Amy Fisher's Book Tests New Publishing Model
Lightning Source and iUniverse stood by, monitoring inbound shipments, warehousing levels and retail sales (brick-and-mortar and online) on a daily basis, filling additional orders as necessary on Lightning Source's digital presses.
"For us, it wasn't about the title, the author, or the end-of-day sales of the book, but whether we could meet any demand peak without overproducing," says Best.
Disappointingly, even though the title eventually hit "The New York Times Bestseller List," book sales never reached the numbers required for a second offset run. Although seemingly anticlimactic, the flat sales were in fact a strong endorsement of the demand-driven publishing model employed. Lightning Source and iUniverse were successful in ensuring the continuity of supply without the risk of underproduction or overproduction. "We always had enough inventory, but never too much," says Best.
The program continued for a full month with daily sales numbers evaluated and orders fulfilled on an as-needed basis. Today the book continues to sell steadily, with digitally printed books produced through automation. As orders come in electronically from Lightning Source's distribution partners, the electronic orders are batched and sent to the print queue, then shipped out within 24 hours with virtually no human intervention.
At press time, all parties involved were eagerly anticipating the re-airing of the "Oprah" show in January to see if things would be better the second time around. There has also been some talk of the possibility of an upcoming movie deal, which would also help boost sales and possibly even lead to a second offset run.
Best admits that the system is not appropriate for every book published, but it was a good test, showing how the printing process can be automated for publishers in similar dilemmas using an advanced business model that works. Lightning Source's main challenge remains that many publishers are not ready to put this level of control in an unconventional system managed by a digital printing and fulfillment operation.