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Why do books cost so much?
me ^ | November 19, 2001 | Me

Posted on 11/19/2001 6:07:24 PM PST by JoeSchem

Anyone else notice that the price of books is getting absurd? I mean, a paperback that sold for $.50 in the seventies will now go for $7 or $8. That's way out of line with the general inflation rate.

Then you've got the 'trade' paperbacks, which run to $14 on average. It's been a long time since I've bought a new hard cover, but I believe they're going for $25 on average.

It's the free market -- or is it? You would think that the Computer Revolution would drive down the cost of publication, but it seems to be going the other way!


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To: Hazzardgate
I used to work for Warner Bros. music, and trust me when I say they don't need anymore money. Burn away!

I am with you!

I'd love for the music industry (industry, not art) to be put out of business by the net and high technology.

After all, it was high tech that enabled the music industry to grow to such monstrous proportions.

What high-tech giveth, high-tech taketh away. LOL.

And don't tell me that without the prospects of making millions, there'd be no incentive for people to make music.

Seems to me, the more money musicians make, the worse their music is.

Remember, Mozart was buried in pauper's field.

J. S. Bach lived a comfortable middle class life, which did not discourage him from composing the greatest music the world has ever heard.

101 posted on 11/19/2001 9:03:18 PM PST by Age of Reason
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To: The Truth Will Make You Free
I work in the college store industry. Not only are publishers raising books far faster than the rate of inflation, they are bundling books with study guides and CD's and other material and marketing it as a value for the student. In reality this is just a way to stop the selling of used books as the extra material is only available as new from the publisher and if the instructor orders all of the bundle, the bookstore can't buy it back and sell it as used.
102 posted on 11/19/2001 9:11:11 PM PST by Sandshark
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To: Seniram US
Only the 4-color books are printed overseas. Big American publishers use American printers and binders for their standard commercial books. And the typesetting is one of the smaller costs, especially with authors now supplying disks and some publishers making corrections in house to save part of the cost of corrections.
103 posted on 11/19/2001 9:13:23 PM PST by firebrand
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To: JoeSchem
I mean, a paperback that sold for $.50 in the seventies will now go for $7 or $8. That's way out of line with the general inflation rate.

No sir! No way newly published paperbacks were going for $.50 in the 70s. In the 50s, yes, but not in the 70s. Take a look at this paperback, published by Bantam in 1975: Sci Fi, priced at $2.25. You can do a google search to get an average, but I believe this was typical.

Now go over to the GDP Price Deflator to see how much you'd need in year 2001 dollars to make the same purchase, taking into account inflation . . . about $6.23.

104 posted on 11/19/2001 9:14:15 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: DrNo
Usually at a college buyback, if a bookstore pays half for a book, the keep it and sell it as used for 25% off of the publisher's list. In this case, if you pay $100 for a book and your get back $50, they'll sell it for $75. If you get one third or less, the book is either not being used on campus or the bookstore has enough. In this case, a wholesaler is buying the book and they are taking the chance that they can sell it to another store across the nation. All of the prices are based on supply and demand. Remember, this is a price offer. You don't have to sell the book. If you can sell it for more on your own or elsewhere, do so. It's called capitalism.
105 posted on 11/19/2001 9:21:27 PM PST by Sandshark
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To: JoeSchem
The cost of a trade paperback (production) is around $2.50. Hardcover book is more like $3 to 4 bucks.
106 posted on 11/19/2001 9:24:27 PM PST by jrherreid
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To: JoeSchem
I published a 650 page hardcover book with good paper for $10 per copy, printing only 1,000 copies. I had other costs, adding another $4 per copy. Computer paperbacks normally cost $60-$100. It is simple robbery.
107 posted on 11/19/2001 9:29:06 PM PST by Chemnitz
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To: farmfriend; JoeSchem
In doing the research to determine the pricing for my book,

Dragon's Fury - Breath of Fire

I found that most trade paperbacks are going for 18-22. Here are some examples:

Usually you can find these discounted by 15-20% online at Amazon.

