About the blog: What Things Are Made Of


The United States relies on imports for dozens of commodities in everyday use. Often enough, that reliance is 100%. In this book I aim to provide awareness of the hidden geology and mineralogy behind common things, and to develop an appreciation for the global resource distribution that underpins our society. While concerns about oil import reliance are in the news every day, our needs for other minerals are comparable and are typically unknown even to technologically aware Americans.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thoughts on self-publishing

When I read these days about self-publishing, I have to smile. So many choices – print-on-demand, publish to the web, hire a publisher (which can range from a real vanity press to a clandestine vanity press to some version of “real” publisher).

Way back in the before time, 1994, when I self-published the History of the Earth Perpetual Calendar, I don’t think I even had reliable e-mail, much less 45,300,000 Google hits for the topic of self-publishing. To me, self-publishing meant that I would write it, get the illustrations, do the layout, then somehow get all that to a printer who would print and bind the thing and give it back to me, and then I’d sell them all and retire.

Right. That was all correct except the part about selling them all and retiring.

The biggest challenge, apart from finding money to pay the printer (thanks Mom and Dad), came when I got the 54 cases of books home – four trips in my pick-up to get all 2000 of them. It had been easy to decide to go to a press run of 2000 instead of my initial plan of 1000. One thousand would have cost about $10,000, but 2000 was only $2,000 more. A no-brainer.

After sorting out some issues with the printer (the book is laid out with one page per date in the year, and I might have thought that anyone would know that March 27 is NOT followed by April 6, but no) I had the books. For 16 years now, the boxes and boxes of books have supported a platform for my spare bed—comfortable enough, by most accounts. Even after selling 1,620—which, Google now can tell me, is a pretty decent record for a truly self-published, self-marketed, and self-distributed volume—I still have enough to hold up the mattress, although some of the boxes are empty and in danger of collapse. But then, I don’t get as many visitors to Butte as I did when I lived in Golden, Colorado.

Distribution and sales improved when the Internet arrived and I created my web site in 1997. Ten or twenty sales a month, with the occasional purchase of 10 or even 36 at a whack. A nice mention in the now-defunct Earth magazine helped tremendously, with about 150 sold in a two-month period.

The world of publishing has evolved, no doubt about it. We’ll see what changes are wrought by kindles and nooks and other technologic advances. As for me, I’m really quite happy with my experience as a “traditional” (old-time) self-publisher—and ready to move into whatever realms appear as I try to get What Things Are Made Of published, this time by someone—anyone—else.

Additional interesting takes on self-publishing at Nathan Bransford's blog.

Answer to Dec. 18 Quiz: Of gold, bauxite (aluminum ore), nickel, and tungsten, the U.S. is a net exporter of just one: gold.

No comments: