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More chattering on about that Kakuro book - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
January 27th, 2008
08:10 pm


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More chattering on about that Kakuro book

Sometime over a week ago, my ISBN application for the Kakuro book was approved. At that point, I was a "publisher", I guess - even though there was no copy of my book with the ISBN printed in or on it.

I modified the copyright page to contain the ISBN, resubmitted the document, and ordered yet another copy of the book.

Just yesterday, I got this latest copy. Looks good - there's a barcode on the back of it, the copyright page looks good to me, which means I get to formally approve this edition for publication. Seems momentous, like sending in the essays for a college application.

So. Now that I've approved my book for publishing, Lulu.com sends the information to "Bowker's Books in Print". There's an approval process there that takes 2-3 weeks. (Because of backlog?) And then, if it gets approved there, I wait an additional couple of weeks for monthly publications of book lists to go out, (we're talking six to eight weeks from now) and the major players (your Amazons, Barneses, and Nobles, as well as anybody else that's still selling books. Borderses, I guess. Are B. Daltons still around? They got bought up, didn't they? Waldenbooks? Anyone?) will decide to carry the book. My understanding is that online retailers will list the vast majority of books, so at some point in March or maybe April, I hope to have a followup post with a link to Amazon and maybe a few others.

A couple things, though:

  • six to eight weeks - really? Does Pa have to carry the book in to town on the back of an oxcart? I know that there are some processes in our modern world that aren't as modern as others. And I can understand that certain publications are monthly when it would be more convenient for my life if the publications were some sort of internet-push blah blah... ok, I'd be satisfied with a few days for my book to go from being "published" to being "in print".
  • retail price - up until now, there have been relatively few stages in the publishing pipeline. I created the document, I uploaded it to Lulu.com, they sell it. Lulu.com gets a cut, I get a cut. The paper and ink gets paid for. The website stays up. I appreciate that there are costs. I'm not making a lot of money on this book. If two million of your friends bought this book, I'd retire. But so far, I've been able to buy a lunch and a dinner with the money that I've made.

    With the new retail edition of the book, there's a retail price associated with it, too. And that price has to cover the retailers' profits, and some amount of shipping, I guess, to actually get the book from Lulu.com to the retailers. So, what I'm saying is that this brand new edition is a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. The non-ISBN version was priced at $10 - the new version is $16.99, and that's with a similar profit for me. I played around with the pricing some, but for a 200 page black and white book, even if I adjusted my profit to $0, I couldn't get the retail price of the book below $15, much less match my old $10 price point. That saddens me some, and I'm a little anxious that a $16.99 retail price is just way too high. Granted, most of the retailers will sell it at a discount off the suggested retail price, so it's not as bad as all that, but I don't see the retailers selling the book for less than Lulu did, unless they start selling large quantities of it, and Lulu cuts them a break on the printing.

    If you like the $10 price point, you're in luck - the spiral bound version of the book will continue to be available through Lulu at that price. The ISBN only covers the perfect bound edition. The perfect bound edition (with ISBN) will also be available through Lulu, but I fully expect it to drop from "almost zero" sales to "exactly zero" sales.

I kinda thought I would have time and energy to work on my Word Sudoku book today. Turns out, no. Maybe in the upcoming week.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:January 28th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
Most puzzle books seem to be cheaper than that -- is there a chance a bigger publishing company could buy the rights and put you on the newsstands?
[User Picture]
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Most puzzle books seem to be cheaper than that

True, Dell Pencil Puzzles and the like put 100 puzzles into a volume for $5.

is there a chance a bigger publishing company could buy the rights and put you on the newsstands?

Well, it's possible, I suppose, but in order to get down to sub-$10 prices, I'd expect the quality of the paper to go down (newsprint, versus sixty pound white paper).

I'm not really interested in selling the rights to the "Crazy Clever Puzzles" brand, as I intend to continue making new books with that name for a bit still.

But if somebody wanted to buy the puzzles (and more besides), I wouldn't turn away money.
[User Picture]
Date:January 28th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
I'm curious about the business processes involved.

What I'm assuming is that with the $10, POD version, readers pay less but then have to wait weeks after placing an order for the thing to be printed and mailed. Whereas with the Amazon version, Amazon is actually buying and stocking multiple copies so that if readers order them, they'll be available. Is this right?

It seems to me a third alternative would be for you to self-publish, plunking down enough to get X copies made and to have a substantial stock of them on hand. Then you could sell them for whatever profit margin you please while still keeping the asking price low, and readers could get them with far less delay than the POD model, although (the obvious downside) you would be responsible for fulfillment issues and a certain initial investment.
[User Picture]
Date:January 28th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
That's sort of right, yeah.

The new "retail" version is still print on demand. Without an ISBN, Amazon wouldn't carry the book at all. With the ISBN, Amazon has three options:

  1. not listing the book
  2. listing the book, but keeping no copies in stock, ordering copies from Lulu as orders come in to them.
  3. prepurchasing copies, selling them from their warehouses' inventories.

#1 doesn't help me at all, but that's an option open to Amazon (and all other retailers). #2 benefits me a little bit - more convenient ordering and distribution. #3 would benefit me the most. I can't at this point be certain which way Amazon (or any other retailer) will go. I suspect that the big online houses will go with #2, maybe #3. The bricks and mortar Borders and Barnes and Nobles will probably not have any on the physical shelves, but will offer to special order the book.

With going strictly through Lulu, users typically have to wait about one week in my experience, which isn't quite as bad as you describe.

I agree with your description, but I'd characterize that as getting into the distribution business, and I don't see that as an enjoyable investment of my time. I'd much rather have Lulu and/or Amazon deal with inventory, taking money, and shipping. The delay would probably be something like three days versus the seven that I've seen through Lulu. That's significant for me, but I think I'm crazy in that regard.
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