Calculations…Why you must cut out the middle man

March 31, 2010

Running some numbers on book sales, retail price, wholesale discounts and production costs. I encountered a stunning reality that many of us know too well – the large book retailers are a powerful force, an empire, towering monuments of profit surrounded by impenetrable rivers of cash and little guys like us are the peasant villagers starving in massive mobs hoping the big guys drop a few chunks of change into the crowd for us to fight over. It’s depressing.

Here’s how the numbers break down

Standard wholesale discount on a book is 55%. This means if your book, say The Cigar Maker retails for $19.95, a bookstore like Barnes and Noble will buy it for $8.98. They turn around and sell it for full retail price. Meanwhile, if my production cost for unit is say, $7.07, the per-copy profits end up like this:

Profit for Barnes and Noble: $10.97

Profit for Author: $1.91

That just ain’t right. But what if you run into a Mom & Pop store that allows you to negotiate a better discount…say 30%. Then the situation improves…

Profit for Mom & Pop: $5.98

Profit for Author: $6.99

Much better. But what if you don’t deal with a bookstore at all and sell directly to the public, or through your website? That’s where it looks best…

Profit for Author: $12.88

But you’re not going to ignore bookstores and you’re definitely not going to ignore Amazon. Amazon (as well as any big guy) will probably discount your book to make it more attractive, say by 25% for a retail price of $14.95. This reduces their profit a bit:

Profit for Amazon: $5.97

Profit for Author: $1.91

There’s an easy way to beat this, but it requires careful watch and a little hands on work. Once Amazon lists your book, with the 25% discount (at $14.95) you throw your own brand new copy up there for $14.94. One cent less but yours is the copy that show up at the top. They’ll take their commission (looks like anywhere between 25 and 35%)…but it works out much better for you, the author…

Profit for Amazon: $3.75

Profit for Author: $4.13

No matter which way you do it, you’re getting screwed, unless you can sell directly to the buyer. Take these numbers and blow them up to assume you’ve sold 1,000 copies through each of the 4 avenues presented.

Barnes & Noble (55% Discount): $1910 profit

Mom & Pop (30% Discount): $6,990 profit

Sell Your Copy on Amazon (Discounts and Fees): $4,130 profit

Sell Directly to Buyer: $12,880 profit

Let’s say it costs $4500 to produce and market your book (a very modest budget) it doesn’t even make sense to sell through a major retail chain or Amazon. You’re better off doing it yourself….the problem is, can we live without the big guys? We’re like peasants fighting for scraps of bread tossed from the White Tower.

Grab what you can…then head on over to the The Cigar Maker Official Site and pre-order the book….It should be ready to go in about 3 weeks!

The Importance of Pre-Orders

March 25, 2010

I hope you’re making your latest soon-to-be-released masterpiece available for pre-order. Here are some reasons why, and some things to consider if you decide to move forward with what could be a lucrative and very rewarding endeavor.


Why make your book available for purchase before it is available to be shipped…or even before it is finished?!


It generates revenue that you can immediately use to finance your operation (read: you don’t have to dip into your own pocket). It feels good to be in the black.


Folks who pre-order eagerly await the arrival of your book and will say so in public places like Facebook, Twitter, discussion forums, and who knows where else.

You can also use sites like Facebook to post stats and tidbits on your pre-orders, which can create a bandwagon effect and generate new orders.


If you can tell one bookstore that the neighboring bookstore pre-ordered 16 copies, they won’t want to be left out. There must be a reason the guy across the street ordered 16 copies, and they competition will be more inclined to order their own copies.


#1 You must own your book – You can’t do this through Lulu, CreateSpace or any of those POD places. The idea is that your selling your book before it’s available and those places won’t let you do that (to my knowledge). Set up your own outfit and use a printer like Lightening Source. Setup a website where people can pre-order, like this one, and then link it everywhere.

#2 Hammer the social networking sites (hit up family and friends) – Family and friends are your first customers. They are going to buy your book no matter what. Many of them will have no problem sending you cash in order to be one of the first to own the book. People like being part of the inner circle. Take advantage of that.

I set up a fan page on Facebook and then bought a cheap Facebook ad for about $5 a day – the ad brought in over 20 fans the first day – complete strangers – people I would have never met.

