Interview with John Oakes

John Oakes started at Grove Press in the mid-1980s, saw that crash and burn, then joined Henry Holt for a brief period. John then spent 17 years building Four Walls Eight Windows, which was sold to Avalon in 2004. He spent two years as simultaneously the publisher of Avalon's Thunder Mouth Press and co-publisher of Nation Books. John is currently executive editor with Atlas and Co., Publishers.

When Four Walls launched in 1987, did you have a detailed business plan and long-term funding, or was it a seat-of-the-pants start-up?

We profoundly didn't know what we were doing. I'd met Dan Simon at a party not long before, and we discovered a mutual interest in art and politics--most people I knew seemed to be interested in one or the other. I was at Henry Holt at the time, and he was working for a medical publisher, and I suggested we start up a publishing company. How hard could it be, right? He'd done one book at Writers and Readers with the late Glen Thompson under the imprint "Four Walls Eight Windows," and because we couldn't come up with a better name, we started with that--and we continued to work together for seven years, until I initiated a split. At that point I continued to run Four Walls, and did so until 2004, when I sold it. I think now I may know a little bit more about starting up a traditional publishing company than I did in 1987. Sadly, because of the advent of the Internet, those skills are less relevant today.

How long was it before you realized that Four Walls was a success, and was there a particular title that put you over the top?

You're kind to characterize it as a success. Four Walls was more like one long, drawn-out battle--not a war, which implies some respite from battle; a battle. There was never a point of victory; it was a constant struggle. Solvency became less of a joke as our backlist started to gain heft; but at that point I was exhausted and glad to sell.

How did your vision for the Four Walls list change over the years, and did you move to subsidize literary titles with more consumer oriented fare?

I never liked the how-to stuff, because I could never understand how people can find their own bodies so endlessly fascinating. We always had a weakness for pushing the literary envelope, and by definition that's risky publishing. Two of our most successful (or merely lucrative) titles were a history of Mormonism and a meditation on Fermat's last theorem. But I would argue that some of our most successful (or intellectually adventurous) titles were the novels by Michael Brodsky, the memoirs by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, and the post-punk rants of Steve Aylett. Towards the end of the company's life, I tried to balance each season with an edgy literary work, a classic reprint (for example, we brought back Sloan Wilson's classic The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit), a couple of political books, an anthology, perhaps a memoir...I also very consciously tried to give editors working for me some latitude, so that on every season's list of eight or so titles there'd be at least a few that came from the editors, and not from me.

Given the tremendous changes in the industry, especially the consolidation in both retailing and publishing, could you repeat the Four Walls success if today if you were 20 years younger and just starting out?

I think, despite everything, there's still room for innovative and committed publishers, so yes. Look at Melville House: they started as we did, on a wing and a prayer and some dedication. When I started out, Bob Bernstein of Random House told me I'd need millions. We had $20,000. With new problems come new possibilities, and to me the Internet is a great gift to open-minded publishers.

Understanding Your Publishing Website Traffic

I went to look at an author's blog the other day, and was surprised to see it had no page rank, despite being over a year old with over 100 well written posts. A couple quick checks showed that she didn't have any meaningful incoming links (and barely a half dozen meaningless ones), which can only come from lack of trying. But let's say you've done everything right and your blog enjoys a reputation in your field. How can you tell if people are really coming to visit? You can't extrapolate from the number of comments. I reject the majority of comments posted to my blog as being spam or for trying to ask me questions that have nothing to do with the post and should be sent to me direct . And most readers aren't commenters in any case. But how reliable are the data logs I look at every morning?

The answer is, they are very accurate counts of requests made to the website server, which doesn't mean much of anything. Take the graph for my self publishing blog feed shown above. The "hits" number shot up last month when I wrote a popular post about potential changes at Amazon, may have led some subscribers to keep checking their readers to see if there was more news. Or possibly, I picked up a handful of new subscribers who check their newsreader several times an hour. But most likely it's a badly written piece of distributed software that keeps checking the feed every couple minutes. For what it's worth, Google's Webmaster Tools reports that the number of subscribers to my blog they're aware of is 67, and considering I've never attempted to build a subscriber base, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that's accurate. The rest of the 400 or so daily "visits" to my feed are probably from legitimate multiple checks or other noise of one sort or another.

