How to self-publish a book that is out of print
December 2, 2013 11:30 AM   Subscribe

A friend authored a niche book that was published by a major publishing house and sold very well. It's out of print, but used copies sell on Amazon for many times the original price. People in the field very much want to buy copies of the book, and the author is interested in having it released again. What advice do you have for self-publishing this book?

Background: The book was published in the 1990s by a major publisher in the art field. The book is a practical guide to making art, and it's quite well respected in the field. The publisher sold many thousands of copies. It went out of print a decade ago, and the publisher released the copyright to the author. While I am sure the author owns the copyright for the text and images, I'm guessing the publisher owns the copyright for the layout. The publisher declines to put the book on the market again, but the author continues to get requests for it and would like to revise it and publish it again.

Is this the appropriate sort of project for Lulu, or is there a better way to get this on the market?

What advice do you have about marketing?

The author isn't willing or able to do order fulfillment via Amazon, etc. (he travels way too much, often for many weeks at a time). Who offers fulfillment services?

The author was contacted by Echo Point Books & Media, which specializes in re-printing out-of-print books, but I'm worried that they'll violate the original publisher's copyright as they're planning to just reprint the book exactly as it was originally printed. Also Echo Point takes 80% of the proceeds, and I'm assuming self-publishing would bring in much higher royalties. Does anyone have experience with them?
posted by Capri to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would first check the copyright release from the publisher. It may specify any copyrights other than strictly content-related that they either retained or released. If they released everything, you are golden. If not, I would imagine you could hire a designer to cheaply create a new layout, specifying of course that the new design is work-for-hire and that your author friend retains the copyright to the book design/layout.

I have no direct experience with self-publishing, but note that Amazon does provide fulfillment from their own warehouse. If your friend is reasonably certain that there is a substantial market for new copies of the book, s/he could pay up front for 100 copies from a print house somewhere and ship the lot off to Amazon and list the item with them. This would, in theory, be cheaper to print a run of 100 at once rather than listing on Lulu or other single-print-on-demand services, allowing the book to be priced lower and/or make a better profit on it.
posted by trivia genius at 11:54 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could avoid the entire problem of physical inventory by releasing it for the Kindle.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:24 PM on December 2, 2013

i worked for a math publisher that did this all the time. don't worry about the layout. if your friend definitely has the copyright to the text and art/figures/images, you're all set.

if he's going to revise it, that's going to reflow everything anyway.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2013

The answers above are correct, but be aware that you're asking a very complicated set of questions, and an answer on a BBS will not be enough to support you through this process. (Disclaimer: I do this exact sort of book / republishing / ebooks conversion for clients for a living. But I just thought I'd stick my nose in here as I do want to help.)
It's a very complex subject, and although I don't want to pitch my services on this site, rather than type out a long answer, you can read a bunch more free articles on my blog, using the link in my profile. Or you are certainly welcome to PM me.
posted by peggyagain at 2:09 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you publish through Amazon's Createspace, they will print on demand for you and take care of fulfillment. Probably a chat with someone in the industry of self publishing can help - whether a consultant or a writer who can tell it like it is.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a small publishing company that publishes on specialized topics. Createspace is probably your best bet here: Amazon will handle all the printing and fulfillment for you. Things are actually printed by Ingram's POD division, Lightning Source (who we use), but with much less hassle.

Presumably the author doesn't have access to the old layout files anyway, just the material, so why not hire a freelancer to do a new layout? (I can recommend some if you need pointing in the right direction).

In addition, if the book is that popular/well-known already, just listing it on Amazon is practically marketing enough. We are about to republish a long out of print book in our niche and just having an edition available that isn't selling for hundreds used should be great!
posted by at 6:07 PM on December 2, 2013

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