Robin Cutler has played a major role in the history of indie publishing, playing a role in the creation of Create Space, Ingram Spark, and now she helms LMBPN Publishing, one of the fastest-growing indie publishers in the industry.
Today we catch up with the incomparable Robin Cutler. As one of indie publishing’s original trailblazers, Robin created IngramSpark to serve indie authors and now serves as president of LMBPN, one of the fastest-growing indie publishers.
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Kevin Tumlinson, Robin Cutler
Kevin Tumlinson 00:02
Well, hello, thank you for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. We got to talking and we were chatting off air and I almost forgot to hit go live. So I’m glad that we could be here. Now, today’s guest I’m really excited to talk to. I finally, finally, after years in this business, got a chance to meet Robin Cutler live and in person at 20Books Vegas, this past 2022. And that was a great opportunity to kind of catch up and learn more about her. And I can’t wait to share some of that with you guys today live. We are talking to Robin Cutler, one of the industry’s original trailblazers, according to my notes, Robin. You’ve got a publicist out there, I’m pretty sure. But welcome to the show, thanks for joining us.
Robin Cutler 00:57
Thank you so much, Kevin. It was a pleasure to meet you. I actually am old enough to be the original something, right? I started my publishing career before there were desk computers. My very first computer was one of those original Macintoshes that sell for a lot of money now, if you held on to them, and I started in publishing in I think it was 1980. And, you know, Amazon wasn’t born until about 1996 I think, so I predate Amazon about 15 years in publishing.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:48
Yeah. It’s really kind of hard to imagine a world without Amazon in it at this point. It’s so pervasive. And so just everywhere. And such a part of all our lives in every angle. You had a role at Amazon. What was your role?
Robin Cutler 02:11
Yeah, I worked for Amazon. I worked for six dog years at Amazon, what they call, working at Amazon’s working in dog years. But actually, it was a double-edged sword sort of experience. I helped to create CreateSpace was rebranded as KDP some years ago. I actually didn’t work so much with authors when I worked for Amazon, I worked for all the university presses because I’d come out of the university press world, Harvard University Presses, Cambridge, you know all the prestigious university presses publishing academic content. And so I did that for six years at Amazon and along the way we created CreateSpace for [inaudible] to print on demand and then some years later, after I left, was rebranded as Kindle Direct Publishing. So a lot of your listeners may remember CreateSpace, I certainly do. They may remember CreateSpace, they probably are using KDP today and know about KDP. If not, they certainly know about Draft2Digital and where Draft2Digital has gone since those years, but it’s been a wild ride. I cannot believe I am still in this publishing world.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:47
And the world itself just kind of keeps expanding. I have to do a little aside real quick, Robin, and I’m sorry, there’s a gentleman in the green room and I’m not sure why. So Jim, if you can hear me, thanks for popping in. There may have been a mix up. So just letting you know, and won’t be putting you on screen or anything. Sorry about that. So that’s an unusual one. That’s the first time that one’s happened.
Robin Cutler 04:19
Who’s Jim? Might be one of my stalkers. I have a few. Yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:27
So what was the timeline then from Amazon to Ingram? How’d that go?
Robin Cutler 04:34
So I was at Amazon from about, let’s see if that’s six years, 2011. And it wasn’t on purpose, I actually moved with my husband to Nashville. And like I said, working for Amazon is pretty intensive as you can imagine, especially if you’re building something new, like we were building. And so after those six years, I said, I’m kind of done. I want to go out of the publishing world, I actually had been out of the publishing world, I had been working on a couple of college campuses, university campuses for a number of years, in marketing and PR, and I kind of wanted to go back to a campus and work at the university level. And so I moved to Nashville with that in mind and then maybe about a year later after I moved there, the people at Ingram, and I knew people there from my work in publishing before that, but they found out that I had moved to Nashville and they kind of invited me in. And the people at Ingram were about exactly the opposite as the people at [inaudible], very cordial, very nice people, and they just kind of enticed me to join the Ingram family. And so then in 2011, I started working at Ingram, and in 2013, some two years later, I launched Ingram Spark for Ingram.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:21
Yes. And everyone’s by this point, I think, heard of Ingram Spark. Yeah, you did a good job, Robin. So, what was the sort of motivation behind Ingram Spark? Some people may not know what Ingram Spark is, I guess. So, maybe we should start there. What is Ingram Spark?
