The Age of Enlightenment
Today is Maury Hanigan’s birthday. Maury is a friend and the first small publisher I ever knew. She published her first book in 1986 entitled How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students. Maury’s publishing company is National Placement Press.
Maury successfully used the book as an entrée to get more business. The book was, in essence, a 6 x 9 business card for her. She sold the book to high school seniors and their parents. In many ways, Maury epitomizes the small publisher customer today, printing a niche book that is marketed directly to consumers.
Dark Ages versus the Age of Enlightenment
At the time the book was published, Maury asked me what I thought of the book. I was already in printing, but not book printing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more help to her.
If there had been more options available, if printing equipment was more sophisticated, if layout and design software had been more advanced, then the finished product may have sold differently. As it was, she made the best use of the resources available.
The book is 112 pages (including six blank pages), 6 x 9 trim size, perfect bound. The cover is two-color with no graphics, only text. The back cover has good marketing text and a short bio of the author. The interior pages are black & white text using a 12-point, Times Roman font. The text pages were set using a word processing program. There is an ISBN number but no EAN bar code. Maury had visions of selling the book through the bookstore channel and achieved some local success doing so.
Back then, my advice was simplistic, “Yeah, it looks good.” If I had it to do over again, I would have made a few different suggestions. The cover needs to sell the book. Don’t skimp on the cover designer. A book needs to stand out on the shelf of a bookstore. Use a four-color cover. It costs more, but it also is proven to sell more books. Include an EAN barcode on the back of the book. Maury had written good marketing copy for the back cover, but I would suggest losing the author bio and putting it on one of the blank interior pages. Replace the author bio with testimonials or additional marketing verbiage. The number of interior pages was a good selection, but use an interior page designer for setting the text. Or, at a minimum, use a different font for the text.
The first print run of the book was 3,000 copies. Why? Because she was told to keep the unit cost down, she would have to print a larger quantity. Printing technology did not offer a cost-effective way to print short runs. Nineteen years later, she still has copies of the book that she never sold.
Today’s technology allows shorter print runs at cost-effective prices. Pre-press and post-press offer more options, too. We are truly living in the Age of Enlightenment when it comes to short-run book printing.
There are numerous publishers like Maury. In fact, the Publishers’ Marketing Association published a study that counted 55,000 publishers in the United States. There are the Big Five publishers in New York City, another 300 mid-sized publishers over 54,000 small publishers. A surprising statistic is that there are over 12,000 publishers in California, making it the state with the largest number of publishers. That debunks the myth that New York is the publishing capital of the US.
Your opportunity is to locate publishers who will benefit from the new book printing options available in the Age of Enlightenment in which we live. Help them to see the benefits of printing fewer books and spending more on marketing. And grow your business through consultative selling.