Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: John T Reed's Self-Publishing

I really liked John T. Reed's Residential Property Handbook, and bought his Self-Publishing Book because I was going to publish my own book.

John T. Reed makes 6 figures a year selling his own books. He has well over 30 books available on his web-site, and each book makes about $25 in profit. So he sells about 4000 books a year. Split over 30 titles, that's at least 133 copies per title, and indeed, he tells you to expect sales of between 100 and 1500 copies per book per year. How does he know how many to print? He prints his own books off his laser printer and binds his own copies for the first few copies, and then after a few months, orders a year's supply. This by the way explains why all his books are 8x10". It makes it harder to ship, but he saves a step by not having to cut it. Does Reed explain this in his book? No. Maybe it's obvious, but things like sizing decisions are important, so why not spend some time discussing it?

The problem with doing this is that unless you sell lots of different books, the $300 cost of a binding machine and all the space it takes up is probably better spent on other things. He does explain the costs of getting books from a book manufacturer, and since he does thousand copy runs, the costs are fine, but surprisingly high, compare to print on demand vendors such as CreateSpace. I don't know why you wouldn't just go with a print-on-demand vendor instead, especially since the cost of California real estate is high enough that stocking several thousand copies of inventory has got to be cumbersome.

As a how-to book vendor, Reed doesn't spend a lot of time telling you how to polish your prose. In fact, he says he usually writes one draft and then is done! Maybe you shouldn't do that if you're a first time author. I find a surprising number of bugs, both from the revisions in the book, and from the process itself (i.e., checking out the interior, etc). He takes a very minimal approach to the cover as well, since he sells off the internet. Unfortunately, since he has an extremely high page rank site, he doesn't have much experience with tools that other writers who might not have such highly ranked web-sites might use.

He composes in Adobe Indesign. That's a $700 piece of software! For a beginning writer, OpenOffice will do everything you need to with prose. None of Reed's books have particularly complex layout, so I don't know why he would do what he's doing, except that he has enough book volume that it doesn't matter. Stuff like this permeates the book. I think he's been in business so long that he doesn't know how to teach someone else how to bootstrap any more.

By far the bulk of the book is spent reassuring the reader that self-publishing is the right thing to do. In particular, the numbers all work out in the self-publisher's favor, as described in this article on his site.

All in all, I was disappointed by the poor value in this book. Reading the book's web-page will probably tell you all you're going to learn from the book anyway. Not recommended.
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