What’s in a Release?

A couple of people have asked me about the way we do releases at Energion Publications.  The public image of a book release has the publisher getting in a stock of the books, shipping them out to various bookstores, and then, on the date selected, allowing these bookstores to make the books available.  In that scenario there are usually a few leaks where someone gets their hands on a copy a little bit early.

Who's Afraid of the Old Testament God?
Sold out first printing

That scenario is actually realistic–for large publishers with much-anticipated books.  We don’t even attempt such a scenario around here.  There are two reasons.  First, as I already noted, that approach is for large publishers who can count on orders from major stores even before a book is released.  We do get pre-orders from individuals, and even a very small number wholesale, but it isn’t a major piece of our marketing strategy.  Second, Energion is aiming to be very much in the 21st century in terms of production and distribution, and this means we give up some control over the process.

It’s this second aspect that I want to discuss.  From the start, my plan for Energion Publications was to make heavy use of print-0n-demand.  At the time, however, I still intended to use it as a supplement to regular offset print runs on some books.  I used a standard offset run for one book, and we have, in fact, sold out except for some damaged copies of that particular book.  But in calculated the difference in price for small print runs, in this case 5,000 copies, including storage and handling, and comparing that to the prices I can get for print-on-demand, offset print runs began to look much less attractive.

So we now use print-on-demand as our primary means of production.  We can order quantities, and even request offset runs as needed, but in general we neither go out of stock, nor do we have warehouse space filled with unsold books.  Our printer, Lightning Source, provides any desired quantity promptly, and will even ship direct to our customers and to the distributor.  In addition, they provide distribution through the Espresso Book Machine™.  We now stock very small numbers here at our office, from about 5 to 250, most commonly around 50.  Large orders go out direct from our printer.

Why Four Gospels?What does that mean for releases? Let’s take the example of Why Four Gospels? which is in its release process right now.  I approved this title for distribution from our printer on Monday, October 18.  I had extended the release date to October 20.  What happened on Monday?  Well, the book became available in two senses.  First, it went into the electronic catalog at our distributor (Ingram), and second, it became available for us to order it shipped directly to customers from the printer.  At that point rush orders could be shipped within 48 hours and regular orders would normally take about 72.  (During the same time frame I had a regular order for 20 books ship in about 36 hours, so these aren’t hard numbers.)

If you look at Amazon.com today, you’ll see that Amazon is showing shipping in 1 to 2 months, but one marketplace seller already has the book ready to ship.  (Of course, by the time you get there, this might have changed!)

Soup Kitchen for the Soul
Got to a reader before it got to the author!

That is simply the process of distributing the information.  Various online retailers have to download catalog updates.  Once that occurs, the book becomes available.  It surprises some of my authors to realize that their book can reach a customer without anyone at Energion and without anyone at their retailer ever touching the book.

In another recent release, Soup Kitchen for the Soul, one of the authors friends received and read a copy of the book from Amazon.com before she got her free copies from Energion.

Today UPS tells me that my first case of Why Four Gospels? is on the delivery truck.  I expect it within the next couple of hours.  We’re geared up to send all our review and pre-ordered copies out in today’s mail.  In one way that’s the end of the release process.  But even so I’ll still be watching the various retailers and letting our readers know when the books are available.

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