#3 Use the money wisely – Even if you’re getting small orders, 1 or 2 copies, let the money ad up. I’ve collected over $1000 in revenue already which I’m reinvesting 100% into the book. This has given me the leverage to print postcards, business cards, extra review copies, take out a few ads and sign up for 3 trade shows. All using money earned from pre-orders.

#4 Keep track – The more orders you take, the more you’ll need to track. Learn Excel. Create spreadsheets that show who ordered, what they ordered, and whether they paid. You don’t want to receive a confused email 4 months from now from a reader asking when they’ll receive their copy.

#5 Bundle – This means you offer your new book for pre-order for $20…and throw your first book in for an additional $5. $25 for two books – only if you pre-order. If you wait, the old book goes back to $10. Tie this one to #6…

#6 Free-shipping for a limited time – Folks will hurry to place an order before the offer expires. Once free-shipping expires, make sure the buyer is responsible for shipping. This only creates additional revenue and helps you pay those (very expensive) shipping costs.

#7 Make sure you deliver! – You better make sure your book is sent to these folks as soon as it’s available, otherwise you’ll be sending a lot of refunds to angry ex-customers!

#8 It keeps you engaged – Every time you new pre-order come across your desk, you’ll be motivated to hit the bricks and keep promoting. And you’ll have the money to make your marketing effort that much easier.

I used no pre-order option for my first book, which meant I was using my own money to finance my operations. When it finally went on sale, I ended up paying myself back (read: paying off credit). This time, I already have a nice chunk of change in my pocket. Everything else just adds to the coffers. It feels good to be in the black.  Good luck!


Born to Return the Gift

March 24, 2010

Catherine E. Johnson

Onyz Productions, 2009

356 pages/ Fiction

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When I read the first page of Born to Return the Gift, which includes both a sincere acknowledgement to God with a list of twenty scripture references and a “Respectful Warning,” I knew I was in for an interesting literary outing. The warning goes on to state, “This novel deals with adult issues. Explicit sexual content and profane language keep it real.” Ah, yeah, no kidding. While not full of sexual content, the book has some sections that rival Penthouse Forum material. That alone isn’t odd, but the intermingling of those two very divergent topics—explicit sex and God—you don’t often find in the “Religion” section of the bookstore. I loved the honesty and visceral nature of the book. Keep it real, indeed.

The book chronicles the adult life of hard-luck, fictional Nyima Chante Robbins, an African American woman in her fifties living a series of failed attempts to secure a somewhat normal lifestyle in a world of dysfunction—including her own. She journeys to California where she hopes to find normalcy in the areas of life many of us take for granted: keeping and securing long-lasting and meaningful employment, long-lasting and meaningful friendships, and long-lasting and meaningful love relationships. Her failure rate for these three areas of her life is heartbreaking, but the story of her quest is usually very engaging and interesting. As the reader watching her struggles, you see where Nyima goes wrong time after time, and the temptation is to confront the dysfunction and shout, “Stop!” However, that temptation lessens when you know to do so would unfairly judge Nyima—and anyone else in that situation. Moreover, isn’t that part of the problem? People like Nyima are judged as failures or losers by those unfamiliar with her world.

The author, Catherine E. Johnson, tells Nyima’s story through a number of flashbacks during the last two weeks of her failed experiment of living in California looking for a new life. Unfortunately, the author waits toward the end of the book to divulge the character’s early life, as well as Nyima’s bizarre spiritual experience of being trapped in a hell-like world. (What was that? Was it hell?) Disappointingly, the author does little to explain the experience fully. I would have loved to see the book intersperse these more interesting elements throughout the story to create better pacing and increase interest in the plot. Waiting for the last 45 pages of a 345-page book to reveal so much is so unfair to the reader.

There are too many basic grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting, and word choice errors in the book to mention here, and they often distract from the content. Sadly, this number of errors only helps to solidify that this is a self-published book—those regrettable errors that create the reputation that the self-publishing world is still in need of polish, finesse and the experienced eye of an editor.  It’s a shame that this kind of final product sidetracks us from the skills and creativity of an author.    