The second example I'm giving is from a static publishing page on my website, one that's hardly changed since it was first posted five or six years ago. About two years back, it showed a sudden jump in traffic that left me scratching my head. The data in my server logs reported that this surge was from "direct" visitors, always a highly suspect category for a publishing website. If you're running a news site or a bank, you can expect a lot of direct traffic from from people who type in the site name or who have you on their favorites, but when most of traffic to a static book excerpt shows as "direct", something is fishy.

Sure enough, when I added a a script based counter to the page, it ignored all of the direct traffic and showed that the 80% of the visitors to the page continued to come from search. This fake traffic persisted for over a year and a half and could come back at any time! Was it due to a crude attack on my site, a bot net, an angry reader with nothing better to do with their time? I have no idea and don't really care. The important thing when you're publishing for a living is to be able to recognize unnatural patterns in the statistics so that you don't get tricked into wasting your resources on publishing books for a ghostly audience. The best rule-of-thumb I can offer is to ignore visitors that aren't coming from a referring link or a search engine.

Getting Personal About Getting Website Links

A tough question I often hear from new publishers trying to build their website platform is simply, "How can I get good quality incoming links?" While it starts with generating quality content that has value in the eyes of your visitors, it also requires interpersonal, or at least, internet-inal skills. I can't tell you how many new publishers waste their ammunition and the patience of the website owners they target by launching an elaborate link building campaign before their website is ready for prime time. It's not about the template and the navigation, it's about the content. When you get me or somebody else to come look at your blog and it turns out you just went online last month, or last week, you aren't likely to see any links materialize. I made a video on the subject this evening, if you're a subscribed to my feed and it doesn't show up, just visit the self publishing blog to see it.

Many of the old fashioned methods for getting just a tidbit of link juice for a brand new website have gone by-the-by. For example, posting an intelligent comment to a moderated blog (or an unintelligent comment to an unmoderated blog) used to be a common way to get the ball rolling for a website, and while a good comment with a link may still generate some visitors, it won't raise your profile in the search engines if the blogging software automatically adds REL="NOFOLLOW" tags to links in comments. Free press releases and other simple announcement services have been so overused that they contribute very little to your page rank.

But what's really missing these days is a large number of potential sites that may be interested in linking you. The individually owned sites that provided most of the quality content on the Internet a decade ago have been largely replaced by corporate sites, collaborative sites (like Wikipedia) and personal pages on social networking sites. This last category has given a new generation of web users a way to have their own personal space online, but it leads to an endless dance of joining and participating in new communities if you want to get ahead. The truth is, I kind of loath social networking sites. That's why it's so ironic I've come up with an idea for one.

I set out to make my website personal ad as a joke. I was originally going to pass it off as a real personal ad until I got to the "10" part, but I didn't want to come across as a lonely middle age man, which isn't easy. But by the time I got a take I could use, I started thinking, "This really wouldn't be a bad way for people to try to build trust for their website." It comes down to the old desire to put a face with a name. Most of us in the publishing world have business relationships with people we've never met, I wrote five books for McGraw-Hill without ever meeting one of their employees face-to-face. But when it comes to extending the trust ranking of my website to another website, I pretty much stick with the sites of people I've been in correspondence with for a while, or have talked to on occasion.

But how is a new website publisher who isn't already in contact with established website owners supposed to ask them for a leg up? A website personal ad, an introductory video about you and your site might do the trick. You can't build trust with the track record of your website if you're new, so all you really have to go on is the quality of your content and your personality. All that's needed now is a social networking site for all of these website personal ads to get together and try to make a good impression. I'd suggest that hiring a spokesmodel would be underhanded, except it's hard to imagine a more enjoyable tax write-off.

Amazon Kindle Sales Ranking vs Printed Book

Update: I've done a full comparison of Kindle sales ranks vs book sales ranks here.

Several small publishers have told me about their experiences publishing ebooks for the Amazon Kindle reader. Since the number of Kindles in existence is limited to a small subset of the reading population for the time being, you wouldn't expect the per title sales to be particularly high. Books that are available as Kindle ebooks do have the advantage of swimming in a smaller pond, as only a subset of all books have been published in Kindle version, so I was curious to see what the sales ranks were telling us. Since the publishers I know with Kindle sales aren't selling large numbers of books, I spent some time searching for a Rosetta stone. The graphs shown below were generate by for an anonymous title (I removed the name to protect the innocent), for which the Kindle and paper sales volume was identical. The only variance is the magnitude of the peaks, which is due to their being sampled at different times of day.

