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.