Book publishing costs

Dewey B. Larson
755 N.E. Royal Court
Portland, Oregon 97232


Oct. 16, 1983

Rainer Huck:
Jan Sammer:

I have started the final work on the last chapter of the astronomical volume, which means that completion of the work is not very far off. It therefore appears that it is time to give some thought to the publication question. I have been exploring the possibilities, and Have one idea that I would like to lay on the table for your consideration before I do anything further.

First, as to what we are up against. Nothing But Motion cost about $12,000, approximately half of which was for composition and the other half for printing 2500 copies. The new book is about 50 percent longer. I believe that composition costs have dropped some, because of improvements in equipment and methods, but there has no doubt been some inflation in the printing costs. On this basis, the same number of copies of the new book would run about $8000 for composition and $10,000 for printing, a total of $18,000. Perhaps we can get some better prices, but we should be prepared to find that the cost will be in this neighborhood.

I believe this is out of our reach, and I have therefore been considering alternatives. One is to publish only part of the material, as we did with NBM, but I am reluctant to take this route if it can be avoided, as the impact of the work on the scientific community will undoubtedly be much greater if the whole thing hits them at once. So I have been thinking of reducing the printing to 1000 copies. This was also considered in the case of NBM, but it was not feasible there, as we wanted to hold down the price of the book to give it a bigger potential market, and we had to print enough copies to get the cost per copy low enough. Of course, this means that we had to take a chance on having a lot of unsold copies on our hands ultimately, but there did not seem to be an acceptable alternative.

In the case of the new volume, the situation is somewhat different. We are justified in putting a rather high price on this volume, for two reasons. First, if we can make a little commotion with our advertising, the universities will just about have to buy the book, for its nuisance value, if nothing else. And they will pay a high price just as readily as a low one. The second reason for setting a high list price is that it will enable us to offer an attractive discount for advance orders, which are hard to get without some inducements.

I had in mind that we might set the list price at $24 or $25, and discount it to $19 for pre-publication orders. This would enable cutting the printing order to 1000 copies, and still come out with a price per copy that we can live with. This will reduce the printing bill to about $4000 and the total to about $12,000. A few hundred advance orders should then put the project within reach. Of course, it is much easier to talk about a few hundred orders than it is to get them, but I think there should be a reasonable chance of hitting this target, particularly if we pound away at the advertising in the meantime.

Hox does this kind of a program sound to you? Have you any alternative ideas? Or suggestions as to modifications of this program?


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