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December 9, 2005

Found rant: in re PQN
Posted by Teresa at 06:13 PM * 61 comments

PQN, Print Quantity Needed, is being touted in some circles as the hot new thing in self-publishing. Others, notably our own Jim Macdonald, think it’s the same old thing:

More and more authors react to the letters “POD” the way Dracula reacts to the Cross, so the POD publishers needed a new TLA PDQ. “PQN” is it.

HapiSofi, whom I’ve excerpted here before, lit into the subject at Absolute Write:

“PQN” is a meaningless term. POD meant something specific: you could print books as needed without incurring additional setup costs. That was definitely something new under the sun. But PQN? Everybody “prints quantity needed.” They just use different methods to do it.

We “printed quantity needed” when we hand-fed single sheets onto a page of hand-set hand-inked type, then phoned out for stir-fried Anomalocaris with sesame noodles. We “printed quantity needed” when we bolted metal stereotypes onto press rollers, ran off pallets full of extra F&Gs, and had cold roast dinosaur on rye in our lunchboxes. And we “printed quantity needed” when digital typography was keystrokes saved to a punched paper tape then output to photographic paper, our repro was pasted down with hot wax on sheets of cardboard, and we went to the diner across the street for our crispy giant ground sloth nuggets with a side order of fries.

Comments on Found rant: in re PQN:
#1 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 06:38 PM:

You know what would be cool? If all the PublishAmerica types started talking about PQN, so the rest of us could get back to talking about POD as a printing technology and as a business model for book manufacturers, rather than as a pseudo-business-model for pseudo-publishers.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 06:39 PM:

We 'printed quantity needed' when we put together my eighth grade yearbook, with a silkscreened cover and mimeographed pages (200 copies, IIRC). And then we went out for deep-fried moa legs with pine-nuts.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2005, 06:56 PM:

Cold roast dinosaur on rye in our lunchboxes? Dinosaur... How long will it be before someone appends s*d*m* to that word in this thread?

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 05:58 AM:

Reading HapiSofi, it doesn't look all that special. As much as anything else, it sounds like an improved POD system, and a marketing department looking for a label that hasn't been debased by people such as Publish America.

#5 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 11:59 AM:

My favorite line on the site promoting PQN is "Tell a Friend or Colleague about FrugalMarketing.com!" That's frugality all right.

#6 ::: Sean Halsey ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 02:30 PM:

Cold roast dinosaur on rye in our lunchboxes? Dinosaur... How long will it be before someone appends s*d*m* to that word in this thread?

Cold roast sodomy? Hey, man, whatever.

#7 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 02:47 PM:

I'm noticing books coming in to the store from real-world, reputable publishers, in editions and covers that I recognize -- except that the image is a little pixelated, color and registration slightly off, cover stock too stiffly laminated, interior type broken and blurry. Yuck!

David reminds me that print-on-demand technology used by major houses means more titles can be "in print" (yay) but the rights don't ever revert back to the authors (boo).

All questions of content and commerce aside, I am offended by these objects because they are UGLY. They're like Velveeta instead of cheese.

#8 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 04:18 PM:

The font this page shows up for me being a small one, I first read the new phrase for POD as "Print Quality Needed."

Yes, I thought, it certainly is.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 04:36 PM:

At first, my wife was not too happy that the publisher of one of her novels didn't have to declare it out of print because of POD. The contract had no clause about it because it didn't seem like much of an issue. The lesson was learned. Still, that experience wasn't too bad for Sue: that book did well enough in POD that they re-released it as a 'real' book.

#10 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 09:48 PM:

"Print Quantity Needed" is about as useful and descriptive as when someone adds "going forward" to a plan description. What? Was it possible to do it backwards? Thousands of little children (and not a few adults) would very much like to "make it better before."

And I swear to all the little ghods, I was in a meeting where someone said "In the future, we're going to do this project going forward." Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em, all in one neat sentence.

"PQN"? Are we going to deliberately print not enough? (Hey, sorry, your book didn't make a profit because we didn't print enough.) Is this the alternative to what we've been saying? (What the f**k, print three times as many; the shredder hasn't been used recently, and the local landfill isn't anywhere near full yet.)