Robin Cutler 06:45
So, Ingram Spark is Ingram’s version basically of KDP. Where, you know, Ingram actually started the whole print on demand business, they launched a company called Lightning Source that now is about Amazon, right. Or about the same time as Amazon was created, they launched Lightning Source, which was the first big print on demand company. In fact, I used to use Lightning Source when I opened my own publishing house before I went to work in Amazon. And so I knew about Lightning Source, I knew about Ingram. So it’s a print on demand, and print on demand is where there are no books that are printed in mass, it’s basically one book order at a time. And Ingram created this wonderful network [inaudible] around the world. And so they were the first ones to do that, in fact, it was John Ingram that actually created Lightning Source. So when I came to Ingram, I knew all about Lightning Source, we had this print on demand business that was really big, you know, but mainly Lightning Source was created for publishers, it wasn’t really created for an individual author, or a small publisher even to use. And so what I did when I came there was kind of create a platform that sort of made it a little easier for an author to create an account, be able to use the Print On Demand business, but also Ingram’s digital services. So I combined the digital with the print on demand, and that Ingram already had [inaudible] platform to create an account. And that basically was the beginning of Ingram Spark, just kind of putting all the all that together. And I know Kevin, you know a lot about building platforms. And, you know, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. But I was able to, and Ingram was really generous in giving me the resources I needed to sort of create Ingram Spark. So I’m grateful for that.
Kevin Tumlinson 09:22
What an interesting opportunity. I mean, not many people in this business get to say they were at the heart of something. So it’s become almost iconic. I mean, people know Ingram Spark in this business and what it means, what it stands for. What an interesting thing to have on your resume. Robin.
Robin Cutler 09:43
Yeah. And at that time, I think that when we launched Ingram Spark, I must have been about 56 years old. You know, when I left Amazon, I was older than Jeff Bezos. I’ve always been either the youngest or the oldest wherever I end up. So I was kind of the oldest at Ingram again, and I was able to still create something that was really relevant and something that’s helped, you know, what I’m proudest of more than even creating Ingram Spark is being able to help people really realize their publishing dreams, you know, being able to make their book and their content available to the world and in a fairly inexpensive way. And so I do take pride in that. I’m kind of, you know, one of the trailblazers there. Along with Draft2Digital. You guys were doing, you guys were creating what you do about the same time I was creating Ingram Spark. I love the Draft2Digital team.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:56
Yeah, there are a great many parallels between what you did with Ingram Spark and what the guys were doing with Draft2Digital, and we have that same mission, you know, make it inexpensive, make it easy, you know. We tried to make it free. We try to make it as free as possible. But you still gotta, everybody’s got to make some money. So that leads us up I think, unless there’s something in the interim that I’m not aware of, Robin. But after Ingram Spark, now, you retired from Ingram Spark, right?
Robin Cutler 11:31
I did. So I was planning to retire a year before I actually did from Ingram, and I announced it and it was widely known I was going to be retiring. And then COVID hit and so I stayed for that, I think it was 2020, I stayed through almost the end of 2020 just to kind of navigate Ingram Spark and our customers and the management at Ingram, you know, to help manage COVID. Because everybody was kind of reeling, but the irony is that, and you know this, that the publishing world did not shut down for COVID. And certainly the author world didn’t shut down. And it was a really great time for growth. I felt like people were, you know, it’s interesting how the reading world changed during COVID, especially the beginning of it, and maybe more around parents trying to entertain their kids with books at home. You know, maybe that was the genesis of it. But there was a huge growth in reading during that time. And I felt like the world kind of sat back, took a deep breath, and just returned to books. And it was just, it turned out to be just a blessing in disguise for publishers really. And certainly for Ingram. Did you find that?
Kevin Tumlinson 13:03
I think people just ran out of Netflix. Yeah. So they had to turn to longer format entertainment.
