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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pause is Done

No more pause, now. Today I was ready to start building back up an inventory to fill individual orders as they come in, and to contemplate other possible avenues for promoting the D-Lux 4 book. Actually, last night I took one step in that direction; I browsed the internet looking for a site that deals with photography books, and happened to find I had not heard of that site previously, but it looked very interesting and had a great selection of Leica books and reference materials. So I sent off an e-mail message on the theory that the more contacts I make, the better.

This morning I checked my e-mail and had a return message saying they are interested in carrying my book -- good news! I e-mailed back, and then I spoke on the phone with a very pleasant gentleman from the combination store and web site. The upshot was that they are going to try carrying my book on a trial basis to see how it sells. I have already shipped some books off to them, because I think it will be great to have the book handled by what is obviously a very reputable and established business that specializes in photography books.

I had another e-mail this morning that could be considered in the category of news that's good -- up to a point. (If you ever get a chance to read Evelyn Waugh's novel, Scoop, there's a great passage about the meaning of the phrase "up to a point.") If you read earlier posts, you know that Amazon at first ordered 2 copies of the D-Lux 4 book, then very recently ordered 23 more, which sent our production line into overdrive. Then, this morning, they ordered 27 more! Well, that's great, but we don't have 27 books. In fact, at this very moment, after shipping 10 books to the people, we have a grand total of -- let's see . . . zero! Actually, there are 8 copies that have come out of the printer and need to be cut, bound, and trimmed, and there are more printing out, but it's going to be a long way from here to 27 copies ready to ship. Also, there are two individual orders that need to be filled.

I'm not suprised that the individual orders are dwindling now that Amazon has the books in its own inventory, as opposed to being sold by me as an Amazon Marketplace seller. One unfortunate fact is that Amazon is selling them at a discount from the list price. I have no control over what price Amazon sells them at. So, there is a tradeoff. I won't make as much money selling them through Amazon as selling them direct, but I believe I will get more exposure for the book if it stays in stock as an item that Amazon carries as shipping directly from Amazon, so buyers can get it sent overnight, etc. (I buy a good deal of books and other items, including the 2 laser printers that I'm using for this project, from Amazon, and I do appreciate their fast and efficient shipping.)

So, that's the status for now. We will really have to scramble to fill the latest Amazon order, but I think we can do it. We'll soon find out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pausing to Decide How to Proceed Now

That title reflects my current state. Orders have slowed down over the past few days, but that's okay, because I was getting worn out. It does consume a lot of effort to fill each individual book order personally, along with dealing with e-mails, packing books, confirming shipments, taking them to the post office, etc. It can be quite satisfying, especially when purchasers of the book send e-mails saying they enjoyed the book; a few of them have done that, which I appreciated greatly.

I need some downtime so I can catch up with tracking the orders. After asking around, I decided, at least for now, to use Bento, a simplified database for the Mac from the FileMaker company. I have used FileMaker in other contexts, and I used Bento to track eBay sales for about the past year, and I think it will be flexible and powerful enough to track my orders and shipments, and also my business expenses.

I probably need to work more on promotion. I know very little about marketing and advertising. One good example of my lack of knowledge is an e-mail I received today. Back on October 25, I sent a message to inquiring about advertising on their site, which I visit often to read (and sometimes post in) the forums about Leica and Panasonic cameras. It's a great site, with very sophisticated reviews of equipment and discussions of photography. I thought there might be some sort of inexpensive way to put a small notice about the D-Lux 4 book on that site.

I never received any response until today. I was surprised at that, because I thought an inquiry about advertising would get a fairly quick response. I guess I understand now, though, because the responsive message, which was courteous and businesslike, and laid out the options nicely, included this key sentence: "Our minimum campaign size is $10k." My advertising budget does not stretch quite that far.

Ironically, though, it turned out that I do actually advertise on the site, through Google AdWords. If someone goes to and searches on one of the terms I have signed up for, such as "D-Lux 4 book" or "D-Lux 4", there's a fairly good chance that one of my ads for the D-Lux 4 book will show up. With that ad campaign, I have a budget of up to $20 per day, which is somewhat more in line with my financial situation.

