Wednesday, December 30, 2009

D-Lux 4 Book Becomes Available on Kindle

Today the people at sent me an e-mail message saying they have published my book about the Leica D-Lux 4 book on the Kindle. It took a bit longer than I expected, but now it is available, though I had some trouble finding it in searches. One issue is that the Kindle edition is not linked to the print edition, so you have to search for the two editions separately.  I'm hoping that will automatically be fixed, but if it isn't, I will send a message to Amazon asking that they be linked.

Not much else to report right now.  It's somewhat quiet at home without all the hubbub of printing and binding books, but I have to say that, as of now, I don't miss it, though I'm glad we did it.  I know Clenise is glad that phase is over, because now she has time to work on her own tax preparation business.  She has various webinars to listen to and lots of IRS information to read, as well as estimated payments to prepare for clients, so she can finally catch up on a lot of her own work.  And I am trying to move on to some other projects, while still, of course, monitoring sales and progress of the Leica D-Lux 4 book.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All Is Quiet

An aura of peacefulness has descended, which is appropriate for the holiday season. I've been able to clean up my home office to a large extent, because we're out of the business of printing, binding, and trimming, at least for now.  Today, the guy from the local graphic-arts company came by to install our newly sharpened blade. We had a nice chat, and then he left. The last time he was here, about a month ago, things were in a state of relative turmoil, and Clenise and I were racing against the clock every day to produce enough books to stay one step ahead of the orders.

So, we're both relieved, I have to say.  Clenise has straightened up her office, and again has time to take tax courses and webinars about her new tax software. Things are much more relaxed, and I don't miss the excitement.

With regard to the Leica D-Lux 4 book, I'm still waiting for it to become available on Amazon's Kindle. I think I've done everything necessary to that end; I responded to Amazon's latest request for more information, and I hope it shows up on the site for sale in the near future. I do get some inquiries from people asking if the book is available in an electronic format.

Oddly, there have not been any more reviews of the book on Amazon in about the past week, and only 4 altogether.  At least those have all been favorable.  I had a glitch with Google AdWords earlier today, because I deleted the ordering page from my site now that the book is available directly from Amazon, but I forgot that that page was tied to my ads on Google AdWords. Luckily, that deletion triggered a warning message from Google, and I quickly fixed the problem, so the ads are running again now. I plan to keep them running for a while, though they are costing me about $25.00 per day, and I don't think it makes sense to continue at that rate indefinitely. Eventually I'll cut down on them and see how that affects sales on

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Waiting for Kindle

Yesterday I uploaded the final version of the D-Lux 4 book formatted for the Amazon Kindle.  Today I received an e-mail message from Amazon saying they want to make the book available on Kindle, but first they need to have me submit some assurance that I am the owner of the electronic rights to the book.  I replied quickly, giving them the number of my pending copyright registration case and stating that I own all the rights to the book.  I hope those assurances will suffice, and that the book will be made available in Kindle form as soon as possible.

I had one inquiry today from a gentleman who would like to buy the book in electronic format, such as a .pdf file.  I replied that it will be available on Kindle soon, and may be available in other formats as well.

Both Clenise and I feel very relieved that we don't have to keep cranking out copies of the book.  We both have plenty of other activities to occupy us, and even without printing, binding, and shipping books we're both quite busy, so the switch to production by Lightning Source came at an opportune time.

I'm not sure how much more I will be adding to this blog.  I probably will stop making daily entries for now, and may make entries only when something of particular interest happens.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Activities

It's a rainy, but still white from recent snow, Christmas afternoon. We're getting adjusted to the new phase of book publishing, in which Lightning Source does the printing and distribution, and we sit back and wait for payment. So far, so good; the D-Lux 4 book climbed somewhat steadily up to an Amazon sales rank in the 3,300 range, though it has now slipped back down into the high 4000s. I'm finding it somewhat hard to keep from checking the sales rank; I don't need to check it so often.

In other news, today the book was finished in its format for uploading to in a Kindle electronic version. I have checked over the formatting, which looked good, and have uploaded the Kindle version. The Amazon site says it may take a couple of days before the e-version is checked over and approved to be made available for purchase on Amazon. I set the price at $9.99, on the theory that people generally wouldn't want to pay more than that for an electronic book about a camera. I considered setting it at $14.95, but decided I was likely to lose too many potential sales at that price.

Things are otherwise quiet. I'm hoping the D-Lux 4 book will start to sell some more copies fairly soon after Christmas, to those people who have received the D-Lux 4 camera as a Christmas gift.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

First Day of the New Approach to Selling the Book

Today, on Christmas Eve, the landscape here at home has changed, and I believe it is significantly for the better. Clenise took what may be our last shipment of a book to an individual buyer to the Post Office, along with some other items, while she was running her last-minute Christmas errands. My book about the Leica D-Lux 4 camera is now established as a product that, if all goes as it should, will be permanently in stock on Amazon. I believe that, if enough orders start coming in to Amazon, they eventually will keep it physically in stock. Until that time, they will have it in "virtual" stock, meaning they can have copies shipped directly from the Lightning Source facility in Amazon packaging as orders come in.

I have changed my web site at to reflect this new setup. Now the only purchasing options mentioned on the web site are and, the retailers based in Oregon who have sold quite a few of the D-Lux 4 books. I plan to keep dealing with them as well as Amazon, because they have a very good specialty operation to sell all sorts of photography books, and they have been very pleasant to deal with.

I have also started using the Amazon Associates program, which lets me put purchasing buttons on my web site, and will generate a small commission if someone clicks on one of the buttons and then purchases something on the Amazon site. I don't want to get carried away with this system, but I have put up buttons for the Leica D-Lux 4 book and the camera itself on the web site. And, as you will notice, I have put a link for purchasing the Leica D-Lux 4 book at the bottom of this blog post.

I will try not to check the D-Lux 4 book's sales rank on Amazon too often, but I will say that it has improved from the 37,000 + level that it was at yesterday. Earlier today it went as high as the 13,000 range, then dropped back to about 18,000. I just checked a minute ago, and it had spiked up to 7,062. So, at least that means the book is selling on Amazon, though I won't get any actual sales figures until Lightning Source sends me its monthly statements.

Photographer's Guide to the Leica D-Lux 4: Getting the Most from Leica's Compact Digital Camera

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A New Phase - D-Lux 4 Book Now Available Again on Amazon

You could say the process has now come full circle. When Clenise and I first started producing the book about the Leica D-Lux 4 camera back in late October of this year, I signed up for an Amazon Advantage account, through which I shipped books to Amazon for them to keep in stock and sell. If you've read some of the earlier posts in this blog, you know that that process soon spun out of control, because Amazon first asked for 2 books, then 32, 32 again, then 265, and finally 419, if I remember the numbers correctly. At that point we had to stop and completely re-think the situation, because there is no way we can produce that many books using color laser printers and a manual binding machine, not to mention the manual guillotine cutter, which requires at least four cuts per book.

So, without repeating the history of the past several weeks, in a nutshell, I signed up for an account with Lightning Source (LSI), a large print-on-demand company that will print the books in Tennessee and make them available directly to and other major online retailers (but not to distributors to bookstores, in my case).

I just received the proof copy from LSI this past Monday, and I expected it would take a week or more for the books to show up as available directly from Amazon. But I checked a few minutes ago, and, lo and behold, the book is now shown as "In Stock" and eligible for shipping with Amazon Prime. I believe this means that Amazon doesn't yet physically have a supply of books in its warehouse, but has them immediately available through LSI. Anyway, this is great news for me and for anyone who wants to buy the book, because they can order it and it will arrive quickly. Clenise and I don't have to print, pack, and ship to customers, and we can get out of the business of maintaining laser printers, refilling color toner cartridges, getting cutter blades sharpened, etc.

So, we'll see how this unfolds from here. I'm hoping the book's sales rank on Amazon (currently 37,034) will go up somwhat because of the ease of ordering directly from them, and because Amazon can't run out of books, having a direct pipeline to LSI's printing operation.

Also, LSI just e-mailed to tell me they have shipped a carton of books to, the retailer in Oregon, and one carton to me. So, although both laser printers have been working here tonight and Clenise has bound another batch of books (using our new shipment of hot melt glue pellets, which seems to be of better quality than the pellets we used for the last two months), we may be getting out of the book printing business for now, and maybe forever. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Still Printing While Waiting for Copies from Tennessee

I had visions of sitting back and waiting for copies of the Leica D-Lux 4 book to be shipped to us here in Virginia from the Lightning Source facility in Tennessee, but I checked on their web site and it doesn't look as if those copies will arrive for another week or more, given the holiday season volume of work and the normal turnaround time. In the future I'll be able to order enough copies to have them in stock, and I won't need very many probably, because Lightning Source will keep and other sellers supplied directly. For now, though, Clenise has gotten both Brother color laser printers fired up again and sending out streams of nice-looking pages to be bound into finished books.

Clenise went to Office Depot today and picked up eight more reams of laser printer paper to keep us in production. I'm trying to avoid buying any more toner, because of the expense and mess involved. I'm hoping we can use up the remaining toner so we get our money's worth from it, and then go out of the printing business, at least for the time being.