I counted 12 unique sales over the 3 month period on both graphs. The graphs are on a semi-log scale that doesn't show the gradations, so I'll point out that the Kindle rank doesn't drop below 30,000 during the three months, while the paper book rank drops all the way to a million between sales. Charteo does report the average over the period, which was about 26,000 for the Kindle rank vs 650,000 for the paper book rank. Referring to my graph for estimating the number of copies sold by Amazon sales ranks, a book with an average rank around 26,000 would be selling just under 20 copies a week on Amazon. Without adjusting for seasonality, that suggests that the sales of Kindle ebooks in this part of the ranking curve (from the 1,000's to the 10,000's) amounts to dividing by 20.

But here are some caveats. First, there are far fewer Kindle titles than paper titles available, so the curve is greatly compressed. The lowest Kindle rank I've seen for an ebook that's sold a copy is around 60,000, while nearly a hundred times that number of paper books have ranks. Secondly, there's no reason to believe the relationship holds up for the top sellers. While I found an example that was in the Top 10 at one point (both Kindle and paper) and the sales patterns track perfectly, there were so many sales that the curves become smooth and I can't count peaks to get sales totals. It's also possible that a book selling that many copies would show somewhat proportionate paper and Kindle sales for natural reasons.

I don't know why Amazon has chosen to count sales of Kindle versions together for at least some number of titles. I remember that back in the mid-2004 to mid-2006 period when I sold around 1,000 ebooks through Amazon as PDF's, the ebook sales ranks were entirely independent of the paper book sales ranks. At that time, two of my ebooks often broke into Amazon's Top 10 and pretty much lived in the Top 100 while averaging a little under one sale a day each. The danger of extrapolating potential Kindle sales from that experience is twofold. First, anybody with a computer could buy the earlier PDF ebooks, you didn't need a $399.00 Kindle to read them. So the potential market was much bigger. But on the other hand, the Kindle market is somewhat captive. Having spent $399 on the reader, a person has a high motivation to buy something to read on it.

I haven't seen Amazon publicly report on the number of Kindle units sold. I'd be surprised if they hadn't sold tens of thousands by this point, but I'd be equally surprised if they've sold hundreds of thousands, since I haven't stumbled across anybody using one yet. I also found the relative lack of correlation between the New York Times Bestseller list and the Kindle Bestseller list interesting.

[Friday April 18th edit]

I think this is the first time I've ever gone back and added to a post, and that despite the fact that nobody is interested:-) Some further research convinces me that the title I used for a test case sold primarily in the paper version, perhaps only a single Kindle copy was sold. That would change the Kindle sales rank equivalency to a ratio closer to 1:200 in the 1000's to 10,000's part of the curve. It's starting to look to me like Amazon starts showing a Kindle rank as soon as a copy is sold, and from there it just tracks the paper rank in some relationship.

Interview With Author/Publisher Thomas Nixon

You're both a publisher and a trade author. What led you to take the self publishing approach with your Complete Guide to Online High Schools?

There were several reasons. After having published three books with a mid-size publisher and getting very little money for a great deal of work, I decided I needed to have greater control of the process. I think this is one of the things that surprise people. Most people have this notion that, if your books are published by a large company, you most certainly will make money. It has been my experience that earning significant cash for your publishing efforts is outside the norm. Most writers have a day job.

I should mention that by year’s end, I will have made more money from this one book than I have with the other three combined. However, when I describe my success below, I should mention that it was these three books that gave me a national platform from which to work and publish. That, for me, was the one advantage of publishing with a large company; it gives a sense of credibility.

Books relating to education and home schooling are often sold through special channels. Have you targeted non-traditional sales (ex-Amazon, ex-bookstores)?

In terms of sales, I drive all of my traffic to Amazon. The two books that I have used, Aiming at Amazon and your own Print-on-Demand Publishing, are what drive my publishing efforts these days. Yes, I have read the biggies, Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual and Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and there are valuable things to learn from both books. However, the first two I have mentioned represent a new publishing model. The idea of printing 2000 copies of a book and hoping to sell them sounds like a good way to end up with a garage full of books.

I have no interest in being in bookstores. The amount of effort versus the number of books that end up being returned makes it not worth it for me. This is one of the things that I learned from my first three books. Twice a year I get computer print-outs showing how many books were sold and how many were returned. No, thank you. Particularly when you are using your own money to publish, you need to make reasonable decisions.