Anyway, I need to try to get the book reviewed in other places, and I'm working in that direction now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Settling into a Groove

Today did not see any major problems or breakthroughs; actually, the orders for the D-Lux 4 book slowed down so much that no new orders came in for about 24 hours, until early this afternoon. By the end of the day we had six new orders, two from the U.K., one from Switzerland, and three from the U.S. We shipped the 23 books off to Amazon this morning. It was interesting to look at the book's listing on Amazon today, because now the listing shows what items people "often" buy along with the book, including, not too surprisingly, the D-Lux 4 camera itself, the leather case, extra batteries, and the Leica external viewfinder. I have been lucky in one way, because the D-Lux 4 camera was on back order for quite a while until recently; now it seems to be quite available, and there is some demand for the camera. I believe people often look for accessories and items such as this book when buying a new camera, so the timing has worked out quite well for launching the book.

Also, although I easily could be wrong about this, from reading the postings on various Leica-related forums it seems there is a good chance that Leica will not be replacing the D-Lux 4 with a D-Lux 5 or other similar model in the near future, or, according to some people, ever. Some people believe that, because Leica will be releasing the new X1 camera within the next couple of months, the company is going to focus on more traditional German-made cameras, and stop producing new hybrid Panasonic-Leica models like the D-Lux 4. If that turns out to be the case, and they continue to sell the D-Lux 4 (which is highly regarded as a compact camera), it could be good news for ongoing sales of this book. But I'm certainly not counting on that happening. In any event, even if Leica stops selling new D-Lux 4s, there may be some market for the book with people who buy them used, or who have had the camera for a while and want to learn more about its operation.

The printing and binding went well today; Clenise cranked out eight more copies tonight, so we actually have a small inventory waiting for new orders. Our goal is to build up an inventory of 20 or so books, but that has been hard, with the orders coming in fairly steadily.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing?

As of last night, Clenise and I felt as if we were really getting the book project under control. With the second printer and our added knowledge of how to tweak the printer settings, operate the binding machine and cutter, and assemble the books for shipping, we were producing the best-looking copies yet of the book.

Then I checked my e-mail this morning. There were 3 pending orders from individuals, which was great. Also, an e-mail from Amazon, saying we have a new Amazon Advantage order. Also sounds great. Then I opened the e-mail -- Amazon has ordered 23 copies of the book! That may not sound like a lot, but to us, with our home-based print-on-demand operation, that is a fairly huge amount. But we like to rise to challenges. So, off to Office Depot this morning for two more high-capacity toner cartridges and 3 reams of premium color laser paper. The new printer has been humming away most of the day. I printed 50 new book covers this morning, so we won't have to tie up the printer for covers in the near future. Earlier today Clenise bound 13 books in one session -- a new record. And, they all look very good. The printer is still cranking out book pages, with only two new toner cartridges installed today -- so far.

If the orders don't increase too much today or tomorrow, we should be caught up, and be able to focus on what we were planning for today -- to build up a little inventory of 20 or so books, so we can meet any demands as they come up.

Also, it 's worth noting that we received orders from two more countries today - France and Norway.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Fog is Lifting

Today things are looking better than ever in most ways. The new Brother printer, another model HL-4070CDW, arrived today via FedEx Saturday delivery, ordered on Friday. Amazon charged only $6.99 for overnight Saturday delivery, which seems pretty amazing as a shipping bargain. I am a member of Amazon Prime, which helps a great deal on the shipping costs. I actually got the printer set up and running within less than an hour, which is a tribute to the printer and to the Macintosh's ability to connect to a new network printer. I had visions of problems because there is another identical printer on the same network, but I hooked up the printer, turned it on, told the Mac to add another Brother printer, and the test page came popping out without a hitch. So we are now back in business, churning out multiple copies of the book's text.

Clenise has become quite a pro at the perfect binding machine now. It mills the edges of the sheets for the spine very nicely, and she has figured out how to distribute the hot glue evenly and make a very firm, solid bind. We have now settled on HP Color Laser paper, 28-pound weight, as our standard paper for the book's pages. This paper looks good, and, best of all, it flattens out and stays flat better than any other paper we have tried. Some of the others end up curly or wavy, but this paper seems to be thick enough to resist that tendency.

