Creating an Electronic Bestseller
As for The Millennium Bug, a book focusing on the Y2K issue, says Snow, putting it online was a wise marketing move, since 100 percent of the people who come to the 1stBooks Web site, obviously, use computers. Also, adds Regnery, since the book has a short shelf life (until the remainder of this year, to be exact), opening a new market for it was a good decision.
According to Snow, for a large publisher, going online makes sense for two reasons: when demand exceeds supply, as in Regnery's case, and when the books concerned belong to the so-called "marginal mid-list," meaning that they are tried-and-true titles that will surely sell a few copies--but hardly more.
"Although our primary constituency at this point is the individual author or the small press, our system is actually better designed for medium-to-large publishers like Regnery," comments Snow. Publishing online not only offers the usual benefits of generating books on-demand, but it also gives an opportunity to test "unproven new works," says Snow, with little cost and virtually no risk. Also, once publishers have already invested in bringing a printed book to the market, he adds, a fast and inexpensive transfer from print to electronic form opens a new market of online distribution.
"There is no inventory, which is great for a publisher; there is no production cost," points out Regnery. "It's a simple process."
In general, for publishers big and small, electronic publishing, according to Snow, offers many advantages over traditional publishing. It's faster and less expensive, to name just two. Sidestepping the expenses and economic risks traditionally associated with bringing a new book to the market, he notes, includes elimination of costs related to printing, binding, shipping, storing unsold copies, and paying percentages to bookstores and other middlemen.
"This makes it possible to sell virtual books at 25 to 50 percent below softcover prices ..." says Snow. "I don't think we pay anybody less than 40 percent royalties. That's almost three times the largest amount that even a big-name author can get from a traditional publisher."