Harpdback are going from anywhere between 25 and over 30 dollars these days. Here are a couple of examples:

My Trade paperback novel, a 450 page tehchno-thriller with 80 illustration is selling now for 19.95. At low volume, and wanting to put it in stores, this is the best I can do and still make any money on the books I whole sale. The printing at the current volume is costing me just over 7.50 per book. Shipping to me in low quantities (50-100) costs around 60 cents per book. My shipping out in minimum groups of twelve to a store costs about 80 cents per book. That's a cost to me (counting nothing for my own time and investment to date) of 8.90 per book. The books stores want a 100% markup to cover their costs and give them a profit. So, 8.90 times two is 17.80 meaning when I sell to book stores I am making about two dollars and 15 cents on each book.

On my site I sell them for the same price (stores will be reluctant to buy from me if I am underselling them) and I make good money on each of those sales, although my costs are higher there because I put the books in individual shipping packaging (around 60 cents per book) and the shipping at individual bulk rates is higher (around 1.75 per book).

If I can get to a point where I am buying thousands of books at a time, I can lower my prices significantly and still make more money. That's one goal.

Of course the dream is for some big publishing house to pick it up and do a mass printing and publication all over the country. In that scenario, the print costs go wat down, but you add several "middlemen" between the author and the buyer. An Agent who wants their cut, a publication house who wants their cut, and then the retailer or maybe even a distributor in front of the retailer. All of them want a piece of the pie. So, even though in mass production the print costs goes way down (maybe around 2 dollars per book), you have a lot of people trying to share the 17.95 that is left over and some of them investing heavily to do so. Usually the author in such a scenario gets very little per book. But you don't need too much per book if it sells hundreds of thousands of copies, or millions.

Hope this helps. This is what I am discovering as I try and publish my own.

108 posted on 11/19/2001 9:34:25 PM PST by Jeff Head
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To: P-Marlowe
Youre wrong. Paperbacks did not cost .50 in the 70's.

Well, my copy of Walter Lord's Night to Remember cost fifty cents and was printed in 1974, and that's what I'm going on.

109 posted on 11/19/2001 9:34:54 PM PST by JoeSchem
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To: JoeSchem
The cost of paper has gone up, is the justification that the publishing industry will give you.

I'm looking forward to picking up a large number of books that a friend bought for me using a forty percent work discount.

110 posted on 11/19/2001 9:37:07 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: LibWhacker
Keep in mind the price level doubled in the seventies. Books in 1970 that cost much less than one dollar cost much more than two dollars by the 1980s.
111 posted on 11/19/2001 9:43:51 PM PST by JoeSchem
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To: Rodney King
That's because you are a captive buyer. You HAVE to buy the book. In addition, you generally HAVE to buy it at the monopoply campus bookstore

It is very rare that the campus store has a monopoly anymore. Most colleges have off campus competition. At Arizona State, there are four off campus stores. Most internet sites such as Big Words, E Campus or Varsity Books have either gone out of business or are in financial difficulty becuase of too deep discounts. The publishers set the list price. College stores may add some to the price for shipping and handling, but not much. A new book generally has a margain of 20%. Books are one of the least profitable items in a college store. Clothing has a 100% margain. In other words, your $100 new textbook cost $80 from the publisher. A $75 used book was $50 from buyback or a used dealer. A $50 sweatshirt was $25 or less from a clothing manufacturer.

112 posted on 11/19/2001 9:44:15 PM PST by Sandshark
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To: JoeSchem
I figured out the trick of college textbooks. They don't change the content much, but they change the order of the questions at the end of each chapter. So when the prof says "do the odd numbered problems from 1-15", if you don't have the latest edition, you're up the creek.
113 posted on 11/19/2001 9:46:46 PM PST by lds23
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To: JoeSchem
Well, my copy of Walter Lord's Night to Remember cost fifty cents and was printed in 1974, and that's what I'm going on.

Your book was written in 1955. Thus it was not a new book. It was in the realm of a classic. You can still get reprints of classics in paperback for about $3.50. New paperbacks in 1974 were usually well above $1.00 each.

Additionally your 1974 book is about 200 pages and the average book today is well over 350 pages.

114 posted on 11/19/2001 9:48:29 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: Jeff Head
I did some research for self-publishing regarding my science fiction novel, which should peg in around 120,000 words (no illustrations). It looked like iUniverse.com could do it for about $14. I thought print-on-demand was out of line, but from the description of your experience, it sounds like they're pretty reasonable.
115 posted on 11/19/2001 9:50:41 PM PST by JoeSchem
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To: JoeSchem
This is my favorite place to get the best price on books.
They search about 15+ online bookstores to tell you has the best price and shipping.

