Before proceeding to the topic of this column, let me say that I fully expect most of you will be a bit unhappy, because I am not going to be giving you ideas for improving your poker game. Even so,Bob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play. Bob's website is www.pokercoach.us I think it is reasonable to write about the subject matter I have selected, simply because it fills a void. I have never seen this type of column in my life, let alone written one. And even if you harbor zero ambition to ever write about anything, perhaps you will find something here of interest, and perhaps even of value. It is written in a question-and-answer format.
I’m thinking about writing a poker book. Do you have any advice? Decide on the focus of your book. Then, start keeping a file of poker hands that are relevant to your subject matter. They can be hands you played or hands from another source. This is the foundation of your house. No matter how much theory you know, a book also must have lots of practical examples.
I hear how hard it is to get published. Should I publish my own book? All of my books are self-published. It works for me because I know how to market my books, so why give up the lion’s share of the profits to someone else? There are only a few retail outlets that specialize in gambling books, so it is relatively easy to find and supply them. However, I should mention that it is a lot easier to get a poker book published by some firm that specializes in poker or gambling books than it is to get a novel published.
Can you reach mass-market outlets? It is not easy to get your book carried in regular bookstores, but you can still reach the general public. Big companies, like Barnes & Noble and Borders, have special-order departments that supply customers on request.
How would a special-order department know where to reach me? The Bowker Company has a publicly available database called “Books in Print,” which lists authors/publishers. When you write a book, you obtain an “ISBN number” from the Bowker Company that is assigned to your book so that it can be located in the database.
How many copies of a book do you get printed, and how much does it cost? For my two books of about 225 pages each, I get 2,000 copies printed at a time, at a cost of about four grand. For Middle Limit Holdem Poker, which has about 336 pages, we got 4,000 printed for just under eight grand. The cost depends on the printing company; it pays to shop around. Also, the more copies you print each run, the lower your per-unit expenses — much lower.
Then why not print more copies each run? Several reasons: The books need to be stored. Reprinting is helpful in improving a book and getting rid of typos and errors. You do not need as much money up front for a smaller run.
How much can you make writing a book? Of course, a lot depends on who you are and how good your books are. I do not know how others do. You can average about $10 a book if you do not have a publisher or co-author. I am making most of my money from my writings these days. I am restrained from playing much poker because of my family situation. I’m getting by, but not getting rich.
I’m not a professional player; can I write a poker book? Probably. I assume you know a lot about poker, are a good writer, and are familiar with plenty of poker literature. But you figure to have more success by teaming up with a pro who is looking for a partner with writing skills.
What size book should I aim for? My philosophy is to give the information that I believe needs to be put out, and see what size book I wind up with. After the whole book is completed, you should fine-tune its size. Your printer, depending on his printing process, will get four, eight, or 16 pages to a large sheet of paper, so you want to use all of a sheet by selecting some number of pages that will accomplish this. All of my books are printed in a 5.5 inch-by-8.5 inch dimension, which I recommend.
You have been writing poker books for nearly 20 years. Is there anything that you are doing differently now, from a business perspective, compared to your earlier days? Yes. First, I get my books packaged in two different size boxes, to better meet the various shipping size requirements of retail outlets. This adds slightly to the printing cost, but is worth it. My big movers can get a shipment in a large box containing 36 books, which saves them money. The smaller places are happy with a box of 14 or 18 at a time. Second, I recently opened a UPS account, which has turned out to be a big saver on shipping costs, compared to just taking the books to the UPS office. Third, I have a PayPal account, which is especially useful for receiving money from overseas buyers. Fourth, I started doing business with Baker & Taylor Books a couple of years ago, and now they are my biggest buyer.
Does it help to have your own website? Of course. Each book that you sell directly to the buyer nearly doubles your profit, but many more books are sold by retailers than by me.
Is being a writer for Card Player helpful? The proper word is “indispensable.” People read my column and decide they want to read more. Plus, Card Player advertises and sells my books.
Who is your favorite columnist among the Card Player writers? For deep insight into poker strategy, I try to learn as much as I can from my friend Max Shapiro.
Of course, you are kidding, right? I’m only half-kidding. Right now, I need to laugh more than I need poker advice.
Can we talk just a little about poker strategy? In your view, what important information about poker strategy is unjustly neglected by lots of poker articles and books? The number one element of strategy that is frequently overlooked is how the number of opponents in a pot affects the play of your hand.
Is there any part that is overemphasized? Tells. They are quite important in big-bet poker, but are much less so in limit play.
Why is that? The pot odds are so large that you normally cannot afford to fold based on a tell, because tells are not the more than 90 percent reliable indicator needed to act on them.
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