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self-publishing books about harp

  • Sylvia
    Sylvia Clark

    I know I'll probably get some flak for this, but here it is.  People think that if you are selling something, you are making money.  However, I would like to clarify what happens when books are self-published.  There is a set-up charge, a printing charge, a charge for ISBN numbers, and if you have the printer set up an ad, there is a charge for that...as well as the advertising charge if you advertise the books somewhere.  Then there is the packaging, postage, and just plain getting it to the PO (gasoline).  I don't want to sound discouraging, but the idea is that it is a creative event, not a business.  The question is not how much money you will make, but how much you will lose, and are you willing to lose that much to publish.  I would really enjoy reading about other harpists' experiences, so I decided to publish.  We all sit behind one of these machines, but each of us has a different milieu, so our experiences are different.

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    replies to "self-publishing books about harp"
    • Andy
      Andy B

      I agree with you completely, Sylvia! There's also bank account fees, any applicable business permits, and the hassle of dealing with sales tax and reporting. It's definitely a labor of love, not of profit!

      Andy

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    • Saul
      Saul Davis Zlatkovski

      How does this reflect on the plethora of publications by players of all levels? I saw a website by harpers who can just barely play, and they have cds, books, products galore. I'd like to say leave it to the experts, but can they afford it all?

      Since I published two pieces, I sold maybe a dozen copies, maybe I barely covered the printing costs, and the dealer who took several copies apparently threw them out.

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    • Sylvia
      Sylvia Clark

      Yikes.  I always thought harpists bought sheet music...so many people seem to advertise it.  I don't buy sheet music, simply because I play a fake left hand and can play off any melody.  The only pieces I use a real left hand for, and they are harp arrangements, are the Jesu, Joy and the Ave Maria. 

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    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      This is the sad truth of publishing music for harp and I'm glad you had the guts to say it. I've published a few transcriptions over the years and I've known many harpists who have published many things and when they go to a conference and take exhibit space, their best hope is to break even, so they are not out-of-pocket at the end of the conference. The only publication that has made me any money at all is my repair book, A GUIDE FOR HARPISTS. And the check I receive once a year will at best buy me a very nice meal!

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    • Dwyn
      Dwyn .

      Carl:

      I have to think your book would sell better if it wasn't so well hidden.  In this day and age, not having a book like that listed on Amazon (and probably eBay as well) is really begging for low sales.  If you look it up on Amazon, it shows as out of print and unavailable -- not even any used copies offered.

      http://www.amazon.com/guide-harpists-maintenance-repair-pedal/dp/B0006EHA76/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257096857&sr=1-1

      If someone sees it listed as out of print, they may not bother looking any further.  If they do, the best place to look for used books is used.addall.com (searches all the major book dealer search engines simultaneously).  Amazingly, there's not a single copy showing available there now. 

      A couple of years back, when I was first getting into harps (having never heard of this particular book before), I saw a copy listed on eBay, with a minimum bid higher than what it currently sells for new, and the bidding was going pretty high (there were 5 bidders, 3 of whom bid over $50, and it sold for $57.92 -- I looked back in my e-mail for the message I sent you, to find these details).  I checked used.addall.com and found only one copy, offered for $125! (and it probably sold for that price, since it's no longer listed).

      It was only because I'd seen you posting here, that I knew you were alive and well and reachable.  So I e-mailed you to ask if it was still available somewhere for a reasonable price, and you let me know Vanderbilt had it, and I bought a copy from them.    Vanderbilt seems to have improved their search engine positioning since I went through this process, and now if one types < "guide for harpists" swanson > into Google, the Vanderbilt offering comes up as the first hit.  But most people looking for a book on harp repair don't know what's available, so can't search by title and author.  They're more likely to go to Amazon, where searching < harp repair > in the books category  brings up your book listed as out of print and totally unavailable, and Pratt's "More Affairs of the Harp" as out of print with one used copy available.  There's no reason Vanderbilt can't make money selling the book via Amazon -- they just need to get it listed.

      It's true there's a relatively small market for harp sheet music and books about harps, but that's all the more reason to undertake a sensible marketing approach.

      Dwyn

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    • Sylvia
      Sylvia Clark

      It seems a bit odd that the last place anyone would look would be the author, the person most likely to know where his books are.

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    • Dwyn
      Dwyn .

      As I noted, I *did* go to the author.  But most people aren't on this forum and don't know anything about the author.  If they check Amazon and it's listed as out of print, and check a comprehensive global used book search engine and see only a single copy listed at $125 (and currently zero copies), they're likely to assume the author is either dead or sold the copyright a long time ago to someone who has no interest in continuing to market the book.  And most people who are interested in a book on "harp repair" don't know what specific books are available, so can't search by author and title.  Clearly, with 3 different eBay bidders willing to bid over $50 for a used copy of this book, when it's available new for $20, the visibility of new copies available for sale is less than optimal.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      I'm very confused. I thought Sylvia was talking about her book of memoirs, not publishing sheet music, which is a very different thing.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      There's no reason Vanderbilt can't make money selling the book via Amazon -- they just need to get it listed.


