Clenise and I have been very busy all through our project to publish the book about the Leica D-Lux 4 camera. Keeping enough paper, toner, printer components and other supplies at hand and keeping the printers going with good copies of the book have been challenges all along. Filling the orders from individuals and the few larger orders from Amazon.com presented other hurdles to get over.
But today we were presented with a new order from Amazon that has clearly put us on the brink of a fairly major decision. This morning I received an e-mail from Amazon Advantage with an order for 265 more books. That’s in addition to the 32 I just shipped to them today, and the 32 that we shipped a week or so ago. As with other orders, 265 doesn’t sound at first blush like a large number. But to small publishers like us, it is really huge, since we have to create each book from scratch in our home office. We have to get the paper, the toner, get the printer to cooperate, then cut the printed pages in half to book-sized pages, bind the books, trim them, shrink-wrap them, and ship them. I figure that printing 265 books would take roughly 32 reams of printer paper, and would take about eight heavy cartons to ship them in.
So now we have to decide whether to accept this order and start printing all day, every day. We would need a new blade for the cutter, new drum units for the printers, and a host of other supplies. We don’t make any money on books sold to Amazon at their standard heavy discount. But it is good to see the book in stock and available there; it gives it exposure and credibility, I think, and the chance for more reviews by readers.
On the other hand, I never envisioned the book selling this many copies this quickly, and we aren’t really set up to print and ship in that sort of volume.
So, what do we do now? I haven’t received many comments on this blog, but if anyone has any realistic ideas, I would love to hear from you. If you don’t want to comment publicly, you can reach me through the web site at www. alexwhite.wpengine.com.
Here are some of my thoughts and questions:
1. What would be the implications if we decline to fill the latest Amazon Advantage order, or fill it only partly? Would that have any negative consequences, or would Amazon just then order some more books later on and see if we can fill a later order? The book would not get listed as “in stock” at Amazon, presumably, unless we can completely fill the order. But is that a bad thing?
2. What are the best other options? Should we try to find a short-run printer who can print this book with its color photos through conventional printing in a lot of 500 or 1,000, to take the pressure off of our self-printing operation?
3. Is there an established publisher somewhere that would be interested in working with us or taking over the book? A little while ago on Amazon its sales rank was 1,194, though that may just be a temporary spurt because of some publicity or other factor I’m not aware of.
4. Any other ideas that could keep the book selling without our being swamped in actual toner and figurative red ink would be welcomed.