Robin Cutler 13:11
Yeah, yeah. And discovered reading again, and the pleasure of reading and books in general. Yeah, you know, and you get tired of just sitting in front of the television, and reading, even listening to an audiobook or reading an ebook, definitely challenges and becomes a more interactive experience for ingesting content. And I don’t think you can get that through television. So I felt like that was a resurgence of the world of reading, which was great.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:45
I agree. I agree. Yeah, no, reading is a much more active form of entertainment actually, you’re participatory. Maybe not active, active may be the wrong word. But you stuck around through COVID.
Robin Cutler 13:57
Yeah. I stuck around. Thanks for getting me back on track. Yeah, stuck around for COVID. And then, and I had gone to the 20Books Vegas conference. I think it was 2019. And that’s the first time I had met Michael Anderle and met Craig Martell and that whole team that that ran 20Books. And you know this, Kevin, because you’ve probably been to other conferences. When I walked into that first session at 20Books 19, it just seemed like boy, publishing has hit Hollywood. Like, this is huge. I don’t know how many people were at that conference, but they were more than I had ever seen at a publishing conference or writing conference. And it was just so well done and orchestrated, a lot of camaraderie among the participants and the ability for people to meet each other and kind of form these kinds of friendships as writers. And so I was just so impressed with that. And then I forgot about it really. COVID hit. And then I retired November 2020. And then two days into my retirement, I get a call from Michael Anderle. And he said, you know, how would you feel about coming in and helping us at LMBPN? And I was going, I kind of want to garden, I kind of want to cook, I want to travel, I’m kind of done. And he said, you know, I just feel like there’s more, you know, to get back into the publishing side, which is where I kind of started, you know, would be of interest to you. And so I joined LMBPN in January of 2021, and became the president of the company, and that’s where I am now. And he was right, I wasn’t done apparently, I just love now being back on the publisher side. You know, I’d been on the vendor side with Amazon and Ingram for 15 or so years, and I’d kind of forgotten. You know, I’ve worked with a lot of authors, but I hadn’t really worked directly like I do now with authors and helping them, you know, kind of create and manage their content. And that actually, and you know this, that is the best part of publishing is actually working with authors, and helping them become successful. So that’s what I’m doing now. And I’m just really, really grateful that Michael kind of gave me this opportunity. And it’s just so much fun to work with him. I mean, he really is an entrepreneur. And, you know, in [inaudible] business to him for sure. But he’s also so innovative, and has figured out a way to [inaudible] know how to do so. I’m really, really learning a lot through this experience.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:16
Yeah. What’s the sort of overall strategy there? Like, what is it you’re doing for that business? Because that whole company, and it’s LMBPN right? Did I get that right? Okay, got it right. First try. I always mess it up for some reason, too many letters. What’s the end game goal for what you’re doing there?
Robin Cutler 17:44
Well, you know, it’s more about publishing the kind of content that readers really want to read, and saying, this is what readers want. And they put it out in the marketplace, and then find out, you know, that’s not really the case. But here, we just publish fiction, or so far that’s what we’re doing. We publish fiction, and we publish series fiction. So we build, you know, find readers that are interested in urban fantasy and science fiction. That’s where we’ve primarily focused the last few years. We are moving now into romance and into thrillers. So we’re trying to expand the different genres that we’re publishing, and doing it, but I think the key is the series publishing that makes us a little bit unique. And, you know, the team at LMBPN certainly understands advertising content, finding more readers, how to do that. And just kind of focusing in on what we do well, and just do it better, I guess, is the thing. Not getting too wide in the kind of content that we’re publishing. I think a lot of publishers make that error, don’t you think?
Kevin Tumlinson 19:15
Yeah. I mean, yes, I suppose so. I mean, you know that business from a perspective I’m not as familiar with, but I do know that … Well, I’ve been watching what Michael and you guys have been doing, and it’s been pretty incredible to see the growth. You guys definitely have a strategy. Definitely have something worked out there. Is the company still sort of leaning in hard on like, rapid release? Is that still kind of a big focus?
