ST. LOUIS — Susan Bradley had a relationship problem.
After seven years writing a how-to book on dating and romance, she was getting left at the altar.
Knowing she'd get only a paltry advance from a traditional publisher, she had decided to self-publish.
But after months with a traditional printer, the relationship fell apart.
So, with two weeks until a Valentine's Day, 1996 publication date - and book signings scheduled in her hometown of Cleveland - she called Xerox's on-demand printers.
Five working days later, she had 500 bound copies.
The cost was high, about $8 a copy, but it put her book in the stores.
And sales were so brisk that Ms. Bradley landed a contract with Waldenbooks. Nearly two years later, she has sold 20,000 copies.
If she had stayed with a traditional publisher, "I wouldn't have a book until Valentine's Day this year. Now, I already have 350 radio and TV interviews under my belt.... It's a great way to test market a book and see how people respond."
That's the kind of inroad digital technology opens for new authors.
"You no longer have to produce 10,000 copies of this book," says Don Seise of Simon & Schuster. "You can produce 150 or 300 copies ... and see how they sell."