View Full Version : Propose new terms!

05-21-2006, 01:01 AM
Started to answer this one in the AuthorHouse libel thread, but realized it should be its own topic.

I'm not here to defend the POD industry. It's just a that I see the word vanity used in such a casual way and I'm sure it's hurtful to many fine and dedicated writers who, for their own reasons, use POD for their books.

Michael, I've come to believe that we really could use better terminology in this whole area. You're right-- "vanity" is an inherently insulting term, even when people aren't using it to be insulting. I use the term "vanity press" to describe the pay-to-publish presses (whether they're POD or not), but I'd love to come up with a better term that describes what I mean without insulting authors.

"POD" by itself doesn't work, because there are also small presses that use POD, without being on par with the pay-to-publish presses.

Even "pay-to-publish" doesn't quite work as a descriptor because PublishAmerica and CafePress don't charge up-front, and for the bare minimum package, neither does Lulu-- but they do belong in the same category as AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, etc.

So what are the right terms?

I'm not fond of "subsidy," because that implies that the publisher is paying part of the cost-- which is often/usually not true-- and the term was mostly used to scam writers into believing that a vanity press was not a vanity press.

Here are the categories of publishing as I see them. The ones in brackets need better titles:

1. Conventional self-publishing. The author is the publisher. The author contracts for cover art, editing, etc. The author buys an ISBN and bar code, and deals directly with printers. There is no "middleman" making these arrangements.

2. [Vanity offset.] Older vanity press models, like Vantage, that charge several thousand dollars and do offset print runs. No real selection process (maybe they turn down manuscripts that contain too many obscenities or objectional content, but they don't screen for quality).

3. [Vanity POD.] The newer breed of vanity presses. Same lack of selection process, but cheaper because they use print-on-demand technology instead of offset print runs.

4. E-publishing. May be vanity or non-vanity. Some e-publishers are selective, others aren't. Quality varies considerably, even among the selective ones.

5. [Small press POD.] Has a selection process, doesn't charge authors to be published, aims to sell to the book-buying public. Quality varies quite a bit. Some of these companies are reputable and are run by people who know what they're doing; others are run by people who don't have a clue how publishing works and can't tell the difference between good writing and bad writing. Sometimes offers a small advance to authors. Rarely has national bookstore distribution. The only one I'm aware of that has seriously broken this mold is Ellora's Cave.

6. Small press offset, no distribution. Independent press that uses offset printing, has a selection process, but has no deal with a distributor and their books do not regularly appear in bookstores, perhaps aside from their own region. Often expect to sell about 500-1000 copies. Sometimes offers a small advance to authors.

7. Small press offset with distribution. Independent press that uses offset printing, has a selection process, has a deal with a distributor, and their books do appear in bookstores (and libraries, and other retail outlets) regularly. Usually offers at least a small advance to authors.

8. Mid-size press. Offset printing and distribution is implied. Usually offers at least a small advance to authors, can offer advances in the tens of thousands.

9. Major houses. No description needed.

Am I leaving anything out?

Any ideas for better terms?

05-21-2006, 01:14 AM
I think it's very very important to distinguish between a publisher and a press.

A publisher provides value added services; editing, of several sorts, book design, cover design, marketing, including a dedicated sales force, and distribution.

A publisher takes care of ISBN, LOC CIP and copyright.

A press provides assets, whether in the form of a conventional printed codex book, or a digital file.

05-21-2006, 01:57 AM
Here are some possible replacements:

Small press POD: Micropress or micropublisher.

Vanity publishing: Packaged printing service.

And reserve POD for companies that only print books after they receive an order.

05-21-2006, 02:01 AM
I'd really like to reserve POD or Print on Demand as a technology label.

Lots of large, legitimate, household name publishers use POD technology.

05-21-2006, 03:34 AM
I always thought the "on-demand" part referred to printing only when an order was received.

05-23-2006, 02:16 AM
I wish to add a personal note, if I may. As for opting POD as an avenue for my books. I want to state up front and firmly that vanity was not a consideration. The notion that a POD author is merely a vain wannabe is an insult.

I wasn't trying to insult you. I myself paid to publish using what I called, in that other thread, a "vanity POD"--Virtualbookworm. Like you, I had my reasons for doing so, and it was a good choice for me; I sold a good number of copies, and I made a nice profit. In saying "vanity POD," I was just using the term that is generally used to describe these kinds of publishers. I don't care for the term myself. But it's the term currently in use in the publishing world among most publishers and authors, and so I used "vanity POD" to distinguish a POD you pay to publish your books from other PODs.

The differences between POD versus vanity presses

So what is the difference between VB and Authorhouse and a vanity press? VB and Authorhouse and the ilk are publishers you pay to publish your novel for you. I thought the definition of vanity press was a publisher you pay to publish your novel for you. POD is a technology. It can be used by publishers whom the author pays (like Authorhouse) or publishers who pay the author (like Random House).

I'm all for a new term rather than "vanity," but until a new term comes into accepted use...I've got to use the language we have.

What label might we use? Pay to publish is insufficient, as mentioned above, because places like Publish America do not require payment but in effect recoup money from the author by overcharging on the cover price and providing limited services. Instead of vanity, perhaps “service publisher."

James D. Macdonald
07-05-2006, 01:15 AM
The real bottom-line question is: who owns the ISBN?