Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Announcing Club Orlov Press

People who like to read books have a number of options these days: from dedicated e-readers to phones to whatever other electronic device you have handy, books can be enjoyed in all kinds of ways that have nothing to do with paper.
The problem is that all of these shiny new alternatives have screens, and screens bring on problems that you just don’t experience with good old bound-paper books, which:

• Don't temporarily go blank when the batteries run down.
• Don't permanently go blank as soon as some little doodad inside them fails.
• Never need new operating systems.
• Don’t need to be connected to an electronic network.
• Can be read in just about any kind of light.
• Don’t break when you drop them, even from a considerable height.

Nothing against electronic information delivery: you can’t beat it for speed, especially when it comes to getting timely weather reports, finding out the status of the latest catastrophe (unless it's the network that happens to be down), or breaking news of the never-ending celebrity tragedies/travesties. But for written words that are meant to last, and be read over and over by many people over many years, paper books are still a much better choice.

If you look over in the right column, you will notice that I have published quite a few bound paper books—fifteen to be exact. Of these, only three were published by an actual publisher; the rest were self-published. Along the way, I have tried many different things.

As I mentioned, I have tried putting books out through a publisher a total of 3 times. It takes a long time (a year at least) to get a book out this way. The royalties are a paltry 10%. Usually you have to relinquish the copyright, including foreign translation rights. Sometimes the publisher does a good job with cover design, editing/proofreading, and marketing the book; sometimes not. The only two things publishing houses seem to do reliably is set type (which is dead easy anyway) and keep most of the revenue for themselves.

The other dozen books were self-published. I have tried working directly with a printer, ordering a print run of books and having them shipped to me for distribution. With both self-published and non-self-published books, I have tried selling them directly, buying copies in bulk and manually shipping them out. This can work well for small runs (500 copies) of slim books that weigh less than 13 oz., qualifying them for first class mail using regular postage. Larger books, and larger print runs, can be distributed using printed postage. But if the book is heavier, or if the audience is international (as mine is), the direct shipping model turns into a money-losing boondoggle.

But more recently I have shifted to a print-on-demand publishing model for my self-published books, utilizing an Amazon subsidiary. It involves filling out some online forms, uploading a couple of specially-crafted PDF files, going through a soft proofing process, and clicking the button that says “publish.” The title then appears on Amazon.com and its foreign affiliates, ready for ordering. Royalties are in the neighborhood of 70% of gross. Amazon takes care of pretty much everything: printing, ordering, shipping, handling returns, and paying royalties.

And so, based on my excellent experience with this new publishing method, I have decided to start offering a service to other authors, which will provide a way for them to see their words become books, get a better return on their labor than if they went through a publisher (if they could even find one), and avoid the long, steep, and expensive learning curve that I went through. (Why expensive? Because I essentially gave away most of the proceeds from my first two books; as with three-card Monte, it takes a chump a while to figure out that no winning strategy exists.)

Having gone through this process many times, I have refined my techniques and choice of technology, and have established happy working relationships with designers, editors and proofreaders. My streamlined process allows me to offer a split royalty model: I and my associates receive 20% of the royalties for all books sold through Amazon and its affiliates; the author receives the rest, which is around 50% of gross sales (not including income and self-employment taxes)—a bit more or a bit less depending on how the book is priced and how high the sales taxes are where it gets sold.

There are no other payments or fees of any kind; except for royalty sharing, the service—which includes manuscript review, consulting, cover design, editing, proofreading and typesetting—is completely free. In addition, the author retains the copyright, foreign translation rights, and the ability to order any number of copies of the book at cost, which tends to be around $4 per copy, and sell them directly for quite a bit more, depending on what the market will bear. The only two stipulations are that the author commits to going through with the review/editing/proofreading process, and agrees not to publish the book through any other venue for as long as it remains available through Amazon and the money keeps flowing. The reasons for the latter should be obvious; as for the former, it’s in my interests—and yours—that your ideas find their way to the printed page as clearly, concisely and unassailably as possible.

The most difficult part of publishing a book turns out to be publicizing it. You see, the books I have self-published, and the books I want to publish, circumvent not only much of the world of conventional book publishers, but also much of the worldview their offerings attempt to present. This worldview, aggressively pushed by all of the corporate media, states unequivocally that all is well with the world, except for a few singular problems, of which you should of course stay somewhat informed by reading a few books.

I, on the other hand, have published books, according to which:

1. what we face are not problems but predicaments, which are problems with no solutions;
2. that these predicaments require adaptations in the form of massive lifestyle changes; and
3. that these adaptations are impossible to make without personal experimentation.

These, then, are the authors I want to help: those who understand what the problems are, who understand that they cannot be solved but that one can adapt to their inevitable unfolding, and who have gone beyond theory, have actually tried to adapt, and have meaningful, empirical results to report.

Since such a perspective is at odds with the official narratives embraced by all mainstream book publishers, I will offer ClubOrlov, which gets around half a million visits a month, as the venue for announcing these books to the world. The first Club Orlov Press imprint will be available shortly, and will be announced right here.

Please submit your book proposal or manuscript by emailing it to dmitry dot orlov at gmail dot com.


Blockhill (NZ) said...

I'm curious if reference books with pictures could be printed with this model or are you sticking with black and white, text only?

Judy said...

