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brainstorm77
08-11-2006, 01:56 PM
Ok, please someone tell me what the difference between the two?

Cathy C
08-11-2006, 07:24 PM
Happy to oblige, brainstorm77!

Okay, first you need to understand that POD has TWO distinct meanings--which is where a lot of the confusion arises. Think of it like "face." It can mean the part of the skull where the mouth and nose are, or it can mean to confront something. Same word, same spelling, but different meanings in context.

In both cases, P.O.D. means Print on Demand.

Definition #1 - POD is a METHOD of producing a book, using a machine that scans pages of text, compiles them and then puts them on paper that then goes into another section of the machine to be glued and have a soft cardboard cover put on. It stores the data and can print a thousand or one at a time--hence "on demand." So far, this machine can only create about four sizes of books (none of which is the exact same size as a paperback you'd find in a bookstore, nor using pulp paper, BTW.)

Definition #2 - POD can also be a BUSINESS MODEL of a publishing company. When a company chooses to use the POD method of production instead of using an offset press to print, they are required to make certain choices about how their business will be run. Each book produced by a POD printing company (because POD publishers seldom own the machine--the work is farmed out to a third party printer) has a set-up fee and a cost per volume to print. Someone has to pay that fee and cost to the printer. A POD publisher has three choices of getting the money: 1) pay it out of pocket and hope to earn it back on sales (meaning the publisher is "financially invested" in production--there's a risk they won't ever see it back); 2) have the AUTHOR pay the fee and cost up front (no risk); or 3) have the READER pay the fee and cost, through a higher sticker price (no risk, because the book isn't printed, nor the cost paid, until the reader pays.)

Now, having said that--the difference between a POD publisher and a vanity publisher is only based on which of the three choices the company has made. If they have chosen either #2 or #3, they are instantly a SUBSIDY publisher (which is also called a vanity publisher.) This is because a third party is subsidizing the normal costs of business.

It's called a vanity publisher because part of convincing the author to pay (or not to ask questions about the increased book price) is charming the author, playing on the desires of him/her to see the end product (without asking too hard about where it came from.) But if the publisher isn't financially invested in the company, then they have little reason to insist on quality control of the product, do they? After all, it's no skin off their nose.

It's only when a publisher chooses option #1--where they are footing the bill to get the book to the public that they are NOT a subsidy (vanity) publisher. When they are following the standard publishing industry tactic of taking a small percentage of a reasonable list price to pay themselves back for the up-front out of pocket expense, then they're showing what it takes to be a business. What other company can get away with not spending out of pocket money to produce a product?

Does that answer your question, or just raise new ones? ;)

brainstorm77
08-12-2006, 05:49 PM
It answers my question :) thanks.

huw
08-12-2006, 07:56 PM
I hope you won't mind some feedback from a board newbie :-)

Publishers using offset presses also face setup fees (higher than POD) and per-copy costs (lower), so I don't see this as fundamental. Even if you own the presses, you still have to account for the costs of financing and running them, and there's no fundamental compulsion that an offset publisher must own its presses, or that an on-demand publisher must outsource.

Here, in my view, are the key features of POD as compared to offset: low setup cost; higher per-copy cost; zero inventory cost; zero (or at least controllable) risk of returns/remainders. This makes POD suitable for titles where the cost and risk of an offset run cannot be justified (I include vanity and "author mill" type titles in this category, among other more interesting types of work).



Someone has to pay that fee and cost to the printer. A POD publisher has three choices of getting the money: 1) pay it out of pocket and hope to earn it back on sales (meaning the publisher is "financially invested" in production--there's a risk they won't ever see it back); 2) have the AUTHOR pay the fee and cost up front (no risk); or 3) have the READER pay the fee and cost, through a higher sticker price (no risk, because the book isn't printed, nor the cost paid, until the reader pays.)

Taking the points one by one:

1) the print setup fees are fairly modest, and the per-copy fees are pre-paid by the on-demand nature of the business. The more significant risk is time put into developing the title. This is why the majority of on-demand publishers don't address that side of the business, i.e. they slap the raw manuscript inside some grotty semi-generic cover and call it a book.

2) classic vanity press of course.

3) it's incorrect to say no risk, because you need enough sales to cover the POD setup costs and if your sticker price is too high, or your book too dreadful, that won't happen. If you said "have the AUTHOR pay..." then I would agree with you, because then we're talking about a classic author mill.



It's only when a publisher chooses option #1--where they are footing the bill to get the book to the public that they are NOT a subsidy (vanity) publisher. When they are following the standard publishing industry tactic of taking a small percentage of a reasonable list price to pay themselves back for the up-front out of pocket expense, then they're showing what it takes to be a business. What other company can get away with not spending out of pocket money to produce a product?