I had actually thought we might be able to ease off more than we have, because it's now so close to Christmas that I thought people would stop ordering books for a while. They aren't ordering quite as many as before, but right now, on Tuesday night before Christmas, we have seven orders left to fill -- five color books and two black-and-white. Maybe now the orders will slow down until after Christmas. My thinking is that some people will get the Leica D-Lux 4 camera for Christmas and want this book to help them learn how to use it; we'll see in a few days. Hopefully by then the Lightning Source books will at least be on the way, so we won't have to scramble to print more books.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Checking Out the Proof

Today the snow that was left on the ground after the storm is still creating enough of a problem that there was no mail delivery, but the FedEx truck was able to get here and deliver the proof copy of Photographer's Guide to the Leica D-Lux 4, as printed by Lightning Source in Tennessee. I was a little nervous opening the package, because I didn't know how well my Adobe InDesign files, exported to PDF files, would translate to a final product printed by a large print-on-demand company.

The news was good, though. The proof copy of the book looks very similar to the books that Clenise and I have been producing since late October. Some people on discussion forums had said that color photos don't look that great in print-on-demand books, but the photos in the proof look fine to me. I guess one reason for this result is that the photos in my book are not presented as great works of artistry; they are more in the nature of illustrating the capabilities of the camera. Many of the photos are simply photos of the camera's controls or menus, and they don't need to look spectacular. But the photos that are more colorful, and not just technical, still look very good to me. So, I was very relieved to see the excellent quality of Lightning Source's color printing. Also, the book is well constructed and looks in every way like a very respectable book that I would expect to see on a bookstore shelf.

I have already ordered two cartons of 16 books -- one carton for me, so I can fill some individual orders, and one carton for the folks at in Oregon, who have been quite successful in selling the book through their web site.

Clenise and I are both really looking forward to settling back and letting Lightning Source handle the work of printing and binding the books, and even shipping them in most cases. This next phase of the project will be another interesting one, and hopefully less stressful than the earlier phases.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Digging Out; Moving Forward

Here in central Virginia we got a lot of snow from last Friday afternoon through Saturday night. Today was bright and sunny, though still cold, and I was able to dig out a path for the car in about three hours. Later this afternoon I took a group of about 12 books to the post office and dropped them off in the collection box so they can start on their way to their purchasers tomorrow. I do spend a lot of time on shipping; I use the U.S. Postal Service Click 'N Ship service, which lets me print out the postage and address on a form to be attached to each package. It takes a lot of time to do that, but it has the advantage of discounts for the postage, and free delivery confirmation for domestic Priority Mail shipments.

Today I heard from a buyer in Spain whose book never reached him, after about four weeks. That's frustrating for him and me, but there's nothing to be done except refund his purchase price, which I did immediately. It's quite rare that a shipment doesn't reach a buyer, so I just accept the occasional problem as an ordinary part of the business.

I still have the Google AdWords campaign paused, because I don't want to generate a huge number of orders right now. I want the book to be available to anyone who's looking for it, but by now a Google search may find it anyway without having an ad pop up. I plan to resume the ad campaign later, once the books are being shipped by Lightning Source, but I don't want us to have to buy any more supplies for producing the books ourselves, if that can be avoided.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowed In; Building Up Inventory

The predictions of a major snowstorm were not exaggerated. The central Virginia area is buried in a large dumping of snow. Right now it's snowing again, and we may get several more inches before it's done. I don't like the feeling of not being able to get out to the post office to ship books, but that's the situation. Usually on a Saturday I would make at least one trip to the post office to drop off the books that I prepared with printed postage from the web site, and to take the international shipments to the counter for processing. But the orders I have as of now will have to wait until at least Monday, when I hope to be able to be back on track with mailing packages. I posted a notice on the web site to alert purchasers to the delay. Actually, though, I still probably will be able to ship the books within the required time frame for Amazon Marketplace, of one to two business days.

We have both printers printing now, one churning out color copies of the book and the other printing the black-and-white version that sells for a lower price. There have been several orders for the black-and-white version, and it appears that buyers do like having that choice, though the color version is still more popular by at least a ten-to-one margin.

Last night Lightning Source sent a message saying they have shipped the proof copy of the book, which is scheduled to arrive here on Monday, December 21 (weather permitting). It will be very interesting to see how that version of the book compares to our own printing. Hopefully we can then switch to using the LSI version, and reduce the labor-intensive activities of printing and shipping the books.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Big Snow Coming

It's Friday evening. This morning I took about 15 books to the downtown post office and mailed them out. This afternoon I sent out another five. I wanted to ship as many as possible before the huge snowstorm hit. It's snowing heavily now, and there could be one or two feet of snow on the ground before it ends sometime tomorrow or Sunday. I've paused my Google AdWords campaign to try to cut down on orders somewhat. I'm reluctant to cancel the listings on Amazon Marketplace or on the web site, because potential buyers could be discouraged if the book appears to be unavailable; they might conclude that it went out of print.

I've already had three new orders that haven't shipped yet, including one for Norway, for which I have to get to a post office, as opposed to just mailing the book from home or in a collection box. I probably won't be able to ship it before Monday at the soonest; I'll e-mail the buyer that there may be a shipping delay.

Still no more news from Lightning Source. When I log into my account, it shows that my proof order is "printing." I guess that means that it was approved to be printed, or maybe has entered a work flow to be printed, then inspected, bound, etc., before it gets shipped. So it will be next week before I get the proof copy of the book to approve, and then a few more days before the books can be distributed widely.

We have a good number of books printed out, waiting to be bound. No hurry to bind them, because we won't be able to get them shipped for a few days. Both printers are working well now, thanks to Clenise's steady work at maintaining them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stress Level Through the Roof -- And Back Down Again

Today I had what was one of the most stressful periods of the entire book project. A couple of days ago I re-submitted the cover file for the Leica D-Lux 4 book to Lightning Source, the print-on-demand company that will start printing the books. The first cover file had been rejected for technical reasons, but I believed I had fixed those problems with the revised file. I was waiting somewhat apprehensively for some word from LSI as to whether the new file passed muster.

Early this afternoon I received an e-mail from the customer rep at LSI saying they had encountered problems with my file -- the exact same problems that they had with the original file! This was not good news. I had imagined maybe there would be some other problem, or maybe they would say there was still a slight issue but the file could be processed anyway, but not that all of the same problems were still there!

So I first called a person who is providing consulting services for the project. She looked at the file on her computer and could not immediately see a problem. I then called my customer service rep, who had sent me the unwelcome e-mail. I left a message for her to call me back. I didn't hear from her for about an hour, so I called a different rep, whose name had also been sent to me. She answered her phone, thank goodness. I explained the situation, and fortunately she soon reached the conclusion that I needed to speak to the technical person who had handled the file and found the problems. He came on the line and was very pleasant and helpful. After I explained my concerns, he realized that he had been looking at the original file again! He quickly checked the revised file, and found that it was fine and ready to go. He was quite apologetic, and promised to get the file processed as soon as possible. So, all's well that ends well, though I had some bad moments thinking I was at a dead end and could not get that file approved. Maybe it was worth going through this to get to the feeling of relief at the end.

So, in the fairly near future I should be receiving a proof copy of the book from LSI, and then, assuming it looks okay, I can order copies of the book to distribute myself, and I can let the books be distributed automatically to Amazon and other online retailers as orders are placed. I'm looking forward to letting LSI handle a lot of the work that Clenise and I have been doing ourselves for the past six or eight weeks.

The orders, meanwhile, have slowed down dramatically. Only two orders as of late afternoon today -- one from the U.S. and one from Singapore. I reactivated the Google AdWords campaign last night, so hopefully some more orders will come in, though people may be focusing on the holidays and may not think the book will arrive in time to be useful to them. I can still ship them out to arrive by Christmas in the U.S., though probably not outside of the U.S.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Still a Lot Going On

Well, yesterday I missed out and never got around to posting a new entry here. It just got too late with everything going on. I won't try to mention all that's happening, but I'll just give a brief update.

Leica posted the firmware update to the D-Lux 4 camera on the U.S. web site on December 11, but a day or two later it disappeared. The only explanation I have seen was a brief message by a member of the Leica discussion forum saying that there were technical concerns with bracketing and the French language. That's too bad; I updated my camera and it was working fine as far as I could tell. The update provides some excellent enhancements to the camera, but we'll have to wait a while for it to be fixed and released again.

We're printing books again now, though I had to make a quick trip to OfficeMax this evening for more Brother toner cartridges. Yesterday I started to order some on, but I left them in my virtual shopping cart, and never finished the order. Oh, well. Things were busy yesterday.

Orders have slowed down a bit. Yesterday I took 18 books to the post office, representing the orders from Saturday and Sunday. Today I took 8. As of now, at 10:50 Tuesday night, we have 9 books to ship tomorrow, all to buyers in the U.S., which is unusual. I had stopped the Google AdWords campaign for several days, and that may have had the effect of slowing down international orders. Anyway, this evening I started it back up again, and we'll see if orders pick up.

