This shop is one for the books

Troy Book Makers markets to people looking to publish as few as 10 copies of their own work or an old favorite

By TIM O’BRIEN, Staff writer


TROY — There is a new bookmaking operation in downtown Troy.

No, it’s not an illegal gambling enterprise. It’s a new business that is betting there is a market for people who want to publish small numbers of their books.

Local fiction authors can get that novel out of the bottom drawer and have it printed and bound. You can add extra spice to a family reunion by printing up 20 copies of a collection of grandma’s recipes. Teachers can print copies of books that are no longer under copyright, such as “Huckleberry Finn,” with notes and questions appended for students to use.

In fact, the InstaBook machine comes with 10,000 titles already installed for printing, popular books whose copyrights have expired.

Located at 3 Third Street, Troy Book Makers is right next door to Market Block Books. That store’s owner, Susan Novotny, co-owns the new business with Eric Wilska, owner of the Bookloft in Great Barrington, Mass.

The new store’s name is meant to be a play on Troy’s history as a gambling mecca.

“We’re aware of the Troy history and the double entendre of our name,” Wilska said. “We picked Troy because of its proximity to Susan’s Market Block Books, and we dig Troy.”

For $175, the store will publish 10 copies of a book. For another $125, they’ll publish 10 more copies. Groups of 10 after that are $85 each.

For additional fees, they’ll design a cover, edit the copy, print a proof, help with marketing or acquire an ISBN number and bar code that allows a book to be ordered at any bookstore online, in the United States and even overseas.

Ordering a printing can be done online at http://www.thetroybook, with the manuscript e-mailed to the store and the books shipped back.

“We will never lay eyes on 80 percent of our customers,” Wilska said. “That’s another example of how the Internet is revolutionizing the writing and publishing world. The marketplace is now global.”

If the author wants, the book will be placed on the shelf for six months at the Bookloft, Market Block Books and the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, which Novotny also owns. The display has a twofold purpose: letting authors sell their books in a store and enabling the owners to advertise their printing business.

Former Albany City Councilman Nebraska Brace was one of the first customers. He has ordered 200 copies of his memoir, “A Man Named Nebraska.”

“I never knew it could be so frustrating, working with publishers. It’s time-consuming,” said Brace, who tried to sell his book through the traditional route before turning to the publish-on-demand business. “It’s very attractive. I felt very good about it.”

Brace said he is excited because the book can be done in a week. He said the store owners encouraged him to start with 100 books and see how they sold before ordering more, but he was confident he could sell the 200.

The print-on-demand business also enables copies to be made of older books, like histories of Troy, that are out of print. The store was printing “Ghosts of Old Berkshire” by Willard Douglas Coxey, a book from 1934 that Wilska was copying for his store.

“In five or 10 years, you’ll walk into your local bookstore and you’ll say, ‘Do you have “Drums Along the Mohawk?’ ” he said. “We’ll say no, but do you have some errands to run? We’ll run you a copy.”

While the vanity press business has been around for a long time, they have always required large initial printings because setup is the most costly part of the process. People would have to order 1,000 books and be stuck with most of them, he said.

“You end up with the 900 copies stuck in your garage,” he said.

The book covers the store produces are all paperback, with different stocks of paper, and prices rise if a standard-sized book exceeds 250 pages. The press cannot print single books with more than 500 pages.

Melissa Batalin, manager and art director of the store, said people poke their heads in every day and are enthusiastic about the idea. Ten people already have ordered books.

“At least once a day, someone walks in off the street and is interested in what I am doing,” she said.

Books can be printed within one day if they are already properly formatted, a week if the store needs to format it.

In an age when getting a book published can be difficult, Wilska said their business offers authors an alternative way to get their work out without having to pay a heavy price upfront.

“Random House is not about selling one book here and book there,” he said. “They want ‘The DaVinci Code,'” he said. “Memoirs are a huge business now, but they are not going to be a huge seller – ‘My Life in Troy.’ “


Originally published by The Times Union