Robin Cutler 19:46
Yes. Yeah. And the other thing we’re doing, I think more of, and you and I have talked about this, when we had a chance to have a good conversation at LMBPN. But I’m kind of focused in on authors and then publishing their series work rather than, you know, affiliated directly with Michael. You know, and [inaudible] really good writers. And this is something every publisher certainly does, but find really good writers that can publish, you know, at that rapid release schedule, which isn’t easy to do as a writer. And you know, you’re kind of a phenomenal writer. I don’t know if you’ve ever shared your one book that day that you wrote a whole book with your audience, but that’s an incredible story. So you probably know more about that than anybody.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:49
Yeah, I guess that might be the epitome of rapid release if you could do a book in one day. Yes. That’s never going to happen again. I’m done with trying to write a book in a day. For now, who knows?
Robin Cutler 21:05
For now, but you proved it can be done.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:09
It can be done. It’s not always advisable. Nick Thacker actually did a book in a day though, he did it through narration, and he beat me. He got a bigger word. So he’s knocked me off of that mountaintop. So good for him.
Robin Cutler 21:25
Ah, okay, yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:29
So he did his through narration. I didn’t narrate. But whatever. That’s the way it goes now. We do have a question someone popped in, I’d love to pop this up. Kit asks, “How is LMBPN different from traditional publishing?”
Robin Cutler 21:48
I like this little drawing that this person has.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:52
Yeah, he’s got a nice little sketch up of his face there.
Robin Cutler 21:56
Yeah. Well, we are a traditional publisher, where we find authors that we that work well with us, we pay them a royalty, we bear all the cost to send it to market and then to market it. And so that’s kind of the way traditional publishing in the New York houses work, where we pay a royalty, a percentage of each sale back to the author. The thing that’s a little bit different for us is a lot of publishers will only pay royalties once a year. We start paying royalties as soon as we start earning income on a book. So an author doesn’t have to wait. I think that’s one of the great things about LMBPN and something to be proud of. And, you know, it’s not a hybrid where you’re sharing the costs, we assume all the costs. But we’re pretty careful about which authors we want to work in. I particularly, and I’ve said this to Michael, you know, I don’t care how great an author you are, or how fast a writer you are. If you’re going to be sort of a primadonna as an author, you know, I’m probably not interested in working with you. I’m just too old. I just don’t want to put up with it. Right?
Kevin Tumlinson 23:31
People need to follow Neil Gaiman’s advice. You need to be either fast, good, or a pleasure to work with, but preferably all three.
Robin Cutler 23:43
Yes. And I think you should be all three, I think you should always be all three. I don’t care how fast you are. I mean, I believe that everybody has probably one book in them, however well it’s written or not, but everybody’s got a story to tell. That’s the whole point. And so I believe writing sort of helps that process of telling your story. And so I think it’s a good thing, even if you’re just writing your story, your legacy, you know, with their families, but beyond that, that’s the difference. I hope I answered that question about what the difference is. Yeah. Okay, good.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:33
Essentially, there’s no real difference at all, just in the structure of how you treat the author.
Robin Cutler 24:39
To me, there’s three different models of publishing. There is the traditional publishing model where the publishers [inaudible] the author, gives them a contract, and then the publisher bears all the cost to bring a book to market and then shares with the author through royalties, and then there’s a hybrid model, there’s a lot of those out there, where the publisher will work with an author, and then the author pays some of the publisher’s fees, either to create the book or to bring that book to market, and sometimes both. There’s a lot of good hybrid publishers, there’s some that I think are predatory. I know I’ve run across a lot of them in my work at Ingram Spark, and even at Amazon. And so I always tell authors to be really careful, do your homework with whoever you’re working with, make sure they’re legitimate, they’re not going to just take your money. And can I tell this quick story? Because this will highlight.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:47
Yeah, tell all the stories you want, quick or not.
