Unshelved comic strip for 7/29/2008

A Fine Whine About Reprinting Books

The most important thing we do every year is print a new collection. It creates a lot of excitement and a lot of sales, both online and at conferences. For many fans purchasing our newest book is the way they support Unshelved, their annual dues if you will, and we're very grateful for it. And, while it's very expensive to print several thousand books, that cost is largely offset by the initial sales, making that check mostly a joy to write.

Then, after a year or two, it's time to print more. That check is a lot harder to write. Because a reprint is not accompanied by a rush of new sales. Our backlist sales are a slow, steady trickle. It will literally be years before it pays for itself. Plus we have to store them someplace, and that costs money too. Gene and I spend weeks whining up a storm. And it's pretty darned ungrateful of us, because of course we're experiencing a classic Nice Problem To Have - we've sold out of a book and need to print more.

Anyway, we're deep in our biggest-ever reprint whine because, thanks to a variety of causes, we're reprinting not one, not two, but three of our books at once - a third printing of What Would Dewey Do?, and a second each for Library Mascot Cage Match and Book Club. It's the single largest printing bill we've ever had.

This is sounding increasingly like a prelude to begging you to buy our books. It's not - you guys have been great about that. I just know a lot of people read this blog as a sort of diary of a small business, and this is a fact of publishing life you don't hear much about. Until print-on-demand technology becomes cost-competitive, publishers simply need to invest money reprinting piles of books most of which they know won't sell for a while.

Now I'll write that check.

Miami help wanted

Are you an Unshelved fan in the greater Miami area? We are contemplating exhibiting (and speaking) at the Miami Book Fair November 14-16, but to make it cost-effective we'll need a little support on the ground. Namely, we'd like to ship you a dozen or so boxes of Unshelved wares about a week before the show. And if you can drive them to the show for us sometime on the 13th, all the better (we'll bring a dolly and lots of manpower). You'll be paid in gratitude, the Unshelved merchandise of your choice, and a meal with us, the fabulous creators. Please drop me a line.

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