#11 ::: Sage ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 10:29 PM:

""PQN"? Are we going to deliberately print not enough?"

Reminds me of a quote a couple decades back from the head of Mercedes Benz, USA. To whit .... our objective is to import exactly one LESS car than the US market wants.

(keeps the premium price up, ya know)

#12 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2005, 10:55 PM:

Does it mean something that at first glance I thought the term was "Print Quality Needed?" There's concept I could get behind.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 08:03 AM:

PQN = Province of Quebec Native?

#14 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 12:06 PM:

Back in the late '90s, when I launched a small--er, tiny--publishing company, I briefly explored the feasibility of POD. The attractiveness, of course, was that inventory and its associated costs could be kept to a minimum. One downside was poor print quality (as Kate Yule noted upthread), especially with regard to halftones and color, as well as untested models for marketing and distribution. (An idea floated at that time was to have Kinko's download and print book files.) I also seem to recall that the resulting retail price per copy might've been significantly higher than when printed and bound through the usual mass-production methods. The (few) books I've published to date have incorporated high-quality images, so POD, for me, remains an opportunity unexplored.

Still, the idea of POD -- or, I suppose, PQN -- is attractive. There're certainly topics that have such a small or specialized market that even print quantities of a few thousand would be overkill. As a consumer, I'd rather see such books in print, even with poor graphics and font resolution. But as a consumer too I'd also like to have these titles go through the development- and copy-editing processes, which will mean the publisher interested in editorial quality still has to make an up-front monetary investment--and still has to risk loss of that investment. For this reason, the supply of titles printed through POD might become self-limiting, especially if book reviewers and distributors continue to ignore all but the better self-published titles.

But then again, I haven't followed the evolution of the POD / PQN debate over the last eight or so years, so maybe I'm way off-base here....

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 12:20 PM:

I didn't think that Wildside Press had books of poor print quality, although their cover illustrations leave a bit to be desired, but that's a separate issue. I heard that they have switched away from the whole POD thing, but even their first books were of a decent quality.

#16 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Serge, the examples of POD books that I saw back in '98 had poorly reproduced covers, but I also seem to recall that font resolution wasn't wholly up to snuff, either. (Although it looked relatively adequate to my untrained eye.) Perhaps things have improved since then.

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Self-publishing overlaps with POD, but it seems to me to be more about organising the business than organising the printing.

#18 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Madeleine -

Glad I wasn't the only one misreading. Though, on further thought, even Print Quality Needed is sorta assbackward. How 'bout "Quality Needed before Printing"? ("Quality Needed to Print"?)

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 09:57 AM:

1998, Richard? I bought those Wildside POD books some time after 2001. Maybe that's why my experience wasn't negative. Still, while I can say that cover reproductions were OK, I have to point out again that the art was... ah... less than impressive to start with.

#20 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 05:08 PM:

I have a couple of books published by Paul Dry, which I believe is POD. They're of good quality, although none had copious internal illustrations.

On the other hand, I also have one or two of the "Library of Liberal Arts" editions Prentice Hall puts out (used to put out?). They're everything you've cited upthread.

Maybe it varies by printing source?

#21 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 06:35 PM:

Here's an odd little note: I've been trying to find a decent POD printing company to print my portfolio (photographs with captions), but it's actually hard to find a POD printing company that is NOT pretending to be a publisher. (Lulu.com being the exception, but I wanted some kind of comparison.)

So here's this great technology for handling something like a portfolio, and I can't find anybody who will honestly admit that that is what they have to offer. It's remarkably frustrating.

Any recommendations are appreciated.

#22 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 07:05 PM:

With all due respect, this topic has been beaten to death..Everyone agrees that the folks at PublishAmerica, etc. are parasites and charlatans.

Nonetheless, you never seem to say anything good about self-publishing. While self-publishing for fiction is probably a bad idea, there are plenty of niche non-fiction topics where self-publishing is the norm. Many of these self-publishers use POD and other short-run printing technologies. So we can't necessarily say that POD = bad.