Robin Cutler 25:51
So when I was at Ingram Spark, and we were at the American Library Association meeting in Washington, DC, and this was probably about 2018. And this gentleman walks, we had a booth there, and this gentleman saw the word Ingram like way up, you know, because it’s a huge company. And so he had heard of Ingram from this publisher that he was working with. And so he walked into the booth. And he said, you know, I was told my book was going to be here. And I said, excuse me? And he said, my publisher said my book would be here, so I was just going to see it. And I was going, well, you know, I don’t know who you are. No, it’s not here. And I said, do you have a copy of it? So he pulled this paperback, and it was not a very professionally created book. He pulled it out of his of his knapsack. And he said, this is the book. And I said, well, what did you pay to have this book created? He said, I paid $50,000. And it was probably a 200-page paperback and he said, would you have charged me this much? And I said well, to get your book into Ingram would have cost $49. Like through Ingram Spark, and you would have had to hire an editor and hopefully a designer, and that probably would have cost you $3,000 or $4,000 with a good editor and designer. But you could have had this book done easily for less than $5,000. And his wife was standing next to him, and I thought she was gonna just smack him right there. And there’s just zillions of stories like that. And, you know, he got his 20 copies, and that was it. There’s a lot of those.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:05
What Robin’s not telling you is that author was Kevin Tumlinson. No, that was not me.
Robin Cutler 28:17
That was not you, you’re too smart for that. Yeah. So you hear all these promises. I mean, late night TV, you see these ads, we can get you published, we can make you a best seller. That is absolutely not true. I’m saying it right now, it is not true. And don’t fall for it. So there are plenty of places you can go. You can learn. You’ll have to do some homework, you have to do a little work. You have to figure out, there’s plenty of platforms now. There’s plenty of resources. KDP, Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital’s three major ones that can, if you’re interested in getting your book produced and out to the marketplace, they all have resources that can help you do that.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:05
Yeah. Yeah. That’s an ongoing thing we see a lot. We were just having, I won’t bring up who it was. But we just had a chat this morning in Slack at D2D about a predatory service that’s rebranding, we think because people are on to them. People catch on. And that’s what makes this so difficult. You’ve got these services that will go by six or seven different names and just kind of keep retooling. I actually back in the day, back in early Kevin days, fell for one of these, send your book to this agency, pay $200 and we’ll read it for you and get it in front of publishers and whatever. I fell for that scam back, you know, early 20s.
Robin Cutler 29:55
Yeah, and unfortunately, this happened to me at Ingram Spark where, you know, companies working with Lightning Source that were offering these services to these independent authors, you know, they were just going to Lightning Source for print on demand. But a number of them went out of business, and then they took all that content with them. And the authors have a heck of a time getting that back. And so, this is a thing that can really [inaudible]. I don’t think it’s hard. I don’t think it should be that expensive. But make sure you do your homework and do it right.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:48
Yes, right. So one of our own, Lexi Greene popped in with that comment. “Always have to research any service before using it, especially if they’re asking for tons of money up front,” or any money up front, really. I mean, if there’s a dollar figure that you got to pay in order to do this, it’s not that that’s bad or wrong. But you need to know why that dollar figure’s there, and where it’s going, what’s going to happen.
Robin Cutler 31:16
Yeah, and get a tribe. That’s what 20Books is. It’s a tribe of writers. And there’s plenty other ones out there that become in your local community. I live in New Mexico and we have Southwest Writers out here. And there’s probably what, about 1000 members, and it’s just always better as a writer to be part of a tribe like that. So you have other writers that you can bounce ideas off, you can find out what they’re doing on that’s worked. It’s just always [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 31:55
That’s a very good point. You know, if you want to avoid scams, and if you’re involved with a whole group of people who are actively doing this stuff, yeah, they’re gonna know.
Robin Cutler 32:06
Because writers talk. They do talk.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:11
Especially that group, that 20Books group.
Robin Cutler 32:13
And they’re so supportive [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 32:15
Yeah. Sorry. I keep talking over you, Robin. I don’t mean to. There’s apparently kind of a delay between our sessions here. Sorry about that. And I was saying that that 20Books group has been a really good one I think for authors, just because there’s so many people in that group. It’s astounding to me, but the level of resources are what make it kind of special. And of course, it’s tied to LMBPN pretty closely. So going to that particular conference. If you can only go, if you can only afford to go to a single conference in a year, I’d say that’s the one to go to.
Robin Cutler 32:54
Yes, in November. It’s 20Books Vegas, I think. Is that the website or just 20Books?
Kevin Tumlinson 33:02
I think 20Books Vegas. If you type that into Google, you’ll find it.
