Gordon Burgett's Newsletter

April 5, 2011


Try this...

Not only are we going to experience four unusual dates--1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, and 11/11/11--this year, but this is far rarer: take the last two digits of the year in which you were born, add the age you will be this year, and the result will be 111, unless you’re a one-digit kid, then it will be 11. Also, this October will have five Sundays, five Mondays, and five Saturdays. Adroitly posed, that ought to win you some free betting beers! (Thanks to Tamara Lipori, a newsletter subscriber and my favorite scrapbook expert and author.)


It’s hard to beat a free sale!

Order any bound book ($15) or other product of the same value or higher and I’ll send you a $5 e-book free later. Just tell me in the “comments” box of the PayPal order form which $5 e-book item you want and I will send it promptly as an attachment, with my thanks. April only, and exclusively for newsletter subscribers—a repayment, in a perverse way, for your having suffered through my prose. Again, the product list and order form are here!


Lightning Source, CreateSpace, royalties, POD, and profits…

Pete Masterson kindly agreed to my sharing a blog discussion response he sent (on 3/29) to the Linkedin Independent Book Publishers Association-IBPA group, to this question: 

“Does Lightning Source pay royalties to independent publishers who use their print services in the same way that CreateSpace does?”

“Lightning Source (LSI) is a printer with a link to Ingram Book Group for distribution. LSI does not pay royalties. Books are sold either directly from LSI or through Ingram, revenue is collected, printing costs are deducted along with the discount rate you select (between 20% and 55%) and you (as the publisher) are paid the difference.

”The ‘downside’ of working with Lightning Source is that you must be a publisher, not simply an author. That requires setting up a publishing entity (that is owned by the author) to handle the publishing duties. I have many clients who have done exactly this.

CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com) operates in dual modes. In one case, CS is a subsidy publisher and they offer the full range of author services, including typesetting, editorial work, and cover design. (These services may not be of the highest quality, so do careful research and consider your exact goals for your project. CS tends to be a lower cost subsidy publisher and may be a good choice for the "right" projects.)

"CS also operates as a printer. If an author-publisher provides an ISBN (instead of obtaining one from CS), then CS will print books at a reasonable cost (if you sign up for the $39 ‘pro plan’). You can release CS books for sale via Amazon.com with a 40% discount from list price. If you use a CS-provided ISBN, you can get "extended distribution" (beyond Amazon) with a 60% discount from list. However, the ‘extended distribution’ is achieved by CS signing your book up with Lightning Source (with a 20% discount), so it's very hard to justify using CS in that mode.

”Indeed, if you sign up with Lightning Source, and put your book out with a 20% discount, non returnable, you are likely to make more NET revenue than if you provided the 55% discount, fully returnable terms that are the normal trade book standard. Books sold with the short discount are very unlikely to ever be purchased by a physical (bricks and mortar) bookstore, but all such books are ‘automatically’ listed by Amazon and almost all other online booksellers. But guess what? For most titles, the physical bookstores are unlikely to stock a small/self-published title in any event.

"For more information on this short discount approach, see Aaron Shepherd's POD for Profit.”

Pete Masterson is author of Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers. For information about his book, a list of printers who specialize in book printing, and other helpful articles and links for authors and independent publishers, visit his web site at http://www.aeonix.com. Pete is also president of the [San Francisco] Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. For information about BAIPA, visit their web site at http://www.baipa.org.

From me (Gordon): As you know from How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days, I suggest both putting your book out through the appropriate ancillary publishers, like CreateSpace, and laying in a starter stock for your own publishing house, early on. Doing it with LSI gets you good books quickly (a few days) at a low rate and also gets you distributed through Ingram.


Two cannibals were eating a clown for lunch. One turned to the other, nose ascrinch, and said, "Does this taste a little funny to you?"


The Google lawsuit decision (on 3/22) is good news for us!

You may know that Google wants to make digital copies of the world’s 130 million books and possibly sell them through an online book store that it opened last year. It’s building on its dominance in Internet search to move into other markets. 

That was stopped in its tracks last week when U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin threw out a second settlement attempt in the Google Book Search suit.  Ruling in the Southern District Court of New York, Judge Chin said that the plan went too far. It would have awarded Google "significant rights to exploit entire books, without the permission of the copyright owners.”

According to the American Association of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) President Salley Shannon, “Chin's 48-page opinion said

* 'A copyright owner's right to exclude others from using his property is fundamental and beyond dispute.'"

* Congress should write copyright law, not a court or "self-interested parties."

* He denied Google the exclusive right to sell "orphan books," noting that such a plan would hardly give Google incentive to find missing authors and share profits.


POD, Expresso machines, price point, break-even, digital paperbacks…

On March 29 I heard an interesting webinar called “Leveraging Current and Future Advances in Digital Printing,” sponsored by Book Business and well moderated by Noelle Skodzinski. Here are some points I thought you might find the most interesting:

David Brooks, Director of INTERQUEST, said that

* The solidly established book distribution model was set awry by Amazon and the Internet in the late 90’s.

*10 publishers account for +80% of the book selling income, and 70% of the top 30 U.S. publishers offer digital books.

* Bookstores don’t sell books, they display them. Those books’ shelf life is short, and the unsold are returned for full value, of which 60% are destroyed and almost all the rest are sold at a huge discount.

* The only new, organic growth has been POD publishing and printed-on-site books, like the Expresso machines (usually at airports and university bookstores).

* Ultimately it costs more to print digitally than to use offset printing; 10 runs of 500 costs more than one run of 5,000.