Best Book Buys


116 posted on 11/19/2001 9:52:36 PM PST by stlnative
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Comment #117 Removed by Moderator

To: JoeSchem
For REALLY good deals, buy the books that are not being sold this year OR ones the publisher printed too many of. About one-third of my entire library came from this bargain book dealer: http://www.hamiltonbook.com/cgi-bin/hamiltonbook.storefront/
118 posted on 11/19/2001 9:58:53 PM PST by Johnny Crab
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To: nutmeg
BUMP to read later
119 posted on 11/19/2001 9:59:32 PM PST by nutmeg
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To: P-Marlowe
A Night to Remember sold for $.50 then, and sells for $7 now. I am comparing apples to apples. You also seem to think that page count linearly correlates with cost, but it doesn't.
120 posted on 11/19/2001 10:04:55 PM PST by JoeSchem
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To: JoeSchem
The cost of paper has doubled several times over the last few years. Tree huggers have insured that the cost of paper products are so high we can not afford them anymore. The saving of the spotted owl caused the first doubling of the price of paper and ever species we save the forest for raises the prices even more!
121 posted on 11/19/2001 10:07:45 PM PST by Yellow Rose of Texas
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To: The Truth Will Make You Free
How about your average $100 college textbook?

I believe you. When my son showed me a price tag of a text book needed for one of his Physics classes was about $100, it seemed absurd.
That was 25 years ago, for a graduate level course.
I remmember most of my text books were under $10 (class of '59).

122 posted on 11/19/2001 10:14:22 PM PST by rightofrush
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To: rightofrush
Mental error. Make that 15 years ago.
123 posted on 11/19/2001 10:16:08 PM PST by rightofrush
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To: JoeSchem
Mine is right at 170,000 words and about 970,000 characters.

POD was by far the cheapest, most reasonable way to go for short runs on the trade pepareback. Same price whether you ored one or three hundred. Traditioanl printing houses wanted 10-11 dollars per at runs of 1,000.

I did find a place called JustBooks.com that can do reall reasonable pricing for runs from 4000 to 10,000 so if I get to that volume and nobody has picked it up, I can have them do it and make good money at reasonable end user prices for both whole sale and my own web sales.

EBook sales (MSReader, Adobe and Activ E-Book) have been fairly good too.

Anyhow, it's been an eye opening and learning experience.

Regards.

124 posted on 11/19/2001 10:20:26 PM PST by Jeff Head
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To: JoeSchem
I'm curious at to what iUniverse.com is giving you for $14 per book. Sounds high. I own a book production service and genrally find that you can do better buying the services directly. Print quantity is a major factor, but so is choosing the most appropriate trim size, paper, the best printer for the print run, etc.
125 posted on 11/19/2001 10:21:15 PM PST by christie
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To: Johnny Crab
The Hamilton Books is also included in the Best Buy Books Search Engine that I posted above.
Sometimes you can find other online bookstores by using this search engine that can actually beat Hamilton's prices,
but Hamilton Books is a GREAT place!
You can hardly beat their $3.00 shipping on the full order when you mail in your order in and pay by check.
126 posted on 11/19/2001 10:24:08 PM PST by stlnative
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To: christie
Lightning Source is giving me a really good product (of course I supplied the Press ready digital files) for 6X9 Trade paperback, 452 pages with four over one cover at right at 7.50 POD.

Was very satisifed with the proof and am receiving my first shipment against orders this week.

127 posted on 11/19/2001 10:24:25 PM PST by Jeff Head
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To: Jeff Head
How many pages and what trim size is your book? Prices seem high. I'm working on the "Clinton Legacy Cookbook" (due out soon through Free Republic) and I have print quotes for about 4.50 per book for 1000 copies, 6 x 9, 352 pages, paperback, shipping additional. The specs have since changed, but this is an example of one print quote.

By the way, congratulations on your book. I'll order one soon.

128 posted on 11/19/2001 10:34:00 PM PST by christie
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To: Jeff Head
That was quick. You answered my question before I asked.
129 posted on 11/19/2001 10:37:08 PM PST by christie
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To: firebrand
You are on target and have some good info...there are a few other issues on the print side worth noting:

The US Book Printing industry has consolidated significantly over the past 10 years. There are now merely a realtive few major players (RR Donnelley, Quebecor, Banta are the largest) with some smaller companies struggling to survive the cost of re-tooling to digital processes.