I guess some people are ordering for the holidays, and they may think it's too late to get books shipped in time. Actually, I ship the next business day if I receive the order by about 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, so there is still time if anyone wants a book before Christmas.

The last two black-and-white copies of the book that were available from me on Amazon Marketplace just sold, and I'm not going to put any more of them on sale there, at least not right away, because we're only printing color books right now, and with only one printer operating, we can't print both kinds at the same time.

Yesterday I submitted a revised cover file to Lightning Source after they e-mailed me to say the first file had technical problems. I'm hoping I got it right the second time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Trying to Keep Up with Orders

As we continue down the home stretch, it never seems to get much easier to keep up with orders. The one printer that is now functioning was printing quite nicely last night and then again this morning -- until it "paused." I tried to un-pause it from the computer, but that had no effect. For the last two hours, Clenise has been working to get the toner cartridges refilled with toner from the bottles we bought over the internet. This toner seems to be good, but it is a very tedious task to refill the cartridges properly, so toner doesn't leak out, and the printer recognizes the cartridge as full. A few minutes ago she replaced the refilled cartridges in the printer, and then the printer's display turned the dreaded red color, with a message about a Drum Error. Now Clenise is using the vacuum cleaner to try to clean off the drum unit of any excess toner.

With any luck, we will have the printer up and running again before too long, but nothing is certain in this venture.

Right now, we have seven unfilled orders, all for the version of the book with color photographs. A few people have ordered the black-and-white version, but I believe the ratio is at least ten color books to one B&W book.

Today we officially reached the mark of 400 books sold. We have produced considerably more than that, because of books sent out as promotional copies or replacements for books that got lost in shipment or had other issues.

We have now sold books to buyers in 22 countries other than the U.S.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Quieter Day

Today is Saturday, and for once I'm finding time to write a post during daylight hours, just after 2:00 p.m. Things have settled down for the moment, which is a rare situation lately. I've received orders for only two books so far today. I'm not sure why; maybe it's because the holiday season is in full swing and people have things to do other than order camera guides. At any rate, I'm glad it's peaceful here now. Clenise is really worn to a frazzle, though she managed to bind nine more color-interior books a little while ago. I needed two of them to fill today's two orders.

I also had a chance earlier today to download and install the new version 2.1 firmware update to the Leica D-Lux 4 camera. It does seem to be a very useful update; it helps with white balance accuracy, provides a 1:1 aspect ratio so you can take perfectly square images; and gives a broader range of adjustments for exposure compensation, among other items. It will take a while to test all of the new functions and figure them out. I have posted links to the update on my web site. Eventually I may revise the book to include references to the new features, but I won't do that until the update has been around for a while.

Now I'm waiting for Lightning Source to finish processing my text and cover files and send me a proof copy of the book to approve. Then it will be interesting to see how quickly and how widely the book gets distributed. I was reading today on Aaron Shepard's blog that books such as this one (printed by Lightning Source and distributed with a "short discount" and non-returnable) will not be carried by It still should be available through and, among other places. I'll be watching to see where the book turns up. I'm hoping this type of distribution will work out well. Of course, it would be nice to see it on bookstore shelves, but that is not likely to happen when I'm not making it available at the higher discount that the major distributors require. I will have to decide whether to order some books myself that I can sell through Amazon Marketplace and elsewhere. Actually, I wouldn't mind getting out of the business of selling individual copies of the books, because it takes so much time to process orders and pack and ship books, including daily trips to the post office.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Down the Home Stretch

Clenise and I are both getting worn out from producing books ourselves. Her case of tennis elbow is getting worse, from operating the lever of the binding machine and the blade of the cutter, along with constantly maintaining the printers and tweaking the toner cartridges to keep the pages flowing out. But I think we're approaching the end of this phase of the project. Today I received a message from Lightning Source saying they have started processing the files I uploaded yesterday, and with good luck it sounds as if they may be ready to start printing the books within a week or so. We're both looking forward to sitting back for a while and letting someone else do the printing, binding, and shipping.

Today Leica announced the update of the firmware of the D-Lux 4 camera to version 2.1, a long-awaited event. I'm glad I didn't wait for that update before publishing the book. I have put a link on my web site at for people to get access to the new update. I haven't had a chance to download it yet myself, because I've been busy filling orders. The Google AdWords campaign is still paused, but today so far we have had eight orders through Amazon Marketplace (one of them for 2 books) and one order through the White Knight Press web site. We are just barely producing enough books to fill these orders.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Start of Transition Time

Today marks the beginning of a transition period in the life of our project to publish the Leica D-Lux 4 book. I took the final steps to carry out the plan to have Lightning Source, the print-on-demand company, print copies of the book as needed and distribute them to the major online sellers, such as The books and other writings about using this company (often referred to as LSI) warn that the process can be difficult for a neophyte like me, but it wasn't really too bad, maybe because I was expecting worse. I didn't have to ask anyone from the company for help, though I had received e-mails from several people with LSI giving their phone numbers in case I needed assistance.

After double-checking my Adobe InDesign file with the book's layout for formatting and any problems, I used InDesign's built-in Export function to export a pdf file, using the standard of PDF/X-1a:2001, which is what LSI requires. I also used LSI's cover template generator to request a cover template. That process was a little trickier; after I gave the the number of pages and other specifications (color cover and interior; trim size of 5.5 by 8.5 inches, etc.), LSI e-mailed me an InDesign cover template with a bar code containing the ISBN and price of the book. I then had to insert the graphic elements of my cover design onto that template. That was a bit tricky for me, but Clenise helped me, and eventually we got the cover looking just like it looks now, with everything in its place.

Now, unless LSI finds any problems with the cover or text files I uploaded, we will receive a proof copy of the book within a week or two. Once the proof is approved, the book should start being distributed to any online seller that requests copies. Also, I can order copies myself, so I can keep selling the book on Amazon Marketplace and on my web site if I'm so inclined.

The book won't be in bookstores, because I selected to have a "short discount" of 20%. Bookstores require a discount of something like 40% or more, so you probably won't find this book in Borders or Barnes & Noble stores, at least in the near future. Who knows what could happen later on.

Orders through Amazon Marketplace and my own site have continued to flow in at a fairly steady pace of roughly six or eight per day, though I have put my Google AdWords campaign on pause. It gets tiring to keep filling individual orders, and I will be glad in a way when LSI starts to handle printing and distribution.

Today we had two more orders from Sweden, after one other recently, and one from Finland the other day, so I guess there may be some sort of announcement about the book on a Swedish web site that I'm not aware of.

I'm still offering the color and black-and-white versions of the book; I haven't made an official count, but I would estimate that sales of the color version are about ten times the sales of the black-and-white version. I'm sending LSI only the color version, and once LSI starts printing the books, I will have to decide what to do about the black-and-white one. One possibility would be for Clenise and me to keep producing that version on our printers, because the cost of black toner would be manageable, and the volume of sales probably would be low enough to be manageable also.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Presses Are Still Rolling

This will have to be short because time is short, but I don't like to miss posting for a day if I can help it. I'm in the process of getting the book set to be printed by Lightning Source in color. The good news on that front is it looks like they can print it for a reasonable amount, unless I've read their pricing schedule wrong. The bad news is it looks as if it may take a couple of weeks to get that process finished, but I hope to get the files uploaded to them within a day or two.

The orders keep rolling in, though I've paused the Google AdWords campaign in an effort to slow the orders down; we've run out of cover stock, and a new supply won't arrive for another day or two. We also need more toner. Clenise has had success in refilling cartridges from bottles of toner, so we'll try that method at least twice more.

Orders have come in from several new countries over the last few days -- Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Also other orders from France, Spain, the Netherlands, and others. Quite a few from the UK and Canada. I wish I knew how people are finding out about the book; I wonder if some announcement reached Scandinavia recently.

Well, that's it for now; have to reload paper in the printer.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Color versus Black-and-White

Yesterday I set up the two official versions of the book about the D-Lux 4 camera -- the original version, with color photographs in the interior of the book, and a newly fine-tuned version with all the same content as the original book, except that the photographs have been converted to black-and-white. I didn't just print the same book without color; I took each photograph individually and adjusted it so it would look as good as possible in black-and-white, by adjusting the contrast, brightness, sharpness, etc.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, the driving force here was to try to make enough money from selling the books to cover our expenses for printing them; we had been losing money on each book because we were not able to find a reliable source of color toner for the laser printers at a price that would let us break even or make a profit at the original price of $19.95 for the full-color version of the book.

So yesterday the book went on sale on Amazon Marketplace and on my web site in two versions -- the original color one for $26.95 and the black-and-white one for $19.95. Since that time, we have had 12 orders -- 10 for the color book and 2 for the black-and-white version.

That result surprised me somewhat. I thought some more people might balk at the higher price and prefer to pay $19.95 for the less-expensive version, which has all the same text and is basically just as useful as the color book for learning how to use the D-Lux 4 camera. But I can understand someone wanting the "best" version available.

