1) You've published several books about poker. Have you seen any benefits from having a "list"?
Yes and it has been extremely educational. I started publishing my first poker book, "Practical Low and No Limit Texas Hold'em Ring Games" back about 2-3 years ago when the poker fad was peaking - that was the year at Christmas when you had poker books in the windows of Barnes and Noble, poker chips were the hot item at the holidays for sale, electronic poker handheld machines made a come back, etc. I had my book out earlier in the year and "rode the wave" - more like a puddle for me-but I was happy with the sales I was getting. It inspired me to try to see if I could position myself in a niche that was not explored (or exploited) too much. My Practical Low limit book sold well initially (several hundred copies) and then has since been consistent with a few copies a month. By the way, if you honestly talk to most poker writers, they average about the same though they may have their scale up by a slight factor because they may have shelf space. Then again, if you peruse the sports/gaming sections of Barnes and Noble you will see a dearth of poker books that were also trying to cash in on the craze. I suspect these days a LOT of them are due to be sent back to the publisher or sold off at remainder fire sale prices.
The biggest complaint was that there was too much limit and not enough no limit poker in the book. I rectified that later on with my Forty Dollar No Limit book. Research from my end indicated that there was one book on Crazy Pineapple and it was out of print. I figured, "Wow, I can have the goto book for Pineapple and the book will sell." My rationale was that the United States was cracking down on worldwide internet play (something I got out of early on) and I figured people would be interested more in home poker games, home variations of poker, etc. Based on readings in usenet, people playing home games, the fact that Crazy Pineapple is played in a variation in a television championship I figured - how could I lose on this? I figured wrong. So, yes, despite the speed bump with the Crazy Pineapple book it seems that having a list has helped. I noticed after I came out that there are other books by more seasoned pros self published etc out there and I suspect that their sales may not be as high any more than mine - and may be even less - because some of them don't offer online free content. Basically, I am building small amounts of sales on growing titles and that is how I plan on building my publishing business. That and trying to give my readers what they are asking for.
2) Have you made a push to sell to specialty stores, or are you strictly counting on direct and online sales?
I am pretty much online and special order through the major chains. I distribute through Lightning Source/Ingram. Because I do not take returns and short discount, I generally don't occupy shelf space. I have been picked up by online specialty book stores (depending on the title) and I get most of my orders from online sales (Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, etc) as well as direct sales. I do slow but steady UK sales as well - maybe 1-4 titles a month. I do get some other international sales I guess but those are direct order usually. Interesting note - my poker and Rett Syndrome book pdfs still generate some sales now and then even though Amazon does not carry electronic books unless it is through Mobi.
3) You've released a few Kindle titles. Do you see Kindle contributing significantly to your business in the coming years?
That is an great question. I would love it to be the case but it is too early to tell. I think we are starting a resurgence of the ebook format wars with the ebook reader now being developed in a VHS vs Beta kind of format war. I like the Kindle for what it has to offer and the ease of setting up books for it (if you are patient). My end result format is still a tad clunky but the content is out there. My tax book on Kindle is okay but I think the number of Kindle sales would have to grow (or the cost to buy a Kindle has to drop like a rock) to make a huge contribution in coming years. It would be nice to do color electronic books on a Kindle and I suspect the next generation device or two will offer that or some other device might. Also, the initial distribution/royalty pricing model favors Amazon. I suppose it isn't bad but I am spoiled by self-publishing. I wish the terms would be more in line of something I can set up like I have done by myself now.
4) How has your publishing business evolved since you started, and has it met your expectations?
My publishing business is evolving into a nice, slow and growing business. It has met my expectations and as corny as it sounds, is only limited to the amount of time that I spend making it grow. I originally got into publishing because my daughter was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome and I wanted to have a book for parents out there that addressed feelings, what you need to do, some of the things that my wife and I had to deal with, etc. The book ended up being rather short but I made the decision that parts of all sales from my books will go to Rett Syndrome research. Rett Syndrome affects one out of every 15000 girls at birth. Boys born with the Rett gene die at birth. This disease is the same one that one of the current American Idol contender's daughter has. I researched your site, read a bunch of books on self publishing, remembered back when I was writing articles and unsold novels pre internet and dove into self publishing whole-heartedly.
My initial approach has been to concentrate on non-fiction and write what I know. So far I have written books on dealing with Rett Syndrome, poker and income tax. A rather bizarre mix of a list and it is going to get worse - ha. I am working on a children's fiction book (finished it two days ago and am cleaning it up), have a completed horror manuscript I need to clean up when I have time (ha ha- I generally let completed manuscripts "season" a week or two and go back to review them and I STILL get TYPOS) and will get back to more non-fiction. I am a very minimalist publisher. I am in it to learn and to make money at it. With the exception of my Crazy Pineapple book and a non-fiction sex/relations book that has not taken off, my books sell and I end up in the black-though maybe not by much. I am in it for the long haul and might take on other writers later on but I would only work with people I feel comfortable with and publish books that I want to sell.
Kim Isaac Greenblatt