September 27 is the day that Amy Fisher, the "Long Island Lolita" of the early 1990s, will appear on Oprah to promote her new book If I Knew Then, which she is self-publishing through iUniverse. September 27 is also the day iUniverse president Susan Driscoll and Kirby Best, CEO of Lightning Source, hope will usher in a new production model for the industry.
Although Driscoll is confident there will be lots of interest in Fisher, she is not sure how many people will want to buy her book. Because iUniverse has no warehouse and is more familiar with handling small print runs, Driscoll approached Best about having Lightning manage the printing for Fisher's book, which Driscoll said could have demand ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of copies. Best saw If I Knew Then as the "perfect book" to test the viability of mixing print-on-demand with traditional offset printing as a way to keep initial printings low, yet guard against missed sales.
The first printing of 25,000 copies of If I Knew Then was done on offset presses, but Driscoll has assured accounts that iUniverse/Lightning will "very rapidly respond" to strong demand for the book. Best said Lightning can print up to 30,000 copies a day using its POD technology, and he has reserved time with Maple-Vail and Donnelley to handle overflow. Under Best's scenario, however, Lightning would most likely print a few thousand copies of the title "to keep books flowing to the stores," while M-V and/or Donnelley print a larger run. While the use of POD is more expensive than offset, "it's less expensive than throwing out books" due to overprinting, Best maintained.
Driscoll said she sees Fisher's book as the "first of a number of experiments" with Lightning in using POD/offset printing. Driscoll is hopeful that if the two companies can prove to authors that using iUniverse will keep costs to a minimum while not losing potential sales, more authors will be drawn to the self-publishing house.
Driscoll said Fisher decided to publish with iUniverse because she was interested in maintaining editorial control over the book and wanted to retain all sub rights. iUniverse used a sales consultant to sell the book into the national accounts and worked with Ingram to promote it to independent booksellers, who, Driscoll acknowledged, have a "modest" interest in the book. In addition to the Oprah appearance, Fisher has a number of other media dates planned, including a spot on Today.