Another event has been the consolidation of what once were separate businesses that did text printing (b&w) only or covers (color) only. The cover printers now print text and vice versa for the text guys. This industry is a classic model of vertical integration, as more and more functions reside under one roof (the printer) as opposed to various separate specialties like typesetting (now an archaic term) and bindery and fulfillment.

The result has been an overall reduction of manufacturing costs at the printer sites. This has required significant capital investment and thus has separated the big companies from the small. They have no choice but to drive costs down in order to compete with non-print options. The transition to fully digital processes (MS Word from author to PDF at the publisher or printer to digital platemaking without film) will spread out the overall manufacturing costs more evenly over the life of the book. This process (particularly the adoption of PDF) has allowed the printer to also be the provider of e-books for the publisher. A very efficient process is evolving, indeed.

All those who blame this on paper costs know not of what they speak...the cost of paper has not doubled. It experiences ups and downs like any commodity and has been down as much as up over the past several years. Just ask any International Paper stockholder.

The biggest increase in costs resides at the distribution and retail levels...it costs a lot to support all that brick and mortar...not to mention the latte machines!

130 posted on 11/19/2001 10:57:33 PM PST by NewLand
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To: JoeSchem
I spend a huge amount of time online msyelf, but when it comes to reading for pleasure there's still nothing that comes close to the feel of a hardback book in my hands. I pay $15-20 per pop for hardbacks on a very regular basis and sometimes more. I try to catch 'em when they're on the bestseller lists because ironically that's when they're usually priced the best.

Never spent much time thinking about why they cost as much as they do.

MM

131 posted on 11/19/2001 11:05:06 PM PST by MississippiMan
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To: Sandshark
Thanks, I did't realize the campus stores had so little to do with it.
132 posted on 11/20/2001 2:12:15 AM PST by Rodney King
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To: brbethke
That's the case I was trying to remember. Thanks.
133 posted on 11/20/2001 5:31:23 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic
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To: Rodney King
I have been in the college store industry for 20 years and the margains on books have not changed. The publishers are raising their prices at more than double the rate of inflation. The bookstore people I know are working harder to supply used books to lessen the financial impact on students. Another factor is the fact that the publishers are changing books more often. When I was in college, books changed editions every five years. Nowadays, it averages every two years.
134 posted on 11/20/2001 6:46:23 AM PST by Sandshark
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To: ladyjane
You may well be correct. (Reading a royalty statement is like reading US tax code!) I was speaking from an author's point of view.

In my experience, an author gets about $10 of that $80-100 on the sale of a new book, and $0 on used books.

The bookstore gets its $10-20 on every sale, new or used. The author and publisher gets nada.

135 posted on 11/20/2001 7:03:30 AM PST by DrNo
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To: Sandshark
Another factor is the fact that the publishers are changing books more often. When I was in college, books changed editions every five years. Nowadays, it averages every two years.

Again, this is because the used book market has so drastically shortened the lifespan of a textbook.

There are virtually no new book sales after 6 months; it's all recirculation of used books.

136 posted on 11/20/2001 7:08:51 AM PST by DrNo
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To: DrNo
Nada on Used books, that is.
137 posted on 11/20/2001 7:09:32 AM PST by DrNo
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To: NewLand
OK, revised figures, this time from the horse's mouth: Cost of physically producing a hardcover commercial book: 10% of retail price; royalty: 15%; overhead (all costs not accountable to a particular book): 15%; profit (theoretically): 10%; retail markup at bookstore: 50% of retail price (100% markup).

Most of the cost of production is paper. The price of paper went up several years ago but is now flat, as is the rest of production cost, mostly because of increased efficiencies. In my original figures, I confused % of retail price with % of publisher's cost, so since the publisher's cost is 40% of the retail price, production is 25% of that, or 10% of retail price.

