Scriptorium Publishing

content strategy for technical communication

Our business case for self-publishing

With the recent release of Publishing Fundamentals: FrameMaker 7 (formerly published as FrameMaker 7: The Complete Reference by McGraw-Hill/Osborne), we’ve had a few inquiries about why we chose to publish the book ourselves.

In the case of Publishing Fundamentals, the original publisher declared The Complete Reference out of print, but there was still a strong demand (well, strong from our point of view!) for the book. It wasn’t a hard decision for us to reformat and reprint the book.

Beyond the immediate demand for Publishing Fundamentals, though, there are big-picture reasons why we publish books and workbooks through our publishing arm, Scriptorium Press:

  • Financial. We’ve published books through mass-market publishers before, so we have a pretty good idea what kind of money authors can expect on books related to the technical publishing industry. The returns are surprisingly small, especially when you look at the money you make on each copy the publisher sells. We make more money when we print and distribute our own books, even after paying the costs associated with printing, distribution, and running an online store. (This is still true when we do smaller print runs on digital printers and incur higher printing costs on each copy.)
  • Control. Publishing our own materials gives us ultimate control over content and design (and when to declare a book is out of print). We can put out a book that we think is best for our audience without dancing around suggestions from book project managers and proofreaders who may not know a lot about the subject matter of a book and therefore request changes that are not in the readers’ best interest. (Not all book project managers or proofreaders are like this, of course.) On the flip side, publishing in-house means we have to do all the writing, editing, indexing, and production work ourselves. We are fortunate to have a group of people here who are well-versed in all facets of book publishing, so we have been able to handle all these tasks. We are not graphic designers, however, so we have enlisted the services of a graphic artist to design our book covers.
  • Marketing. Because our clients are in the technical publishing industry, it is very helpful for us to have books and workbooks that prove we understand the publishing process. Showing a prospective client hard copies of our books with the Scriptorium Press logo on them is a powerful marketing tool. Also, readers of our books remember us and then come to us for more books or even consulting services. It’s great when a reader also becomes a long-term client.

Does this mean everybody should rush out and publish their own books? Not at all. Just because you can publish your own material doesn’t mean you should proceed with every book idea you have. We still complete outlines, marketing plans, and so on, for prospective titles to evaluate if a title can make it in the marketplace. We’ve also pulled the plug on a book or two when things weren’t coming together as we expected. You also have to consider the costs associated with creating the text as well as publishing it. Overall, though, Scriptorium Press has been rewarding for us, and not just in a financial sense.

Author: Alan Pringle

Content strategy for technical communication. Publishing (ebooks and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). Director of operations at Scriptorium.

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