Monthly Archives: March 2008

Publishing Update

TechCrunch reports Amazon announced this week that they will only sell print-on-demand books from their BookSurge service.  Prior to this point, anyone who paid to register an ISBN with their publishing project would have access to bookstores like Barnes & Nobles, Borders and even Amazon.

While this will impact the reach of retail publications, I doubt it will affect the specialty markets such as associations.  Amazon’s BookSurge service is more expensive than others with fewer size and binding options so it has limited reach.  Once a “self-publisher” pays to register an ISBN for their publication, it will be listed in Books in Print for all to see.  Yes, there is still significant marketing required to generate sales – no matter who prints the book.

I hope that Amazon will see the downside of this decision and quickly return to the open system that has made them so popular.

UPDATE: The Amazon announcement was more detailed than originally reported.  To paraphrase these details, Amazon wants to be able to print the books sold through Amazon so they have control over delivery.  This does not mean that other POD companies have to print the copies sold at their sites through Amazon.  Amazon has a service – Amazon Prime – where customers pay an annual fee for unlimited shipping on all orders.  Apparently concerns about rising costs on this service was one of the reasons for this announcement.  Several competitors are still skeptical of Amazon’s motives.

Publishing Made Profitable

Many historical and genealogical societies publish newsletters. How much does it cost you to have your newsletter printed, collated, folded and stapled? Do you just order enough to distribute to your membership or do you order extras so you can sell back issues? If not, why not? Have you ever wondered if there’s a better way?

Today societies can take advantage of online publishing-on-demand services like Lulu to provide cost-effective publications AND the ability to provide back issues for sale without the hassle of storing and managing those sales.  Interested?  Here’s how it works.

The first step is to set up a free account at Lulu.  This gives you an online workspace within Lulu to manage your publishing projects – and access to all their publishing help and services.  Spend some time getting familiar with the platform and take advantage of all the helpful information on creating and formatting your project.  This will help you choose the size and binding option appropriate for your publication.

Now it’s time to create your newsletter.  You can choose the word processing application of your choice or a desktop publishing application if you want a more sophisticated layout.  Creating a template with the basic design standards – margins, fonts, styles, etc. – makes it easy to maintain  a consistent look across multiple issues.  Collect your articles, photos, news items and graphics then build your actual newsletter document. Once it’s passed all your review and editing processes, convert it to PDF [Portable Document Format] and you’re ready to upload it to your projects page at Lulu.

Lulu converts it into a print-ready file and you determine how you want to market it.  Depending on the size, binding option, number of pages and whether your printing in color or black and white, Lulu will provide you with the “cost” price for your publication.  This price includes printing, binding and managing all sales, shipping and customer service functions.  You choose how much markup to add to that price – of which Lulu will take a small percentage of those profits – and make the the publication available in your Lulu store.  You are responsible for promoting your publication, but Lulu will take care of the rest:

  1. You send customers to your Lulu bookstore.
  2. They browse your publications and select the ones they want.
  3. Lulu manages the shopping and checkout process: taking the order, processing the payment and notifying the customer of their order status.
  4. Lulu prints and ships the order to the customer.
  5. If there are problems, returns or other issues, Lulu handles them.
  6. You start receiving royalty checks for your profits.

Lulu also provides their publishers with a quantity discount for situations – like newsletters – where you want to distribute them yourself.  I can’t say this will be cheaper than your current solution, but it is worth taking a look.

Not sure if this is a solution for your newsletters?  You might start with a small project to see what Lulu can do.  If you get regular requests for previous issues, you might consider using Lulu to generate some revenue from your old newsletters.  It will only cost you some time and effort to scan and upload them to your Lulu workspace – even less if you still have the electronic versions.  Spend a little more time on the description of each issue’s contents so the search engines can zero in on surnames, events and places and your newsletter now has global reach.

Will your organization get rich off this project?  Probably not, but considering the limited amount of cost and effort involved, why wouldn’t you try it and see what happens?  With some additional marketing on your part, who knows what could happen!

The most difficult and time-consuming step in publishing is content creation and layout.  This isn’t going to change.  If you are putting all that effort into creating a serious publication, why not give it more than just one run.  Taking advantage of Lulu or other services like it will allow your association to build an archive of information that will grow in value as it grows in size.
Lulu isn’t the only publishing-on-demand service.  A list of other services can be found at the end of this post.  If you know of or have experience with other publishing services, we’d like to know about it.  Please leave a comment describing this service.

Publishing-on-demand services: