“For Love of Yurts” probably won’t make The New York Times best-seller list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a niche of readers excited about the how-to guide for constructing tent-like dwellings.
Ten years ago, a specialized book with a small market potential would have had little chance of getting published, but advances in technology have made it possible for budding authors to self-publish professional quality books in small print runs for a reasonable cost.
“The technology is perfect for those unique niche books,” said Debbi Wraga, the Print on Demand coordinator for Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt. “Book stores are opening their eyes that self-publishing is part of the future. Even the how-to-build a yurt book has an audience. In the past, the author might have struggled, but now he can get his book out there.”
Northshire is one of three independent bookstores in the country that owns an Espresso Book Machine, a self-contained, printing and binding device that can produce a full book with the push of a button.
The technology by On Demand Books allows the story to help authors print anywhere from one to thousands of copies of a book.
“It’s relatively quick. We can print 100 pages in about 6 minutes,” Wraga said.
The computerized system works with electronic files supplied by an author and transfers them to printed pages. The inside pages print in black and white, and the press also can reproduce black-and-white photographs. The paperback covers can be reproduced in full color.
Books can be between 50 and 500 pages in sizes ranging from 5-by-5 inches to 8-by-10 inches.
The bookstore, working under the moniker of “Shires Press,” offers a range of services to assist authors. Packages, which include a proof and one copy of the finished book, start at $69 and go up to $599. Additional copies of books range from 8 cents to 4 cents a page, depending on the number of total pages. For example, a 200-page book is 5 cents per page, so an author would pay $10 per printed book.
The press offers a 10 percent discount when authors order more than 30 books.
“We try to make it as painless as possible for our authors,” Wraga said. “It allows a lot of writers the opportunity to publish their work without a large upfront cost. Plus, they get one-on-one attention. They feel like they are in control of their book.”
The book store’s staff offers a wide range of support services – from text scanning and editing to graphic design and Library of Congress and copyright registration – depending on the publishing package purchased by the author.
In the two years since the store has had the Espresso machine, the press has published around 80 books, but the technology seems to be increasing in popularity, according to Wraga.
“It has motivated a lot of people to actually get their book in print. We’ve done everything form how to build a yurt for under $1,000 to a romance guide for young men – and anything in between,” she said.
Wraga said she experienced a rush during the holidays because many people used the self-publishing technology to create personalized gifts.
“A lot of people made them as Christmas presents. We published everything from novels to poetry,” she said.
The small print runs have made it possible for people to affordably publish a variety of personal books – from family journals to geneaologies.
“I am kept busy full time every day of the week, and we’re constantly getting inquiries from new authors,” Wraga said.
The diverse and expanding list of titles printed on site includes eclectic offerings like “Einstein’s Rabbi,” a philosophical coming-of-age novella; “Go Light: Exploring the Tao of Native America,” a bridge between Euro-American and American Indian thinking; and “French Fries for Siblings: The Forgotten Children of Autism,” a tool for the brothers and sisters of autistic children.
“Our youngest author is 11. The oldest is 97,” Wraga said.
The staff sees the machine – which will be upgraded in the next few months – as a perfect fit for the independent bookstore.
“Customer service is important to us, so this personalization of books is a natural step,” Wraga said. “It makes perfect sense in a store you’ve gone to for years and loved.”
For Wraga, helping authors fulfill their lifelong dreams of publishing a book is an inspiring experience.
“I’m still in awe that I can come into work and print a book. It a great place to come if you are a writer. You can see the whole process happen with your book,” she said. “For a lot of authors, it makes them feel they have input in something they feel passionate about.”
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