The orders have kept coming in. Today I shipped eleven books. Six went to the U.S. and five overseas, to Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands. All of the recent sales (for about the last 24 hours) have been through the White Knight Press web site or through eBay; none on Amazon lately. I think it's a function of shipping costs. I can't control the shipping charges on Amazon, so that situation may continue, at least for overseas buyers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow Fog

I thought a colorful title would be appropriate in view of the toner-related activities of the last day or so. As I mentioned yesterday, the cyan toner suddenly ran out, followed by the magenta. Yesterday evening I went to the local Office Depot and got replacements and got back to printing copies of the book this morning. Then, without warning (or at least any warning that I am attuned to), the yellow toner ran out. Back to Office Depot. I also ordered three more replacements from Amazon, with Saturday shipping, to arrive tomorrow. And, after talking it over, Clenise and I decided to get another printer. Actually, this model, the Brother HL-4070CDW, costs about the same as a complete set of replacement toners. So, I suppose one approach would be to buy a new printer every time the toner runs out, but we would eventually run out of room in the house to store all the empty printers. Seriously, though, we decided that it would be good to have a backup printer in case one fails, and when both are running, we can double our capacity to print books. Of course, this seems like a good idea now, when the book is just out and the orders are rolling in at what seems to us like a fast rate. When the orders slow down eventually, having two printers may not seem so necessary. Anyway, the other printer should get here tomorrow also.

We finally got enough books printed to catch up with all of the orders, and the process is becoming somewhat smoother. Today I have taken 19 books to the local post office. A clear majority of them went overseas. The country list now includes the U.K., Spain, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Canada, and Switzerland. The book's sales rank on Amazon as of right now is 3,605 in Books. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it is considerably better than the sales rank of my other book, Dauntless Marine, which is now ranked at 2,346,198.

I need to evaluate whether to try more promotional efforts, and which ones to try. For now, though, I'm glad to catch my breath after filling the orders over the last few days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trying to Catch my Breath

Well, today was one for the books, so to speak. Ever since the administrator of the Leica Rumors web site ( posted an announcement about my book, things have been hectic around my house at night. Especially today. I now have a stack of 12 books ready to ship tomorrow morning -- 8 going overseas, to Spain, Brazil, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and 4 going to US destinations. A few have sold on eBay, but most of them today sold on the White Knight Press web site. I think the international shipping works out to be a bit cheaper on that site than through Amazon, which could explain the flurry of international orders on the web site. By the way, for those who followed the tale of my first buyer who then mysteriously canceled (or seemed to cancel) the order, he (or she) re-ordered through Amazon yesterday, and the book shipped out today. So I guess it was just some sort of mixup between two users of the same e-mail account.

The one somewhat negative aspect of today's activity is that the Brother HL-4070CDW has already given the toner end-of-life message again, even though I replaced all the color toners about a week ago. So I'm starting to realize that it could be more costly to produce this book by laser printer than I originally thought. The toner cartridges are labeled as producing about 4,000 pages or more, but that obviously is an average that applies if you're using minimal color and not at the highest quality. In my case, I'm setting the printer driver for the highest quality, at 2,400 dpi (dots per inch) and "vivid" color. I guess those settings are devouring toner at an accelelerated rate. I may have to ratchet back those settings somewhat in the future, because a complete set of color toners runs in the $300.00 range. Anyway, right now I can't print, because the printer has decided its toners are dead. I will have to go out and look for more toner tomorrow.

Overall, today was hectic but enjoyable. I also received feedback from a purchaser of the book for the first time. I was nervous opening his e-mail; I was afraid he was going to tell me the book had a defect, or he just didn't like it. But he said he enjoyed it and found it useful; a great relief and a good feeling. Soon there may be more feedback, because quite a few more books have shipped by now.

Also today, I shipped two books off to Amazon for them to sell on their own, rather than through me or other third-party sellers. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Very Busy Day

This post will not do justice to today's activities. Not that anything all that dramatic happened; just that a lot of little things are going on. I guess this is the normal course of events for this time during the birthing process of a new book. Anyway, it's getting late so this will be a brief summary and maybe I'll catch up with more details later.

Late last night the book showed up in a listing on Amazon, after I joined the Amazon Advantage program, through which they may carry the book as an official Amazon inventory item. That was a big event for me, because I have sold used books on Amazon for years and am very familiar with that process. So I immediately listed my books there as a third-party seller. As of now, after about 24 hours, I have sold 2 books that way. I also listed the book on eBay as a Buy It Now item, and have sold 2 that way also.

Earlier today, Amazon sent me my first order, for two books. I will ship those to Amazon tomorrow, and, assuming they accept them after inspection, the books will be for sale directly from Amazon.

