Fall Newsletter 1995PART - ONE
The first thing I need to say is that it's been a long time since I've done a newsletter. Most of you were charter members in those days, so it's likely that you'll remember I am the person that designed and implemented the general catalog of member products that is sent out to our forever expanding list of retail booksellers and chains. You'll also remember that my grammar is not always perfect but my information and candor from over four decades in this business make up for it.
Back in 1988 I was only doing how-to articles for trade magazines . I've graduated since then, and have many books and awards to add to my list of credits. I am also a computer programmer, cover artist, and I am myself a small press publisher.
The biggest problem we all faced in 1988 was being discussed a great deal in the newsletters. That problem was the rapidly rising cost of paper and printing supplies causing our books to be so expensive from only being able to print short runs. Printing costs had tripled in two or three years time. Sadly, that problem has not gone away. The good news is that we are all older and wiser now and have learned to adapt to a high tech world. That makes it still possible to print and market a book competitively by working together and sharing information. When I first gave you information on Bookcrafters for example, they only had one manufacturing plant in Michigan. Now they have another in Virginia and a number of smaller offices across the country. In the beginning they could manufacture a 300-page book for us in hard cover with a three or four color dust jacket for $1.80. Now it's $4.00 to $5.00. Another thing that has not changed over the years is the high cost of advertising space. I'm going to address that subject in every issue of the newsletter by finding you the best information I can to help get the best return for every dollar spent in advertising.
Some of you know I go to the ABA, (American Booksellers Association) convention every year. I usually come back with an entirely new list of booksellers, favorable to buying from small presses. I'll make those lists available to you for only the cost of computer disks and postage etc. I don't know why any of you wouldn't be able to use a computer disk in today's fast paced world, but I'll also try to make the lists available in printed form. It will be more costly because of the price of paper and postage.
One last thing in this editorial will be to tell you I'm going to introduce a BBS or website to make it much easier for the retailer to order our products by E-Mail, ISBN, category, title, author, and publisher. I will keep you updated as we go along.
I know many of you have been in this business just as long as I have and are not going to need some of the information in the newsletters. Even so, I would like you to remember this. I'm not taking on a position of superior expertise. I see myself as a gatherer of quality material many of us could have used a time or two when we started out. You can look upon me as a filing clerk. I gather, sort, contact and distribute much needed information and contacts for the new small press publishers.
That's it for now.
In 1994 we began a difficult period for some of the small press operators that concentrate on only fiction marketing. Even the large conglomerates are feeling this pinch. Hope Dellon a senior editor with St. Martin's Press says it's harder and harder to get a feeling of doing a proper job for a piece in the severely depressed, current fiction market. Just in case some of you have forgotten it, St. Martin's Press was considered a small press publisher only a few short years ago. That's what dedication, attention to details, service and top quality management does for you in today's world. Since the fiction market is in truth that depressed right now the main stream publishers are only taking very few select manuscripts by well known authors with exceptional track records. This is really not news to us. We've seen more and more of the big guns in publishing swinging over more and more of their available dollars into the nonfiction and how-to markets.
With the high cost to the consumer for a book in today's world it's only natural for a person to choose a title with the potential to teach them something new, or tell them how to make an extra dollar. The television or a rental movie is a lot cheaper than buying a book for satisfying their recreational needs.
There are only a few answers available to address this change in reading the habits of the consumer. I think personally the number one change needs to be less expensive products, better planning and new marketing procedures. In today's economy there is no such thing as an extra few dollars to spend. If someone wants to buy a book at twenty dollars they are making a conscious choice between that book and something else. Take my word for it, that's the way people buy books today. Finding ways to produce quality products cheaper is not as easy as it sounds, I know, but there are a few ways to lower your prices to become competitive. The first thing I would suggest is better planning up front before the book is manufactured. Cut back on page count and use heavier paper like 60 or 70 pound smooth. Design better, more attractive dust covers to help the retailer sell the book. Do your own editing, formatting, and typesetting. Print a larger run at a time to lower the required price of your book. If you only have enough cash on hand to do a couple thousand books at six dollars, go out and borrow a thousand or two more for a press run of five thousand to lower your cost to $2.50 a book. Then you'll have the savings to pay your investor back with. Take a pencil and figure out the numbers on this and you'll find you got a couple thousand books more for free after paying the funds back. If you didn't have to spend it to start with, you have in reality made that much more per book. The second thing I suggest is offsetting your book printing cost by putting the same product out as an electronic book for the millions of computer owners. You will be adding a brand new market to your company that can defray your printing cost and gain you as much as 30 percent more in sales of the same product for only a dollar or so a copy in cost to you, including packaging. I'll go into more exact details on how to do this later in this same issue.