What I have done is go in a different direction and create a resource that I knew would attract homeschoolers and others interested in education. My is the largest website on the Internet devoted solely to online high schools. In the past, people found online high schools almost by accident. Given that it also has a blog and a forum, this encourages folks to come back. I am now working on a major upgrade for the summer.

So why am I talking about websites when I should be talking about special channels and publishing? Simple. I decided that I would get my customers to come to me. My special channel is to create the one site that people come to when they think about (or Google) my subject area. Nothing happens in a vacuum, though. People come to that site through Google searches, but also because I write articles on the topic for various sites (,, etc.) that include a link to that site.

You've publicly shared your publishing journey through The Small Press Blog over the past year. Have you received any benefits from blogging, other than the joys of giving?

It has been interesting the sort of attention I have received. I have been interviewed for a few publications (including ForeWord Magazine) and I have been approached by any number of companies to tout their products. Part of that came as the result of blogging the SPAN Conference where people realized I existed. When I had time to do interviews for the blog (and I hope to get back to that again), I learned just as much as my readers. I have been fortunate to get most of the big names in our industry to submit to an interview. I have also interviewed many independent publishers to see what has made them successful.

One benefit has been that having to put down in words what I am doing in my publishing creates an atmosphere that requires me to solve issues in my business as well giving me ideas for different ways to succeed. For me, the process has taught me a great deal, but I have also been able to provide a resource for the self publishing community. With me, it’s always about the relationships.

Are you planning any new online education titles, and what sort of market research do you undertake before writing a new book?

As it happens, I am planning on a second edition of Complete Guide to Online High Schools in 2008. There are enough new schools now after only one year that I feel justified in creating a second edition. One advantage to having the largest online high schools site is that I can do market research on myself. Is the number of people coming to the site growing and does that growth correlate with book sales? Since the answers to both of those questions is a decided ‘yes,’ I have some sense of the market.

I do also look at:

• growth in the number of online high schools
• growth in the number of homeschooling and alternative education students.

I am also coming out with a short directory-information-only version called Best Online High Schools Directory. It is the same data with the updated schools. Yes, this is very much a Dan Poynter sort of thing where you use the same data for multiple efforts. If you have a product where this works, this is the way to do it.

I am a big fan of market research, though. This is why I will never publish a book on distance learning options at the college level. Yes, that is an area that is growing by leaps and bounds, but the competition is incredible. Many books are already on the market and nothing new to add to the conversation. This is one of the reasons I chose this niche within a niche.

Thomas Nixon is the author most recently of Complete Guide to Online High Schools: Distance learning options for teens & adults and is the proprietor of, the largest source for information about online high schools. In his spare time, he writes the Small Press Blog that details his own publishing efforts.

Part Time Writing With Animals

We've all heard that publishing is a dog-eat-dog world, that Amazon is the 800 lb gorilla of Internet booksellers, and how if you swim with sharks you can expect to get bitten. I've heard that actors despise working with animals, but for many writers, working with animals is part of the dream. Sure, there will always be the metropolitan authors who dream of a brownstone in Manhattan and maybe a few apartment getaways in London, Paris and L.A. But I think more authors, including the famous ones, prefer the gentleman's farm or old New England town, often choosing Vermont for its beauty or New Hampshire for it's taxes.

I thought the "good life" would make an interesting backdrop for a video about fiction writing. The extras refused to cooperate and I swear they maneuvered me into the shade so they could look good at my expense. After the twelfth take, they laid down on the job (literally) so I had to go with what I had:

The publishing industry is full of animals, but you don't have to become one to live the dream. If you write fiction, however, you may want to start out living the dream part time. Writing books for a living isn't a cake walk, even for nonfiction writers. As with all self employment, there are no benefits, no unemployment insurance, and no job security. If you've never been self employed, you might not realize that "no benefits" means; no paid vacation (not even national holidays), no paid jury duty, no paid sick days, no free health insurance, no pension, no 401K matching money, and nobody to blame for your career frustration but yourself! If you have a family and your only income will be from self employment, it means you better have a couple years expenses in the bank if you don't want to find yourself back back begging for a job. Generating an income from writing books has a long lead time. Whether you are self publishing or working as a trade author, if you write several commercial flops in a row, you may find it impossible keep going.

I'm one of those writers who started out by writing short stories and moved on to a bad novel, in part to prove to myself I could write at length. I did it when I was in my early thirties and had saved up enough money to go a year without working. When I realized that I wasn't going to be able to make any money writing fiction any time soon, I couldn't face going back to work at a real job. So I limped by doing contract work in my old field for a few years while getting a nonfiction writing career off the ground. Once I was making a living as a trade author, I shifted to self publishing. But I never went back to fiction, except for the occasional blog post, and unless I stop writing nonfiction and start doing other work for a living, I really doubt I will.

