Publisher's Notebook

#PubTip: Offset-Printing Contracts Should Come With Free Xanax


We just sent our latest book, ParentShift, to the printer — and, although it’s terribly exciting, it’s also anxiety-producing in the extreme.

Here’s the thing: We started out as a print-on-demand press. That means that we would print each book as it was ordered. If Amazon ordered 30 books, thirty books were printed and shipped. If a customer ordered two books, two books were printed and shipped. The price of each book was relatively high, of course. That meant that, once the distributors and retailers took their cut of the cover price, the profits weren’t as high as one would like. On the other hand, the risk was minimal. We didn’t have to worry about storing a truckload of books, much less going bankrupt. We didn’t have to worry about finding a small mistake in one of the books after the pub date because we could literally fix the mistake and upload a new copy immediately to the printer. Problem solved!

Those were simpler times.

Now, for all sorts of good and positive reasons, we have moved to offset printing. It’s wonderful. We get top quality and consistency on each book, and a whole slew of cover options. (Embossing? Yes! Gold-leaf lettering? Sure! Crazy-fancy stuff I don’t even know the name of? All available to us!)


It’s. So. Risky.

First off, in order to get the cost-benefit of offset printing, you want to order as many copies as you feasibly think will sell in, say, six months or a year. (Some publishers will try to order as many as they’ll sell in a lifetime — but then you are looking at stocking fees, so that carries a downside, too.) But what if you’re way off? What if you think you’re going to sell 3,000 books and you order and pay for 3,000 books and then you find out you have misread the market and no one (except the author’s mom) is interested in your book, and now you have thousands of dollars tied up in 2,999 worthless (except to the author’s mom) books?

So, yeah. Sending a book to the printer has become an emotional roller coaster for me. It’s the best feeling in the world, combined with the heaviest. What if we order way too many books? What if we never make our money back? What if we find typos in the book tomorrow? Where’s the fucking Xanax?