My Indie Publishing Venture: the Saga Continues

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In my previous post I returned to a theme that I care a lot about, the changing landscape of scientific publishing. Some of you may remember that a few months ago I wrote a post about my plans to start an indie publishing company, and I thought now would be a good time to give you a report on how it is developing.

Well, I am happy to say that Beresta Books became a reality in March. It is now registered with the State of Connecticut as a Limited Liability Company, so the legal name of the business is Beresta Books LLC. So far Beresta has published (or, rather, republished) one book.

cover

Quantitative Analysis of Movement (QAM) was the very first book that I wrote and published. I started working on it while I was still a postdoc at the University of Washington. I signed a contract with Wiley—it must be in 1988. The problem was that I was not really in any position to work on it without interruption. I got one job with the research arm of the US Forest Service, got the equivalent of tenure there, then I moved to the University of Connecticut, got tenure here, and only then, in 1997, I finally was able to finish the book. A lesson I learned is not to start writing a book until I have enough uninterrupted time ahead of me to get a reasonably complete draft.

In the process I broke up with Wiley and switched to a different publishing house, so it was Sinauer that eventually published it. QAM did quite well for a technical reference (it’s a compendium of methods for modeling and analyzing movement and population redistribution, mostly in animals, with some forays into the plants). Eventually, however, the sales flagged and Sinauer decided to drop it and reverted the rights to me, as I wrote in the post.

The problem for me was that, although the book was published 17 years ago, nobody has come up with a replacement. So lots of ecologists continue to use it. People write to me periodically and say nice things about how they still keep my book on their desks as an essential reference. It might be worth mentioning that QAM continues to generate a lot of citations for me. In fact, the citation rate shows no signs of dropping off. In 2014 the book was cited more than in any previous year.

To cut the long story short, I decided to republish it. Because I lost the high quality PDF file from which the book was printed (but I still had the original LaTeX files), I had to hire a programmer through Elance to recreate the PDF. I did not have the high resolution image that was used for the cover. Fortunately, James Lloyd, the ecologist who supplied the original image to Sinauer was still alive, if retired. I was able to get in touch with him and he very graciously sent me the hi-res file. (Thank you, Jim!)

I investigated several commercial providers of POD (print on demand) services, but it turned out that CreateSpace, the POD subsidiary of Amazon, was the most convenient and reasonably priced option. So I went with CreateSpace.

The way POD works, for those of you interested, is that the printer only stores an electronic version of the book. When a customer plunks some cash down, a single copy of the book is printed and mailed to him or her. It’s very convenient. No warehousing costs, no extra unsold copies to destroy.

QAM was published in March. Because my main motive in bringing the book to market was to make it available to people who need it, I don’t expect to make much money from it. It would be a bummer if the book sold too little to recoup the investment I made in it, but as it turned out, that worry was misplaced. QAM has already sold enough to take care of those costs.

I also have a second reason to re-publish QAM. As I mentioned in some previous posts, over the last year I have been working on my next popular book—about human social evolution. This book will also be published by Beresta, and QAM served as a way of testing the waters, so to speak.

The next book will require more work – I will need to hire a copy editor, a cover designer, and other professionals to ensure that the final product will be of the highest quality. This all will be happening in the next couple of months, and I will have another update soon.

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lee doran

Thanks so much Peter. I have traveled a v similar trajectory over the past year, though I seem to have made a lot more mistakes than you, and have ended up in more or l
ess the same place. Will do my next book (expanded version of one already done) as a Kindle and use Create for POD version.
Very useful post for cross-checking my experience and lessons learned … significant contribution.

Cheers from here,

L.

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