Press For Change

Starting a publishing company is complicated. And slow. So we are starting a blog to keep our authors, our customers, our suppliers and the whole wide world appraised of what is happening.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Off to printer

It has been a little while since I posted here. The book has finally gone off to the printer in fits and starts what with the vagaries of ftp and all. It will be about four weeks before I get it back and in the meantime I have to pay for the printing - the single biggest expense in the whole business (if you don't count my time).

In discussions with other people about printing there are a lot of production cost factors they are neglecting to consider. Printing is bad enough but there is also shipping the finished book to wherever it is going - about one fifth the cost of printing but still a significant expense.

Then there is cost-of-sales. That means all the PR, marketing, etc. as well as fees and merchant account setups and distribution costs and so on. The two groups of people who make the least out of a book publishing project are the two with the most at stake: the publisher and the author. It is only fair that the publisher gets a bit more of the tiny piece of the pie that is left to them. The publisher actually pays for everything up front and takes on the burden of failure if the book fails to sell. The author of course, also doesn't get paid in that scenario, but with or without the publisher, they are in that position. On the other hand, most authors also don't really get fairly compensated. The ones who get the most for doing the least as far as I can tell are the distributors and booksellers. Not that they do nothing - their work is important too - but they get to have their cake and eat it too in a sense since they get to send the book back if it doesn't sell, so they are just out a bit of work - and that bit of work is a lot less than the publisher and author put in.

Anyway - enough of that for now. Now comes the exciting part to see if all of the work has been worthwhile...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Third rev of cover, into full layout

Well, I now have a full set of printing bids. I have a third rev of the cover that is getting pretty close. A little more in the way of tweaks to the copy and I still need a final exact number for the spine width and for that I will need to finish layout to get the exact number of pages and then calculate it from the paper weight from the printer I choose.

The only other thing that would cause me to redo the cover at this point is if someone like Jamie Oliver or Alton Brown decided to do a nice quote about the book for the cover. Wishful thinking I'm afraid (which did NOT stop me from writing to them and asking, but no answer I'm afraid...)

I am very happy with the layout finally - it has been a very long time since I did layout for real (using Pagemaker aka Ragemaker at the time. But the skills came back and I managed to get everything to where I ma very happy with how it looks and reads.

I do have to get author approval for their little blurbs where I describe their sites. So that'll be heading out this week in emails.

I am also beginning to work on the website. So far all I have done is take the basic placeholder site and put it into clean CSS. Next I have to add newsletters and order forms and a lot more information and some nicer graphics and design.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Six months in

I am having so much fun and so much frustration starting this publishing company that I decided that I had to write a blog about the whole business of starting a small and different publishing company with almost no money and very little to offer the world (except hubris).

I have been quietly working away at this for over six months but it is only since October or so of 2004 that I have really been getting down to work.

For those who have no idea what this is all about, Press For Change Publishing LLC, is quietly starting up this month and hopes to have its first title printed by early February and officially launched in mid-April. Along the way we will talk about the process of publishing (which is very different than even five years ago) and the process of bookselling which is rapidly changing partly due to the change in publishing.

For example, we don't really intend to sell all that many books through major bookstores or even We hope to sell a few more than that through smaller independent bookstores, particularly those that have some kind of link with the titles and their authors. And we expect to make the majority of our sales directly. Before the Internet that would have been very unlikely if not impossible and even now most people instinctively feel that avoiding Border$ or Barne$ and Noble is a mistake. Far from it. In order to get a title into either of these places I have to go through a big distributor. They want a 55% discount off the list price of any title. Right off the top. Partly this is because booksellers expect a 40% discount off the top. That only leaves me 45% of the list price to pay the designers, printers, author royalties, marketing, general business expenses, etc. And for that they will give me a month to sell or return all the books.

You see, all books are sold to these bookstores on a sale-or-return basis. And they don't really care about the condition in which they return them. Typically returns have between 10% and 30% damaged copies. These conditions make it almost impossible for a startup publisher to succeed. Amazon isn't much better - you can list a book with them for the same 55% discount. But they at least wait to make the sale before getting you to ship it.

So, why am I getting into this? I will try to answer that next time...