the time, developed the mechanism to cover a wide range in marketing their products.
Fewer sales are relatively thus made by the writer-to-printer self-publisher.
Many traditional publishers also offer advance payment to their authors but there is no opportunity for this with writer-to-printer self-publishing.
When a publisher gives a job to a printer, the printer does not concern himself with issues of plagiarism or piracy.
Where the job is plagiarized or pirated, there are usually one or two effects of such a dastardly action. The first is that the author may, unfortunately, get away with the evil.
When such a book is sold at a relatively cheap price, the school management who will sell to students at exorbitant prices, making huge profits thereby may not care about issues of piracy or plagiarism – this is if they are at all aware of the evil in the first place.
The second thing that may happen is that the evil may be discovered and the author may find himself in court being disgraced, and his writing career being destroyed.
As mentioned above, many dangers to self-publishing emanate from lack of effective coordination from the umbrella bodies of printers. No particular standard is followed by the printers.
Many will use poor quality paper, poor quality binding materials and poor quality ink which may not dry for days and with books badly designed, all in an attempt to maximize profit.
All administrative works that are handled by traditional publishers are undertaken by the author in writer-to-printer self-publishing.
Many writers are not qualified to edit their own work and so they have the responsibility of finding their own editors if they realize the great importance. They have the task of searching for qualified editors and designers, securing the ISBN and so on.
In book publishing, the final input before marketing is that of the printers. This is why it is that necessary for the printers to get it right.
Many years of an author’s work may be severely damaged by the quality of the printing job and this will go a long way in determining how profitable the whole project would turn out to be.
It would be necessary for the author to identify the objectives for publishing before going writer-to-printer self-publishing way. When it comes to printing a few numbers of copies for instance, the writer-to-printer idea may be more advisable.
Many established publishers may be reluctant to invest in this because of the various processes involved. It may not be that worthwhile for them.
When we consider the various challenges a writer is faced with however, we might have to conclude that self-publishing is not easy.
There is the likelihood for some things to go wrong when one is faced with all the administrative demands of publishing. The procedures of getting the ISBN, managing the production, marketing the finished products and so on can be really cumbersome on an individual.
Another angle to this is that authors have many reasons to be wary in dealing directly with printers.
The well-established traditional publishers who have long history of dealing with printers would be in a better position to get the best out of them than a writer who has come with a one-off business deal. Like in many businesses, some printers may look for the cheapest way of doing something to maximize profit.
To get the best out of printers in Oyo State, it is observed that the impact of regulatory bodies like those of the Association of Professional Printers of Nigeria (ASSPON), the Chattered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON), Association of Nigerian Printers (ANP), the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), etc. cannot be overemphasized.
Their involvement with training and retraining of printers, monitoring their activities with rewards and punitive actions when necessary, will be of great values in their performances and a great deciding factor in making a sense of a writer-to-printer self-publishing idea.
Ajibola, A. S.(2008). ‘Drawing Lines of Demarcation between Publishers’ and Printers’ Jobs’ in Book Publishing and the Reading Culture in Nigeria, Ajibola&Oluyide eds., Manifold Grace Publishers, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Okwilagwe, O. A. (2001). Book Publishing in Nigeria, Ibadan: Stirlin-Horden Publishers (Nig.) Ltd.