Publishing Bloopers: What I Did with my First Book that I Wouldn't Now: 5.4 Selling Books in the Great Recession

5 Jan


Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice
by Sandy Nathan

Stepping Off the Edge was my first book. I will never produce a book like this again. See the article below for explanation.

My first book, Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice, is drop dead gorgeous and top of the line all the way, with exquisitely designed interior and a killer cover. It has won––to my ecstatic surprise––six national awards in major contests.

Furthermore, T. Terry Whalen, in his book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, reports Bookscan sales through bookstores. (Bookscan US provides continuous measurement and analysis of book sales in and through bookstores.) According to Whalen’s reports (ibid pg 46), the average sale per ISBN in bookstores is 15 books. (Yes, you got that right.) Close to 80% of the books tracked sold less than 99 copies. More than 95 percent sold less than a thousand.

According to this data, Stepping Off the Edge has sold very well compared to titles put out by the majors or anyone else. It’s a success.

So what’s the problem? It cost way too much in time and money to produce. In this Great Recession market place, there’s no reason for a publisher to do an offset print run for a title that may have limited appeal in the market place––and let’s face it, a title about spiritual practice by an unknown author is a long shot. (An offset print run is a traditional publishing run resulting in 500, 1,500, 10,000, or more books being produced. This type of printing is often used by traditional publishers who expect large sales for their books.)

A sensible way of producing a book in this market is to use a POD (Print On Demand. With POD production, books are created as they are needed to satisfy sales orders.) publisher like Amazon’s free set up or LightningSource, with its distribution capabilities. (Check out the POD printers before committing. Books are available that evaluate them. I like

Go digital. No successful publisher, small press, or self-publisher can afford to ignore the eMarkets. I’ve got Stepping Off the Edge on Kindle now, and I’m working on the Sony and other eBook distribution. I missed those sales for years.

Get a good production team and stick with it: Don’t change editors, designers, or anyone else midstream. If you do, you open yourself up to multiple charges, production delays, and chaos. Of course, if you haven’t worked with a team before, you won’t know how well you work together. Life is risky.

Do not “do it yourself.” Owners of small presses and self-publishers–– have your books professionally designed even if you’re going to produce them on If you submit an amateurish piece of ugly, poorly formated garbage to or any POD printer, it will come out exactly as submitted. Use professional designers. The Blogroll on my blog for writers, Your Shelf Life has tested professionals on it. It’s on the right hand column, scroll down and check ‘em out for yourself.

What other bloopers did I make with my first book? I’d make sure someone in my LARGE team of editors and proofreaders knew how to spell “acknowledgment”.  (Yep, the word is misspelled in the TOC, section front, and page header. A judge in the Benjamin Franklin Award pointed it out in my feedback form.) Too late to correct if you’ve done a traditional print run.

What else? I’d spend the money saved on book production on marketing & publicity. There’s a slippery shore. People spent money on publicity and often have no tangible results from it. In that case, the smart author will research low cost publicity avenues. The ‘Net, blogs, social networking sites, on and on.

Looking over the whole picture, what I’d do is budget book production carefully and stick to my budgets. I’d firm up my design team and their cost estimates before doing anything.

And I’d acknowledge that writing the book and producing it are only the beginning: The real work in the book world is selling books for a profit.


Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan––Before publishing in the Great Recession


Sandy Nathan
award winning author of
Stepping Off the Edge & Numenon
Sandy’s Website

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