Projects and rejects 4 – The real scoop on the books

In previous episodes:

  • An old friend reminded me of what I should already have known–that I need to follow my passion (do what I care about) when considering what projects to carry out or whether to carry out any at all.
  • I blathered on for more than 2,000 words about The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, the new projects I almost certainly will complete.
  • I ruminated on the general lack of success–and lack of coverage by others–of the two Library Blog books; that’s the major part of the “rejects” side of this series. By the way, if you go back to that post, be sure to read Dorothea Salo’s comment–it’s useful public criticism and helps convince me that those projects were “failures to learn from.”

Now the story continues with:

Part the Fourth: In which the nature of the apparent failures is detailed on a month-by-month basis.

So just how badly have the two Library Blog books actually done?

Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples

This book came out in August 2007. It got heavy publicity here and in Cites & Insights–and I also sent email to as many of the public libraries in the book as I could find email addresses for.

  • It got off to a decent start: Ten copies in August 2007, 13 in September 2007, 15 in October 2007.
  • Then it started to slow down: Seven in November 2007, eight in December 2007,  six in January 2008.
  • And kept sliding: Four in February 2008,  one in March 2008, three in April 2008.
  • Next quarter: Two in May 2008, two in June 2008. Zero in July 2008–and, so far, none in August 2008.

That’s 71 copies to date. For it to be a non-failure by my informal standards, it would need to sell at least 100 copies in the first year–and it’s 29 copies short with about a week to go.

Still…71 copies is better than nothing. For the time spent on it, the net return is not minimum wage, to be sure, but it’s considerably better than what I’d have earned from doing it “the right way” (and I think Dorothea Salo is right in this regard)–that is, putting it up as a website, which would have required significant additional work, might have required more money, and would have yielded $0.

But that’s the middling case…

Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

This one came out in January 2008, and you could reasonably say that it’s really too early to call it a failure yet.


  • January 2008: Nine copies. February 2008: Six copies. March 2008: Five copies
  • April 2008: Seven copies.
  • May 2008: Three copies. June 2008: Three copies.
  • Zero in July 2008. So far, zero in August 2008. (Oops: One apparently sold yesterday. So there is hope.)

Sure, there could be a sudden upswing this fall–it could sell another 67 copies between now and January 2009. But I’m not holding my breath.

This post won’t help. I’m aware of that.

And, as I say, I find Dorothea Salo’s comment cogent and convincing.

So what’s going to happen with those books? I can keep them on Lulu indefinitely at no charge. I think CreateSpace now wants a small annual fee (or I can get even lower yields).

Realistically, I don’t think I’ll do that. Unless something surprising happens, I think I’ll take them down, probably in or around January 2009. If I thought it would work at all, I might redo them as a single book that’s mostly analysis and commentary with brief little entries on each blog–but that probably won’t happen. (Actually, if I was going to do that, I’d wait and do a 2007-2009 lateral comparison, as I discussed in Part 3.)

On the other hand…

Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change

This one’s doing OK. I can’t/won’t provide similar month-by-month figures, but it’s still selling (oddly enough, it’s now sold as many copies in August as in July–and more than in May, the low point for this book), and it’s more than two-thirds of the way to being what I’d consider an actual success.

(Oh: The two trade paperback editions of C&I? I wasn’t anticipating any sales at all, so I’m delighted with the four combined sales, other than my own, and I must say the paperback’s both prettier and easier to handle than the Velobound back copies are!)

So that’s it for Part Four. If there is a Part Five–and there might not be–it will consider some possible changes for Cites & Insights. (And, grumpator, I really was kidding: The September issue won’t be out for at least another 10 days, and more likely two weeks.)

3 Responses to “Projects and rejects 4 – The real scoop on the books”

  1. Terry says:

    I don’t know if we’re like other libraries, but it is extremely difficult for us to purchase books which aren’t carried by B&T or Ingram.

  2. walt says:

    I don’t know whether Ingram picks up CreateSpace books (CreateSpace is part of Amazon). To add Ingram possible-distribution to a Lulu book is pretty expensive if there’s no assured outcome, which is why I didn’t do it.

    Admittedly, this is an issue…but it’s equally an issue for Balanced Libraries (one reason my “success goal” is 300 copies over two years, not 1,200 copies over two years).

    I guess this does raise the more general question–one Tim Spalding was pushing–of whether libraries should be going outside their regular channels to capture more of the so-called long tail. I don’t think these books are poster children for that particular question; there are better candidates.

  3. GeekChic says:

    At my previous place of work in Texas, I faced the same issue that Terry faced. Whichever major vendor won the state or county bid was our preferred vendor and we had to justify *each item* we wanted to purchase some other way. It was even worse if the vendor didn’t take purchase orders.

    This is not the sole fault of the library – but of the parent body that governs the library. I know I spent many hours trying to explain to my city masters why we couldn’t always find things at B&T or Ingram – but that policy is still in place.