In regard to politics, this site always seems to opt for the anti-establishment position. Concerning publishing, though, you seem to suggest that *any* attempt to compete with big corporate publishing is necessarily contemptible. Some writers (especially niche non-fiction authors) actually are interested in being self-publishers. While this may present certain challenges, why is it necessary to constantly take pot-shots at it? Sometimes you sound a bit like the folks at Microsoft deriding the latest Linux-based software.

Let's face it, you guys do kind of represent the establishment in this area. You have vested interests--and this is no crime. But asking you to be open-minded about self-publishing might be a bit like asking Bill Gates to be open-minded about Linux.

#23 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 07:24 PM:

"PQN"? Are we going to deliberately print not enough?

I think it was Constellation, the 1983 Worldcon, that made such a splash with the "PTM" model.

#24 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 07:44 PM:

Scott: That's not how I read Teresa's regular attacks on Publish America and related phenomena. I have a number of books on my shelves that were self-published by friends: a book of short stories, one of scurrilous cartoons, a personal memoir. Each of the authors knew what he was doing, arranged his own editing, etc, and each of them would have benefited from POD technology, because presumably it would have spared them the pile of books under the bed. I don't imagine Teresa would have a problem with this activity. After all, we are in the comments section of her own venture into self-publishing. As I understand it the object of her scorn and vitriol is not so much people who want to bypass the establishment as people who want to rip off gullible writers, using the prospect of bypassing the establishment as bait.

#25 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Ah, yet another "you people" post. This must be the season for them.

Scott sez:
With all due respect, this topic has been beaten to death

The topics I see here so far are:
* Whether the phrase that "PQN" is short for means anything
* The comparative quality of POD-produced books as compared to "traditional" printing.
* The effect on writers' contracts of the use of POD printing by mainstream publishers.

Which of these is the topic that you consider "beaten to death"?


Everyone agrees that the folks at PublishAmerica, etc. are parasites and charlatans.

Clearly, not everyone agrees, or PA and company would have gone out of business for lack of victims. Since the word hasn't gotten to everyone, why are you bothered by others continuing to spread the news?


In regard to politics, this site always seems to opt for the anti-establishment position

What does politics have to do with POD-vs.-PQN? No one else seems to have made the connection. (And given that this is a blog run by liberals, addressing an establishment that is, shall we say, strongly conservative, why are you surprised that the locals are less than eager to laud its objectives and accomplishments?)


you seem to suggest that *any* attempt to compete with big corporate publishing is necessarily contemptible

Having read most of the discussion (quite interesting--and entertaining--stuff it was), I didn't get this impression at all. Where in the volumes of discussion have these suggestions been made? Certainly, scam artists like PublishAmerica are regarded as "contemptible", but they're hardly "big corporate publishing".


Some writers (especially niche non-fiction authors) actually are interested in being self-publishers. While this may present certain challenges, why is it necessary to constantly take pot-shots at it?

The only "self-publishing" that I've seen potshots taken at is the kind promoted by scam "publishers". Legitimate self-publishing is regarded as a perfectly reasonable alternative. The worst I recall seeing said about it is that most authors are better off not doing their own publishing. If saying that is "taking potshots", I think you need to recalibrate your potshot meter.


you guys do kind of represent the establishment in this area.

You're new around here, aren't you? Didn't check your Dramatis Personae list before posting? A few of the posters here could probably lay meaningful claim to "representing the establishment" (although I doubt any of them would make such claims). Most everyone else qualifies far more as "interested bystander" (for various interpretations of "interested"). There is no single, cohesive "you guys" representing anything around here, save perhaps that part of the population above the 50th percentile of IQ.


But asking you to be open-minded about self-publishing might be a bit like asking Bill Gates to be open-minded about Linux.

There's nothing like slinging accusations of closed-mindedness in your very first post to encourage people to be open-minded about your claims, or to show how open-minded you yourself are. Hint: around here, people like their discussions to be based on facts, not character assassination. If you make a claim, backing it up with sources and citations encourages people to take your arguments seriously. On the other hand, broad unsupported claims merely cause people to assume you just don't have any facts to present. (They tend to figure that, if you had facts at your disposal, you'd present them.)