Robin Cutler 33:06
You’ll find it.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:09
I don’t know if they put that on the LMBPN site or not. But we’re gonna pop that URL up.
Robin Cutler 33:14
Okay. Yeah, that’d be great. Yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:19
So sorry, we’re having a couple glitches and technical difficulties on this side. Sorry about that. If you see me hesitate, it’s because something went really weird. But I’m fixing it on the fly.
Robin Cutler 33:31
Well, I was just gonna say about 20Books, the conference, I think they’re taking registrations right now. I will say just because I know this, it’s not a profit making conference. I forgot what the registration fee is, it’s a couple hundred dollars. And they get really good rates at that hotel that they’re at. It’s amazing.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:59
Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Robin Cutler 34:00
No, you go.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:02
I was gonna say that they offer, I guess, like scholarships if you want to attend and you can’t afford it, they have an X number of those. We actually just paid for one, we’re probably going to pay for a second one to allow people to go. So that’s something, we did the same thing last year. So don’t hesitate. If you can’t afford the ticket cost, at least. We had one year, now, this was a different conference. But I’ve gone to conferences, and Michael actually sponsored this person into the San Francisco Writers Conference. And she stayed at a hostel close to the hotel for like 10 bucks a night and walked up the hill to the conference. So you know, there’s ways to do this.
Robin Cutler 34:47
Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s exciting. And there are a lot of six figure authors that are there that can share their success stories with you. And I just find it very invigorating. I came away this past year just really excited. Really excited to meet you, Kevin, there. And especially seeing the Draft2Digital team. A lot of them are old friends of mine.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:19
Well, yeah. It’s really interesting, when you announced you were retiring, there was almost a wake held at Draft2Digital. We were sad to see you leave. So when not long after that, it seemed like, you announced you were going on board LMBPN. Two days of retirement. It was like right afterward. So that was exciting news, actually. And it’s still exciting. I can’t wait to see what you guys end up doing as you as you embark on that. I mean, it’s still somewhat new for you. What, a year now? What’s in the future?
Robin Cutler 36:06
Well, if I told you, I’d have to kill you. So I don’t want that.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:13
That’s fair. There are so many hits out on me.
Robin Cutler 36:17
All I can say is, you know, we just are entrepreneurial and just always looking for better ways to do things. You know, how do you tell the story? It’s all about storytelling, right? And how do we do that in a better way that it reaches the widest audience. So and I know you guys at Draft2Digital are doing the same thing. We’re both kind of hunting and pecking down the same path.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:52
True, true. My question is, how do we get you guys to do more wide distribution stuff? I’d be remiss in my role at Draft2Digital if I didn’t at least start asking about that.
Robin Cutler 37:06
Yeah. So you know, and certainly where I come from, the biggest distributor in the world, right, Ingram. The thing about wide distribution, you know, there’s opportunity with bookstores, and especially a local author with local bookstores and libraries, I think are perfect matches. But, you know, there’s such a risk, maybe people don’t widely know is that a bookstore can return a book they bought years before, you know, it goes back to the publisher to eat. And so there’s a lot of books out in the marketplace that are basically being underwritten by publishers that, you know, it can be really risky, especially for self-publishers. You know, when I was at Ingram Spark, one of Ingram’s customers was Costco. Well, Costco only puts books out into their stores for 30 days, and what doesn’t sell goes right back. And no self-publisher can, with print on demand, print thousands of copies of books, and then risk all of that coming back. So that’s part of it. That’s part of the wide distribution conversation. But I think there’s ways to do it, or at least we’re looking for ways to do it that reduces the risk for the publisher and especially the author.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:52
Go ahead. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
Robin Cutler 38:54
No you go.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:56
I was gonna offer. And I don’t know, I haven’t run this by anybody at Draft2Digital. So I may get fired after saying this. But I mean, if there’s ways that Draft2Digital can help you guys figure this out and make it work, of course, reach out to us. Because that’s something we are trying to figure out too.
Robin Cutler 39:12
Well, I’m reaching out right now. Because I think maybe we should come up with something together. If we don’t, exactly. We have to still be trailblazers, right?
