Forget the Bottleneck - John Timaeus on Amazon POD and other things...

I recently had a conversation with ex-theatre board member John Timaeus about a lot of things. Adjunct to my role as blog editor at Igneus Press, I'd been researching publication fulfilment options and... Okay, I'm just gonna dive in and let you see how we ended up talking Linux, indie publishing, and cooking soup.

JT: This (pandemic) has been such a mind expanding time. It's been a PITA, but I think maybe we all needed the push to do something different.

me: EXACTLY. I've been frustrated with the big publishing bottleneck forever but not quite willing to go indie. New things are evolving and it's amazing to watch.

JT: Forget the bottleneck. Amazon self-publish works.

me: It does, and yet it allows every level of quality through. Curation is still needed. I learned some stuff over the weekend.

PAUSE: Turn the lights back on a minute. Let me tell you about The Author Encounter and their #IndieAuthorDay, in which I learned about ISBN numbers; about how many editors you need for your book and why; resources for self-publishing, and for marketing your e-book to libraries. The Author Encounter is a safe online environment bringing together authors and readers. Check them out!

 JT: My incredibly niche tech book that my ex-company never even tried to promote is still pulling around $1K per month.

me: Oh, that's awesome. do you want to do an interview for my blog some time? I mean, technically we're having an interview now if you want to tell me more about it.

JT: I can do an interview. It was frustrating. And the ex-company has the rights to the book. (what you get for writing on a salary). It was written for work, but they lost the contract that it applied to. And being tech, if it isn't maintained it'll be worthless inside two years.

me: So how do you navigate Amazon with the rights issue?

JT: As to the rights issue: We did it amateurly. I got no support from the higher ups and had to do it all myself with no real experience. I had the corporation create a separate email box that I used for all the registrations. Legal from above wanted us to do full registered copyright and issued ISBNs instead of using implicit copyright and the ISBNs from Amazon. The revenue stream is essentially null to them, by the time they add the extra accounting time. But no-one wants to be the one that cuts it loose. Add to that one person from the US government who wants to claim that they were paying me when it was written (they weren't and it says so in the contract) and it becomes a cluster of enormous giganticism.

me: So there are circles and arrows around the loopholes...What's the niche that's drawn to this book?

JT: It's for Linux admins working for US government/DoD. And any other wannabe Linux geeks interested in the security side.

me: HA. Linux geeks are a pretty big niche. I was just learning about ISBNs this weekend, as well. The big take-away was to get your own if for some reason your inventory is returned to you.

JT: If you're doing a print run yes, you want your own ISBNs. For Print On Demand via Amazon, it's cheaper and easier to use theirs.

me: You've answered my next question - the POD. I LOVE POD as a concept for all things. My art prints are POD if you don't want them signed. Of course if I have my way, eventually I'll show up at everyone's house, and we'll take apart the picture so I can sign it.

JT: I wouldn't do it for anything that I expected to sell > 10K. But for something like the Linux book it's great. No upfront, three-five day delivery to client on the outside. And fixing shit in post is nothing more than an upload and a long wait for them to check for plagiarism.

me: If I understand correctly, Amazon is formulaic so you have to ping their algorithms for them to promote you. Do you do any other self-promotion?

JT: I never had a good opportunity or incentive to promote the book. My bosses told me no money allocated for promotion. And they get the royalties.

me: I've had a similar conversation recently with a poet about his POD books. He gets a little under 50% of the book's price once all fees are applied.

JT: Hang on a second, I can check the ratios. 69% on e-book, 45% on printed.

me: Ok, similar, then. Amazon's got a nifty racket, but they do make it completely easy.

JT: Plus a bottle of scotch or so a month from Kindle page turns.

me: So now that you've done this, do you have incentive to do something similar that you own?

JT: And yes. The play is going to get edited down and go on Amazon. Even if it only makes a little bit a month, it's more than it's doing now. And having people actually read a play is the way you get theatres to perform a play. 

PAUSE: Let's talk about the play for a minute - it's called The Lobby Bar and ran at Studio Theatre in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2016. Details are below. 

The play will be minimal price for e-book, a reading copy for ~$15. And if you buy a 'performance version' for each of the eight players, you have a license to perform up to five nights, plus a friends and family or educational. Keeps me from having to go through one of the theatre licensing companies, and if they want to run more than two weekends I want to talk with the director first anyway.

And I have a different Linux book that takes a unique view towards learning beginning to cook. It's about 50 pages into a 350-400 page first draft. It should be done by late summer. It'll go straight to Amazon on Demand publish, but I'll reinvest some of the money made into promos.

me: with recipes?

JT: Funny you should say that. The end of each sub-module is called a cookbook. Just a quick summary of the steps. Though maybe I should add in recipes as well. One per chapter.

me: I thought of it because of all the people who hate the current trend of cooking blogs.

JT: And given that the audience is going to be younger (15-25 is the target), they need to learn to cook as well.

me: that they do. Use really basic recipes like hard-boiled eggs. Toast. 

JT: I was thinking beef barley stew. 

me: Did you see the paint job I put on my wheelbarrow?  

JT: I did.  I once worked at a coffeehouse/art gallery/web dev combo building that had two dollys: Salvador and Hello.

Further Reading: 

Administer and Secure Enterprise Linux: Red Hat and CentOS versions 7 and 8 - If you are among the aforementioned Linux Nerds, read the book.

The Lobby Bar - John Timaeus   Set in a volunteer live theater and its attached bar, this dark comedy takes on our 'public face'. It's funny, sensitive, sexy, tragic, and a little testy.  The Lobby Bar was first performed at The Studio Theatre in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ocean of Flowers - Mark H. Fitzpatrick  Mark H also answered many of my questions about Amazon's fulfilment service. Ocean of Flowers is an art-infused collection of pithy poems and contemporary koans. They may provoke enlightenment, or fade away in time. Only the latter is guaranteed.

Igneus Press  Small publishers are still in the game. Check out Igneus Press's blog and catalogue of 40+ poetry titles. 

American Frame   I have my original art giclee prints fulfilled by American Frame because I love the quality of the print, the quality of the frame, and the customer service. If you'd like a print but you find their website confusing, shoot me a message and I'll get it done for you.

Prints are available - send me a message.


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