* About 5% of the books now published are digital; that may be 15% in 2015—but the overall number of books being printed is shrinking, and will likely to continue decreasing.

Ken Brooks, the SVP of Cengage Learning, focussed on print-on-demand, noting the three times when that is most often used: for digital galleys (“rough cuts”), mid-life in a book’s development (between editions or printing), and at the end of a title’s life. Other comments by Ken:

* Three times when digital printing often happens: (1) to create a starting micro stock or inventory, (2) made-to-order orders (a customer orders the book, it is printed, and that order is sent—or merged with that customer’s other orders and sent), and (3) configured orders, where the buyer adds or deletes part of the book, so a new item is created and sent.

* the break-even between having your book run by offset or digital is about 750 units.

* two huge challenges: binding (a low-cost case binding is needed for digital books, but doesn’t exist; about 10% of all books are case bound, which implies more value) and the high waste and scrap rates in printing and returns.

Frank Romano, a 50-year veteran in the industry, spoke mostly of the technical challenges and victories, recalling the metal days (memories of the distant past: my first book was set in lead), then offset printing, Xerox’s digital breakthrough in 1976, to the present, with color and inkjet …

* HP now has a 42”-wide digital press that can produce several books at once, but the industry is limited now by its format (5½” x 8½” or 6” x 9”) and no digital paperbacks or appropriate binding.

* He seemed surprised by the emergence of ancillary publishers, where the author is often the consumer (the two ends of the traditional distribution flow). Called them online services, mostly photo books or novels, propelled by self-promotion.

* Frank said the digital presses may print 120-150 pages a minute, their ink is cheaper than toner, they can print full color, will be sheet-fed.

* In a decade digital will pass offset, but the latter is moving aggressively and soon will create books without plates. They will openly compete in the future.

All three added interesting information in the Q-A section:

* The price point (manufacturing cost) for a trade book is about $1/book, but made-to-order books (with, I think, color) is $4.

* The question: where do the Expresso-type machines fit in? (This is now a Xerox item, where the book is printed, bound, and delivered in a minute or two, from files chosen or even a manuscript delivered by hand, if properly formatted.) They seemed to think it met a very narrow need: a bound book wanted almost instantly (like copy of War and Peace dedicated to a friend). Or the buyer could wait a couple of days for Amazon or other POD houses to send it.

* E-books will impact future printing, particularly youth books with color included. (The three mused at the end of the webinar whether there would be a used e-book market!)


Your Six-Plank Sales Program

Whether you’re going to publish your own book or you want another house to do it, often the most overlooked part of your marketing campaign is your platform marketing system.

I was reminded of this when I was reviewing a new book by two seasoned literary agents, Marilyn Allen and Coleen O’Shea, called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals and Query Letters. Incidentally, it’s a first-rate primer if you’re on a big publisher quest.

They suggest six “planks” you could use to market your book or you might explain in depth in your book proposal to show you’re a go-getter eager to will help sell your published creation.

Here are what they suggest:

* Media Experience: list in detail any media experience you’ve had on TV or radio or in magazines or newspapers, even wee local columns, but particularly if you’ve been interviewed as an “expert” on the topic 

* Social Media Marketing: be sure to list all the outlets you use, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with numbers of followers. Do you have a website, a blog, an e-newsletter; do you post videos or podcasts? How big is your e-mail list? Do you sell products through Amazon, eBay? Include numbers, your spread, your presence.

* Previous Publications: You’re not likely to forget to mention other key books or articles you wrote, but if they are about this book’s subject, do it again, in detail.

* Speaking Engagements: Almost any experience here helps because it shows you have the tools to bring attention to your book. So list it all, with audience size, including talks (free), keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops/seminars, guest lectures. Do you speak through speaker’s bureaus? How prestigious are the sponsors? Do you have a regular speaking schedule? Detailed summaries please.

* Product Tie-ins: If you have your own product lines or you endorse products, you or a publisher can piggy-back here to sell your book too. Or tell the publisher how a tie-in could be created once the book exists.

* Continuous Exposure: Your purpose is to create a fan following or to be listed as an expert to be called by a radio or TV commentators when a related subject “breaks” on the news. (For several years I wrote a lot about ultramarathoning, and at the worst hours [like 5 a.m. in CA for a New York City morning news show], if somebody dropped dead in a race, they’d call and ask me about the topic!) You start locally by telling the local stations of your expertise; send a copy of your book or articles. Then send a copy of that info sheet to their national news headquarters to get “listed.” Finally, tell the agents or editors that you are “on call” about the topic wherever you are listed.

The best time to create your platform is while you are writing your book. Why not take chapters of that book and sell them as articles along the way? Just repackage the information to fit the magazine or newspaper needs, and remember to mention your coming (or published) book in the bio slug that writers get free.

If you create a ready-made audience, a fan pack, eager to read what you have to say, and you share that with publishers (who need books to publish), they are as likely to be coming to you to put you in print! Or if you do it on your own, you already have the buyers in line.


How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing

This was the title of my best-selling book (out in five different editions and a Writer’s Digest Book Club top choice, twice I think). I’m updating it for release this summer—and a possible mp3 edition too. I’ll let you know then. Right now, I’ve divided the book into 16 core elements, and I’ve been sharing one or two a week in an edited (sometimes condensed) version at my blog. (Section 13 just appeared).

If you are teaching freelance courses about writing or publishing, feel free to incorporate any of these into your program. (It’s still the heart of my Travel Writer’s Guide book, happily in print!)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett