David Lange, author of Coin Collecting Boards of the 1930s & 1940s: A Complete History, Catalog & Value Guide submitted these thoughts on self-publishing. -EditorI'd like to comment about Dick Johnson's remarks concerning self-publishing. In general I agree with them, though he didn't note the possibility that an author having an obscure subject may not be able to find a publisher. Perhaps this is not the case for books about USA medals, but it certainly was for me when I attempted to have my coin board book published commercially.
It was turned down by the two most likely publishers of hobby books for the reason that they believed there would be insufficient interest to warrant marketing such a book. While they evidently know their business, I believe that such an approach is largely self-fulfilling. I've yet to find anyone who was disappointed with my book, and the only problem has been in getting enough people to learn of it in the first place. This is nearly impossible without an established marketing infrastructure.
As an example of what one is up against, I recently placed a color ad in Coin World which resulted in the sale of just three books. This is about a fifth the number to recover my cost for the ad, so it is not something I can do on a regular basis. Without the built-in marketing network of an established publisher, placing one's book with stores is not an option, aside from having a listing at Amazon.com.
The only remaining course of action is to pound the pavement, which I've doing with my book at every coin show I attend. Even then, the biggest sellers of coin books won't touch it without discounts of 60% or more from the list price. That is simply not possible in my case, as I wanted to keep the list price within the range of most hobbyists. We've all seen beautiful books that went begging because only a handful of bibliophiles would pay $300 for such a masterpiece.
Dick observed, too, that self-published books often lack proper editing and graphic design. This is certainly one of my bugaboos, having seen good text ruined by amateurish efforts at desk-top publishing. I was absolutely determined that my book would look good and would seem like a professionally published work. Of course, the extra expense of hiring a talented designer is one of the things preventing me from offering the hefty discounts that retailers demand, but it did result in a work of which I'm quite proud.
I performed all of the scanning of photos, ads and actual coin boards myself, as well as finishing these images in PhotoShop, but it was Mary Jo Meade who assembled the materials per my guidelines and crafted a beautiful book that met all the criteria required by the printer.
As for editing, I do so much of this myself in my career that I was confident of not needing outside assistance. While a handful of minor typos have been found in the year since my book was published, none of these have been significant enough to affect the its utility. I do plan to put out a list of errata and addenda, as well as an updated value guide, later this year.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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