Re: Specialty Books (was Train Shed Cycs)


(Sigh). Ok Tony, you have both written and published, as
have some others here, probably. You're familiar, I'm sure,
with the Westside publications mentioned earlier. Maybe
6" by 8", 30-40 pages at most. ...Is it really that expensive to
put a *small* specialized book together? How many would you
have to sell to make it worthwhile?
At the risk of boring the list, here's a quick set of estimates.
Since so small a booklet would be expected to have a low price, you
probably couldn't sell it for more than $8 or $10 (just a guess), certainly
not anything like $15. It could likely be produced for prepress and print
costs of around a buck and a half, two bucks at most. Sounds good, right?
Well, the publisher only gets $6 of the $10, if that's the price, and pays
a buck to the author. There's usually around a buck a copy for storage,
advertising, other overheads etc., so the publisher might net around $2 a
copy. I don't doubt we can sell a thousand or so of such publications in a
couple of years time, so about a thousand dollars a year return. Not
terribly attractive unless we can produce it with very little time on our
part. Even then, it's a dinky profit, for us and for the stores that sell
Bigger books take a lot more time to produce and cost a lot more to
print, but proportionately command a substantially bigger price. Book
publishers are in a little of the same bind as auto makers: Cadillacs are
more rewarding to sell than Chevies.
That's not to say that booklets can't be viable in our field, only that
the economic return isn't terribly exciting. Unless I'm wrong about the
market... because selling 10 or 20 thousand would change things quite a

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2942 Linden Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail,
Publishers of books on railroads and on Western history

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