Today I received my e-mails saying my account with Lightning Source has been approved. I will soon look into pricing to have that print-on-demand company print the books. I was going to have them printed in black-and-white, but now, after today's sales results, I'm rethinking that decision, and may get the books printed in color, if it can be done at a price that leaves some margin for profit.

Clenise has done a great job of keeping the printers running despite many mechanical failures, defective toner cartridges, and other obstacles, so we're still able to keep up with orders for the book. Now, of course, we have to gauge demand for the two different versions and keep enough of both versions printed and ready to ship. That does complicate things a bit, but so far, so good, and hopefully Lightning Source (or possibly another company) will soon take over the printing and shipping chores.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Printer Woes; Testing the Waters with New Price

Last night Clenise was up until about 2:30 in the morning trying to get the toner cartridges working properly. Yesterday we received our first shipment of bottles of toner to refill the cartridges with -- our latest attempt to address the problem of the excessive cost of color toner for the Brother printers. She has figured out various techniques and tricks for how to empty out the old toner and add the new toner, and reset the cartridges. All seemed to be working earlier in the evening, but then a clicking sound started up in one of the cartridges. Right now she's still trying to diagnose that problem, so we haven't been able to print anything all day today.

On the sales front, yesterday I finished the procedures for re-listing the books with the new prices. The color version of the D-Lux 4 book is now listed at $26.95 on Amazon Marketplace and on my web site, The black-and-white version is listed on Amazon and my web site also, at $19.95. For some reason, I haven't been able to find the black-and-white version through a search on Amazon, although it is listed in my inventory on Amazon Marketplace. If it doesn't show up within about another day, I'll have to contact Amazon to see if they can fix this issue. Ideally, the two versions of the book should be linked, so potential buyers browsing on Amazon can see both and decide which they want.

I have been somewhat surprised that no one has yet bought the black-and-white version of the book. I have sold several -- maybe about 4 or 5 so far, of the color copies at the new price of $26.95. I have heard quite different opinions from various people about color versus black-and-white. Some say it should not make a big difference, but others, including one commenter on this blog, said it would be a shame to do away with the color edition. So this will be an experiment. My plan was to start selling the book through Lightning Source for $19.95 in a black-and-white edition, having the books printed on demand by that company. But if it turns out that none of the black-and-white versions sell, I may rethink that strategy and sign up with another company to print the books in color to be sold at a higher price -- at least $26.95, and possibly $27.9 -- to leave a margin for some profit and start to recover the expenses of this project.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Had to Increase Price of Book

I was reluctant to take this step, but as those who have read the past posts here know, we were getting submerged in expenses because of the costs of buying toner and other consumables for the two Brother color laser printers we're using to print the book about the Leica D-Lux 4 digital camera. I have never stopped to figure out a precise cost of producing each book in color, but I know we were taking a substantial loss on each book. A complete set of high-capacity toner cartridges for each printer costs about $330.00 at the cheapest I could find. The cyan, magenta, and yellow toners are about $90.00 each, and the black is about $60.00 each. We also have to replace periodically the printers' drum units, waste toner boxes, and belt units. That's not to mention the cost of paper, which is at least $12.00 per ream of 500 sheets. Each book requires 57 sheets of paper, if there is no loss at all through misprints or wastage. That means we get slightly more than 8 books out of a ream, so the paper cost alone is about $1.50 per book. I'm not sure how many books we get from a complete set of toner cartridges, but I would say the most we could get would be about 30 books. So, the toner cost would be roughly $11.00 per book. Then there is the cost of replacing the blade of the paper cutter, which can last for only 1,000 cuts. Each book takes at least 4 cuts to trim it, so we have to spend about $300.00 for a new blade after every 250 books. That adds about another dollar to the cost of each book. (We may be able to reduce that cost by getting one of the old blades sharpened; we'll try that next time.) Then you factor in fees charged by, eBay, PayPal, or any other avenue of distribution, and it's easy to see how we were losing money on every book sold.

I'm hoping that the price increase will stem the flow of money out. I'm not sure how people will react to the increase; maybe they will stop buying books. Actually, that would be better in a way than continuing to sell books at a loss. This morning I took 13 books to the Post Office, and when I got home there were two new orders waiting for me.

Anyway, it will be very interesting to see if the price increase brings sales to a halt, or brings in enough money to cover the cost of the books. We're also now printing and offering for sale a black-and-white version, and it may be that people will be satisfied with that version. All of the content is the same; it just lacks the color in the photos. It will save a considerable amount of money to print that version, because we will only need black toner, not the three colors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Google Adjustments

I haven't made a scientific study, but yesterday was a slow day for orders -- only about 3 or 4, while I had suspended the Google AdWords campaign for a while. Today I reactivated it, and we ended up with 12 orders by individuals so far, all but one through Amazon Marketplace. That's the most Amazon Marketplace orders I've ever had in one day. I don't know if it's because the Google ads are back up again, or because I haven't shipped any more books directly to Amazon for them to sell at a lower price, so people are deciding they need to order from a seller who has them in stock for immediate shipment, rather than wait for Amazon to get them back in stock.

Yesterday I assigned a new ISBN to the revised edition of the book, with black-and-white photos, and we printed up a few copies. I'm waiting for my new Lightning Source account to become active so I can start selling books that they print and distribute. Things are still very busy, and it will be interesting to see what direction they go in next.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trying to Turn Things in a Different Direction

The Leica D-Lux 4 book project is still very enjoyable and exhilarating in its way, but it can be draining, for both me and Clenise. She has tennis elbow, which is made worse by operating the binding machine and cutter. She also spends a lot of her time diagnosing and fixing color printer problems, mostly caused by bad toner cartridges.

Today I am in the process of signing up for an account with Lightning Source, the large print-on-demand company that will print the book for us and ship it to major distributors such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. I don't fully understand how it will all work, but I'm basing this move partly on Aaron Shepard's excellent book, Aiming at Amazon, which advocates the use of Lightning Source, and discussions in publishing forums online.

The other aspect of the new direction is to convert the book's interior photographs to black-and-white. I spent much of yesterday doing the conversions in Adobe Photoshop Elements and InDesign. Soon I have to assign one of my eight remaining ISBNs (standard book identifying numbers) to the new version. Even though it will have the same text, I've been told that this will constitute a sufficiently different format of the book that it needs a separate identity through a new ISBN.

Then, I will send the pdf version to Lightning Source and they will print them whenever orders come in. I will also be able to order copies myself, so I can keep selling them through my web site and on Amazon Marketplace and elsewhere.

I've had orders come in recently from Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as U.S. ones. The book keeps selling to individuals, but those sales are slowing a bit now, partly because I have suspended my ad campaign on Google AdWords. I may start it up again once the new version of the book goes into production.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Lot Has Been Happening

As evidence that a lot has been going on, I point out the fact that yesterday I never got a chance to make an entry in this blog. That was the first day I have missed in a long time. Things have been very hectic as I try to figure out the next steps. This morning Amazon sent another order, this time for 418 books. I need to go ahead and cancel or decline all outstanding Amazon orders, because I can't possibly produce that many books. I'm still selling books to individuals on Amazon Marketplace, but we're just barely producing enough books to keep enough on hand to fulfill those orders.

Today I saw that someone has listed a copy of the book as Used on Amazon Marketplace for $80.77. I'll have to check to see if that sells; if it does, I guess it means my pricing is off!

I have started the process to get the book printed by the print-on-demand company, Lightning Source; I hope to send the pdf files to them within the next few days. Hopefully, then all the people who want the book through Amazon will be able to get them. The interiors will have black-and-white photos rather than color, but that shouldn't matter too much, because the purpose of this book is to show people how to use the camera, not to illustrate the taking of beautiful color pictures.

Anyway, we have one color laser printer up and running now. We decided to get a new set of high-capacity color toner cartridges that are the genuine Brother ones. I'm pretty disappointed in the quality of all of the refilled toner cartridges we tried. Every time I thought we had found a great source of economical toner, it turned out the supplier sent us defective cartridges, or ones that weren't completely filled, etc. We are going to try refilling the genuine Brother cartridges ourselves, with bottles of toner. That will be the last attempt; if that doesn't work, we may stop printing and just rely on Lightning Source.

I don't feel good that there still seems to be a good amount of demand for the book that we can't fill quickly, but that's the way things go with projects like this; it was to a certain extent an excursion into the unknown. An excellent learning experience. I do hope we can turn it into a financially profitable one, but that's still uncertain.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving Toward a New Phase

Today I took a concrete step toward the transition from home-based printing to using a print-on-demand company, Lightning Source. I signed up with a consultant who has considerable expertise in that area, and I will be bouncing questions off of her for the next several days. I expect to convert the book to having all black-and-white photos in the interior to cut down on production costs, and let Lightning Source take care of distributing the book to Amazon and other sellers. The book may not get into bookstores this way, but it isn't in stores now and is selling fairly well through online channels.

Today we received our new blade for the Martin-Yale cutter accompanied by a set of instructions that would make the standard knockdown furniture instructions look like a simple nursery rhyme. To be fair, the instructions had an introduction saying the blade should be installed only by a qualified field service person. Clenise made a valiant effort to install it, but soon realized she needed professional help. Remarkably, she called the company and they directed her to a local service man, who came right out to our house and installed it! I was amazed, and now the cutter cuts like a blazing sword through melting butter; an incredible difference.