The next thing I want to address is the change in the format of your newsletter. It will make it much easier for you to find that publisher profile or mailing list at the end of each issue you might be looking for.
There is also a new column titled "Marketing Tools." In it you will find information, products and addresses to market your products over the wide world of the internet, electronic services and other various kinds of direct media.
The address you've been using for the association during the time Kenny Chavis was president is his own office address in North Carolina. If you have sent something to him lately, it will still get to me, but it will be much faster to use mine for the next three years.
I also make extensive use of the answering machine in my private office to deal with my having a hard time hearing on the telephone these days. I sometimes have to listen to a message four or five times to be sure I have all of the numbers and so forth right. Don't let this alarm you. I will respond to every call with the requested information or have someone else return your call.
I have also changed the address in the Spring and Summer newsletters to the KEDCO STUDIOS one. I did it to reprint them from the older style newspaper format to the new smaller slick paper format. This way we'll be able to include them in the final hard cover edition of the quarterly for this presidency.
I would like to include a new publisher profile in every issue of the newsletter. I think it would be very helpful to some new members to read about some of the difficult times others have had trying to get started in this business. If some of you are so inclined, and want to write a short four or five page article and give yourself a little free advertising space about setbacks you've encountered in one of your projects and how you over came them it would be sincerely appreciated by all of us. You never know, your experience just might keep someone else from getting discouraged and giving up. Don't forget to include a short BIO to go with the article. Each new issue of the newsletter will feature a full color new book cover on the front and the back page will show the back of the same book. It will be helpful for new members to see how some of us work with covers and give them new ideas to work with on layout and composition. If you want to send me one of your best and most unusual new flat covers I'll try to fit them in as we go along. In the meanwhile I'll have to use some of my own. You're all free to use these designs and formatting styles in your own projects. There's one more thing to mention. We don't all only publish books in this association. Some publish baseball cards, posters , fine art prints, magazines and so on. If any of you have new marketing information to help them sell these products we would like to hear about it.
Most of you are well aware of the fact that we are in a new and exciting age of electronic advertising. What with the many electronic bulletin board systems available for selling our products and the world wide web of the Internet so easy to access, there is a need for special information and instructions. I'll do my best to provide that as we go along. I'm more able than most to provide you with these special programs because of my outrageous sources of the finest, easy to use, available software for the PC, Mac and Amiga that will do just exactly what you want with no frills, also without costing five or six hundred dollars. If you have to design a product and you can't quite put it together without helpful information, let me know. That's going to be my job for the next three years, helping all of you become more successful.
So! With that in mind let's get on with it.
Since there are so many references to electronically published products in this issue I've decided to continue on with it in this column.
I'm a firm believer in the simple is better philosophy. I'll begin by saying I use many, many, authoring programs in my work. If I have a need to do a super complicated, spectacular corporate presentation, or anything on that order with hypertex t or animation's and real time movies I'll of course use my "Authorware" program. Don't run right out and by this one unless you are absolutely sure you need it. I only need it for one out of a hundred products I may design. The rest of the time I'll use some of the programs Chris Wright of PC Choice Books speaks of all the time to piece my presentation together or my most favorite, simple, easy to learn and use program called "Writers Dream 5.0" by Jeff Napier. I use it to create bonus books or free, give away cookbooks when retailers order other, more expensive titles in quantity.
Writers Dream is an interface that allows you to put almost any type of material you can throw together into a good looking book or catalog form that can be used on any IBM compatible computer. This program is also one of the most inexpensive authoring tools on the market today. In my opinion, the book reader of today is not interested in you teaching them a new way to read. They already know how to read. If you clutter up an electronic publication with instructions on how to jump back and forth all over the place you are going to confuse some people who only want to open a book and read it straight through to escape the pressures of today just like they've always done.
By all means do the fancy material for those that want it but at the same time do the simple easy to use linear book readable product for the rest.
You can write to Jeff, (his address is in the usual list of contacts at the end of the newsletter) and ask for his shareware version or one of the shareware sites on the web to try out first. After you try it and see how easy it is to build an electronic book or corporate training manual, it can be registered for only $29.00.