Care to try again? "Once More, With Substance".

- Someone so far from the publishing establishment it's laughable.

#26 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 08:22 PM:

Jonathan Shaw writes: "I don't imagine Teresa would have a problem with this activity."

I agree--because the activities you describe don't purport to compete with/bypass the establishment. Printing a few copies of a book for friends is not the same as trying to make a go of it as a business. Therefore, no threat to the entrenched corporate players.

My point is this: the PublishAmerica line has become a straw man of sorts. Because it is such a patently foolish way to publish, it is often used to smear all self-publishing ventures, by implying (through omission) that PublishAmerica is the only way people self-publish.

Every time you see a blog entry on the subject of self-publishing by a New York publishing insider--whether an editor or writer--they can't resist the PublishAmerica straw man.

But there is another side to self-publishing--including POD self-publishing. Foner Books, for example, is a POD publisher that sells computer-related titles. This is a self-publishing venture--and they are making very profitable use of POD.

#27 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 09:22 PM:

Scott, you might want to reread some of those old posts on self-publishing, POD, and PA. Last time I checked, the proprietors of Making Light et al. had no problem whatsoever with publishers, small or large, that follow Yog's Law (with some unusual exceptions like academic publishing, etc). People talk about PA because it's a huge and shameless operation whose business model is built around breaking Yog's Law, and because _they're still suckering people_. Period. It's not a straw man if it really is a problem. (That your definition of "New York publishing insider" seems to include anyone who's ever sold a book to a traditional publishing house, like James MacDonald or Mike Ford, is also a mite curious, though I daresay they can take care of themselves.) Saying that people like Patrick and Teresa imply by omission that PA is the only way to self-publish is plainly false, based on the archives of this blog alone.

#28 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 09:45 PM:

Scott --

What establishment?

You're apparently getting tangled up with the idea that publishing -- producing a tangible book -- is the important, or difficult, or critical thing; it's not. Producing books as tangible artifacts isn't trivial if you want good ones, but it's very well understood as a process, the diverse steps are severally and collectively available for hire, and just about anyone who cares to be bothered can do it, given the usual caveats about trading off money and quality of results.

The hard part is sales. Getting the book into large bookstore chains; getting it important reviews, notice, and so forth; getting it shipped nationally or multi-nationally in a timely way; handling all the sticky details of ordering and returns; these are all things individuals (with the statistically insignificant exception of persons wealthy enough to hire all of this done if they feel like it) can't do.

I won't get into the kind of commercial judgment involved in deciding what is likely to sell; that's a black art at the best of times.

If you want to compete with the people who are actually making money, or make money in despite of them, or something like that, you have to solve your distribution, publicity, and ordering problems on single-person scales. This is possible, but print-on-demand and self-publishing book production models have nothing to do with those solutions.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 10:33 PM:

Shorter version:

Amateurs talk tactics. Professionals talk logistics.

#30 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 10:50 PM:

James: I think you've just created a new SMOF motto, right next to "conventions run on blood, sweat, and volunteers".

#31 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2005, 11:06 PM:

Scott: Are you aware that this site participated actively in the discussion and promotion of a POD published book: Atlanta Nights, by Travis Tea? This is a work of fiction and parody with a very limited target audience, so instead of trying to get it conventionally published they marketed it to great success on lulu.com, one of the best Print On Demand companies in the buisness.

You can find it here. You'll notice that TNH wasn't too establishment to contribute the jacket blurb on this lovely, extremely niche product.

Heck, if you haven't read the story of Atlanta Nights yet, please do. Not only is it deliciously ironic and quite funny it is a perfect illustration of the difference between good POD and vanity publishing. Good POD allows you to produce copies of a book written as a joke and sell them to people who may be interested in sharing the laugh. Bad POD would charge you money for doing the same.

While the whole thing was an anti-PA setup PA does damage enough people that it really needs to be taken down a peg. And throughout the various articles there was some pretty positive stuff said about Lulu. Actually it was from those threads that I first learned about "good" self publishing.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 03:56 AM:

CHip, the tactics/logistics line is pretty old, coming out of the military field.

And pretty true. When people say that tactics do matter, "other things being equal", logistics is just about the biggest of those other things.