The laser printers are a different story. We received another shipment of refilled toner cartridges, and they are not doing so well, though we switched them into the other printer and now we are able to print some good copies.

Today we received an order for 21 more books from, and we'll ship those tomorrow. I think I'm going to have to cancel all outstanding orders from Amazon Advantage, because it's too costly and difficult to produce enough books to fill those orders. Once we're up and running with Lightning Source, Amazon will get books through that channel.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming to a Major Decision Point

Writing the book about the D-Lux 4 was a challenge, but I have to say that the publishing, printing, and distribution have presented more challenges. Every day I learn something, though, which is great. This experiment has not been financially profitable as of yet, but I think the amount of knowledge Clenise and I have gained has made it all worthwhile.

Today I learned more about how Amazon Advantage works. I had read the help files Amazon has available, as well as the instructions it sends when it orders books through the Advantage program, but those files did not explain everything, and some of the instructions were inconsistent with each other, at least as I read them. Anyway, about a week ago they ordered 265 books from us, and we scrambled for a while trying to figure out whether we could produce that many books. I contacted a print-on-demand operation to check on the possibility of getting them to print the books, and considered other options as well. Eventually, Clenise and I decided we could not fill that full order, so I replied to the order by saying we will ship 32 books by December 7.

I wasn't quite sure what would happen next, but I found out today. This morning Amazon again sent an order for more books -- this time for 239 books. I then read some more help files, and I found a statement saying that, if we can't fill the entire order, we should declare the title "suspended" because it's temporarily unavailable. If we don't do that, Amazon will continue to order books, because we have the title listed as "active."

Okay, so now I think I understand better how Amazon Advantage works. Either we declare the title suspended, or we find a way to fill the complete orders for hundreds of books. We really can't do the latter, at least under present conditions. So we need to find a new approach to distributing this book.

Basically, it does not seem to be economically feasible to produce a book like this one, with numerous color photographs on its interior pages, with a list price of $19.95. So something has to give -- we need to either raise the price or convert the book to all black-and-white pages.

I don't really like the idea of raising the price to $24.95, as someone suggested to us, and that wouldn't solve the problem that well, because producing the book in color would still be expensive enough to cut the potential profit to a bare minimum.

That leaves converting the book to black-and-white pages. That really isn't too much of a problem. I liked having the color pages, partly because they look nice, partly because it was interesting to see if color laser printers could produce adequate quality (they could, in my opinion, but not cost-effectively), and partly because I like to reproduce the pictures as the camera actually took them.

But, for the purpose of illustrating how the camera works, most of the functions don't really need color illustrations. Some of the images are easier to see in detail with color, which gives more definition to the pictures, but I don't think the reader will miss too much with black-and-white illustrations.

So, after discussing the options with Clenise today, I think it's likely that we will switch gears and shut down our home-based printing operation within the next week or so. Instead of printing at home on color laser printers, I'm tentatively planning to look into getting the books printed in black-and-white by Lightning Source, the large print-on-demand company that is used by numerous publishers for books that don't need to be printed in huge amounts. That way, we can have as many books printed as needed; they will be printed quickly; and they will automatically be available through the large distributors, including Baker & Taylor and Ingram, so, if Barnes & Noble or another retailer wants to order a book for a customer, they can do so (which they can't as of now). Also, the books will be available to Amazon, but through the print-on-demand channel, and not through the Amazon Advantage program. I think this system will work better for us, and will take the pressure off us to produce dozens of books on short notice.

We will still keep printing for a week or two until we can get the new system started, assuming that's the route we take. I plan to talk to a consultant about helping make this transition, which may require getting a new ISBN for the book, etc. Also, I will make a further effort to get the book formatted for Amazon's Kindle and made available for sale for that electronic device.

On the individual ordering front, I still am receiving orders, though there has not been any new publicity lately, so there have been only about five or six orders per day. Today we had an order from Malaysia, our first order from that country.

I have to say that, although Clenise and I have both enjoyed the experience of printing and binding books, it was beginning to wear us out with the long hours and stress of dealing with printers that wouldn't print, or printed badly, a cutter whose blade was wearing out, and other issues. We both can use some rest, which may be coming in the near future, if things work out along the new lines we envision.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Printers Printing Again - After a Battle

The battle was strictly a technical one, but a draining and protracted one. As of yesterday, I was about ready to throw both printers out a window. Clenise had pretty well solved the print-quality issues by cleaning the printers' components, installing new drum units and belt units and toner cartridges, and other actions. But then the printers would print a few pages, then "pause." I have no idea why they would pause, but once they did, even if they resumed the print job was ruined. Sometimes I could get maybe 20 or so pages printed, and then I would coax the rest of the book's pages out of a printer, but it took me all day to get about three full copies of the book.

I reinstalled the printer drivers and reset the printers to factory settings, but nothing worked. I finally decided the problem must somehow be related to the fact that both printers were on our home ethernet network, along with several computers, and somehow the data streams going to the printers were getting confused or interrupted by data going elsewhere. Or something like that. I don't know much about the technical aspects of networking.

So today I finally decided to switch one of the printers to a USB connection directly to the computer. That seems to be working. Right now that printer is happily cranking out clean pages. I left the other printer on the network to see if the problem has cleared up, and so far it seems to be okay. The other printer also is printing continuously. I guess two identical printers on the same network caused confusion, though that system had worked quite well previously. Anyway, once I make sure this system works, I'm not going to change it one bit.

We haven't received our new cutter blade yet; I think it will arrive Monday, and by then we should have enough copies printed that we can concentrate on cutting and binding. So things are looking up. Of course, we still haven't found a way to control the high cost of color toner, but we're taking things one step at a time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Looking for New Approaches

I need to find a way to cut down on the costs of production, or else turn over production to someone else, because the costs of color toner, along with printer parts and other items, are eating away at any potential profits. Yesterday I contacted someone with a company that prints color books. He was glad to take on the job, but his company would charge $14.52 per book, which is more than I get paid for most sales. So I would still be losing money if I tried that option. Another option is to switch to a version of the book with all black-and-white photographs. I may have to make that change eventually, but not yet. However, I have started to offer a black-and-white version as an option through my web site, at a reduced price of $15.95. That just started today, and no one has purchased that version yet. We'll see how that develops.

The next issue that started causing problems today is the condition of the Martin-Yale 7000e paper cutter. It's getting noticeably harder to trim the bound books now, because the blade is getting dull. I have ordered a replacement blade, and hopefully it will arrive in time to avoid a shut-down of production for lack of a cutting capability.

I replied to Amazon's order department about their order for 265 copies of the book; I said we will ship them 32. There's no way we can produce 265 copies in the near future, and 32 is the amount we have shipped the last two times, so that seemed like a reasonable amount. Maybe Amazon's pace of sales will slow down and things will become less hectic.

Right now we have one printer printing very nice copies, using new toner cartridges that arrived by UPS this morning. The only problem is that the printer pauses from time to time for no discernible reason. Clenise just got the other printer working after a couple of days when it wouldn't print at all. I'll try printing to it soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving; Trying Not to get Bogged Down with Book Issues

At first I thought I wouldn't post anything today, because the kids are home from out of town and we're having our Thanksgiving dinner and trying to relax. But, a short update is probably in order. I did receive some helpful feedback from a publishers' group I joined, and I have sent a message to a print-on-demand company to see if they can start producing the book in greater volume than we can with our laser printers. Both of our printers are down now, for lack of toner for both printers, and for one printer, for lack of working. Our cutter's blade is getting dull, so I ordered a new blade. More toner should be arriving over the weekend, but we really need to get someone else involved in the printing if we're going to keep up with the orders.

I heard back from a customer who had ordered the book from Barnes and Noble's web site. I had written him to say I didn't think they would be able to get him the book, and, sure enough, he replied today, telling me they had cancelled the order and said they couldn't get him the book. I had suggested he order it instead from He said he did so, and was pleased with their service. I thought that was interesting that Barnes & Noble had even listed the book on its site. And I was glad that got the sale.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things Are Getting a Little Intense; Comments and Suggestions are Welcome

Clenise and I have been very busy all through our project to publish the book about the Leica D-Lux 4 camera. Keeping enough paper, toner, printer components and other supplies at hand and keeping the printers going with good copies of the book have been challenges all along. Filling the orders from individuals and the few larger orders from presented other hurdles to get over.

But today we were presented with a new order from Amazon that has clearly put us on the brink of a fairly major decision. This morning I received an e-mail from Amazon Advantage with an order for 265 more books. That's in addition to the 32 I just shipped to them today, and the 32 that we shipped a week or so ago. As with other orders, 265 doesn't sound at first blush like a large number. But to small publishers like us, it is really huge, since we have to create each book from scratch in our home office. We have to get the paper, the toner, get the printer to cooperate, then cut the printed pages in half to book-sized pages, bind the books, trim them, shrink-wrap them, and ship them. I figure that printing 265 books would take roughly 32 reams of printer paper, and would take about eight heavy cartons to ship them in.

