This post is in direct response to something I saw on the Internet that took POD publishing to task.
I will be the first person to admit that not all POD publishers are created equal. Some are more reputable than others. Some offer more services than others. Some call themselves publishers when they are really just printers. And some go above and beyond in service to their authors. So, please, don’t think we all use “duct tape and coat hanger wire” to create your book. We don’t.
It all started a few days ago when one of my clients sent me a link to a blog that had a scathing review of POD publishers. My client’s email just said, “Your thoughts?”
After clicking in to the blog, I was taken aback by the blatant misinformation about POD (Print On Demand), but I calmed down and created a reply.
Here’s what started my blood boiling: “Any “publisher” who asks you to pay for services is not a publisher, but a book service provider” (her bolding, not mine).
Well, I’m here to dispute just about everything that blogger said in her post.
Understand that I do not have any issue with her posting it—I only have an issue with the truthfulness of it. Coming from someone with her credentials, it’s sad to see such misinformation put forth as gospel. I have to assume the author considers it gospel from the very way she titled her post, “POD Publishing Companies Very Profitable – But Not for the Author.” Also, it should be known that I left a comment on her blog, describing POD companies that actually do the things she says we don’t do, and I did recommend that she do more research next time. My comment was summarily deleted.
Here are the inaccurate ‘assertions’ if you will, and my replies:
Assertion: Quoted from paragraph two—“Any “publisher” who asks you to pay for services is not a publisher, but a book service provider.”
My reply: As a POD owner, I publish books. Authors pay me—and many, many companies as professional as mine—a fee to create a professional product. The fee covers far more than printing. Yes, we’re services providers, but in the end we are also publishers. Serious POD publishers do not make enough on their services fee to earn a profit. To earn a profit, we need to help the author sell books. The ‘we’ includes such publishers as Infinity Press, Booklocker, my own company (WME), and Outskirts Press, to name a few. We get the book to market faster, we pay higher royalties, and we support our authors better and more personally than any NYC publisher.
Assertion: “POD “Publishers” are making a lot of money because authors think that:
a.) they know what they are doing and will be able to professionally produce and market the book; b.) they are getting a good price for a package of services. Wrong on both counts . . . ”—so she says.
My reply: That blogger accuses POD publishers of using mediocre book design (Boy, would our cover designer and page layout professional like to talk to her about that!), and says that POD publishers use templates to create their books. Patently untrue for myself and many others. We DO pay attention to font and readability and justification and to creating something that is not only pleasing to the author but to the reader. We are professionals, in the truest sense of the word. Shame on that blogger for lumping all POD publishers into one sorry group. —Oh, and we do not make “a lot of money” publishing books. If only!
Assertion: “…very few POD published books ever sell more than a few hundred copies. Part of the key is the ISBN . . . many review services and almost all bookstores won’t accept a POD published book for review or sale – and they are very familiar with these “publisher’s” prefixes on that bar code, so they know who “published” your book.”
My reply: IF authors don’t sell enough books with their publisher, POD or otherwise, the author isn’t trying hard enough. I’ve worked with traditional publishers, and they require an extensive marketing plan from authors before they will consider publication. And research shows that books published by traditional publishers sell around 150-300, on average. Book marketing is a task and time intensive process – for any and all writers and publishers. At professional POD firms, author interaction is crucial. The publisher and author have to work together to get the books noticed. The firms I’ve mentioned here all consider marketing part of their work. Some have extra marketing packages, but that’s in line with the traditional world where authors are encouraged to hire a publicist.
To the idea that a POD’s ISBN number keeps an author’s book out of bookstores, this is shocking news to me! Books that are for sale in retail establishments, online or off, require an ISBN number. That’s a fact of life. Perhaps POD’s authors’ books don’t get included in Barnes and Noble’s physical stores, but they’re in B&N’s online database. The ONLY reason B&N won’t stock our books is because we don’t take returns. At Amazon, one doesn’t have to worry about that. They don’t take returns either. At WME, we personally work with colleges and universities to see if we can place our authors’ books with professors (and have successfully done so). We also have had luck with independent bookstores and selling books at conferences. The ISBN number is intended for retail sales, nothing more. That it can keep an author from achieving success is pure nonsense.
Assertion: The misinformed blogger’s diatribe ends with this — “Either truly self-publish or sell your rights to an established commercial publisher, but don’t combine the worst of both worlds with a POD “Publisher”.” (I could take issue with her punctuation here, but why bother?)
My reply: When you work with a professional POD firm, one that does project work and approaches projects from the author’s viewpoint, one that is NOT merely a printer, you are contracting for expertise and for personal attention. And you retain ALL rights to your work, forever. Your book never goes out of print, as it will at the “established commercial” publishers, and you do not have to buy large quantities to lug around in the trunk of your car, or clutter up your basement, as you had to do in the ancient days of vanity publishing. Plus, you receive all the respect and acclaim any writer receives when they realize their dream of being a publisher author. People look at books and choose to buy based on content, along with design (yes, a book is often judged by its cover). They do not buy based on who published the book.
Here’s a truth that blogger left out of her faulty advice: In today’s emerging digital world, if you truly want to attract that big name publisher, use a professional POD firm to self-publish because the big name publishers are watching.
When Random House or Simon and Schuster or Penguin, to name just three, come calling, your POD publishing firm will do you proud – and likely work with you to agent your work and protect your rights. Because in the POD world, it’s not about us or them, it’s always about you.