editorials: letters


Dirty behind-the-scenes work.

Letter I sent to Lindsay Publications on 4/8/05:

Dear Mister Lindsay,

Some of us had been bouncing around for some time on the gingery_machines yahoo group the idea of revising and updating Dave Gingery's book series. A week ago I bit the bullet and set up a website for compiling the relevant information needed to do so.
see http://www1.atwiki.com/gingery_machines/

The site is based on the concept that anyone can add information to it without having to ask for permission to do so. While filling out the basic structure of the website, I realized that the whole process described in the book series could be re-done in a much easier way. The end products would be of higher quality and require much less work to make.

The thing is, I only know so much. I want to enlist other people's help to create this book. I could probably write it myself, but to achieve the best currently possible methods I will need help, and from many different sources.

Most of the people who need this book will not have internet access, so it is essential that it be published in paper format. This is where you come in. You have a catalog of similar books, good and well known reputation, history of helping aspiring authors to publish, and a customer base that will be very interested in this book. Are you interested in printing and distributing this book?

Now, the catch. In order for people to contribute information to this project, they have to feel like their effort is going to a good cause. If they think "oh he's just going to take my work and make money off it" they will not contribute. Personally, I could care less about making money off it. But, as a business, you need to cover your printing, distribution, and office costs as well as make a small profit, and it competes with some other books in your catalog. So, how do we reconcile all of this?

Awaiting your reply,

-ben lipkowitz

It just may be that Vince has been thinking the same thing. He may already be preparing second editions. That's something I think you should ask him.

In the last twenty years, I've been contacted by dozens of people who were going to write the next "Dave Gingery series" or "they could do something better" etc, etc. None of them has ever come through. So I approach your proposal with skepticism. If you produce something of value that should be published, I would be foolish not to consider it.

Few people ever come through because writing and illustrating is an enormous amount of work. And second, very few people who can build, can also write. People who can write well, rarely know anything about technology. Dave Gingery was one of the few.

Publishing is very risky, especially in narrow fields such as metalworking. The costs, risks, and headaches of marketing are very high. There must be sufficient revenue to offset such costs. It would be foolish to publish and attempt to sell material that is available at no charge on the web. To do so would so enormously increase the financial risk as to make it a foolhardy project.

My point is simple. Produce something of quality for which there is demand and is not available free on the web, and I'll consider it. Or, you publish it. You put the work into editing and creating the pages, put up the thousands of dollars of necessary capital, and have it printed. I will, as others will, put it in the catalog assuming the content is good quality, is something people want at a price they're willing to pay, and is available in quantity at substantial discount to me so that I can recover the enormous selling costs.

In other words, you have a good idea. Go with it. Develop a good product, and then we can talk in earnest. Publishing is very risky. Selling via by mail is extremely risky. Those financial risks must always be addressed.

lindsay publications

Just so I have some idea what I'm dealing with here, how many books do you
print in a first edition production run?


My attitude in view of the difficulties of setting up a book, marketing it,
packing orders, and all the rest, if you can't justify a printing of 1,000
to 1,500 it's not worth doing.

And something else you had better be VERY careful of in publishing a book
with other people's material: You had better have written agreements with
each author. But even then the agreement is no guarantee that you couldn't
be sued by someone who thinks you're profiting at his expense. It happens.
If you have to defend yourself against even a frivolous lawsuit it could
cost thousands. It has happened to me.


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