So now we have to decide whether to accept this order and start printing all day, every day. We would need a new blade for the cutter, new drum units for the printers, and a host of other supplies. We don't make any money on books sold to Amazon at their standard heavy discount. But it is good to see the book in stock and available there; it gives it exposure and credibility, I think, and the chance for more reviews by readers.

On the other hand, I never envisioned the book selling this many copies this quickly, and we aren't really set up to print and ship in that sort of volume.

So, what do we do now? I haven't received many comments on this blog, but if anyone has any realistic ideas, I would love to hear from you. If you don't want to comment publicly, you can reach me through the web site at www.

Here are some of my thoughts and questions:

1. What would be the implications if we decline to fill the latest Amazon Advantage order, or fill it only partly? Would that have any negative consequences, or would Amazon just then order some more books later on and see if we can fill a later order? The book would not get listed as "in stock" at Amazon, presumably, unless we can completely fill the order. But is that a bad thing?

2. What are the best other options? Should we try to find a short-run printer who can print this book with its color photos through conventional printing in a lot of 500 or 1,000, to take the pressure off of our self-printing operation?

3. Is there an established publisher somewhere that would be interested in working with us or taking over the book? A little while ago on Amazon its sales rank was 1,194, though that may just be a temporary spurt because of some publicity or other factor I'm not aware of.

4. Any other ideas that could keep the book selling without our being swamped in actual toner and figurative red ink would be welcomed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I didn't get a chance to write this entry until almost 11:00 p.m., pretty late for me. That's because things are so busy. Ten individual orders today, including one from a new country -- Portugal. Also orders from Spain, Canada, and the Netherlands, as well as the U.S. I cut the Google AdWords budget to $10.00 today, because we really have about all the orders we can handle at the moment. I was going to delay filling the latest Amazon order for a while until we could build the inventory back up, but they e-mailed me this morning with a reminder, saying they would like to have the Amazon Advantage orders confirmed within 24 hours. So I confirmed the latest order, and we will try to ship them 32 books within the next few days. Our production is doing better; today Clenise bound 26 books in one session, a new record. Then we had to trim them, inspect them, and shrink-wrap them, while constantly printing new ones. Both printers were working today, but we're waiting for a new shipment of toner before we can print many more copies.

No real problems today; by now we've experienced just about every problem, so we're more ready to deal with issues as they arise. The cutter's blade is starting to get a bit dull, so soon we'll be faced with ordering a new blade to use while we get that one sharpened. That will run us around $300. There are plenty of expenses, and it's not yet clear that we'll be able to make any profit. But things are busy and interesting, and that's not so bad. Clenise and I are learning something useful every day, and maybe we can put the information to good use for future projects, or for later stages of this one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Keeping Up with Orders

Individual orders have been coming in fairly steadily; I would say the average lately is about five per day. Someone e-mailed me today to say he was having trouble ordering through PayPal on my web site, I suggested he try Amazon Marketplace or eBay. Later he replied, saying he had worked it out by ordering through Barnes & Noble, whose online site says the D-Lux 4 book will be available on November 28. I e-mailed back, saying that's not a great option, because Barnes & Noble has never requested any books from me, and I have not sent them any books, so it's unlikely they have any! I hope he ends up getting the book one way or another.

We've been printing books pretty steadily lately, with an eye to filling Amazon's latest order for 32 books, and still keeping up with individual orders. There haven't been any new reviews on Amazon lately, though I've gotten nice feedback from two recent buyers on Amazon Marketplace and eBay.

One area that I haven't mentioned in a while is the book's cover. In my opinion, the cover has been one of the more successful aspects of this whole project. For one thing, it has been easy to print, since it's a single-sided document. Also, I was lucky in choosing what turned out to be a very good coated stock for printing the cover. It looks nice, and holds the printer's colors very well. The design looks pretty good to me, and that is largely because of the helpful suggestions I received from a person who did not want to be named. That person contacted me through and gave me some very helpful tips about design of the book and cover, but did not want any public acknowledgment.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Amazon Orders Yet Again

Well, I guess a small publisher is supposed to be glad when a big company orders more of his books, but I'm actually getting to the point of slightly dreading the appearance in my e-mail inbox of "You have an Advantage order." I prefer seeing the messages about payments received through PayPal, or sales through Amazon Marketplace. This morning I saw all three types of message. I read some more about Amazon's Advantage program, and I think I understand it better now. They just keep placing orders as they run out of books, though they still don't seem to ever place orders large enough to ever actually be able to list the book as "in stock." This time they ordered 32 books. I guess that may be their maximum order from a small publisher like me, because that's the largest number they have ordered previously. Anyway, now I am faced with deciding whether to try to fill this order or tell Amazon I don't have enough books available.

Right now, we have nine books bound, shrink-wrapped, and ready to ship. Six others are already packed up and ready to go the post office tomorrow, mostly heading outside of the U.S., to Canada, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. So, in order to fill the new Amazon order, we would need to produce 23 books in a short amount of time, and that's not accounting for other books that would be needed for other orders as they come in. I have a little time, because Amazon's materials say I can take up to seven days before confirming that I will fill the order.

Otherwise, today I printed a sample black-and-white version of the book to see how it looks. It looks quite good; the color photographs look nice, but the book is really just as useful with black-and-white photos. So I'm considering offering that version through my web site at a reduced price, to cut down on the difficulty of dealing with color toner for the laser printers.

Today I had an interesting message from a fellow in California who also decided to publish his own guidebook about a technical topic -- in his case, software. He had some interesting points about what he did and how he did it, including switching to a PDF after he became bogged down with filling orders, going to the post office, and generally dealing with printed copies. (Though he had the books printed somewhere else; he didn't print them himself.) It's very interesting to hear the stories of other people who are going the individual-publisher route, and I learn something new every time I hear one of those stories. I hope I'll hear others.

Right now Clenise has got one printer running smoothly with clean copies flowing out. But it will quite a while before we get 32 books ready to ship. We may not ever fill that order; I'm just not sure right now.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ups and Downs of the Publishing Project

My book about the Leica D-Lux 4 has been available to the public for about four weeks now, so it's time for an update and evaluation of how things are going. We have sold 205 books, including 89 books shipped to to be sold by them. Ten books have gone to to be sold by that retailer. I don't know yet how those books will sell. The majority of the sales have been through my own web site,, or to individuals through Amazon Marketplace and eBay.

Today we added one more country to the list of locations of purchasers -- Ireland, bringing the total to 13. That is one of the pleasures of this endeavor -- knowing that my book is going to readers in various parts of the world, and hopefully helping them use their cameras for better results. I also have enjoyed interacting with purchasers who have special requests, such as needing the book quickly before going on a trip, or needing two copies. It's always nice to know that someone's needs are being met efficiently. One customer e-mailed to say his book had been mangled in shipment (even though I ship them in sturdy mailers), so I sent him a replacement book and he was very appreciative. One thing I always try to do is to ship the books quickly. I buy a good number of books and other items online myself, and having them shipped quickly is very important to me. Today I made three separate trips to the local post office after orders came in, so I could get the books in the mail today, rather than wait until Monday. (Two of the books were going to Japan and Ireland, and I have to take those to the post office; for domestic shipments I use online postage, and can drop the books in a collection box, so I don't need to go into the post office.)

Right now everything is going fairly well except that the printers develop print-quality problems about once a day. We keep replacing drum units and waste toner boxes and Clenise constantly cleans the printers' interiors, but problems persist. I think there also may be a problem stemming from some of the lower-quality replacement toner cartridges we've used. We'll keep searching for a better supply of decent-quality toner.

Also, orders have tapered off. I have no idea what the overall demand for this book is. As far as I can tell, the Leica D-Lux 4 camera itself is still very popular and selling well. I would hope some of the new buyers would want this book to help them take advantage of the camera's features. I guess the next two months will tell that story.

The giveaway contest on ended within the past couple of days, and the site's administrator e-mailed me today with the address of the lucky winner in Hoboken, New Jersey. His book was mailed this morning, Priority Mail, and is on its way. Leicarumors has been possibly the best source of publicity for the book. I guess I need to figure out where else to spread the word so that people who might be interested in the book will find out about it.

I read somewhere that it's a good idea to start a Facebook page for your business, so I did that. It was quite easy, but I have to confess that I know very little about Facebook; I don't have a personal Facebook account. So, I started a page today, but I guess I need to learn more about how to take fuller advantage of that means of communication.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Economics of Self-Publishing and Printing

Now is a good time to reflect on how things have progressed to this point. I just finished updating all of the sales data in my Bento database, and the grand total of books sold as of right now is 200. That is not a huge amount of books, but it sure seemed like a lot while Clenise and I were printing, cutting the pages apart, binding, trimming, and shrink-wrapping, not to mention filling orders and shipping. Many of these copies sold at the full $19.95 list price, but quite a few also sold to Amazon and other places at reduced prices. All of that would be fine if we hadn't spent so much to produce the books. Paper has been a fairly big expense, as has equipment, but toner is the real killer. I knew toner would be expensive, but I didn't realize how much of a problem it would be to keep buying it so frequently. Even that might not be so bad if the printers didn't keep developing print-quality issues. One of the printers is still out of commission right now because it puts a bright blue band along one edge of the pages. The other printer is starting to develop a light blue haze on its pages. Clenise is great at diagnosing and fixing these issues, but there aren't enough hours in the day to keep dealing with them, and the expense is mounting.

