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MORE ON THE ECONOMICS OF NUMISMATIC BOOK PUBLISHINGJoe Boling writes:
About David Lange's lament that wholesalers want 60% off list for his books, that's the way the publishing world works. Untold numbers of authors have never found markets for their books because they are unrealistic in pricing them - the commercial world won't handle them, and consequently buyers never see them. The retailer gets 40% off, so the wholesaler is not working on a big margin.
It's nice to keep prices low so that as many collectors as possible can afford them, but if you do that you have to be willing to be the only source for the book - with the concomitant costs of advertising being paid for out of your low markup. Few dealers will stock the book, even if you deliver it to them, if they cannot get their customary markup for it.
I wouldn't call Dave's discussion a lament - his eyes were wide open, and he was explaining the effects of the standard markdown from list price. His remarks, together with Dennis Tucker's exposition on the publisher's side of the equation, give a pretty complete picture of the view from both sides of the fence.My comments are on both David Lange's comments and Dick Johnson's remarks concerning self-publishing. David Lange was correct, in my experience as well, that locating a publisher wanting to take on a "limited" area numismatics reference guide/book was an insurmountable task. Having been involved in a recently released, more popular subject item book, I spoke with the publisher about my upcoming book, with little or no interest on their part.
Next to chime in on the topic is John T. Dean, author of National Commemorative Medals of the United States Mint and co-editor of So-Called Dollars - An Illustrated Standard Catalog.
Secondly, having gathered much of my information from previous issues of The Numismatist, I felt it necessary and appropriate to acquire permission from the ANA to utilize their information, compiled into my book. I met with Barbara Gregory, Editor of The Numismatist, and gave her a very preliminary copy of my book at the time. I asked her openly and candidly how would be the best method to get this book published and into the hands of collectors. She told me that, in her opinion, self-publishing was the best course to take. My book was obviously not of enough importance to interest publishers.
As David Lange observed of Dick Johnson's reviews, self-published books often lack proper editing and graphic design. To this I also agree with David Lange. Involving an editor and/or graphic designer requires considerable extra expense, resulting in a higher priced book, which publishers didn't want to accept originally because of lack of opportunity to make money on a "limited" numismatic area.
I also edited text and graphics myself, having knowledgeable friends review my work for typographical errors as well as technical or informational errors. This worked well, and like David Lange, I also could not offer hefty discounts to retailers, pricing my book at a level to be accepted by collectors, knowing in advance that the collecting public for these items and the book, are at this time limited. My motive was not profit, but making a work that collectors would find useful and enduring, and satisfying my own desire to create a work of which I am proud. My public response to my book has been nothing but positive, to which I am pleased.
David Lange is correct in stating that getting people aware of his book was difficult to say the least. I agree wholeheartedly. I have given away more books than I have sold, because my main goal was to get the book into the hands of the dealers, collectors and the collecting community, in order to make people aware of the book. I have my book available at my web site, I have sold others by "pounding the pavement", and sold others through various web locations.
Even though my book has an ISBN and is bar-coded for commercial sales, the likelihood of it being sold through such locations as Amazon or Barnes & Noble or etc., is quite unlikely, because their required up front discounts would require me sell the book at below my original costs. As Dick Johnson would say "Don't do that".
In summary, my personal opinion is that self-publishing has a definite place in numismatic reference, and especially in the limited areas/specialties of numismatics. I would highly recommend anyone wishing to publish information valuable to numismatists, limited as it may be, to either write an article for TAMS or other worthy organizations, a pamphlet or book, and have it self published. The efforts and personal achievements gained are worth the time and pleasure derived. Comparing a work of this limited nature to other more defined and elaborate areas of numismatics is not a true comparison in my opinion.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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