It's a mistake for authors without a long track record to assume they'll be able to earn a living writing books. Writing part time while holding down a real job is the safest bet for keeping the coyotes from the door while pursuing your dream. It may even prove to be a better way to develop your fiction skills in the long run. Writing nonfiction for a living, if you can manage it, may drain you of the creativity and focus that writing fiction requires. I think fiction writing is best suited to part time authors with salary jobs they can leave at the office, or full time fiction authors who have solved the income puzzle. I'm aware that quite a few famous authors mixed and matched fiction and nonfiction (especially travelogues and science writing), but you need more discipline than I have to live that sort of dual life.

Is Amazon Publishing Ready For Prime Time?

I've been getting a lot of questions about Amazon's publishing services in the last couple days. Questions about the contract terms of Amazon's two publishing entities (Booksurge and CreateSpace), pricing, quality, and Amazon title visibility. Since I've never personally used Amazon to publish a book, my answers to those questions are second-hand or based on observation. Here's a link to a post by Angela Hoy about Booksurge quality (it's halfway down the page). On the subject of Amazon visibility, you can definitely get into the "Search Inside The Book" program, but it doesn't appear to be required at this point. Using Amazon's publishing services certainly doesn't hurt your ranking in Amazon search and recommendation algorithms, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it may help.

On pricing, I ran a bestseller sort on books published by CreateSpace this morning, and for the top 12 titles, calculated an average price of $24.56. That compares to $10.75 for the average price of the top 12 bestsellers sold on Amazon this morning, or $13.46 for the average price of my self published books. Interestingly, none of the Amazon published books showed a discount, while the top 12 bestsellers are currently sold at 45% off the list price, and my humble titles are currently sold at 10% off the list price. One question I received just last night was on that very subject, asking if Amazon's discounting of the cover price to "whatever figure they felt would sell well" would affect the author's CreateSpace royalty share. I responded that I think they discount books to make their price competitive or superior to that of other book retailers. If no other retailers sell the book, or if Amazon gets a contractual commitment from the author that they won't advertise the book cheaper elsewhere, then discounting strikes me as unlikely. I spot checked the list of 1,200 books that come up on Amazon when searching for CreateSpace as the publisher without finding a single discounted title.

The delivery times of all of these books were ready for prime time, meaning Amazon Prime, which is Amazon's main claim about better serving customers through trying to take all on-demand printing in-house. But if authors who do the math figure they need to price like the current top 12 CreateSpace titles to make it worth their while, Amazon's customers may find themselves paying more for niche titles than they would have before Amazon decided to better serve them. And this comes at a time when some Amazon customers are feeling just a little overserved by Amazon's recommendation of books printed in house.

Now, throughout this post I've referred to CreateSpace as a publisher, while authors and Amazon themselves may prefer to see CreateSpace as an authors services company that simply enables authors to access the Amazon platform and obtain printed books. I base this on the well established principle of how to categorize birds that look like ducks and quack like ducks. CreateSpace provides ISBN numbers to authors who don't have their own, an interesting application of language since anybody who has their own ISBN numbers is a publisher by definition. The research I did this morning was based on Amazon's "advanced search" tool, with "CreateSpace" as the publisher - Quack. While Amazon allows the author to set the book price, they pay the author "royalties", and perhaps even more tellingly, they refer to the author as "the author" - Quack. It's only when they talk about "wholesale orders" direct to the author, that they double up on terminology using both the trade publishing term and "owner orders", a new term they are apparently trying to introduce.

So why is the distinction between acting as a publisher and as an undefinable entity better serving both Amazon customers and authors important? Maybe the small matters of libel and liability have something to do with it. There have already been libel cases successfully prosecuted against author services companies, and those companies are very small beans as a litigation target compared to the mighty Amazon. As a vertically integrated publishing company who not only offers a paid service to authors to get into print, but also prints the books, sells the books and to some extent markets the books, it's hard to see how Amazon can avoid stepping on a lot of toes. If they publish every book that comes in the door without editorial control of the content, they are going to offend a lot of people to the detriment of their customer base. Most people will excuse a bookstore for selling inflammatory texts in the interest of freedom of speech, but it becomes a different matter if that bookstore is printing and promoting those books as well.