So, I'm starting to think about other options. One would be to convert the book to all black-and-white. I really like having the color photographs in the book, because of the nice appearance, but I believe we could save a large amount of money with a black-and-white version.

The other option is to contract out the printing and binding to a commercial printer or print-on-demand company. At this point I'm just starting to think about the possibilities; for now, we're still geared up to produce books, and maybe we'll be able to build up a reasonable sized inventory with our current supplies, and then see where we stand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More on Amazon, Laser Printers, and the D-Lux 4

The Amazon mystery cleared up a little bit today. It turns out that their sales figures for the book lag reality by several days. Today I went online and found that they had sold 51 books, not just 25, as earlier reports showed. My first three shipments to them (2, 23, and 27) totalled 52 books, so there still is a slight mystery -- what happened to the 52nd book? Maybe they keep one as a reference? Maybe they used it for the "search inside the book" function, which I have signed up for.

By the way, the "search inside the book" function has a glitch I didn't know about. It became active yesterday, and I checked the D-Lux 4 book's listing on Amazon to try the search function. I entered terms such as "infrared," "time-lapse," and "display," and the search found zero results each time. I e-mailed Amazon, and they replied quite quickly, saying it takes about a week for their system to index the entire book. That seems odd, but that's the way it is. I just hope potential buyers of the book aren't scared off by the fact that, based on the search function's results, the book appears to have no words in it. . . .

As for the color laser printers, they are becoming the bane of our existence. Clenise, who is good at getting to the bottom of mechanical problems, has been taking the printers apart, cleaning them, adjusting them, and doing everything humanly possible to maintain them, but they have been putting heavy blue streaks, small magenta blotches, and various and sundry other blotches on the pages. Fortunately, we have enough books printed out already to meet current orders, but we aren't able to print any new ones at the moment. We think the problem may stem from our use of refilled toner cartridges in order to cut costs. We have some more cartridges coming from another vendor soon; hopefully those will produce better results.

I said I would discuss the Leica D-Lux 4 camera, the subject of the book, some more. I think it's a great camera, obviously, and so do many others, based on the comments I have read on, the Leica Forum, and other places. It is remarkable because of its overall quality of images and its excellent lens, and because of its unusually wide 24mm equivalent wide-angle focal length. It is somewhat limited because it zooms only to a 60mm equivalent focal length, but you just have to decide to forego a strong telephoto if you use this camera.

Also, of course, it has excellent manual control of focus and exposure, and it has just about all of the functions an amateur photographer would want for daily use -- self-timer, excellent macro (closeup) shooting (to within 1 centimeter of the subject), a wide range of shutter speeds (1/2000 sec to 60 sec), excellent auto exposure control, and many others. Also, it has a very nice appearance and small, pocketable size, with the Leica logo on the front. It also happens to have a decent capability for taking infrared photos, which many modern digital cameras do not have.

So, as far as I can tell, many photographers are very well pleased with this camera, and will keep using it for some years to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amazon Speaks Yet Again; More About the D-Lux 4

I have to admit I am probably one of's best customers. I love books, and I order quite a few of them. I take advantage of Amazon's Prime shipping, which gives free two-day shipping for many items and overnight shipping for $3.99 for many items (including, remarkably, 75-pound laser printers). So I'm not out to knock Amazon, though many small publishers probably are not fond of the company's practice of paying small amounts for books, and selling them at discount prices. And I still can't figure out the logic of how Amazon is handling my book, which, admittedly, is not a Going Rogue or The Lost Symbol.

My book about the Leica D-Lux 4 camera is still listed on Amazon at $13.46, and still shown as out of stock. One person e-mailed me early today and said he tried to order one on Amazon, and the message in his online shopping cart said the book would not arrive until after December 25. As I told him, I have shipped all the books Amazon has ordered from me -- successive shipments of 2, 23, 27, and 5 books. I don't know if these have already sold out through pre-orders, or if they haven't been received into Amazon's inventory yet.

Anyway, today I received another order from Amazon, this time for 32 copies. At least this time Clenise and I won't have to scramble as much as last time to fill the order. We have almost that many books already printed, bound, trimmed, shrink-wrapped, and ready to go. I'll probably try to send them to Amazon this Friday. I'm still a bit puzzled that they haven't ordered more books sooner, so they aren't constantly shown as sold out, but in a way I don't mind, because I keep getting orders for individual books at a more reasonable price.

I tried to get the book formatted to be sold on the Kindle, but that seems to be fairly complicated. With the help of my son, who studied computer science and math in college, I got the pdf file of the book converted to HTML so it looks fairly good on Amazon's Kindle preview page, but there seem to be some more requirements to be met before it can actually be uploaded and sold. I'll keep working on that.

Now to discuss the camera some more. In the last post I put up a few images from the camera -- a few showing the book production process, and a few others from the book itself, all taken by the D-Lux 4. I'd like to try to explain why I picked the D-Lux 4 to write about. I'm not sure I have a complete answer, but here are some thoughts.

I must admit that I, like quite a few other amateur photographers, am a little dazzled by the Leica name. It conveys an aura of prestige and quality, along with a hint of German precision and attention to detail. My older brother used a Leica rangefinder camera many years ago, and I read the discussions in the photography forums about the great history and mystique of Leica. So that certainly was a part of the reason to choose this camera.

Also, of course, I didn't want to choose a camera that had already been written about. My other camera, a Canon EOS-40D, has had several books written about it, and there was no point in adding to that body of work.

People might ask if it was smart to pick as a subject a camera that has been out on the market since fall of 2008, and to publish a book about it in October 2009. Maybe not. But I will say that there seemed to be a fairly good chance this camera will stick around for a while, partly because it's a Leica, and partly because it has quite a following. It really is a terrific little camera because it is easily portable, takes great pictures for a non-DSLR (digital single-lens-reflex, a larger camera with interchangeable lenses), and has a great array of features for more serious photographers, including manual controls and a wide range of useful menu options.

As it's turning out, I think I got lucky. There was considerable talk a couple of months ago that Leica would replace the D-Lux 4 with a newer model of camera that, like this one, is based on a Panasonic camera. (The D-Lux 4 is based on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.) But that hasn't happened yet, and as of now there doesn't seem to be any indication it will happen in the near future, and it may never happen. All kinds of rumors circulate on this topic. For one thing, Leica has announced the X1, a new, small digital camera that is more like the traditional Leica, not based on a Panasonic. It doesn't seem as if that camera is in direct competition with the D-Lux 4, so the D-Lux 4 may survive for quite a while longer. That would be unusual for a compact digital "point-and-shoot" camera; they often are in production for a relatively short time. But I have my fingers crossed that the D-Lux 4 will set a new record for longevity!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Talking About the Leica D-Lux 4 Camera Itself

For a change, after I give brief update I want to talk a little about the camera that is the subject of my book: the Leica D-Lux 4. First, though, the update.

We've been working some wrinkles out of the production process; we found some of the bindings needed to be improved, and we think we have that situation under control now. Yesterday I tried raising the daily Google AdWords budget to $30.00, and we did end up with 8 orders for the day, as opposed to only 3 as of late evening today, with a $10.00 budget. So I have just put the budget up to $20.00, where it was when I first started the ad campaign. Hopefully that will increase sales of individual books. now has the book listed for $13.46, even lower than the $14.96 it was listed at before, but it is still listed as out of stock, even though the UPS shipment of 27 books was scheduled to arrive at Amazon in Indiana today. There's also a shipment of 5 books that should be getting there. I don't know quite what the situation is in that area.

Now, back to talk a bit about the Leica D-Lux 4 itself. I'm including some pictures taken by the camera, which I haven't done in a while. Here is a picture I took a couple of nights ago with the D-Lux 4, with no flash, showing a stack of books to the right of the binding machine, along with a group of covers that are going to be bound to these stacks of pages. The stacks are resting on top of the guillotine paper cutter that has already cut the pages to this size, and later will trim the books to their final size.

This next picture, below, taken shortly afterwards, shows the books after they have been bound, trimmed, and wrapped in shrink-wrap bags, waiting to have the bags shrunk to make tight-fitting shrinkwrapping.

Next, here are some images from the book:

This image is an illustration of the "pin hole" setting in the camera's Scene Mode. This setting simulates the use of a primitive "pin hole" camera, which tends to darken the corners of the image and adds some graininess to the image.

This image was taken using the Scene Mode setting of Aerial Photo, which is specifically designed for taking pictures through airplane windows. This was taken on a trip from Virginia to Seattle, approaching the Seattle area.

This picture was taken with the camera set to the Film Grain setting of Scene Mode, simulating the graininess of a high-speed black-and-white film.