Overall, it’s a promising, inspiring and uplifting book by a very promising author. Johnson has potential to be a gifted writer but needs to work on a few basic things—namely, finding a decent editor— before we can take her seriously as a published author.

Born to Return the Gift is available from amazon and smashwords.

Reviewed by David Stucki, March 2010

Lots of updates….

March 22, 2010

Hey gang. Some of you have wondered when you book will be reviewed. The answer is – soon!!

The last couple of months have been very busy as I make final preparations to release The Cigar Maker. The book will be unveiled at the London Book Fair April 19th – April 21st. I’m just doing a final read tweaking grammer and waiting on one last blurb to stick on the back cover.

Early praise has been very favorable. You can read what people are saying right here.

I’m also taking pre-orders for the book and have quite a few so far. You can pre-order The Cigar Maker and pick up my first novel Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy right here.

In addition to all this stuff, I have also been setting up my first few author appearance. Here is a quick breakdown of where I will be. If you are in the Tampa or Twin Cities area – please stop by and introduce yourself!!


May 14th, 15th and 16th
Northeast Minneapolis 

The Cigar Maker will premiere at Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis on May 14th-16th. Join Mark and others at Svedberg Studio for a chance to buy a copy of the book from the author himself!!


Friday May 14th 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Saturday May 15th 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Sunday May 16th 12:00pm – 5:00pm 

Svedberg Studio is located at 3359 Tyler St NE, Minneapolis MN

Visit to learn more.


Saturday May 22nd, 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Tampa Bay History Center 
801 Old Water Street, Tampa FL

Join Mark at a reception at the Tampa Bay History Center on Saturday, May 22nd from 12:00pm – 4:00pm to celebrate the official release of The Cigar Maker.

Please visit for details.


Tuesday May 25th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Inkwood Books
216 South Armenia Ave, Tampa FL

 Join Mark will participate in a book talk and signing at Inkwood Books on Tuesday, May 25th.

Visit to learn more.

Saturday, October 16th 10:00am – 5:00pm
Twin Cities Book Festival

Details coming soon…


March 7, 2010

James Mirarchi

Lulu, 2009

76 Pages, Poetry/Short Story

4 out of 5 stars

A collection of poems bookended by a one-act play and a short story, James Mirarchi’s Dervish is a surreal acid trip into an angst-ridden world nourished by psychedelic mushrooms. With dark, minimalistic writing in the spirit of J.G. Ballard or Chuck Palahniuk, Mirarchi has compiled a collection of edgy, in-your-face tales with a sharp aversion to fame and glamor, a stingy distaste of mainstream beauty. This is a commentary on a world where Heather Locklear is revered as a holy icon but Mararchi’s characters respond by considering themselves beautiful only when their faces are slashed and streaming blood.

The one-act play that opens the book takes place in a beauty salon, and the opening dialogue between a makeup artist and a customer begins as the customer laments, “The haunted house of my face is weathered and chips away from life’s temporal vandalism.” We know right away that these pages will be anything but conventional and Dervish simmers in its own contrarian existence, never quite satisfied with its isolation, never quite sure of what it needs to be and never bothering to care.

The poem “City” is a story of two competing gods, artists, who create two conflicting worlds: a mainstream culture vs. the radical opposition. It’s a statement on creating art that lands “within the rules” and is rewarded by the mainstream while unconventional and provocative art falls to the fringe. Acts like The Jonas Brothers fall into this safe, mainstream category while Mirarchi’s work would be created by a more radical, uncompromising god.

“Propaganda” is a violent war between lesbian punk rockers and a skinhead metal band, where the vanquished lesbian musicians haunt the metal-heads from the grave. But Dervish is not just a strange and imaginative world created for the sake of being creative. Its characters struggle amid themes of love, acceptance, beauty, lust and insecurity. Mirarchi calls himself an astronaut navigating the universe of imagination and he explores his themes like a spaceman struggling to escape from a black hole of despair. Dervish works. It’s fun to read – and it’s a very quick read…it took me less than an hour.

This avant-garde creation, with its short bursts of action and rapid-fire narrative, sent me to the Internet to learn more about the author. It’s strange, dark themes opened me to a new world: the world of James Mirarchi. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next.

Dervish is available from Amazon and Lulu.

Check out James Mirarchi at Author’s Den.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, March 2010.