I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past that The Fiddler’s Gun will be published by the Rabbit Room Press and I know some people are wondering what that means. Let me try to shed a little light in that direction. The book was originally intended to be released the traditional way by selling it to an established publishing house that would fund and oversee all the editing, design, marketing, and distribution. About the same time that I was going through the long process of making that happen, my brother and I began considering the possibility of launching our own small publishing house to produce high quality Rabbit Room editions of hard to find and out of print books. We also saw it as an opportunity to publish various other projects associated with the Rabbit Room and its contributors. So as the two processes, that of the new book and that of the new publisher, shuffled along in tandem, I began to consider that it made more sense to combine them.
The outcome was my decision to publish independently. I dislike the term ‘self-publishing’ and all its connotations because I’m not doing this by my ‘self’ at all. Independent of the traditional publishing framework? Yes. Published in a self-deluded vacuum? No (I hope.)
So at each step, I’ve been directing the work toward publication and learning a lot along the way about how to make the Rabbit Room Press function when it comes time to tackle the next project. Right now, I’m working to get the book typeset as well as researching the various possibilities available for the actual printing.
To that end, I visited the Lightning Source facility in La Vergne, TN this week. Lightning Source is a POD (print on demand) book bindery and they’ve got quite the operation going on. In traditional off-set printing there is a minimum print run of usually 1000-2000 copies due to the expense and labor required to set up the process. In POD however, they have the ability to print just a single copy if necessary. That means that there’s no reason to even print a book until someone orders it because once ordered, it can be printed, bound, and shipped out in about 48 hours. That’s pretty nifty, especially for someone like me who has no expectation of selling tens of thousands of copies.
But as good as that sounds, I’m not sold (yet). There are downsides to POD publishing. First is price. It’s more expensive to print that single copy or even those 20, or 200 copies. Even though it might not be apparent to the consumer who is still only paying $12.99, the cost of that book to me, the publisher, is much greater, meaning I have to sell considerably more books to make back the money I’ve invested.
Second is quality. POD books are sometimes notoriously cheap looking. This isn’t entirely the fault of the POD publisher, they merely print what the customer gives them. The fault in those cases lies with the small, independent, and self-publishers using the POD service. They aren’t providing the POD printer with professional looking product to begin with.
So the question I need to answer is: Can a POD publisher like Lightning Source deliver the product quality and flexibility the Rabbit Room Press requires and can they offer it at a reasonable price? I hope to have a meeting with one of their representatives in the next few days so that we can talk about printing options, paper weights, and all that jazz to see if they can provide the kind of high quality work that something bearing the Rabbit Room Press moniker will require.