It's something Peter Jackson got badly wrong in Return of the King. The way he arranged the ride of the Rohirrim, he didn't give them time to make the journey.

Tolkien, even as a very junior wartime infantry officer, knew better than that.

#33 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 10:00 AM:

OT: the entire timeline of the _RotK_ movie is wrong; I counted days last time I watched it, and there's no way that everyone meets up at the same time.

Back on topic, I don't know who Scott's arguing with, but it's not Teresa.

#34 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 12:01 PM:

Anybody know the origin of the term "Yog's law?" The only Yog that I'm familiar with is Yog Shoggoth, and that doesn't seem to fit.

Also, just for clarity, "Scott H" (me) is mostly a lurker on this thread and should not be confused with the active poster "Scott".

#35 ::: Beth Bernobich ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Scott H: Yog is Jim Macdonald's nickname. Yog's law is Money flows toward the writer.

(/lurk)

#36 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Scott again:
My point is this: the PublishAmerica line has become a straw man of sorts.

A straw man for what? PublishAmerica is presented as the poster child for a whole category of fraud-based business. Are you saying they're actually legitimate? If not, what are you saying? You continue to be short on specifics.


Because it is such a patently foolish way to publish,

It is "patently foolish" only to those who are already in on the secret. To those not in the know, the pitch is all too plausible, which is why it's so successful. Indeed, the PA pitch--that "publishing insiders" conspire to prevent non-"establishment" authors from being published, with PA providing the means by which the masses can "bypass the publishing establishment" to get their book published--bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the position you argue. It relies on the same false premise your argument does: that there is a "publishing establishment" that seeks to protect itself against the unwashed masses. If their pitch is "patently foolish", how is your argument based on the same premise any less so?


it is often used to smear all self-publishing ventures, by implying (through omission) that PublishAmerica is the only way people self-publish.

Please supply examples. Who is doing this smearing, and what exactly are they saying? If the practice of slandering self-publishing (even by omission) is as widespread as you claim, you should have no trouble providing us with many, many citations and quotes. Conversely, if examples prove hard to come by, then there must be much less smearing going on than you claim.


Every time you see a blog entry on the subject of self-publishing by a New York publishing insider--whether an editor or writer--they can't resist the PublishAmerica straw man.

You continue to make broad, unsupported claims. You really mean every post by a "New York publishing insider"? Like this one?

If you really think there's a "disconnect" if Teresa accepts an ad for someone's self-published book, you're kind of comprehensively missing her point.

Teresa's not arguing against self-publication, nor has she ever done so. Making Light is an act of self-publication. The dozens of weblogs she links to are too.

The point isn't that self-publication is wrong. The point isn't even that nobody ever makes any money at it. (Obviously, sometimes they do. Heck, these days, some people are even making a living self-publishing blogs.)

The point is that there are a bunch of businesses out there selling people on the idea that they can help them "self-publish," while grossly misrepresenting the costs and pitfalls involved and preying on the ignorance of the desperate.

The author? Patrick Nielsen Hayden, co-author of this very weblog. The sheer viciousness of the attack on self-publishing is breathtaking, isn't it?


What you appear to be saying is that the reason self-publishing tends to be tarred with the PublishAmerica brush is that people have the unmitigated gall to talk about PublishAmerica, repeatedly, and if only they'd stop bringing up PA, the image of the industry as a whole would magically become better. There's a word for this: denial. The problem isn't that people talk about PA, it's that PA is one of the most visible players in the "self-publishing" industry. Rather than condemning people who call it what it is--a fraud--you should be working with them to put PA out of business. If PA ceases to exist, there'll be no reason to talk about it.


But there is another side to self-publishing--including POD self-publishing. Foner Books, for example, is a POD publisher that sells computer-related titles. This is a self-publishing venture--

Ah, now we reach the nub. I hypothesize that "Scott" is one of the principals of Foner Books, and this whole "discussion" is an elaborate form of spam. It's noteworthy that the site sells a book entitled Print-on-Demand Book Publishing, published by the self-same Foner Books.