Those are just a few samples of photos from the D-Lux 4. In a future post, I'll talk a little bit about some other aspects of the camera, and why I thought it was worthwhile to write a book about its use

Monday, November 16, 2009

Building Up Inventory

As of now we have finally built up an inventory of books, so we won't have to scramble to fill whatever orders come in. I still can't quite figure out how the Amazon system works; the book is still listed as out of stock on their site, though I have shipped them successive orders of 2, 23, 27, and 5 books. I wonder why they haven't ordered more. But it's better for me to sell books to individuals, so I'm not complaining.

Today the book was listed on the site of, the web store that I contacted last week. I'll be interested to see how many books they sell. I'm still getting orders from individuals through eBay, Amazon Marketplace, and the web site. Quite a few of them come from the UK.

Today I was contacted by a second buyer who needed the book quickly so he can read it on the airplane on a trip he's taking this Friday. I sent it first thing this morning, and it should get there in plenty of time.

I also had my first customer with a problem; his book was damaged, apparently in shipping. I ship them in sturdy cardboard folding mailers; he said it looked as if the Postal Service had gotten it caught in a machine or something. His replacement book will be in the mail first thing tomorrow morning.

I contacted the photography blog at to ask if they would review the book; I got an e-mail back from Mark Goldstein with a link to a news article about the book that he posted upon receiving my message. That was a great response. I need to find more good photography-oriented sites that might be willing to mention the book.

Also, the administrator of has started up a contest for a giveaway of a copy of the book; he has been terrifically supportive of the book. The contest has already generated a good string of comments.

I got a message from Google AdWords today suggesting I would get better results from my ads if increased my budget to $30.00 per day. Well, I guess that is something they would suggest! I decided to give it a try, though, probably just for today. So far today I have had seven individual book orders, which is pretty good. I'll go back to $10.00 a day for Google AdWords tomorrow, and see how much difference it makes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Amazon Orders Again -- But Why This Amount?

This morning while shaving I checked the e-mail on my iPhone and there was another announcement of a new order for books from Amazon Advantage. This started me wondering and worrying. The e-mail didn't say how many books are ordered, so I speculated on the possibilities. Their previous orders had been for 2 books, then 23, then 27. So could they be ordering some huge amount now? (Huge by my standards, that is.) The book had been showing up as out of stock on Amazon for days now; maybe they wanted to stock up to meet the demand as the holidays approach. I thought to myself, if they want 50 books, I can't do that. Clenise's arm is sore from operating the binding machine and cutter. We can't run ourselves into the ground just to sell books on Amazon at a marginal amount.

I needn't have worried. The Amazon order turned out to be for: 5 books. I can't figure that out. If the first three orders sold out so fast, why do they want only 5 books this time? Anyway, I'm sure they have sophisticated software that decides how many to order. I'm actually glad it was a small order, because now we can try to build up our inventory; right now we actually have more than 20 books printed and bound, and both printers are clicking away happily as I type this. I won't mind concentrating on individual orders rather than scrambling to ship a large amount to Amazon. Just this morning, a gentleman ordered a book through, and included a message saying he needs the book by Wednesday, and could I send it by FedEx. I replied that the normal Priority Mail should make it on time; I'll be sure to mail it early Monday morning. I enjoy that kind of interaction; I'm glad to know someone "needs" the book!

Just to fill out the toner story a bit more, there's one thing the Cartridge World people didn't tell us when we first contacted them about getting refilled color toner cartridges. When we went there yesterday to have them reset the magenta cartridge that the printer thought was empty, the fellow told us that the refilled cartridges don't contain toner that is equivalent to the genuine Brother toner, because of patent issues. He acknowledged that the color printing will be lighter with the refilled toner, and that we have to set the printing to "vivid" to get the same level of color we have been getting. So, we may end up using more toner, and cancelling out any savings. We'll see how that works out.

We did find slightly cheaper color laser paper in the 28-pound weight we're using, at OfficeMax, and it seems to be working quite well.

Right now, things are going well enough that I'm starting to think about writing another camera guidebook, though it's too early to take any definite steps in that direction. For now, the Leica D-Lux 4 camera seems to be still very popular, and new camera sales mean the possibility of more book sales.

I finally found time to enter most of my book order data into my Bento database on the Mac last night. Now I have to enter the expenses and start generating reports. It will be interesting to find out if we're making any money.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Two Printers Printing

No, that's not a line from "A Partridge in a Pear Tree"; it's the current state of affairs. Not arrived at without some grief and anxiety, though. Yesterday we started using Cartridge World to get refilled toner cartridges for the two Brother HL-4070CDW color laser printers. That seemed like a good move to save money on toner. This morning, though, when one of the printers ran out of two colors and asked for more Cyan and Magenta, we hit a snag. We replaced the Cyan okay, but after replacing Magenta the printer still said it was out of that color. Had Cartridge World sold us a refilled cartridge that was empty? After some phone calls and a trip to the store we think that the store people just neglected to reset the "flag" on the toner cartridge that tells the printer the cartridge is full. The technician reset the flag, and said there is plenty of toner in the cartridge. He also showed us how to reset the flag ourselves in order to squeeze some extra life out of a cartridge.

Then we went to OfficeMax and bought 8 reams of their generic color laser paper, 28-pound weight. So we now have both printers printing, though one of them just quit in the middle of printing out a book, and left strange symbols on the edges of several pages. Another mystery to solve, or better yet, to ignore, reset the printer, and keep going.

I should say, though, that right now we have the largest single pile of printed books stacked up that we've had yet -- 19 copies waiting to be cut, bound, and trimmed. So we should be able to finally build up a small inventory ahead of the next wave of demand, if any.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Evaluating the Situation and Looking Forward

In my last post I happily stated that both Brother printers were humming along, churning out crisp, clean copies of the book about the D-Lux 4. Well, very soon after I wrote that, the original printer, the one Clenise had successfully cleaned up, ran out of toner. These Brother printers, model HL-4070CDW, manage to run out of all three colors (cyan, magenta, and yellow) simultaneously. I think this is a programmed feature. Anyway, that printer stopped printing, and we didn't have any spare toner. But we did manage to finish up the order of 27 books for Amazon Advantage using the other printer, and Clenise delivered those to the UPS Store today.

I have been coming to the realization that toner can be the major stumbling block for this venture. We have been burning through it at much too fast a rate, at more expense than we can handle. So today I searched for a cheaper toner source. We settled on Cartridge World, a franchise store that refills cartridges. I had hesitated to use refilled cartridges, fearing that they might be sub-standard or somehow mess up the printers. But we have to save money, so Clenise went out there today, traded in our ample supply of empty cartridges, and came home with a stack of refilled ones. We'll see how that works; if the printing stays stable, we may be able to operate at a small profit, or at least avoid a loss. Next I'll try to find cheaper paper. Right now we're using premium color laser paper from Office Depot, 28 pounds, at $14.00 per ream. We need to reduce that cost considerably.

On the sales front, things have been very quiet. I have only three orders to fill, for individual buyers. I think that slowdown is due in part to the fact that Amazon now lists the book at $14.96, though out of stock, and says you can order now and they'll deliver it when it's available. I imagine some buyers have ordered it at the lower price and are waiting for it come back into stock, which will be when my box of 27 books arrives in Indiana, probably next Monday. So, in a way I'm undercutting myself by supplying these books to Amazon, but I still think it's a good idea for now, so the book will be an actual stocked item on Amazon, which I think lends it some credibility and might lead to some more reviews on Amazon.

As far as I can tell, the D-Lux 4 camera itself has been selling well; I see ads for it from various outlets, and I see messages on Leica forums from new buyers, so that situation could be good for sales of the book. But it's still early to tell. It will be interesting to see how things develop from here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Persistence Pays Off -- Two Printers, No Waiting

The headline is talking about the persistence of my wife, Clenise, who has really dug into this project and used her very considerable abilities to solve several problems. Today she again tackled the problem of the first color laser printer we started with -- the Brother HL-4070CDW, which printed well for a while, then started putting ugly black smudges on many pages of the books. Its output was unusable, so we switched to using only the second (identical) printer, which is working fine. Clenise had tried cleaning the first printer several times, but the problem remained. Yesterday I ordered a new drum unit, thinking that would solve the problem. It didn't. I was ready to give up and get a third printer, but Clenise persisted and made one more attempt. This time she cleaned the belt unit, and that worked! Right now both printers are contentedly purring and clicking, pouring out pristine piles of white-margined book pages. That was a great breakthrough, because it takes about 25 minutes for a printer to print one full book, and we're still trying to pile up enough completed books to fulfill Amazon's latest order for 27 books. There were only four individual orders today, which is too bad in a way because those make us more money than the Amazon ones, but at least we should be able to catch up with the orders tonight and breathe a little easier.

Next I need to figure out how to get the book formatted for the Kindle and maybe see if I can get a pdf version made, because some readers have asked for that. I added two new countries to the list of buyer locations yesterday -- Greece and Australia.

Also, I cut my Google AdWords daily budget today from $20.00 to $10.00. If the orders slow down too much, I may put the budget back up, but $20.00 a day is $600.00 a month, which sounds like a lot of money for a book like this one.