I've figured out what's up with John Allen Jaynes.
He's a poet.
See, his contribution to The Ultimate Unknown [# 9, Fall 1997] ed. David D. Combs (Combs Press; Streamwood, IL, $4.00, 60pp+, quarto) listed as "# 30 • Nightmare • John Allen Jaynes • pm" is a poem.
Okay, for him, self-publishing is what's available. That explains the chapbooks, that explains everything.
With very, very few exceptions, poets don't get book offers. It just isn't in their career path. They can place poems by ones and twos in magazines, for pin money, and that's about it for markets. If they're very good. Else, there's just no market. Self-publishing is standard, even expected, for poets.
Putting out a chapbook is a great deal of trouble, and takes cash up front. True, you make more on the back end if you self-publish -- you can sell for a lower cover price and still make more profit -- but that initial investment in time and money isn't small.
So, since every sale he's likely to make in his life is going to be face to face, at a reading, at open-mike night in a cafe, at the library on Local Authors' Night, there's no reason not to go with a publisher whose business model imagines that every sale will be face to face.
Plus, if you're self-publishing and you're going offset, you have the basement-full-of-books problem. What John needed was a printer who would supply him with books twenty at a time that he could sell wherever he appeared on the program.
PA isn't a bad choice for that, honestly. It's just an overpriced printer that handles things like turning a manuscript into a pdf and finding the cover art. A one-stop shop where he's trading money for convenience.
So he buys fifty books, and every time he sells thirty he orders another thirty. He sells 'em at full cover price, he's making a profit on each one. Good deal, really.
He should have mentioned what his situation was. He's got a product that isn't intended for a large audience, or for bookstore sales.
Let's say he's got an 80 page book, going for $14.95.
Say he buys fifty at 50% discount (first time special offer). He's out of pocket $373.75 plus $27.50 shipping, for $401.25. He sells thirty at full cover price, at poetry readings. That brings in $448.50. His profit is $47.25. He buys another thirty at a 30% discount. Price is $331.45 (counting shipping). He's now back to -$284.20. He sells thirty copies, for $448.50, and his profit is $164.30. Another 30 ordered, $331.45. Bottom line is -$167.15. Sells thirty ($448.50 in) reorders 30 ($331.45 out), bank balance is now -$-50.10. Sells thirty, reorders thirty, and the bottom line is $66.95. He's in a cash positive position from then on, and has fifty copies on hand to sell at future readings.
The only real question, then, is will he be able to move 180 copies to break even and still have fifty on hand for readings, workshops, open-mike night, and so on? Depends on how big his city is, how clever he is in finding venues, and how good his poetry is. HIs publicity cost is zero. He'd be going to these events anyway, so he can write off travel.
Poets, almost by definition, aren't in it for the money.
Sorry, my friend. Come back now?