Turning The Hirhurim Blog Into A Book

Rabbi Gil Student blogs: "Response has been extremely underwhelming. What gives? Is it the choice of material? The price? Will the few thousand of weekly visitors only read if it’s free? I’ve decided to offer a 20% discount to all orders in the month of March (applicable to all previous orders as well). Please indicate in the comments section whether there is something else that I can do. Note that with a pre-order, you will not be charged until the book ships (in August). Please help us reach the (revised down) goal of 500 pre-ordered copies."

"Publishing this as a book helps get the message out to people who are not blog-friendly. And, if you are wondering, no this will not be profitable for me. I have at least another four volumes to publish and any excess funds from volume one will go to publishing future volumes."

When should somone who orders the book expect to recieve it?

The expected publication date is August 8, 2009. If we can meet that date, then you should expect the book the next week.

Menachem: The book itself does not have haskamos but there are a number of blurbs about the blog from rabbis and laymen. The list is as follows (in alphabetical order): Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Rabbi Hanan Balk, Rabbi Dr. David Berger, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz, Rabbi Asher Bush, Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, Dr. Charles Hall, Rabbi Ari Kahn, Rabbi Benjamin G. Kelsen, Dr. Arnold Lustiger, Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz, Jason Maoz, Rabbi Natan Slifkin

Two of the blurbs are up on the book’s website: http://yasharbooks.com/Posts.html

None of them had the bad manners to critique blogs but R. Malinowitz was perhaps the most cautious in his endorsement.

The cover art is not yet finalized but it will be great. I’m using the best graphic designer in the business. She did the OU Rav Soloveitchik Haggadah cover (as well as Flipping Out?, A Philosophy of Mitzvot and a few other of my books).

Menachem Butler writes: "Are there any rabbinic haskamot to the volume? If yes, then who? If yes, then did they have any critiques of blogs in general? How come no chapter on "Why Cantors Do Not Like Rabbis"? and what does the cover look like? As Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz of ArtScroll/Mesorah was once quoted in a newspaper article saying: "whoever said don’t judge a book by its cover, was not in the business of book publishing.""

Ganbo writes: You know, it occurs to me, checking through your catalogue, I’ve bought 13 or so books from Yashar (some as gifts) during the few years you’ve been in business. Many have been reprints (Rabbi Israel Salanter, the collections like My Yeshiva College, etc.), so require less work/investment to prepare for publication (surely it’s cheaper to reproduce pages from an existing edition than to typeset a book from scratch). The books seem to do well at local bookstores and the Seforim Sale.

And yet you have no money left in the business to produce this latest project? Has the publishing business been so unprofitable? If so, why continue to do it?

Rabbi Gil Student responds: Publishing is not a particularly profitable industry, even in the mainstream where publishers are currently folding and/or consolidating. Those are the guys who sell millions of copies. Currently, all Jewish publishers make their money from pre-funding of books. In this case, though, I’m just looking to cover costs. I think you just don’t realize how much production and marketing cost.

Publishing has been a hobby for me. I’ve never taken a salary.

ARI POSTS: For the same reason that newspapers are failing (as decrsibed by TSG). Why pay for something that you get for free?

Additionally, money is tight all around, and the only way for most to justify the purchase is out of hakaras hatov to your hard work. However, many of your "few thousand" weekly readers aren’t as invested in your blog.

Also you mentioned you have a few thousand regular readers and are expecting 1,000 to pre-order the sefer.
What percentage of your regular readers is that?

Personally, this is the type of book I may pick up if I was at the store but not something I am willing to order online.
Although, I am open to be guilted into it . . .

ANON POSTS: Two things: A. I rarely buy books. B. I think you should have been much more eclectic in your choice of topics discussed in the book. I think the book should’ve contained 40 different topics covering a wide range of issues, preferably controversial, "hot-topic" type issues.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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