I'll describe the program a little to help you understand how it can be used in building a product. You can place five lines of copy in the title box. Let's say the title of a book, the author's name and the ISBN & copyright notice, etc. Then you can include as many as 100 chapters of any kind down the center of the screen in any choice of color combinations you want. This includes photographs or secondary programs you might wish your customer to use to go to another catalog. There is no learning curve to this program. You put the disk in your machine, read or print the instructions and an hour later build your new product. I even go a little better by using another of Jeff's programs called "Textbox" You can register to use this one in your products for $7.00. With it I can add a screen or two about my company or instructions the book needs, how to print a recipe in a cookbook for example, in front, before the book itself starts. On the other end, when the customer finishes the book, I can add a page or two for ordering more of my products before the program ends. This program has everything you need for a quality presentation of your electronic book. Even the help screens can have your own company name, telephone or fax number listed instead of Another Company's copyright not ice. Try it out. If you can't find it send Jeff a couple of dollar bills for the cost of the disk and postage. He'll be more than happy to send you a copy of Writers Dream and Textbox. Then if you like it and it does what I say, register it to be able to use it in all of your electronic projects. Be sure to tell these people what size computer disk you need when you write. Since I'm on the subject of sending for things you can also send a couple of dollars to Chris Wright at PC Choice Books for a sample of the Hypertext form he talks about all the time, with photos' and music, etc.
This column is not designed to be advertising for these products but rather a source of quality authoring tools to help you offset paper book printing costs with electronic books. I've been aquatinted with Jeff and Chris both for a few years because of our involvement with being members of the Digital Publishing Association and subscribers to John Galuszka's Electronic Publishing Forum out of Big Bear. Jeff Napier has many other programs on computer programing and a program called "Picture Menu" that you'll receive information about with your sample of "Writers Dream."
I'm assuming of course that you already have the book or catalog chapters on your computer to start with so these interface programs can display the book properly for your customer when you transfer the book to a disk for packaging and shipping. If you don't, you'll have to type the manuscript from paper into the computer first in a straight ASCII format.
Now I want to deal with some attractive packaging and sources of the least expensive supplies to enable your shipping of the final product professionally. Almost everyone in the publishing business has access to a color printer, inkjet or laser either one. If you don't, you'll have to do a paste up of your cover on an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper designed to be folded in half. Design it just like you would your regular book. You can also use a flat copy of the printed cover you used on the paper version like I usually do if you want to. Either make fifty or so covers on your color copy machine, or take them to an Office Max or other office supply house and have them run some off for you.
You can look in the yellow pages of your telephone book for a list of plastics manufacturing companies. They will all have an inexpensive 6" by 9" plastic zip lock sleeve for your software. If you don't find any locally, you can send to "Rochester 100 Inc." for a price list and samples to order some from. Some even have color coding strips so you can color code your products. When you have the envelopes you can fold the covers in half and insert them in the envelope. Then drop in the disk you made along with a few flyers and a price list or order blank for your other fine products. Lastly you will want to make special labels to put on the back of the envelope telling people the size of the disk and machine requirements, if there are any. With "Writers Dream" there aren't any. Your product will work on any IBM compatible machine. That's all there is to it. You've made your masterpiece available to a whole new possible market of over one hundred million computer users at a cost to you of about a dollar each. One additional good side of marketing to this group is that you don't have to manufacture thousands at a time to get a better price on them. You just run them off as you get orders, or they are paid for by mail order checks coming to you. After discounting to retailers you can still see a nice profit on this type of product.
I haven't tried this next idea yet but I would think it possible to hire a temporary salesman from Manpower or someplace to go out on a commission basis. They could sell to the computer software store on almost every corner these days at perhaps a 30 or 40 percent discount. The software store could just hang your products on a pegboard by the door or on a magazine rack for added income. You would only have to pay the salesman commission the first time. Once you have the account, anyone can service it regularly. Try it.
Here are my thoughts on this. You have a nineteen-fifty or twenty dollar book that you have 14 or 15 thousand dollars tied up in that is moving slowly. You turn it into an electronic book using Jeff's program that will make the end product into an EXE. self running program that others can't take apart to remove your advertising and copyright notices from it for a total investment of perhaps fifty dollars and sell it for nine ninety-five a copy. You only produce them as you need to fill orders. You could see another thing begin to happen from this. The computer person buys and reads your masterpiece and decides to give a copy or two of the real paper printed book to some of his friends who don't use computers for Christmas or something.
Here is one more short idea for you on this subject. Don't forget the possibility of advertising these types of material in one of the dozens of computer magazines. Go to a newsstand and pick up a few. Call or write for ad sheets. Write your copy in an inexpensive classified ad. Do not use display advertising for this kind of marketing. IT DOES NOT WORK. You can also use the classified advertising section of the super market check out papers like the Globe or Star. These publications DO pull orders for you. Drop us a line and tell us how you made out.
