Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Niche That Doesn't Need Filling

There are times when vanity publishing it the way to go. Your book might be so specifically targeted to a small market that it would make sense to do it yourself.

Then again, it's possible that the book you think has a market doesn't have a market at all.

Kendall Svengalis thought that the world needed a photographic memory book of Gary, Indiana. It used to be a booming metropolis at one time, when steel was still made there. Clearly that would be a niche book, appealing to Gary residents both past and present -- a situation calling for self-publishing.

He compiled a 450 page behemoth because he wanted every single picture to be immortalized. No cutting, no editing down to a manageable size. This was to be a coffee table book, after all, and that's where you want your substantial tome to reside for all the neighbors to see.

Gary, Indiana: A Centennial Celebration not only weighed in heavily, it had a price tag to match. Pictures are costly to reproduce, and the big book came in at $50 per copy. A high price for Gary residents to pay, no matter how complete the coverage might be.

The book is not selling through. It's expensive, and it isn't getting much publicity. That's the problem with vanity presses, you have to push the book yourself and it's not easy to do. So far, Mr. Svengalis has sold 2,000 out of his 4,000 print run, and it would appear that he'll be stuck with the remainder.

He tried to get the local high school students to help sell the book, but they're not interested, despite the fact that the author was willing to donate his proceeds to the school.

Mr. Svengalis realizes that the current residents of Gary can't afford his book. They're lucky to have enough food on the table, given the current economic malaise that envelops the town.

The book was put together out of love for a town that no longer exists. Sadly, only 2,000 people care to re-visit the past, and Mr. Svengalis must make room in his garage for $100,000 worth of unwanted copies.

1 comment:


I was born and raised in Indiana, so let it be known that the following words are born of experience: I applaud Mr. Svengalis for seeing his project through, and for creating the book he wanted. But he should have known better. In a country where the written word is slowly dying, Indiana is the state where they will draw a chalk line around the corpse.

Sadly, I don't believe that I'm being facetious.