Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BOOK BIZ | Nonprofit Indie Publishing

Jorge Rivera at BookExpo 2017.
Photo by JT Marlin.
On Thursday, May 31, I registered myself at BookExpo in New York City's Javits Center and went to the press room to see if there were any handouts. The pickings were slim.

However, I arrived at the same time as Jorge Rivera, who was with an associate Elizabeth Pierce promoting three of his books and three other books by someone else, maybe her under a nom de plume. His six-book backlist is promoted as Hamilton Rand Publishers, which he says is a nonprofit organization that is a successor to a company formed in London in 1907. It is incorporated as a 501-c-3 company and is based in the Los Angeles area.

His six-book backlist focuses on adult nonfiction. Rivera's own three books are about weaknesses in the international financial system. The Hamilton Rand website establishes the concept of the nonprofit as pursuing the goal of reducing financial illiteracy by bringing in strategic partners (an impressive group of logos is provided on the website) to make possible publication of new books in this arena.

Rivera worked for several decades at the World Bank and IMF in Washington before he launched himself on a publishing arc.

One question I started asking him was: What is the minimum size that a publisher needs to be to justify a booth or table at an event like BookExpo, especially when two people are traveling from Los Angeles?

A quick answer is that Rivera is a startup and is aware that his backlist is not big enough or popular enough (six Harry Potter books would be enough, of course!) to justify his paying for a publisher booth. So instead he has paid for half an hour at the BookExpo to sign books, at Table 16, on the second day, June 2, from 1 to 1:30 pm. This is less costly than paying for a booth. The cheapest show-long space  at BookExpo is $1,900 in the Indie Book area; that pays for a table with enough space behind it for two or maybe even three people. A proper booth is regularly $2,500 and a good-sized booth that I have seen shared between two book-related companies is $3,000. In other words, you get more for your money once you have pierced the $1,900 threshold.

Rivera's first two books identify him as having a Ph.D. degree, I think he said in economics. He did not have a copy of his latest book, Money & Greed, to give me, so I am summarizing what he told me. His book is based on a true story. A young woman had three summers interning at the U.S. Treasury to investigate fraud. She was then hired by the FBI White Collar Crime unit to look at the handling of long-term deposits from disabled customers, a vulnerable group.

She went to work for the bank under investigation, which was in Louisville, Kentucky,  and she became executive assistant to the President. She got an inside look at how the bank worked, and it deceived its depositors. Money was taken out and used to purchase collectibles for the collecting-addicted bank officers, the president, chief financial officer and the corporate secretary.

In the final chapter of the story, the art collection and real estate assembled by the banksters had to be sold in a hurry to make restitution to the depositors. The book's author confesses to having some empathy for the guilty bankers because they were apparently charming and had real taste in art.

Rivera's new book sells for $25 in hard cover and $20 in paperback. Usually I see more of a spread in the price between these two formats, like $30 hard cover and $20 paper, or $25 hard cover and $15 paper. I will be interested in seeing how the nonprofit indie publishing model works in this case — it is of course the model for academic publishers.

Related Posts: Tracking Down Bank Fraud . BOOK BIZ | Outsourcing Design . BOOK BIZ | Critical Mass . BOOK BIZ | Goodman's Plan for Indie Stores