The hypothesis is easy to disprove: supply specific examples of the writing you refer to. Present facts to back up your claims. (Since you seen to regard Our Esteemed Host and Hostess as members of the "publishing establishment", examples from this very weblog would probably have considerable weight as evidence.) Stop resorting to conspiracy theories. In other words, engage in behavior that says "I regard you as open-minded, intelligent individuals, and I believe I can persuade you of my claims by the mass of evidence I can present".


and they are making very profitable use of POD.

So is PublishAmerica. Profitable for PA, if not for the authors.


I leave it to the experts in the crowd to peruse the Foner Books site and evaluate what they find.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 04:14 PM:

As for the apparent suggestion that the reigning sentiment on this site is that any attempt to compete with big corporate publishing is necessarily contemptible... That kind of jars with the presence of at least one person on this thread who is or was a small-press publisher. Maybe they feel an incredible self-loathing that they hide from even themselves by following the party line of corporate worship.

#38 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 06:20 PM:

What would the existence of copyright libraries do to the dynamics of small-scale publishing of the POD sort? The last I heard it was still a half-dozen books in the UK, though they never came after me for any of my fanzines.

#39 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2005, 08:17 PM:

Dave,
I'm not familiar with "copyright libraries"? Are they like patent pools?

And, to Teresa and Patrick:
What do you think of this latest news about Diane Duane? Boing boing has this. Basically, she has one book to go in a trilogy that she can't get published.
She says:
The obvious solution to this problem is publication on demand (POD). I don't mind doing that. But you have to understand that it ain't cheap at the reader's end.

In the webcomics community, people often take orders pre-publication (a la the Franklin Mint) to pool enough cash to get a print run going, instead of POD. This is risky*. Do you think publishers like Tor would risk getting entangled in that kind of scheme for books that otherwise might be difficult to be sure of selling through in big enough quantities?

Could the magic of teh intarnets make it feasible to not just buy books through Amazon, but buy "options" for future books along side brix and mortar stores placing orders through distributors?

-r.
_____
*search for the string "pre-order system", or scroll down to the 11.02.2005 news.

p.s.
I can't seem to get the title="foo" tooltips thing to work on this post. Everytime I preview it, it goes away. Anybody?

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 12:04 AM:

Could the magic of teh intarnets make it feasible to not just buy books through Amazon, but buy "options" for future books along side brix and mortar stores placing orders through distributors?

That doesn't need the Internet. If I'm reading you right, it's more like the book subscriptions of the 19th century, where if enough people subscribed the author would subsequently write the book.

#41 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 01:19 AM:

Earlier than the nineteenth century, too. Quite a few scientific publications - very expensive engraved coloured plates, such as Banks', Solander's & Parkinson's Florilegium, which eventually didn't make it to press in their lifetimes - and other works were published that way.
I have a memory that Tristram Shandy was one example of a fiction work published that way.

#42 ::: Per C. Jorgensen ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 04:16 AM:

I believe copyright library is the British term for something which is quite common at least in Western Europe, that is, a legal obligation to deposit printed matter that has been available to the public in a library (or libraries).

I actually got a request for some my fanzines from the Norwegian National Library a few years back, and sent them the required 4 copies of each issue (I believe 2 copies go into an ex-cold war vault in a mountain up North, and the other two to two of the university libraries). Every other year they send me a reminder that any new issues should also be deposited. Sort of the government urging your fanac on.

I also got a request for an APA I ran, but I pleaded that this was not a public magazine (some members were not that happy to have it mad available to the public), and got an exemption (well, I did not hear anything from them after this).

Per

#43 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 08:34 AM:

"If I'm reading you right, it's more like the book subscriptions of the 19th century, where if enough people subscribed the author would subsequently write the book."

What a lovely bit of history. I have a secret romantic dream of being a patron of the arts, on the model of Lorenzo de Medici; not as popular a dream as Lancelot.

I've seen an interesting approach in RPG publishing- a tough business to be sure. I doubt this would work on the large scale, but the ransom model worked once.

I don't think this is The Answer, but it was a nifty thing to do.

