Gas station without pumps

2018 December 16

I may be self-publishing forever

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:25
Tags: , , ,

Sigh, just as I’m finishing my textbook, I find out that publishers don’t want new textbooks. I did have one feeler from Springer, whose book prices are high and royalties low, and they wanted me to provide camera-ready copy. What were they going to do as publishers, other than keep almost all the money?

I have been self-publishing drafts of the text book in PDF format through LeanPub. I can sell the text for about $10 and make more money per book than if a publisher sold it for $80.  I have a new version that I tried to put up on LeanPub last Thursday, but I ran into a problem on their web site in changing the URL, and I’m waiting for them to fix it.  They were able to reproduce the problem and have told me that fixing it is a high priority, so I’ll probably be able to release the new version early this week (maybe 2018 Dec 17 or 18).

My big problem for the textbook is marketing (whether self-publishing or through traditional publishers)—how do textbook authors get other instructors aware of their book and willing to try it in a course?  Because my book takes a somewhat different approach to teaching electronics than the standard university course (which does about a year of applied math and circuits before doing any design), it isn’t a direct replacement for existing texts, but requires some redesign of curriculum.  That makes it an even harder sell, though I think that my design-early approach to teaching engineering is more in line with pedagogical research.


  1. Did you find any self publishing method that offers cheap print copies? I just uploaded a draft of my book to leanpub, but now see that it’s e-book only. With createspace, a color copy (for ~260 pages, 8.5×11) is still around $45 USD, which was more pricey than I was hoping for.

    Comment by peeterjoot — 2018 December 17 @ 12:20 | Reply

    • The best color print price I’ve seen is Ingramspark, for which I could print my book at $23.45 a copy. For 260 pages, it would be about $11 a copy. There is a setup charge around $50 for creating the book, and there are shipping charges. The price with shipping can be calculated at

      IngramSpark prints and makes books available to online and brick-and-mortar stores (Ingram is probably the biggest book wholesaler in the US), but direct sales would require another site. I could make about as much per book selling with a 20% wholesale discount (only suitable for on-line sales) at $39 a copy as I would make with LeanPub electronic sales at $10. At 45% wholesale discount, I’d need a retail price of about $57 for the paperback to get the same earnings per book. That is not outrageously high for a text book, but still a lot more than $10.

      IngramSpark will convert PDF to EPUB at 60¢ a page for electronic sales, which would cost me about $360. Most e-book retailers won’t sell PDF files, which is all I can easily create. That would break even at about 45 EPUB sales (assuming $8 per book royalties)—which would probably be worthwhile.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2018 December 17 @ 13:51 | Reply

  2. Would an academic press be interested? MIT Press, perhaps?

    Comment by nrnrnr — 2018 December 18 @ 19:04 | Reply

    • Good question. From what I can see, MIT Press doesn’t really do text books—as close as they come seems to be “academic trade” books, which might occasionally be used as a text book, but are not intended for that purpose. I looked at Cambridge Press and Oxford Press some time ago, and did not see them as being any better for an author than commercial publishers.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2018 December 18 @ 20:00 | Reply

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