That sounds like a great service you are offering Dmitry. Not sure I have the stamina to write a book, but if I ever do then I will come to you :) In the meantime I am looking forward to some new books. Thanks

V. Arnold said...

As a self published author, I concur 100%: Marketing is everything.
I'm shit at sales, and double shit at marketing. ;-)

What are the types of books you're willing to deal with? IME, publishers are pretty narrowly focused, for the most part.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Dmitry - I wish I had seen this post 24 hours earlier. I have just been through the whole confusing process you describe of having publishers reject the manuscript of my book about dealing psychotically with our predicament on the basis that it doesn't offer any happy 'solutions' (the the world's predicaments, that is).

And so, in the end I published it with CreateSpace, clicking 'publish' about an hour ago. I hope you don't mind me mentioning the book - The Path to Odin's Lake - here. Now I know who to contact for my next book ... it would be great to have a Kollapsnik imprint publisher.

Robin Datta said...

Glad that CreateSpace worked out!

Dmitry Orlov said...

- Lavishly illustrated full-color books take x10 to x100 more effort than pure b&w text, cost x5-x10 to produce, and are more difficult to sell. So we probably won't be doing too many of these.

- The books I am interested in publishing are the ones I described above. I don't see an advantage in a narrow focus, and expect the offerings to be eclectic.

john said...

I suppose developing the book through interaction on a website would not preclude publishing in print. Probably the content would need to be removed at publication time. But maintaining the website for futher interaction about the book and its topics would be a plus.

inohuri said...

As I recall with ebooks the purchase is a license to read.
The license can and has been revoked without compensation for reasons that have nothing to do with the actions of the purchaser.

jwl said...

Good move!

steeleweed said...

Just used CreateSpace to POD two of my mother's books of Colorado history and an aunt's memoir of growing up early 1900's and ranching for 70+ years. They will never sell big but will sell forever in parts of the West. I'm personally marketing to likely outlets in Colorado and that works.

Marketing for my two novels on the other hand is dismal.

pyrrhus said...

Fantastic! Will you accept science fiction/alternate history manuscripts?

Val said...

This sounds like an excellent arrangement for publishing. The books I have in mind probably won't fit into the range of topics you've sketched out here; their content will consist mostly B&W line art work. But I'd really like to learn the specs for PDF uploads, the possible range of physical dimensions and other characteristics of the books, and so forth. If you wouldn't mind posting a link or two to the relevant Amazon pages, I'd certainly appreciate it.

Dmitry Orlov said...

john -

Generally you are right. Bound paper books are a great convenience, even if the content can be found on the internet.

inhouri -

Right you are! E-books are to physical books what a wine tasting is to a bottle in your wine rack.

steelweed -

A good way to market novels is to serialize them first, through blogging. One chapter a week.

pyrrhus -

Science fiction is a dead-end genre due to the fact that the future is not what it's been cracked up to be. But I won't say no without finding out what you have in mind first.

Val -

I work with text, so, you are right, an art book is not where I can add value. To find out how it's done, go to CreateSpace.com and start clicking around.

Julian Maitland said...

I'm sure I'm not the only person to know's people who've survived (or not) jobs in Amazon wharehouses. I will never buy a product that makes money for thoses bastards. You have a fine plan with good intentions but you are dealing wth the devil.

Akshay Ahuja said...

As Julian mentioned, there are a lot of concerns about CreateSpace. For example, if any author wants to get involved with selling their books at a local bookstore, the store will be reluctant to do so with CreateSpace publications, because CreateSpace gives terrible wholesale discounts to bookstores.

Even if you are guaranteed to sell copies at an event, bookstores won't make very much money off of it, and will be less likely to host you -- along with their natural dislike of an Amazon subsidiary.

For similar digital printing options, I have heard decent things about BookMobile and to a lesser extent Lulu, although I have no direct experience with them, and you can still sell the books fairly easily on Amazon.

I don't think Amazon is evil incarnate; there are some things that it is impossible to find elsewhere. They have their function, but it is possible to use them sparingly, which is what I do, and still support what's left of our community businesses.

Amazon will be gone soon enough, and it would be nice if there was something left when their model ceases to function.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Julian -

Those people are being replaced by robots at breakneck pace, causing them to switch from complaining about working conditions to complaining about not having a job. On the other hand, CreateSpace and its competitors make it possible to publish books that would otherwise never be published.

Akshay -

In all the years I have been writing and publishing books, there has been exactly one event at a bookstore, where I sold a few copies. In short, bookstores do not matter at all for what I do, and supporting businesses, local or otherwise, is not something I strive for. As I said, I have tried a great many things, and this is what works best for the author. The missing link is the consulting/editing/proofreading/design/typesetting functions offered by traditional publishers, which is missing for those who self-publish (unless they are extremely well-connected and tech-savvy) which I intend to take upon myself to organize.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

I was looking at Amazon print on demand features a year or so ago. Definitely doable on your own, especially if your book has no illustrations. On the other hand, why bother learning if you can have Club Orlov do the legwork. What you lose on royalties should be more than made up for by the benefit of having Dmitry's blog visitors as your potential clients. Amazon will print your book and ship it and list it, but unless someone knows it's out there and worth reading, nobody will buy it except for yourself buying copies to give to your friends and relatives.

Sean Jagodzinski said...

Are ISBNs included?