Thursday, November 18, 2010

Payback: a little self-publishing math

A client reports that in the first two months after delivery, about 700 books have sold. While most of these were sold “at the back of the room” (the client is a speaker), let’s value those sales at the wholesale (discounted) price. The reason for this is that any margin between the wholesale price and the retail price really belongs to the retailer, even if that retailer is the speaker. (There are costs associated with shlepping books around, setting up a table, staffing the table, etc.; and those costs are paid by the author-as-retailer, not by the author-as-publisher.)

At a wholesale value of $15 a book, that means that the publisher has recouped $10,500 in two months. The total cost of producing the book (except for the author’s time writing it) and printing 1,600 copies was about $11,000. So at this point, my client has 900 books in inventory and has recovered all but about $500 of the original investment. If those 900 books sell in the next six months (as is likely), my client will be $13,000 ahead. That’s still not much compensation for writing the book, but it represents a doubling of the original investment in less than a year. And the client expects to order more printings and continue selling the book for several more years, with no further outlay except manufacturing costs of less than $3.00 a book. In addition, the client reports that the presence of the book on the sales table (where it is the high-price item at $25) has significantly boosted the sales of older items that were already in inventory and that can also be reprinted cheaply.

Is it a living? No. It is rare for a single book to be anyone’s sole source of income. But if a single book can add ten or fifteen or twenty thousand dollars a year to a speaker’s income, don’t you think it’s worth the effort?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nice piece on letterpress nouveau

Thanks to Mike Starr for the link to this encouraging article on Boing Boing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The cookies next time

The block I live on gets light trick-or-treat traffic of mostly neighborhood children. This is a neighborhood that still supports a traditional mix of store-bought and homemade costumes. In these respects, it is not very different from the neighborhood where I grew up several decades ago.

What has changed is the nature of the treats handed out. Beginning in the mid-1960s, according to Snopes, rumors about razor blades in apples began to circulate (some suspect with help from the candy manufacturing industry), leading to police warnings, hospitals offering to x-ray kids’ hauls, and a complete shift toward individually wrapped commercial candy. No more homemade cookies. No more apples. No more anything that didn’t come out of a candy factory.

Well, that’s two generations of children experiencing a debased, corrupt, commercialized Halloween. And two generations of baseless paranoia is enough, sez I.

So I tried an experiment. In one bowl I offered candy. In a second bowl I offered beautiful, polished apples that we bought yesterday from the grower at our local farmers’ market. Of the dozen or so kids who came by last night, I’m happy to report that three chose apples. (One little girl, grabbing a handful of candy as her younger brother chose an apple, said, “He’s the smart one.”) Clearly the sample was too small to have any statistical significance, but I count as a small victory the fact that their hovering parents allowed these children to accept unwrapped apples.

Maybe next year you’ll try something similar. And the year after that your neighbors might. In Arlo Guthrie’s immortal words, “And, friends, they may thinks it’s a movement.”