Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beta Reader Copies

Not too long ago, I wrote about the process of creating comb-bound copies of an early draft of a novel to allow beta-test readers the chance to find errors and mark it up.  Well, this book, I'm trying something a little different.  It's a gamble and I don't know how it will play out.

Instead of buying a few reams of paper and a new toner cartridge, and then queuing up multiple copies of the full book to print, I uploaded the book to Lulu and printed out private-access copies.  Now, these aren't what the final copy will look like.  For one thing, I just slapped a handy snapshot there as a fake cover image.  For another, this is 8.5 x 11 inches.  Inside, the pages are regular 6 x 9 inch pages with great big margins around them so people can make notes.  These will never be sold.  Once this beta-reader review is complete, I'll go back to Lulu and delete the project.

Why Lulu?  Well, for one thing, this process has been a whole lot easier than filling my office with the smell of ozone for hours or days as I print out all the copies.  No aching back from bending over the comb binder as I assemble them.  And finally, no fretting over the binding coming loose and people scrambling the pages as they are shipped back and forth through the mail.

This may have cost me slightly more.  I'm not sure.  I've never done a detailed print cost analysis for when I print them myself.  But given that I always have to buy a new toner cartridge in the middle of the process, the costs are probably equivalent.  Besides, the printing cost isn't the most expensive part of the process.  The mailing cost is.  Given that I'm sending these to people all across the country, I send them in flat rate priority mail envelopes with a self-addressed stamped flat rate envelope included, it costs more than $10 each just for the mailing.  Even with the shipping costs from Lulu added in, that's less than it cost to print them.

Now, I hate to spend the money, but I really need these people looking over my shoulder and pointing out typos and misspellings and really horrible sentences.  A writer can't see his own dumb mistakes.

My biggest fear is that since this is a perfect-bound book, it may inhibit these book-loving people from being as ruthless as they need to be in marking it up.  Like I said, it's a gamble. I'll find out when they come back.

5 comments:

Chris Meadows said...
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Chris Meadows said...

For next time, you might want to check this out: the University of Texas Co-Op has an Espresso Book machine.

When I went to see the one at the MU Bookstore, they explained that one of the uses for it was to allow copyright holders to run off one-off print-on-demand copies of their own books. Perhaps the Co-Op people will do the same.

(Heck, you might want to go check it out anyway just for fun, because it's a truly marvelous machine.)

Henry Melton said...

Since I publish books through the same distributor chain, Ingram, that feeds the Espresso machines, I've had a chance to look at the difficulty in getting books into the database. Not bad, but not fast or automatic either. I need to take the time to put my books in there, but I've been distracted by other things. It probably wouldn't be usable for this kind of private distribution that I'm doing here.

Chris Meadows said...

At MU (and thus, I would expect, at the UT one as well) you can bring in a PDF file and they can run a one-off copy for you for a standard charge based on number of pages. Just like getting it printed at a copy shop, only without the comb binding. You might call and ask them about it.

thewere42 said...

I like Lulu, I have used them for a couple photo books before, this is a good idea - I hope it works the way you need it too.