#44 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 08:39 AM:

Thank you James!
you had written:
That doesn't need the Internet. If I'm reading you right, it's more like the book subscriptions of the 19th century, where if enough people subscribed the author would subsequently write the book.

And if I had been more alert when I asked the question, I would have remembered Jane Austen's (and Poe's?) troubles with that very method. Yes, that's essentially what I had in mind, but using the sales infrastructure that already exists for online ordering. One of my (many) questions is if pre-orders would be a good mechanism for fans to invest in their favorite authors if there was a "matching funds" program by the relevant publishers.

I'm not sure how this would change the balance of power...the publisher would have cash on hand that they otherwise wouldn't be able to book until several months (speculating, I don't know how quickly cash flows in the business), and they would know that some part of their print run would be non-returnable. (Fewer returns! Yay!)

On the other hand, the proven purchase-and-ship infrastructure isn't owned by pubishers, but by retailers, and presumably they'd want their cut too. Pre-orders might be a good metric for predicting sales...among preexisting fans.* That might not translate into anything meaningful for the mass market.

Anyway, thanks for answering,
-r.

*Would have been helpful for Scholastic, wouldn't it?

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 08:46 AM:

Sandy wrote "...I have a secret romantic dream of being a patron of the arts, on the model of Lorenzo de Medici; not as popular a dream as Lancelot..."

I presume you refer to the Lancelot of the Round Table, and not the simian secret agent. That being said, what does that Lancelot dream imply besides being the gang's best fighter and fooling around with the boss's wife?

#46 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 09:21 AM:

Sandy wrote:
What a lovely bit of history. I have a secret romantic dream of being a patron of the arts, on the model of Lorenzo de Medici; not as popular a dream as Lancelot.

No, but a pretty cool one nonetheless. Having loads of temporal and financial power, and choosing to use it for good...er...well, for the arts, at least...is a pretty neat dream. The reality of investing thousands of ducats in shady characters that have "a really good story" seems to be pretty grim, and is probalby led to the invention of the corporation.*

-r.
*and the south seas bubble, and tulip mania, and...well the history of western commerce, which seems to be mainly about finding a better solution to the problem of loaning shady people money for their risky ideas.

#47 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 09:27 AM:

JDM: I was under the impression that the subscription process was sometimes applied not to writing the book, but to getting the printing costs covered; I think this was the case with Audubon's original bird books. Of course, those would have been especially costly to print, far more so than a novel or volume of memoirs. I suppose it could work both ways.

#48 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 09:31 AM:

Per Jorgensen,
Thanks for the definition. I should have been able to work that out on my own, but I seem to have had an attack of the obtuse last night. The legal obligation part is pretty interesting! I never would have thought of that. Interesting that the Library of Congress in the US uses an incentive (give us a copy and you can sue for copyright infringement easily) rather than an imperative (if we catch you publishing, you have to send us a copy). I wonder if the large physical size of the US led to the different model?*

*Heck, I wonder if the whole political philosopy of opposition to government "intereference" in the US stems from the ongoing problems of trying to regulate the behavior of a large number of people across really large distances.

#49 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 10:48 AM:

As far as Lancelot? Knight in shining armor, flower of chivalry. . . it's not my dream.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Got it, Sandy. I did think you meant that Lancelot (and not the chimp spy) as your significant other, not who you'd want to be. Still, remember what happened between him and the boss's wife.

#51 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Dave Bell mused: What would the existence of copyright libraries do to the dynamics of small-scale publishing of the POD sort? The last I heard it was still a half-dozen books in the UK, though they never came after me for any of my fanzines.

Lucky man. The British Library certainly comes after me for mine, and sends a formal demand notice every time an issue of Ansible is eaten by the post office.

Dave

#52 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 02:35 PM:

As far as pre orders, would they be that hard to set up? Amazon already has something similar.

I went looking for the TV show "Wild Wild West" on DVD and got a message saying that it had not been released, but if I wanted I could put my name on a list and they would tell me when (and if) it became available, and they also said that they would pass along the numbers of people who were intersted to the company.