I would say a publisher is not a vanity publisher whenever it makes its money by selling books to the general public, and it's a vanity publisher whenever it makes its money by charging fees to the author, or selling books to the author and his/her associates. A vanity publisher can use either offset or POD, and so can a commercial publisher.

And of course you have to understand that the product of a vanity publisher is the service to the author. And they _do_ devote money and expertise to creating that product. The problem arises with the misapprehension that the product is a book.

Cathy C
08-13-2006, 02:35 AM
You're more than welcome to join in the conversation, huw, but you've got some misconceptions here, so let me reply:


Publishers using offset presses also face setup fees (higher than POD) and per-copy costs (lower), so I don't see this as fundamental. Even if you own the presses, you still have to account for the costs of financing and running them, and there's no fundamental compulsion that an offset publisher must own its presses, or that an on-demand publisher must outsource.


Absolutely true. Offset presses have fees because very, very few publishers own a press. But a publisher using offset has an attendant out of pocket, even if they own the press, because they have to buy paper and ink, or because the printer won't DELIVER the books until the fee is paid. Without a product, there's nothing to sell, so the publisher is automatically financially invested in producing the books. But that's not the case with POD. As I understand it, Lightning Source (one of the major POD printers) is willing to CARRY the set-up fee for regular customers for a month or two, and give quantity discounts. Hence, no out of pocket before the book hits the shelf.


Here, in my view, are the key features of POD as compared to offset: low setup cost; higher per-copy cost; zero inventory cost; zero (or at least controllable) risk of returns/remainders. This makes POD suitable for titles where the cost and risk of an offset run cannot be justified (I include vanity and "author mill" type titles in this category, among other more interesting types of work).


But the "plus" of risk of returns/remainders is the primary DETRIMENT of POD. The world is what it is. Print on Demand books can't be returned unless the publisher is willing to . . . (and here we come back to the same issue) be financial invested. A company that is NOT willing to bear the risk of loss, who is NOT willing to bend to the will of an entire industry that requires returns has chosen its business model. And that choice is NOT #1.


1) the print setup fees are fairly modest, and the per-copy fees are pre-paid by the on-demand nature of the business. The more significant risk is time put into developing the title. This is why the majority of on-demand publishers don't address that side of the business, i.e. they slap the raw manuscript inside some grotty semi-generic cover and call it a book.


I'm not certain how this is a discussion of being financially invested.


2) classic vanity press of course.


Yep.


3) it's incorrect to say no risk, because you need enough sales to cover the POD setup costs and if your sticker price is too high, or your book too dreadful, that won't happen. If you said "have the AUTHOR pay..." then I would agree with you, because then we're talking about a classic author mill.


Nope. Not incorrect at all. The setup costs depends on what the company is being charged. That can be as much as $300 per title, or as low as $30. I know some printers of each variety. If the fee is $30-50 dollars, it only takes the AUTHOR'S COPIES to pay that fee. I don't think there's an author alive that doesn't want at least one or two to own. It's possible, but I'd almost be willing to bet that the file isn't sent to the printer until the first order comes in. No orders, no fee. It can appear on Amazon without it being loaded on a machine.


I would say a publisher is not a vanity publisher whenever it makes its money by selling books to the general public, and it's a vanity publisher whenever it makes its money by charging fees to the author, or selling books to the author and his/her associates. A vanity publisher can use either offset or POD, and so can a commercial publisher.


Well, heck--if that's the definition, then every POD publisher, including PA and AuthorHouse wouldn't be considered vanity. Every book offered by both houses are for SALE to the general public. It's just that the public will never find out they're for sale, if left up to the company. No, that's not the definition. I'll hold my ground on this one.


And of course you have to understand that the product of a vanity publisher is the service to the author. And they _do_ devote money and expertise to creating that product. The problem arises with the misapprehension that the product is a book.

The product of a publisher SHOULD be the book. That's the point. If the product that is the primary offering of a company is something other than a book, then they're a "service" company--no better than Kinko's or OfficeDepot, both of which have employees with every bit as much expertise in formatting a document for print.

A publisher is much, MUCH more than a photocopy center . . . or should be.

huw
08-13-2006, 03:51 AM
But a publisher using offset has an attendant out of pocket, even if they own the press, because they have to buy paper and ink, or because the printer won't DELIVER the books until the fee is paid. Without a product, there's nothing to sell, so the publisher is automatically financially invested in producing the books. But that's not the case with POD. As I understand it, Lightning Source (one of the major POD printers) is willing to CARRY the set-up fee for regular customers for a month or two, and give quantity discounts. Hence, no out of pocket before the book hits the shelf.


That's essentially what I said: that the setup fees for POD are hardly onerous, a comment I made in response to your point about POD publishers needing to have repayment of those fees built into the business model. I don't think we're in disagreement on this one (?)



