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The Perilous Pitfalls of Self-Publishing: Part 2 – Packaging Ponderings

More reflections on the process of self-publishing that I’ve been through this year…

Well I got the test pressing of my printed book, and very pleasing it was too. Looked great, almost exactly what I wanted, no cause to complain and any remaining errors are the fault of the author and so on and so forth.

So naturally I open it up and there’s an error staring back at me. A paragraph-closing sentence in brackets that doesn’t have the close bracket. And it’s in the introduction. For fucks sake. How many times I have proof-read this now? You know what this means. I have to proof-read the whole thing argain don’t I? Argain was obviously a typo for again, but I left it in cos it seems to work in context. Well, I duly read through the whole book again and found NOT A SINGLE OTHER ERROR. THERE WAS JUST THAT ONE, AND I FOUND IT IN THE FIRST SENTENCE I READ. Bastards.

Everything else seems in order, so I submit a revised manuscript, and think well, I suppose I should order some copies to store under my desk next to my unsold CDs for the next decade. Due to the cost of freight (ha! oh the irony! n.b. this sentence won’t make any sense until you’ve finished the next installment, so perhaps come back to it – maybe make a note on a scrap of paper for example, or get a souvenir tattoo) it seems prudent to order a decent amount, so I order 3 boxes, equating to 96 books. These come in at a reasonable $10.50 each including carriage. I’m happy with that, it means I can nearly double my money by selling them at $20. And I’m sending out a good 20 copies gratis to friends and family, plus no doubt a few promo copies here and there. Hopefully I can sell a few too. Although this seems optimistic. For reasons. Horrible, horrible reasons, that will come clear in part 3. Look, in my defense for everything in this torrid tale, I have never done this before and it’s quite possible that I’m guilty of atrocious planning – but in my defence, I never meant nothing by it your honour.

Ok, what do I need to post these fuckers all over the world? Some packaging! Of course. As a seasoned sender-outer of CDs in the getting-quite-distant-now-actually-past, I’m on home territory here so this should be no problem. I need a snug fitting jiffy bag – you want to keep size as small as possible – or some of those cardboard mailers that the likes of Amazon use. I had an old jiffy bag in my desk drawer, that I’d use to send a CD if I actually sold one. Fits like a dream, brilliant, now I know exactly what I need. Do your thing, internet. Trade Me (kind of a Kiwi eBay – remarkably enough, NZ doesn’t have eBay) lists a large range of jiffy bags, of which precisely none are the size I’m after. They’re either too small, or big enough for an encylopedia, or perhaps a smallish dog. So I start a-searching the old-fashioned way, and power up the old Googletron2000. A company in Christchurch has some jiffy bags that should fit the book (125x195mm). The next-day delivery for a box of 200 is handy, and at only 25 cents each, the price is right.

Unlike the size, as it turns out when they arrive ten days later. These mailers have an unusually thick seam around the edge, reducing the size by 20mm each side and making them absolutely no use whatsoever unless I reprint the book as a pocket edition one day. Local stores yield no results, so eventually I find some more online, and a batch of 100 arrives at only 35 cents a pop. Not a bad result. Until I open up the package and test one and the book doesn’t fit. Again. What the fuck? I already have one this size and it fits in that! Out comes the ruler and the new ones have come up 10mm short on the width as compared to the measurements given on the website. Another 100 that are no good. Ace.

So now it’s the weekend and I’m heading into the big smoke, aka Hamilton, NZ’s fifth largest city with a mighty territorial population of 170,000. A city that’s only redeeming feature is the beautiful Waikato River that flows through the centre, and that was in fact there before Hamilton was ever a thing, giving rise to the speculation that perhaps it would have been for the best not to have added Hamilton to the river in the first place. But it’s ten times the size of my town, so perhaps I’ll be in luck. Perusing the high-end shopopolis of The Warehouse and it’s posh cousins K-Mart and The Warehouse (Stationary Edition), I find a couple of samples that do the trick. The price is cheap, they come in packs of three and oh good there’s only one left of each size. Sigh. But verily, all not be lost, as I can order the KMart ones on the website and effectively score a late goal that I’d began to doubt was coming at all Jim. I get home and do just that, and they arrive the next week. Hooray! 40 cents each. That’ll do.

A couple of days later I go to pack some books into bags, and I grab one of the mailers from the batch of a 100 (ie the second order I had placed) by mistake. It fits. Try another. Fits again. 10 books later and they all fit. It would appear that the first one I grabbed from that batch a couple of weeks ago, that was 10mm short on the width, was an outlier, a misfit hanging out where he wasn’t wanted, like a graceful and intelligent conservative politician at a party conference. Phew, good job I didn’t waste all that time in Hamilton then.

Anyway, to recap, the cost of the book and it’s packaging stands at $10.85. But I also have 350 jiffy bags, of which less than 150 are usable, so I’m pretty sure I’m not really winning yet. Still, at least the posting should be straight forward, right? We’ll find out in Part 3!

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