Coming to a Major Decision Point

Writing the book about the D-Lux 4 was a challenge, but I have to say that the publishing, printing, and distribution have presented more challenges. Every day I learn something, though, which is great. This experiment has not been financially profitable as of yet, but I think the amount of knowledge Clenise and I have gained has made it all worthwhile.

Today I learned more about how Amazon Advantage works. I had read the help files Amazon has available, as well as the instructions it sends when it orders books through the Advantage program, but those files did not explain everything, and some of the instructions were inconsistent with each other, at least as I read them. Anyway, about a week ago they ordered 265 books from us, and we scrambled for a while trying to figure out whether we could produce that many books. I contacted a print-on-demand operation to check on the possibility of getting them to print the books, and considered other options as well. Eventually, Clenise and I decided we could not fill that full order, so I replied to the order by saying we will ship 32 books by December 7.

I wasn’t quite sure what would happen next, but I found out today. This morning Amazon again sent an order for more books — this time for 239 books. I then read some more help files, and I found a statement saying that, if we can’t fill the entire order, we should declare the title “suspended” because it’s temporarily unavailable. If we don’t do that, Amazon will continue to order books, because we have the title listed as “active.”

Okay, so now I think I understand better how Amazon Advantage works. Either we declare the title suspended, or we find a way to fill the complete orders for hundreds of books. We really can’t do the latter, at least under present conditions. So we need to find a new approach to distributing this book.

Basically, it does not seem to be economically feasible to produce a book like this one, with numerous color photographs on its interior pages, with a list price of $19.95. So something has to give — we need to either raise the price or convert the book to all black-and-white pages.

I don’t really like the idea of raising the price to $24.95, as someone suggested to us, and that wouldn’t solve the problem that well, because producing the book in color would still be expensive enough to cut the potential profit to a bare minimum.

That leaves converting the book to black-and-white pages. That really isn’t too much of a problem. I liked having the color pages, partly because they look nice, partly because it was interesting to see if color laser printers could produce adequate quality (they could, in my opinion, but not cost-effectively), and partly because I like to reproduce the pictures as the camera actually took them.

But, for the purpose of illustrating how the camera works, most of the functions don’t really need color illustrations. Some of the images are easier to see in detail with color, which gives more definition to the pictures, but I don’t think the reader will miss too much with black-and-white illustrations.

So, after discussing the options with Clenise today, I think it’s likely that we will switch gears and shut down our home-based printing operation within the next week or so. Instead of printing at home on color laser printers, I’m tentatively planning to look into getting the books printed in black-and-white by Lightning Source, the large print-on-demand company that is used by numerous publishers for books that don’t need to be printed in huge amounts. That way, we can have as many books printed as needed; they will be printed quickly; and they will automatically be available through the large distributors, including Baker & Taylor and Ingram, so, if Barnes & Noble or another retailer wants to order a book for a customer, they can do so (which they can’t as of now). Also, the books will be available to Amazon, but through the print-on-demand channel, and not through the Amazon Advantage program. I think this system will work better for us, and will take the pressure off us to produce dozens of books on short notice.

We will still keep printing for a week or two until we can get the new system started, assuming that’s the route we take. I plan to talk to a consultant about helping make this transition, which may require getting a new ISBN for the book, etc. Also, I will make a further effort to get the book formatted for Amazon’s Kindle and made available for sale for that electronic device.

On the individual ordering front, I still am receiving orders, though there has not been any new publicity lately, so there have been only about five or six orders per day. Today we had an order from Malaysia, our first order from that country.

I have to say that, although Clenise and I have both enjoyed the experience of printing and binding books, it was beginning to wear us out with the long hours and stress of dealing with printers that wouldn’t print, or printed badly, a cutter whose blade was wearing out, and other issues. We both can use some rest, which may be coming in the near future, if things work out along the new lines we envision.

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