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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.

4 comments:

Scarlet said...

InDesign does layout faster and moer prettily than Word. (Open Office irritated the hell out of me by being incompatible with some MS format that I needed, so I can't say how it performs, but I'm pretty sure it's inferior to Word for large documents.) I have laid out mere 24-page booklets in Word and would pick a real publishing program like InDesign anytime.

However, given Reed's apparent lack of interest in readability (as in, 8 x 10 is not a reader-friendly size), I'm surprised that he'd bother to get InDesign.

Piaw Na said...

He claims it's because it reflows around diagrams better. But I don't have a single book of this that has diagrams. Maybe his football books have diagrams.

Piaw Na said...

OpenOffice is fine if you stick to OpenOffice format format documents. But it does lack kerning and other nice things (I don't know if Word does kerning). If I were to do it all over again, I'd do everything in Word, which does seem quite a bit more robust.

The next book will be photo/illustration intensive, so I will have to eventually try out InDesign. I'll write more about my process later.

Scarlet said...

It certainly does handle text flow better than Word, and placement of all text and objects is considerably more precise. But yeah, if he doesn't HAVE any diagrams, then why would he care?