Monday, September 1, 2008

Hard one going up --

Cheeky. Some people have one-track minds. If I can bring you back from the boudoir for a moment ... the hard one I'm talking about it a BOOK. Yes. A hardCOVER. Uh huh. Specifically, the long-awaited hardcover version of DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT:

For months, we've wanted to get our teeth into the hardcover releases of at least some of the big, exotic titles. NOCTURNE is next; we did FORTUNES OF WAR, THE DECEIVERS and THE SWORDSMAN about six months ago, and DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT had to be next. To begin with, it's the biggest book we've done yet (and far bigger than anything GMP ever produced, since they had a length/size constraint which tended to make life interesting for writers).

This one is 459pp, and the type, though not ultra-compressed, is certainly not large, nor is it punctuated by the kind of whitespace that can take a small(ish) novel and pad it out to look like SHOGUN.

I'm quite excited by the prospect of the hardcovers coming along. For myself, I love a hardcover, especially for the fantasy and historical novels. So -- if you've been waiting more or less patiently for us to get to this project: done.

In fact, I'll save you a trip to the website, and give you the link straight through to the book's own page at my Lulu store:

Dangerous Moonlight at Lulu.


Take a look at how the storefront itsellf has grown...

I've been asked a couple of times, how Lulu works. Is it something I recommend? The answer is (as usual) yes ... and know. depends what you want to use it for. Depends who you are, and what you need. Depends how far you want to go along this road. So, here goes:

Indie Publishing 101 is an umbrella service for digital print shops right across the world. They have digital partners in the US and Canada, the UK and EU, and even Australia, since a few months ago. But (and here's the humongous "but") that's exactly what they all, and ALL that they are. They take the orders, handle the money, bump the printing job on to the nearest location to your customer, which ships the product, and head office sends through whatever profit margin you've set for yourself, after a couple of months (which allows time for manufacture, delivery, and the customer to be happy).

Just what the printing robots are manufacturing is entirely up to you. Which means, if your work is tip-top, so will the result be. But if you needed an editor, or a professional cover artist, the finished product will reflect these things. No human eyes, at Lulu or their digital partners, will see your work. It's sight-unseen, between the computer from which you uploaded the files for the interior and the cover, and the customer who unwraps the delivered parcel. So you'd better be pretty darned sure of what you're doing before you cast these pearls out there on the tides: you're working without a net now.

There are services galore, springing up all over the web, which will "publish your book" for you, and for a price they'll also do your editing and get you a cover. My advice? For godsakes ask how much they intend to charge (per hour, per edit, whatever) before you get into this ... and set a max limit. A ceiling beyond which you will not pay. A very new and somewhat raw writer could end up spending thousands to get a decent edit, and even more to get a cover. The end product is still "only" a print-on-demand book. Meaning, someone orders one, and a digital workshop somewhere in the world prints one.

So far, you might say it all sounds great: you put your money down, someone else gets the editing and cover into shape for you, and then you start selling.

Theoretically, this is absolutely right. In practise, finding customers can be a tad bit harder than you imagine -- especially since the price of POD books is high. Many readers (myself among them) are still in the habit of thinking of a novel as being a $5 or $10 item, even though they've been $22-$32, new, and $6-$10 remaindered or used, for better than a decade, at least in Australia. I'm not sure what books are costing in the US now. Anyone??? The bottom line is, customers who would happily pay $10 for a book might think twice before paying $20.

POD books are a bit expensive, which is the trade-off for printing them one and a time. This might make *not* the right service for you. If you want to get copies into the hands of a distributor, for instance, for bookstore release, you might need to look elsewhere. You could be printing as many as a couple of thousand; and since you're prepared to put down your credit card for something in the region of ten grand, you can afford to look at companies offering bigger printruns at lower cost-per-copy prices.

All I can advise here is: shop around, and get the best deal for the best quality that's available in a location CLOSE to the distributor. One of the biggest hidden costs involved in your project is transportation of the product from the printer to the distributor. Thereafter, it's his problem. The second biggest money-pit is the returns, and you'll need to thrash that one out with your distributor.

If you plan on selling via the web, you can keep printruns and expenses down, but you have a lot of work ahead of you: marketing. This also incurs costs (though nothing like the price of bulk printing for the physical distribution trade), and these costs need to be estimated and figured into the profit margin you allow yourself when you set your prices at (or the POD outfit of your choosing). You'll be looking at websites, and e-commerce, and advertising.

A quick web search on POD printing or POD publishing will turn up loads of links and leads. Be careful. Be cautious. Beware. That said, have fun -- because it's a load of fun, and if you do it right you can can be extremely successful.

Hope this helps!


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