Posted on February 3, 2004 Posted by John Scalzi
Behold — Agent to the Stars in bound form!
And no, you can’t have one. There are exactly two of these babies, one for me, and one for my wife, who has always wanted this particular story in convenient book form but was thwarted by the fact that no publisher would buy it and produce it in that media. So I decided to go over to CafePress — which now allows people to self publish books — and crank out a copy for her there. And while I was doing that, I thought I might as well get one for myself.
I have to say I’m reasonably pleased with the resulting product except in one respect, which I’ll get to in a minute. The book comes with a glossy cover and the pages appear to be securely glued; I don’t think it feels like a “real” book — i.e., it’s of ever-so-slightly lesser quality than what you’d get from a mass-market publisher — but it does feel like a high-end advance reader’s copy of an upcoming book. I used CafePress’ template to lay out the book and then send it in, so for that reason the inside looks fairly professional as well — there are a couple of “orphans” (single words or single lines on otherwise blank pages), but those are my fault rather than the fault of CafePress. Overall, a reasonably nice job for what is indeed a very small run of a book.
The one thing I don’t like: Well, what I don’t like about CafePress in a general sense, which is that the prices are high. This is due at least in part to the intensive nature of providing “one-off” stuff, so this is not an actual complaint. And here’s a funny thing: It was actually no more expensive to run a copy of the book this way than to print it on my home printer, on account that printing a novel always seems to require me changing ink cartridges (which are outrageously priced). Still and all, one of these books, in your basic mass-market paperback form, costs $18 to buy.
This is fine for me blurting out a vanity copy for myself and my wife, but it’s not something I would feel comfortable charging people (not to mention I would have to charge people more if I actually wanted to make a profit), especially as I’ve been offering it for free for years. This is why I don’t know that I would recommend the CafePress vanity publishing option to most people: you’ve have to have a really motivated buyer to shell out $18 (or more) for a mere paperback. I’ve been thinking of using CafePress publishing for a “Best Of” collection of Whatevers, and I may still do that (another reason I ran off a couple copies of Agent was to get a feel for the process), but I honestly won’t expect to sell very many copies. And just in case you’re wondering, I’ve already taken the Agent book down from my CafePress site. Sorry.
So the rest of you are still going to have to read it online. Well, let me amend that: If you want to download the Agent document, format it and use CafePress to run off your own personal copy, I have no objection, so long as you then don’t try to sell it to other people.
If you do go through all that, wow, you’re a true fan. Please don’t stalk me.
Whatever Everyone Else is Saying