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Publishing with Confidence

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I don’t know if you’d diagnose it as optimism or arrogance, but I’m pretty sure most smaller publishers are prone to my malady to some degree. Here I am writing catalog copy for next spring’s books (projects that have been in the works for more than a year already), with full confidence that thousands of people who don’t have an inkling of their existence are just out there waiting for them. If I print them, they will come! And I don’t even have the manuscript for one of them yet!I’m prepared to invest tens of thousands of dollars to carry forward books that I expect people to buy because, dammit, they’re good! Oh, I did the bit of market research and title testing, and I’ve kept my ear to the ground to suss out any possible competition. I even have the promise of a probable book club sale for a couple of them (though no contracts as yet). But the fact is, these books will all go to press in due time with no more than a quarter or a third of their number preordered. The remainder (no pun intended) will bear witness to my good publishing instincts as the reviews come in and they fly out the door-or not. What a crapshoot!It doesn’t have to be like that. Technology is rapidly taking the risk out of the business. If the books I publish weren’t highly illustrated, with a lot of color, I could make use of Print-on-Demand, or just throw them out there on the Internet as e-books. Just think!-no inventory control, no tough reprint-or-not-reprint decisions, no cash tied up in the warehouse. What smart business that would be! On the other hand, no paper to stroke, no pages to flip, no spines to fondle, no heft, no inky aroma. No risk. How barren!I hate to sound like a dinosaur, and a foolhardy, optimistic, arrogant one at that. But there’s something about an actual book, and the creativity of giving it life, and the challenge of finding its appropriate level of success, that’s not going to go away soon. It’s a little like having kids. If you thought they were going to be losers, maybe you wouldn’t have them in the first place.

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