Re: How does one publish a short book?

From: Carl Feynman (
Date: Tue Feb 13 2001 - 15:49:06 MST

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:

> How does one go about publishing a small, short nonfiction technical
> book? Does anyone here have any experience?

It's hard. From the technical publisher's point of view, the costs are pretty
much constant per title they publish-- editing, design, sales, distribution
and binding are all costs that don't much depend on how thick the book is.
But from the buyer's point of view, the value of a book, and hence the
acceptable price, is roughly proportional to its thickness. So the only thin
technical books that are efficient to sell are those that are visibly of high
quality to the purchaser, i.e. those by big-name authors or on hot topics. And
(not to disrespect you or anything) a first book on building a friendly AI
doesn't qualify on either count.

If you had a 300-page tome on the topic, you would have a better chance.

If you published it as an article in a hardcopy journal, you could hit them up
for 'offprints'-- some technical journals will print up a number of copies of
an article and bind them, and provide them to the author at cost. Actually,
they might not do this any more. They did it back in the '80s, but in this
modern age of desktop printing it might not be needed any more. But
publishing in a peer-reviewed journal might be valuable, both because it will
provide you with experience in dealing with the Establishment, and because it
will force the Establishment to notice you.

I have done both of these things, so I speak from experience.

> Failing that, does anyone have experience with getting technical papers
> bound up as minibooks - not the kind that gets sold in stores, but the
> kind that you hand out to your friends? ... Would anyone care to recommend a
> good online bindery that handles
> small jobs or microjobs?

If you're willing to pay for printing and binding, you can get anything up to
a professional-looking book from companies right there in your city. It's
just a question of cost. I would warn against doing it online. Printers
range from scrupulous craftsmen to malevolent fools, and you can't tell one
from the other until you see their work. The usual procedure is to walk into
the print shop with a file in some common format, and pick a bunch of options
from examples they show you (binding, paper, etc). Then they make up the
first copy, you go in and look at it and fix anything that's wrong, and then
tell them to make 500 of them, or whatever. You really need physical contact
with them during this process, in case you get a malevolent fool, or even a
scrupulous craftsman who misunderstands your desires.

I would warn against the Sir Speedy branch in Framingham, Massachusetts, but
that doesn't do you much good.

--Carl Feynman

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