Friday, October 26, 2012

At the Feet of the Master: Designer and Publisher Steve Glines

At the Feet of the Master: Designer and Publisher Steve Glines
Doug Holder

 One of the major reasons the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville is still around is because of Steve Glines. Glines has been in the business of designing and publishing since the 1970’s when he had a small shop in Harvard Square. Since those days Glines has worked for magazines, high tech companies, taught college and did consultation work worldwide. I met Glines some years back at a meeting of the Stone Soup Poets at the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge. Since then Glines and I have collaborated on a number of projects, but the most consistent one has been publishing poetry books, and putting out the lit mag Ibbetson Street. Glines, 60, is an energetic man with an easy laugh, and is the kind of guy who likes to have a lot of things on his plate. Glines founded the Wilderness House Literary Review  and has his own publishing press the Wilderness House Press. Glines is a member of Somerville’s literary group the Bagel Bards that meet at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville. I recently caught up with him to chat about publishing, design, and whatever came to the Master’s mind.

Doug Holder:  What is a good product?

Steve Glines
: A good product is one that everyone is happy with and sells well into its target market: well written, well edited, well designed and well marketed.

DH: Which printers are responsive?

SG: That depends. Every printer has slightly different equipment, expertise and focus. The most responsive printers are the ones that sell only in their sweet spot. By that I mean one printer may have a good offset press and a full case binding setup. You wouldn't send a short run
paperback to this printer because he can't utilize his equipment
effectively. The printer I use most effectively is one that has a modern
efficient digital web printer with directly connected paperback binding
system. This printer can effectively print from 100 - 10,000 books in a
couple of days but don't even ask him to quote on a case bound book.
DH: Should a small press use digital or offset?

SG: The breakeven between offset and digital has gotten blurred to the point where for runs under a few thousand there isn't much difference in cost although digital has become the better quality in the short run. By that I mean the quality of good quality short run digital printing (1-500
copies) is better than short run offset (500-5000 copies).  At larger
press runs offset is by far cheaper and quality offset can be near
perfection. Offset also offers many different choices with regards to
paper and ink. Digital printing is limited to very flat paper, Xerox
style paper, and 4 color printing. Digital printing can look great but
offset printing can be extraordinary.
DH: What are the pitfalls of e-books or cheap hard copy printing?

SG: The hardest part about e-book printing is cleaning up the manuscript.
Authors are known to change their minds (often in the same page) about
what constitutes the end of a paragraph. The end of a paragraph may be
signaled by a carriage return, a carriage return (or two) with one or
more tabs and/or multiple spaces. The manuscript should be just the
words with as little formatting as possible to suggest to the designer
how to design the book. Writers who try to "design" their books in
Microsoft Word just create a lot of extra work (and expense for the
publishers) for the real designers.
Before a book can be designed for hard copy printing the MS has to be
cleaned up anyway and once it's cleaned up and rendered in RTF (Rich
Text Format) it can easily be converted to an e-book, any version.
One thing that bothers me is that major publishers are charging far
more, relatively speaking, for an e-book than they are for hard copies.
For example a 300 page hard back book might cost about $8 to
manufacture. The list price is $25.00 and the publisher gives up 55% to
a distributor/bookstores and/or Amazon. The publisher will make about
$3.00 per book sold. The same book sold by a major publisher as an
e-book will most likely be around $10 but the e-book has no
manufacturing cost. Most publishers could sell the same e-book for $6.00
and make the same profit. If the demand for the product has any
elasticity, that is cheaper books sell in greater volume, then a
publisher could sell far more books (and garner a greater profit) by
selling an e-book for $6 than for $10. The big boys don't appear to
realize this which is why there are so many Romance e-books out there
for $.99.
Steve Glines can be contacted at and is available for a wide range of services.

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