Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Print Obsessions

I’ve been obsessed with print lately, which is a real kick in the ass, because I sell almost no print books these days.  I can sometimes get a few people to kick in a buck to look at my stuff on the kindle, but sales of the dead tree counterparts have been absolutely abysmal.  If it wasn’t for the kindle, I’d probably be learning to crochet instead of still picking at this, so that’s a good thing, and I really do like it when people read my books regardless of price or format.  But there’s something about print books that really pulls at me.

I just read this book the other day, by RE/Search, which was essentially a two-hour phone interview of Henry Rollins by V. Vale.  Rollins had some good stuff to say, and it’s always fun to catch up with his projects.  But one of the things that made me really love this project was that it was a pocket book, a little 4×6 inch book, maybe 125 pages, but a little thing that felt good in your hands and just screamed “collectible” even if it was not an ultra-rare numbered limited edition.  There’s a certain tactile pleasure in having a book like this, and I don’t know what it is.  It’s small, and an odd size, not like the usual trade paperback.  Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a diary or a little book you’d get as a kid.  Maybe it’s the fact that it could go in a pocket easily, although I didn’t take it out of the house or bring it on the go with me.  But something about it made me appreciate it more than if it was an industry standard 5.06×7.81″ book.  It’s the reason I made the print version of Fistful of Pizza the size it is, although only a couple of you actually have a print version.  (The kindle strikes again!)

There are some issues with doing a perfect little book like this.  Lulu has a pocket size, which is 4.25×6.87.  The problem is that it’s Lulu, which means fulfillment is just a little bit off, and price is higher.  Createspace supposedly does custom trim sizes as small as 4×6″, although custom sizes are only available from amazon.com (which is fine – it’s not like a brick and mortar shop is custom-ordering my books.)  The only issue with that is POD books are always priced per page, regardless of their size.  So if you had a 40,000-word manuscript and you put it in a pocket book, it’s going to cost way more per copy than a 6×9″ book with the same font size, since there are going to be more pages in the pocket book due to fewer words per page.

Another thing I wish you could do is have some pages color, and some black and white.  You can make a whole book color, but for a hundred-page book, you’d have to make it $13.99 to break even.  (You can make a hundred-page black and white book $3.99 and you’d still make a quarter per book.)  I would love to have a book that had eight color plates in the middle, but the rest black and white, but that’s not possible with print on demand.

I don’t even have ideas or projects for this crap; I just think of sizes and colors and formats and wish I could do something with them.  Like, I’d love to do either a DVD or a CD that was encased in a book.  I don’t know what I’d put on them — maybe some kind of spoken word experimental garbage.  Createspace has POD CD and DVD offerings, but they don’t have books or booklets.  It doesn’t matter, because I don’t know how to record a book on tape that doesn’t sound like hell, and I don’t know what I’d add to a book in color, other than pictures of my cat or something.  But it always has me thinking.