#53 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 08:16 PM:

The copyright libraries never found out about my fanzines, which is a Good Thing given that 6 copies out of a print run that was never over 50 would have done interesting things to the economics. The discussion on the relevant mailing list about whether or not fanzines should be deposited also caused a certain amount of hysterics amongst slash authors reluctant to have their work on public deposit. :-)

As for membership of the NY publishing establishment--if only. Small press publication for me (and as of today, EPPIE finalist). Even so, I'm pretty sure I've sold a lot more copies and made more money by letting the people who take most of the money do the work than if I'd self-published.

#54 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2005, 10:53 PM:

rhadir: Oh, wow. Thanks for the pointer to Diane Duane's project. I've been hoping for a sequel for years!

#55 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 01:48 AM:

I'm confused. What does PublishAmerica have to do with self-publishing? The company is loud and adamant that they are not self or vanity publishing, but are a *cough* traditional *cough* royalty-paying *hack* publisher.
The only person confusing self-publishing and PA is the OP. Unless I missed something?

I read that rant! And I seem to have hallucinated that there was once an index to The Best of HapiSofi on the AW forum, somewhere in Backgrounds and Bewares, but I can't find it now. I should learn to bookmark my hallucinations.

#56 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 07:37 AM:

Eric,
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Yay! I finally posted something useful on Making Light! My life is complete!*
-r.

_____
*only mild hyperbole.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 08:28 AM:

Oh, I've seen those responses from Amazon, Michelle K. For some reason though, I never get that promised email when the movie finally comes out on DVD. Hmm... Might have to do with my making it a point never to buy anything from Amazon.

Meanwhile, I'm bummed about Disney. During the Summer of 2004, Amazon's site was advertising that Disney would have Father Syn - The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh finally out on DVD by Halloween. Then nothing. I am indeed very bummed.

Oh, and I'm still waiting for somebody to get his/her act together and release the 1973 mini-series Frankenstein - The True Story. Good story. Very sad. And a great cast... James Mason, David McCullum, Jane Seymour (?), Agnes Moorehead, Tom Baker (yeah, THAT Tom Baker). And Leonard Whitting as Frankeinstein. And Michael Sarrazin as the Creature.

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 08:49 AM:

The Best of HapiSofi index was in the Learn Writing With Uncle Jim thread up in the Novels board.

===========

Self-publishing works best with specialized non-fiction, niche fiction, and poetry. For general interest titles -- it wouldn't be my first choice.

What went on in the early 20th century, the 19th century, the 18th and earlier ... isn't really relevant to commercial publishing today. Commercial publishing's focus is on getting books to readers. The readers drive this process.

Some self-publishers are extremely small presses -- everything you'd expect from a small press, including the distribution arrangements -- that happen to only have one author. This can be a hobby or a full-time job, and no one's saying anything bad about this. Other self-publishers are artists for whom binding the books, coloring the illustrations, making the paper, whatever they're doing is the important part. That's no shame either, nor will you find anyone in these parts slamming those authors and those publishers.

#59 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 10:09 AM:

Serge,

Remember that rural discussion? I love Amazon and the fact that I can now get the books/kitchen toys/things I want without having to driving to Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Cincinnati.

I got put on the e-mail list, and coerced my brother to do the same. I figure it can't hurt, and if the idea works, maybe they'll expand it further. It seems like it could provide useful information.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 10:45 AM:

I remember the rural discussion, Michelle, and you're right. It's specifically Amazon that we boycott. A few years ago, they started selling used books, which itself is good, but not when it's exactly the same edition as the new one, the only difference being that the 'used' book was read once. No royalties for my wife the writer. Of course, now, everybody does it. But Amazon started it and so doesn't get my wife's business. It's more symbolic than anything.

#61 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Serge wrote:

A few years ago, they started selling used books, which itself is good, but not when it's exactly the same edition as the new one, the only difference being that the 'used' book was read once. No royalties for my wife the writer.

Haven't all used bookstores been doing this from time to time, whenever they're lucky enough to get a nearly new trade-in? Or do you reckon they ought to feel obligated to sit on such trade-ins for a few months before offering them to their customers?

As far as I know Amazon is not doing anything that abebooks.com wasn't already doing -- namely, offering smallish used book stores an online venue to find new customers outside their geographic area.

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