In years gone by many people sought out overseas printers for their color book projects starting at about 3000 copies to get a decent unit price. “Self Publishing” was usually reserved for mostly wealthier or courageous individuals who could afford to finance the print run that often ended out collecting dust in their garage until landfilled or donated away. In the past few years however, the landscape of Self Publishing has drastically changed, and it is now possible for almost anyone to become a “self publisher”.
Almost a year ago, I posted a blog article featuring statistics on book publishing entitled: The Long Tail is Alive and Wagging Proudly. The stats conclude that amongst ALL of the approximate 200,000 titles released in a year (including the Harry Potters and 50 Shades of Greys, et al), the average amount of books sold per title is only about 53 copies!
Not much has changed in a year, and still my short answer to the question above is: However many books you can definitively sell in 3 months.
Don’t let your books end out in the dumpster because they didn’t sell, or became outdated all too quickly!
At Houchen Bindery Ltd., we specialize in producing short run lengths of hard cover and softcover books. We can provide estimate ranges in a variety of quantity ranges and options so you can plan your project accordingly. When you start out we can provide an unbiased recommendation on digital printing options vs offset printers. If you start small and sell through an initial run of books, congratulations! You are beating the odds- so then the next step to a larger print run may be a switch to a different type of press (or printer). As a stand alone bindery (with some in house digital printing capabilities), we work with many different printing and publishing companies throughout the Midwest and beyond. All these topics and more can be discussed under no obligation by contacting Martin Pugh at 1-800-869-0420 or by email at email@example.com
(C) Copyright 2012 Martin Pugh All Rights Reserved
How Many Books Should I Print?
You would have to have your head in the sand not to notice some of the changes occurring in the printing industry. For many, they will say things were better in the “old days”, and some will say print is already dead. I am here to say print is quite alive, but is changing at a very fast pace, and it’s quite exciting to be right in the middle of it all!
The Move Towards Shorter Run Lengths
No matter which industry it is, change is everywhere and thus no one needs to or should, print and stockpile large quantities of printed information of any type, lest it become obsolete before being used (or sold). Digital printing (toner based devices, HP Indigos, etc) coupled with variable data software allow personalization and pinpointing of marketing campaigns so that the “shot gun” approach to direct mail is no longer relevant. Short run, on demand book printers like Snowfall Press describe a world where books are not even printed until they are now paid for. Warehousing in their model means “warehousing the digital files” in the cloud! Physical warehousing is going away.
The Move Towards Shorter Time-To-Market
With the increased efficiency of digital and ink-jet printing engines, there are so many steps taken out of the traditional (offset) process that designed projects can now go straight to press in minutes rather than days or weeks as in previous eras. The “next” thing is now for print finishing and binding companies to pick up the pace and change their workflows also. What good is it if you can print quick, but wait days or weeks to have something bound and/or finished?
These are all issues that stand-alone bindery and finishing companies face today. At Houchen Bindery Ltd. we have added some new machinery in the past three years in terms of perfect binding: One Standard Horizon BQ 270 with EVA glue, and one Standard Horizon BQ 470 with PUR adhesive. Both machines are one or two person operated, allow quick setups and minimal waste. Ideal for short run lengths and quick turnarounds when needed.
Another piece of equipment added three years ago was the Super Sewer by On Demand Machinery. It is a short run length, side sewing machine that drastically increased our reinforced side sewing throughput and again, set up is fast and make ready spoilage is minimal.
These pieces of equipment I could contrast to some other stand alone binderies I know of that have massive half-a-block long perfect binders that take long to set up and waste alot of copies in the process. They are not going to be useful as print runs continue their downward spiral. They are simply not suited for digital print streams.
What Does The Future Hold?
The lines are blurring. With near-line and in-line finishing equipment now becoming more prevalent, printers will try to be binders and perhaps binders will try to print. Photography labs will do both. Who will survive? I don’t need a crystal ball to understand a few things: Equipment is one thing, but company mindset and changing the worflow to fit the needs of the marketplace is another thing. Companies that want to keep customers happy and returning must continue to listen to the needs of their customer base and always try to accomodate the schedules and requests. Another thing taking hold in the marketplace is JDF (job description format), which allows machines to “talk to each other” and streamline operations. JDF will and is already being introduced into on demand style bindery machinery now. For example, allowing perfect binding and three knife trimming to be done in one continuous stream rather than two separate functions with human touches in between. How long until this format trickles down into smaller and mid size companies is the only question.
It is exciting to be involved in the printing and edition binding industry today, helping printers of many types solve their bindery and finishing needs. What’s next for our industry? Stay tuned.
(C) Martin Pugh 2012 All Rights Reserved
Here’s some hard hitting statistical information below from the Association of American Publishers (AAP)
Washington, DC; July 21, 2011 — Adult Paperbacks ranked as the #1 format and e-Books — with an increase of 160.1% vs the first five months of 2010 — ranked #2 in the Trade market for the calendar year to date according to the May 2011 net sales revenue report of the Association of American Publishers, the industry’s national trade association.
Trade categories year-to-date: (YA = Young Adult)
Category Percent Change from May 2010 to May 2011
Adult Paperback -17.9%
Adult Hardcover -23.4%
Religious Books +10.8%
Children’s/YA Hardcover -6.3%
Adult Mass Market -30.1%
Children’s/YA Paperback -15.1%
Downloaded Audiobooks +17.0%
I have always been a statistical nut. From sports like baseball, hockey, horse racing and more, statistics always reveal the greater truths. Just as some of my previous articles have mentioned changes regarding the use of paper, quite obviously the issue is now whether to use paper at all.
I am quite sure that these numbers have some publishers quite frightened. I see it as confirmation of a trend I have been thinking about for many months now. The changing business model of book publishing. Since I have re-joined the book manufacturing world (after a wonderful 7 year mountain hibernation from 2001 to 2008), I have been able to remove myself from the burdens of past thinking that lead to my ultimate previous demise towards the end of 2000. I can say that the time off has allowed me to re-charge and re-energize.
You see, I was heavily invested in a technology (film output of color separations) that was completely being eliminated by a newer technology (CTP). I held on, and held on, but little by little, each of my clients at the time came to same conclusion. It went like this: “Well thanks for all the work you’ve done, but we won’t be needing your services anymore”. Price was not even the issue. Technology had just changed and if I couldn’t change with it, well I was out. While on that 7 year hibernation, I studied what was going on and assured myself I would never let THAT mistake happen again.
Now e-books are here and the numbers are too big to ignore. So let’s not ignore them. Why not embrace them! The model I see for the future involves publishing to e-book first, or any of a number of other app-driven products or yes maybe a book in POD form to start. If a book is worth it’s salt, people can also then order the hard copy, or paper back depending on their budget. Let the market be the judge. Why invest in big print runs that may not sell?
Well won’t that make the number of books being printed go down?
Maybe so, but why is that such a bad thing? How many books really deserve to be published anyway? Am I being too harsh? You haven’t seen what I have. In 2008, before I joined Houchen Bindery Ltd., there was a Publishers Weekly article on the total number of titles published vs total numbers of books sold. Bear in mind, this takes into account all the multi-million selling Harry Potter
Why am I excited about all of this? Because at Houchen Bindery Ltd., producing small sets of books is what we are all about. The Long Tail is alive and wagging proud. The business of publishing has changed, and I am very excited to be right in the thick of things here in the good old USA.
Do you have a book in you? Most of us do, and now more than ever, the investment to get started on the path of publishing is more affordable than ever. Call me today and let’s figure out how to get started. firstname.lastname@example.org. 1-800-869-0420.
Copyright 2011 Martin Pugh All Rights Reserved.