The last thing I want to get into in this issue is shipping. If any of you are living in states west of the Mississippi you can get heavy material like books shipped to and from any State back East for half of what you're paying now. Let me give you an example. Let's say you are having books manufactured by Bookcrafters Inc. If the work is done at the Virginia plant you can use California Western Freight instead of the carrier they normally use to ship these heavy items to you anywhere on the West Coast. If you want more information call them for information. They will send you a packet of information on the company. All you need is the total weight of the shipment. That's available from the printer, and call Margaret Clifton at 916 673-5747 or FAX at 916 755-3814.
Rochester 100 Inc.
40 Jefferson Rd.
Rochester NY 14623
Or P.O.Box 92801
Rochester NY 14692
California Western Freight
241 Frontage Rd. STE. 36
Burr Ridge IL 60521
DBA Another Company
Ashland OR 97520
BOOK CLUB LIST ASI Book Club 63 West 38th Street #505 New York NY 10018 Henry Weingarter B H & G Book Clubs 750 Third Ave. New York NY 10017 Pat Connolly Book Of The Month Club 485 Lexington Ave New York NY 10017 Gloria Norris Erotic Art Book Club 251 West 57th Street New York NY 10019 Ralph Ginzburg
I talked with Elaine May over at AP DISTRIBUTING the other day. They are a small press distributor here in Las Vegas. I found out she does something on a regular basis that many of us should probably be doing, but never think of. When she sends a flyer or sample book to retail chain store buyers, she simply asks for help or information to enable her sell to the chain. She let me see some of the letters she has received in return. I was surprised. None were standard rejections of a line or two and a sorry at the bottom.
The one from Walden Books in Samford was interesting for me. She said the Walden chain looks at the presentation of a book more than the contents of it. She explained in the letter that as a small press buyer she's required to look at many things like, the print run of a title, (To make sure you can honor a contract for a thousand books or more at a time.) Then the flyers or book itself, this includes the trimmed size, cover art, eye appeal and reviews or other back cover material to entice a customer to buy the book. Then she looks at the way it's packaged and lastly the offer from the publisher that should spell out details on everything from discounts, return policies, restocking fees, and shipping, up to a short biography of the author, if there's not one on the book. If you'll notice there is nothing at all about looking for, or at price. I assume if the product is accepted and priced competitively with others in its class or size it will be purchased. The address for the Waldenbboks small press buyer is in this issue in case any of you want to try and put an attractive and professional package together. Just remember, take your time and do it the best way you possibly can. Concentrate on the look of each and every piece of art and the impact of all the wording in your copy. Lastly make sure your presentation is complete. If something is missing, you won't get another chance.
I've got a letter from syndicated food columnist Ruby Williams telling me about some problems she has had with distributors. I think Pipeline Distributing was one. What she said was happening was this. They had ordered 50 copies of each volume of her award winning set of adventure like cookbooks. Since she was in a hurry to get something going with the books they were sent by first class shipping at a dear cost to her. That wasn't a problem because she just wanted to ship them that way. The real problem was the way the books were handled after paying so much to ship them. Pipeline immediately sent back 31 of volume one, 34 of volume two, and 48 of volume three as damaged or shopworn material and asked to have then replaced. So far she paid shipping three times and had a stock of terrible looking, cover scraped books. The next time she heard from the distributor was at the end of month billing saying they sold 17.00 worth of books and would wait until the amount was more substantial before sending a check. Here's the end of this. They kept the title listed three months and sent the books back because of slow orders, again at her expense. Then a month later they requested she send them a check for seventeen dollars for a refund to the bookstore whose copies were now shop worn from people leafing through them in the store.
Here's my opinion of this. Cookbooks and Westerns are without a doubt the hardest item on this planet for a distributor to handle. The only way to sell them is usually direct to followers of the various newspapers the author writes for, or women's clubs, book clubs and groups as a fund raiser, etc. Most of the time you can build up the author easier than the book itself to sell them. Here's what I mean. Many people around the country picture me as a mad scientist of some kind that probably lives in a cave up in the Laurel Canyon of Los Angeles eating roots, berries and beatles, doing scientific research. At the same time the publisher's forwards and reviews lead one to think I've got the answers to all of mans ills because of being enlightened after being struck by lightning or something. Because of this practice by editors using dramatic and sometimes misleading copy on the back covers to sell books, anyone who has read one of my books will more than likely buy the next one or the one before and not pay any , or at least much attention to the title or subject matter.