But if Amazon starts excercising editorial control of their publishing efforts, while carrying out their threats to dissable the "Buy" buttons of other on-demand publishers, they'll be limiting the access to their platform for many authors. Since access to the Amazon platform is the only viable outlet for many of these authors, the net result will be a new form of censorship. In countries with an independent judiciary system, power and responsibility often go hand-in-hand, as much as corporations would like to take the first and leave it at that. My own feeling is that Amazon may live to rue the day that the ducks come home to roost.

Interview With Academic Author Joel Kaminsky

Since my last interview was with an academic publisher, I thought I'd give equal time to an academic author:

What does an academic author have to do for their book to be "elected" for publication?

There are many answers to this question (as in most academic matters). If it is one's first book normally one sends the whole book to a press that one believes might publish it, and then you see if they will in fact do so, and how much revision they want you to do. Once one has published a previous book and is a recognized authority in an area you can often convince a press to issue you a contract with an outline of the book and perhaps a small section of it to serve as an example. My first book, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible was based on a revised dissertation and thus I sent the whole book manuscript to the publisher. It was reviewed by a peer reviewer and accepted basically as is. My latest book, Yet I Loved Jacob, was accepted on the basis of an outline, a table of contents, and a sample which included a rough draft of what eventually became the first four chapters of the book (now including 11 chapters total). I should mention that many academic books are composed of large chunks of material previously published in more technical journals. Thus about four chapters of the eleven in my new book came out previously.

How long did the entire process take, from the day you signed the contract until the appearance of your book?

I believe I signed the book contract with Abingdon for Yet I Loved Jacob back in 2002. Officially the book was due in Fall 2005. I was one year late and got it to them August 1, 2006 and it came out in August 2007. In the academic setting deadlines are often somewhat flexible because the reality is it often takes authors longer than they think to work out the ideas about which they are trying to write or to create a whole out of the various pieces of previously published material.

"Yet I Loved Jacob" has been very successful early on for an academic title. To what to you attribute your recent sales?

I am a rather unusual academic author in that I recognize that one needs to do a bit of self-promotion. Many academic authors see their work as finished once they submit a completed manuscript. I managed to get my book considered for a major panel review at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in November 2007 in San Diego. Five scholars critiqued the book and I responded. Abingdon brought along a sizable stack of my books to this convention and created a large poster of my panel review session that they displayed prominently at their sales booth. Recently, I convinced a major online reviewer of books in the biblical area to reprint the proceedings of the panel review along with my response to it. There has been a major uptick in Amazon sales since this source, Review of Biblical Literature, posted these reviews earlier in March. I also mailed out copies of my book to a number of prominent Jewish and Christian scholars at my own expense hoping that some of these folks will eventually tell others about my book. Finally, I asked Abingdon to see the list of what journals they were sending review copies to. I suggested a number of additional more popular print media sources to whom they might send review copies. No in print reviews have appeared yet but these should begin appearing in the next few months and hopefully will enhance my book sales further.

Do you see academic authors as laboring under promotional constraints, as compared to their commercial brethren, or are there offsetting advantages?

Academic authors are sometimes reluctant to be seen as hawking their wares like other commercial authors. But the truth is, more and more academic authors are recognizing that if one wants to get their ideas out there they need to find ways to get news of their book out to a wider audience. I have even received direct e-mails from some academic authors announcing a publication of their new book and explaining its relevance. Sometimes an author will send a free copy along as well in hopes I might use it for a future course. One advantage that academic authors have is that a number of journals will likely review your book and a number of copies will be purchased by all major research institutions in the world. Another advantage is that academic authors can occasionally employ their books in courses and often get invited to speak at other colleges and universities. But truth be told, these will help an academic book sell decently by academic standards but will not lead to tremendous sales. Academic authors need to find ways to reach beyond the walls of academia. Here there is no doubt that Amazon is helping certain academic authors reach larger audiences than they once did. But perhaps the major factor that hinders most academic authors is that too few know how to communicate their ideas in ways accessible to the intelligent lay reader. Unfortunately there is a contradiction in academia in that academics always talk about how important it is to have their ideas reach the larger society and yet when an academic author writes too popularly they may be labeled as not serious or too journalistic. I am guessing the way to counter this is to publish some technical articles in scholarly journals but then to produce books that are based on serious scholarship but are accessible to a wider audience. Inevitably this means eliminating technical jargon and vastly reducing the amount of footnotes or endnotes.