Kevin Tumlinson 39:26
That’s right. Yeah.
Robin Cutler 39:31
Yeah, it’s too bad. This system is a holdover from the Great Depression. It’s never been figured out. Nobody likes it. The bookstores [inaudible] can’t take a risk on new content and have to eat that. But I think back in the 80s they tried to do something where, you know, if a book didn’t sell in a store for a certain number of months, then the book could be discounted in the store to try to get rid of it. And then worked with the distributor, whoever they got the book from, to make that work. But I don’t know, it’s still there like it originally was. So it’s too bad. Barnes and Noble’s doing better about returns. And when I was at Ingram Spark, the return rate was very, very low. And, you know, we had books that were actually going into Target and into Walmart and stuff, but you know, it has to be an author that can run the risk if those books come back, that it’s not going to just destroy their whole family. So it’s serious stuff. It’s really serious.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:56
For a while there, I had high hopes for like the Espresso book printing machine, you know? That would have been perfect. That would have been ideal. But yeah, it seems like, and I think there are still bookstores, actually Mark Lefebvre is the expert on this, but yeah, there’s bookstores that use that, but from what I understand they’re very expensive. And they break down all the time.
Robin Cutler 41:18
All the time. Yeah. And the interesting thing is, if your book’s in Ingram Spark, and it’s the size and the format that an Espresso Book Machine can print, any Espresso can print your book, they have the ability to do that. So that’s kind of cool. Yeah, I don’t know what the answer is. But we probably should sit down, go talk to Ingram and figure it out together. Right. Let’s do that. We need a bookstore in there. We need a bookstore. We need the American Booksellers.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:58
Yeah, I was always thinking that probably the key to that is you’re gonna have to have, someone’s gonna have to have their own like warehouse for just all the storage distribution, but it would need its own retail front as well I think. I have theories and theories, and they’re probably unfounded and baseless. So we’ll just move on.
Robin Cutler 42:21
Well that’s the remainders, that’s what we’re aiming for so far. Yeah. And that was Books a Million. Is Books a Million still around?
Kevin Tumlinson 42:36
I think Books a Million is still around.
Robin Cutler 42:39
That’s primarily remainders I think.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:41
Yeah, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll start a bookstore called Remainders. And then it’ll be a pop-up bookstore that moves from city to city and sells returned books. There you go. We got it figured out. Now, everyone on staff at Draft2Digital will inform me in full about why that idea was stupid. It’s not gonna work. It’ll never work. I can tell. None of my brilliant ideas about how to solve this problem ever work. In fact, Lexi points out that nothing creates more fear in D2D than Kevin saying, “I haven’t run this by anyone yet, but …” So, well, we are at time. And it’s been an adventure, this one. We’ve had lots of interesting things happening behind the scenes Robin, so you brought the luck with you for sure. But you were wonderful. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom and little stories about you. This has been a great interview.
Robin Cutler 43:48
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:52
I’m gonna send people, and you can correct me if you need them to go somewhere else. But I was gonna send people to this URL, LMBPN.com to learn more about what you’re doing. Do you want someone to go somewhere else? I’ll put it in.
Robin Cutler 44:06
Well, anybody that wants to contact me directly, it’s just firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:15
Okay, I’m gonna put that in here real quick. It’s Robin.Cutler@LMBPN.com. And now it’s on screen. Now get ready. There’s gonna be eight million emails from Russians and others. We’ve had all kinds of things happening in the comments.
Robin Cutler 44:44
Probably from the American Booksellers.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:48
Right, right. All right, everybody. Well, thank you again, Robin, for being a part of SPI Live and to everyone else out there, thank you for tuning in. If you are interested in shows like this one, make sure that you go over and bookmark D2Dlive.com. That’s where we get a little countdown every week. We do this every week, which surprised Robin when we first started chatting, a live stream like this, these things are hard to do. They can be challenging, for sure. And then beyond that, make sure that you like, share, comment and subscribe to this content and hey, maybe even profit from what you learn here. So thank you again for tuning in. Thank you once more Robin for keeping us entertained here for the past 45 minutes. Everyone else? We’ll see you all next time. Thank you.