Question on on-demand publishing?

Subject: Question on on-demand publishing?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 15:42:24 -0400

Dick Margulis reports: <<Well, the good news is that someone contacted me based on a Google AdWords listing. Yay!>>

Cool. I've been out of the publishing for hire biz for longer than I like.

<<he says he already has found "a publisher." So I asked him about that, and he pointed me to a site of a company that looks like it would have been called a vanity press a few years ago. However, they do actually provide some services, such as print-on-demand, distribution, accounting, getting an ISBN for the book, some sort of limited marketing...>>

Vanity presses are a great way to publish something if you have no idea what you're doing; the reputable ones hold your hand and walk you through the whole process. (Is this any better than using a print broker? I doubt it.) For an old pro like you, you'd be wasting your time and money.

Marketing is the biggie; few people have the time and skill to market themselves successfully, and sometimes it pays to hire a pro for this kind of effort. Whether this particular company's marketing is of any use is easy to find out: look for their name on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc., and call your local superbookstore. (If they don't produce books under their own imprint, ask them for a few of their recent titles.)

If you don't find them in these resources, their marketing ain't worth the electrons its printed on. On the other hand, if they're present at all of these places and the customer reviews are great, there's a case to be made that they know marketing.

<<My first question, for those of you who have gone the self-publishing route, is whether it makes sense to use such a service at all, rather than just finding a print-on-demand vendor and handle the rest of it myself.>>

Haven't done this myself, but I'm experienced enough to do most of the work myself apart from the actual printing. Even the marketing I could probably fake at this point.

<<My second question is whether you can recommend such a printer (in Southern California, if location matters).>>

Best bet is to talk to a print broker; they can help you find someone local. Location does indeed matter because it's immensely helpful to be able to talk directly to the printer, hold physical samples in your hands, confirm software settings, etc. You can certainly do this by e-mail, telephone, and courier, but it's far less convenient. Plus, you can march into a local printer's office with matched swords and demand satisfaction if they screw you over. <g>

<<My third question, if working through a vanity publisher really does make some sense, is whether you have any experience with or have any knowledge of Trafford (; and might there be complications dealing with a Canadian company?>>

Don't know them, but there are significant complications. First, you can get hammered by the exchange rate; my purchasing power has fallen by more than 15% over the past couple years because most of my clients pay in Ameribucks, and the Canadian dollar has been appreciating steadily. Second, dealing with Customs can be a hassle beyond belief; even when it works relatively painlessly, it still adds time and complication to the process.

None of this is to say that you shouldn't work with them if all the other factors look good. I've worked with many high-quality Canadian printers over the years, and the exchange rate is still working in your favor. Price out their offer and see if it makes economic sense!

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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Question on on-demand publishing: From: Dick Margulis

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