Another great thing today was that the webmaster at posted a very nice and prominent item about my book. He had contacted me a week or two ago, and just now followed up. He will also do a giveaway contest on his site, giving away a copy of my book to whoever can answer a question about the camera. He has been terrifically helpful.

On the negative front, the Brother HL-4070CDW laser printer just quit printing with the message that the Cyan toner had reached the end of its life. That toner cartridge was just installed a few days ago, and could not have printed the rated amount of 5,000 pages. Anyway, I had read about that problem earlier, and was able to defeat the message with a piece of tape over a sensor. Not a good sign, though.

That's the abbreviated version for today. Book sales are up; Google AdWords is working; sales on eBay and Amazon are working; sales on the web site have stopped for now. My theory is that people prefer buying through eBay and Amazon to buying through my little web site, and I can't say that I blame them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trying to Get the Word Out

The D-Lux 4 book has been officially "published" for about one week now. The main problem now is getting anyone to notice! Google AdWords was working nicely for a while, but I need to learn a lot more about how to use it to best advantage. After it started yielding several orders (seven as of now, including the one that canceled), I got a bit carried away and expanded the scope of the ad campaign to many more geographical areas, including all of Europe and parts of Asia. That action resulted in a huge increase in the number of people who saw the ad and who clicked on it (and, therefore, in the cost to me, which is charged per click), but no increase in orders. My conclusion as of now is that the ad campaign needs to be carefully tailored to where it will result in actual orders. So, for now I've ratcheted it back to operate only in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, where I think it's more likely people who click on the ad may actually order a book.

On the production front, things are steadily improving. Clenise is a person who likes to get to the bottom of things and perfect them. She has really dug deeper and deeper into optimizing the process of binding the books, and each new batch looks better than the last.

For other promotional efforts, I have completed my application to Barnes & Noble for its small press department, and sent a book off to be evaluated for sales on and possibly in Barnes & Noble's stores. I've also sent review copies off to two magazines.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Business is Picking Up - A Little

We have gotten the printing and binding process down to a more manageable routine now. The Brother HL-4070CDW duplex color laser printer has been great overall in terms of print quality, including the quality of the 102 color photographs in the book. The printer still has some quirks I haven't fully figured out, though. The one that is most maddening is when the back sides of the pages print upside-down. I thought I had figured out a way to prevent that from happening, but it happened again at least once yesterday. My latest way to combat the printer's tendency to do this is to print multiple copies in one print job, on the theory that all of the copies will print in the same direction on the pages. This seems to be a sound strategy. Right now I have four copies churning out of the printer. This means I will have to re-load paper at least once, but that's easy enough to do.

The curling or waviness of the pages still is an issue; I will start trying to figure out which paper is the most likely to flatten out and stay flat.

As far as promotion is concerned, Google AdWords is working quite well; yesterday I had some thousands of impressions of my ad (times when someone had the ad appear off to the right of their search results) and about 18 clicks on the ad. I ended up with 3 book sales, yesterday, a new record. I've had one book sale so far today and one inquiry from a gentleman in Canada asking where he can find the book in Canada. I replied that it is available only online right now, but that I will be glad to ship it to Canada. I've done a good deal of selling used books, videos, and other items on eBay and Amazon, and I've always made my auctions and sales available worldwide. It can sometimes be a nuisance to ship things overseas, but it makes great sense to me, especially when the weak dollar means more people in Europe and elsewhere can find bargains in the U.S.

There's one aspect of my Google AdWords campaign that I just noticed but haven't yet figured out -- I just did a search for D-Lux 4 on, and my Google AdWords ad showed up on the Amazon search results page! I don't know how or why that happened, but it seems like an excellent added source of potential customers. I'll have to try to figure out what the connection is between AdWords and "sponsored links" on Amazon.

Last night I started looking for photography magazines that might review my book. I sent a message to asking if they will review it, and I've packaged up a copy of the book to ship to Shutterbug magazine to see if they will review it.

On the Kindle front, I was amazed to see this morning that the .pdf file I uploaded to Amazon's conversion site yesterday had actually converted quite well. Evidently it took several hours to convert, but it did convert, with the photographs quite visible and looking pretty good. There are some very obvious formatting issues, such as problems with my drop caps at the beginnings of chapters and some areas where the carriage returns are missing, but I think I can get a cleaned-up version ready by tweaking the HTML. Actually, I've sent the HTML code to my son to see if he can fix it up, because he's a pretty good programmer, and I barely know any HTML.