138 posted on 11/20/2001 7:31:43 AM PST by firebrand
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To: firebrand
My pet peeve. I went to Barnes and Noble this weekend to look for two conservative books. One was "The New Thought Police" by Tammy Bruce and one was "Radical Son" by David Horowitz. B & N didn't have either, although the Bruce title is new and current and the Horowitz title is fairly well known. I read once where the CEO of B & N was a left-winger and a friend of the clintons. I couldn't help wondering if politics as well as business plays a role in what the big stores stock. Well, too bad for B & N, I ordered through Amazon, and the Horowitz was on their used list for $3.75. Did get to read a book for free while sitting in B & N, only paid for a cup of coffee, they don't mind a bit.
139 posted on 11/20/2001 8:05:10 AM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: DrNo
There are virtually no new book sales after 6 months

Blaming new editions on used books is a typical publisher's excuse. Used books have be around forever and there has not been an increase in used book sales in the college industry. A very well run text department only sells around 20-25 percent used. Some students want to buy new books. What there has been an increase in is students sharing or copying textbooks because of the price of textbooks.

140 posted on 11/20/2001 8:10:08 AM PST by Sandshark
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Yes, there are ways around the high cost of books. There are people with tables of used books on Broadway, and they sell every paperback for a dollar and every hardcover for two dollars, no matter what they are. Also, I just bought a bunch of Elmore Leonards on abebooks for 10 cents to 25 cents each (of course the shipping was $12, LOL).
141 posted on 11/20/2001 8:14:41 AM PST by firebrand
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To: The Truth Will Make You Free
$100 college textbook

Are you getting that used? :-)

I haven't spent less than $120 on a book in some time.

142 posted on 11/20/2001 8:16:24 AM PST by realpatriot71
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To: Dianna
I was looking for a set of the Narnia series for my son...$55! I'm just not paying that, and I'm surprised that people do.

Heck, you should be able to get a very nice set of the Narnia series for much less than that in a used bookstore... (did I just say that???)
143 posted on 11/20/2001 9:42:16 AM PST by Antoninus
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To: JoeSchem; farmfriend
My book cost $6 to print for a 5,000 copy run, $5 to mail and perhaps twice that to sell. Development and research costs exceeded $30,000. Then there was the patent at another $8,000. I took three years off work and blew $250,000 in lost income to write it working an average of 60-90 hours, six days a week (probably understating that). That's a total of over three hundred grand.

What they are getting is a transformational book that may be of historic import (and it's pretty too :). If people think that the home-delivered cost of $35 is too expensive for my 450 page paperback with 350 sources they can go stew in ignorance wishing things were different. It's cheaper than a couple of tanks of gas.

144 posted on 11/21/2001 4:39:48 PM PST by Carry_Okie
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To: Carry_Okie
Did you see Jeff Heads reply. I think you both nailed that one to the wall pretty good. I thought your book was worth it as you surely know by now.
145 posted on 11/21/2001 5:28:38 PM PST by farmfriend
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To: JoeSchem
They cost that much because we pay it! A hardback today can cost from about $27 to $30. If you have Costco, they get some of the new releases and the price is about half or less. I try to buy them there, but if it is something I really want, like Barbara Olson's book, I pay full price.
I treasure books, reread a lot of them, and love to read so much, that I will pay the price.
146 posted on 11/21/2001 5:35:25 PM PST by ladyinred
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To: Nitro
Theaters make their profits on the snack bar, not the tickets. The prices they charge for a coke are just beyond the pale, as it is one of their cheapest purchases. I managed a sandwich shop with a soda machine, trust me, a fountain drink is almost all profit.
147 posted on 11/21/2001 5:39:17 PM PST by ladyinred
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To: farmfriend
Most people don't realize that publishers also require new authors to carry much of the cost of promotion. I have twenty grand budgeted for that in travel, mailings, phone and materials, overheads, graphic aids, etc. Although I am covering most of my current costs, I am definitely NOT making money, but then, that wasn't the point of the effort. I have to rely upon word of mouth. The good news is that it is starting to happen and I am getting raves from some serious people.

All that said, I can agree that the power of desktop publishing and graphics and Internet promotion and propagation is such that an individual can compete with a publisher. An added benefit with a hot potato like my book is that I don't have to deal with a stupid editor. One that would be capable of helping me with my book would have been unaffordable. Self-publishing was definitely the way to go.

148 posted on 11/21/2001 5:43:17 PM PST by Carry_Okie
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To: Senator Pardek
I'm convinced that's a well thought out scam. Have you ever talked to faculty about this?
149 posted on 01/08/2002 6:37:45 PM PST by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
They're part of the conspiracy, I tells ya!
150 posted on 01/08/2002 6:40:43 PM PST by Senator Pardek
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