      Forgive me, but as someone who makes more money as an author than as a harpist these days, I have to say this statement made me laugh.


      "Get it listed on amazon"--do you have any idea of what it's like to be an amazon vendor? Amazon demands a huge, monstrous discount. (Why do you think all books are so darned expensive now? It's because publishers have to knock the cover price sky high in order to be able to give amazon the discount they demand without going broke.)


      Amazon orders the number of copies they think they will likely sell in ONE WEEK. Then you are obligated to provide product at their demand after that. So if amazon sells a copy and they want one copy, you ship them one copy. They charge the earth to participate, too.


      Just as an example, do you know how much of your sales amazon allows you if you do a Kindle edition (which they will try to force you into doing, at your expense, whether or not you've got anything that anyone would ever want on a Kindle)? They keep 70% of the sale price, you get 30, for the privilege of helping them push their ebook reader.

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    • Dawn
      Dawn Penland

      I sell used books and CDs on Amazon as a Marketplace seller.  I don't make alot of money because the book market is so competitive.  I do it to clean house and rehome my things.  Amazon takes $1.00 per item as a commission and gives a shipping credit to cover media mail rate.  I have an author friend whose publisher won't allow her to sell her own books.  She says if anyone finds out you're selling your own book they won't carry it.  Then she told me there is some reason Borders won't sell her book.  It's all very complicated.  She writes knitting books.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Yes, it's different for used books, but they're weird about current ones, more so than for other merchandise.

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      The easiest way to get a new book on amazon is to use their self-publishing company, but the terms are harder than for lulu and most of the others.


      And I have to say my publisher would be ecstatic if I were out selling books all day long. Borders and B&N will only take books published by companies who have relationships with their distributors. It's very complicated, but in-store sales are less of the book market each year.


      Actually, I think the way now is to do an app, if your book is suitable for it.

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    • Sylvia
      Sylvia Clark

      Dwyn,

      A lot of people are easy to find just by typing in their name on your address bar.  If you type in "Carl Swanson," you will find him very fast that way.  It is much simpler than going through book companies.  Same goes for Barbara.  Type in her name, and you will find a lot of info on her.  Once you find them on the Internet, you can contact them directly.  That's for famous people like them.  For unknown people like me, my name has to have harpist after it to bring up any info.

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    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Me too, Sylvia! I typed my name and "harpist" in just for kicks and found a photo of myself playing at The Marine City Music & Arts Festival - a performance I did this past summer. Search engines are great for this, I didn't even know there was a pic of me floating around out there. I have emerged out of anonymity! LOL :-)

      Karen

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    • Karen
      Karen Johns

       Barbara,

           I've heard some of your arrangements played by Pamela Bruner on her Classical Reverie CD. In fact, this is how I first heard about you. I definitely plan on purchasing your Classics on Request collection when I attain the level of experience that would do these pieces justice. I especially like your arrangements of Romanza and Meditation from Thais. 

      Karen

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Thank you, Karen. But just to avoid confusion, I was talking about in my other life with publishers and being a kindle edition and a bunch of apps in the app store and all:


      http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/2122


      I wish I could make that kind of money publishing harp arrangements or performing. :)


      Anyway, I hope you enjoy the arrangements when you get around to them.

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    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Ahhh, I see! That explains a lot- I had no idea you did this too. It's also nice to connect a face with a personality :-)

      I'm sure I will enjoy playing those arrangements- I sure love listening to them!

       

      Karen

       

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    • Dwyn
      Dwyn .

      Yes, I really do understand this.  But as I pointed out twice already, most people who are thinking they'd like to find a book on harp maintenance and repair will have no idea that anybody named Carl Swanson exists and/or that he ever wrote and published a book on this topic.  They will search for "harp maintenance" or "harp repair" and quickly run into information telling them Carl Swanson did write such a book, but that it's out of print, and that there are no used copies offered on Amazon which is the first place many people look for out-of-print books.  If there's anybody who still doesn't understand why this reduces sales of the book, I'm sorry, but I can't make it any clearer. 

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    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      And I'm saying that it's a question of scale. You can't just stick a new book title in amazon marketplace; they won't let you. And the number of possible sales lost this way doesn't begin to make up the cost of doing it. I assure you that the people at Vanderbilt are not fools.

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    • Kreig
      Kreig Kitts

      If you don't really want to make money on it, there would probably be cheaper ways to publish it. You could create an electronic version and put it on your professional page, or your Facebook etc. if you have one.


      If you want to have some hard copies for posterity's sake, you could look into a print-on-demand publisher that will produce however many copies you want for a fee, then keep them or give them away or whatever you want to do.

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