But the "plus" of risk of returns/remainders is the primary DETRIMENT of POD. The world is what it is. Print on Demand books can't be returned unless the publisher is willing to . . . (and here we come back to the same issue) be financial invested. A company that is NOT willing to bear the risk of loss, who is NOT willing to bend to the will of an entire industry that requires returns has chosen its business model. And that choice is NOT #1.


You're attributing good/bad values (as in "plus" and "minus") to the inventory/returnability risk issue I mentioned, when I intended nothing more than what I wrote. Clearly there is a cost to not having returnability, and clearly there's a benefit too (worthwhile books can be published that would otherwise not be).



Nope. Not incorrect at all. The setup costs depends on what the company is being charged. That can be as much as $300 per title, or as low as $30. I know some printers of each variety. If the fee is $30-50 dollars, it only takes the AUTHOR'S COPIES to pay that fee.

If a POD publisher relies on readers to cover the costs (your original characterisation of this model) then the risk cannot be zero: the publisher might not sell a single copy to the reading public. That's why I said it's AUTHOR SALES and not reader sales that define this model. You actually seem to agree with this, as your analysis specifically talks about author copies...are we really coming at this from different directions, or have we got our wires crossed?



I'd almost be willing to bet that the file isn't sent to the printer until the first order comes in. No orders, no fee. It can appear on Amazon without it being loaded on a machine.

You could well be right, I have no idea how specific author mills run their internal procedures.



Well, heck--if that's the definition, then every POD publisher, including PA and AuthorHouse wouldn't be considered vanity. Every book offered by both houses are for SALE to the general public.

I didn't say for sale, I said making money.



It's just that the public will never find out they're for sale, if left up to the company. No, that's not the definition. I'll hold my ground on this one.

Just so long as you don't shift me to ground I never claimed ;-)

Being for sale isn't the same as making sales, or even having a reasonable expectation of making sales. If a crummy novel from an unknown author is priced at $30, then the "publisher" can have no real expectation of selling that to anyone other than the author and his/her friends. That's the distinction I want to make between sales to the public, and sales to the author.



The product of a publisher SHOULD be the book. That's the point. If the product that is the primary offering of a company is something other than a book, then they're a "service" company--no better than Kinko's or OfficeDepot, both of which have employees with every bit as much expertise in formatting a document for print.

Precisely my point. They are service companies who happen to have bought a block of ISBNs. The harm comes when they masquerade as publishers and con unwitting writers out of their money and rights.

brainstorm77
08-16-2006, 07:39 PM
Thanks for all the great responses :)

PODLINGMASTER
08-30-2006, 12:38 AM
I would add to this discussion a point I think Huw was attempting to make, but perhaps it wasn't understood.

On financial investment: The financial investment for producing a book goes beyond the mere cost of printing. this seems to have been missed or at least I missed it in the discussion.

1.) Editing costs money, someone doing editing generally gets paid. This can be either in the big publishers or in the little ones. Professional editing costs something= financial investment.

2.) If I'm not mistaken, having a nice looking cover done for a book can costs anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to produce. Even if its a small POD press company, they still have to invest in a cover to produce a nice looking book--this is a point that I believe Huw was trying to make--the asthetics qualities are ignored at a vanity (usually) in exchange for a rapid fire turn-a-round to get the book into the hands of the author, not the public...because they don't really expect to make any money from the public--hence they are selling services of book production, not books.

3.) Formatting the inside of the book. someone has to do this as well, it may cost even the small press publisher some money to have this done= financial investment.

4.) Cost of printing and sending Advance Review Copies: this may or may not get done by some of the smaller presses, but it should be done, because any publisher should understand that reviews go along way toward selling books. Once again, the publisher is the one responsible, even the smaller presses, for getting these copies printed and shipped out to have reviews done...vanity presses don't care if their books are reviewed, unless they have a fee to the author for having it done, just another way to fleece the author. Again these costs for true publishers= financial investment.

5.) Not to mention the time it takes to do these things or arrange for them to be done, when you may not get your investment back from the profits.

All of these are important aspects of book production and publishing and are not figured into the cost of printing at all. Any publisher who is making these financial investments...whether they use Print on demand or not, is a traditional publisher. They have taken a submitted manuscript from an author, made a judgment call to assume the costs and responsibility of producing a book for the buying public to purchase, have wisely chosen the financial route best suited to their capabilities and charged the author NOTHING to get the book from unedited manuscript to finished book in the marketplace.

Its my 2 cents, but that is a traditional publisher and they are assuming all of the financial risks, not the author.

Certainly PRINT ON DEMAND as a business model has some positives--particularly in that it allows the financially less capable, to publish books and often times it may be books that do not fit the Big Publishers market need--(even if they are still quite good stories).

POD, also has negatives, in that it carries a STIGMA to it, (many assume POD means self published). And its not really the print on demand that keeps books off of shelves, but the financial inability of small presses to accept returns, and lets not forget, a lack of distribution...another money concern that some smaller presses have to work their way up to.

Podlingmaster