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View Full Version : POD Publishing gets a bad rap!



Greenwolf103
08-20-2004, 02:43 AM
One of my NF books is going through a POD publisher. I decided to do this for the experience, to see what it's all about, etc.

One thing I have experienced a lot of is criticism of POD publishing. I actually was refused a review of my book when the person learned it was being published by a POD publisher. (This person has also written against POD publishing.)

My hubby asked why I wanted to do this and I said, "For the experience." His reply was: "This experience is costing you money." He also said that if I have to pay to get published, then they're not a real publisher. (Well, technically, they're not a "publisher" but they ARE in charge of turning my manuscript into a book!)

This reputation has seeped into the pre-ordering details and sales availability of the books published by POD publishers. I've heard of many occasions in which a POD author could not get their book into a bookstore, like Borders. I'm told it can be special ordered, but I can't even special order a book the POD publisher I'm going with has published.

Still, the discrimination is still there. Looks like this kind of publishing is in the mirority and is being treated as such.

veingloree
08-20-2004, 04:30 PM
I can understand reviewers balking at titles from the 'take all comers' sort of publishers -- if not POD per. se. The books I have bought from this sort of outfit have been: 4=awful, 1=quite good but needed copy-editing. I guess you need to play up angles that show it is a quality book?

As for not getting them into stores, that's simply because most POD vanity outfits don't take returns -- almost no bookstore accepts anything but a 'sale or return' deal. You could buy copyus and offer them to local stores on that basis, but in that case you may as well go for a cheaper print-run based supplier I suppose....

maestrowork
08-20-2004, 09:06 PM
I think part of the problem with POD is also their business model (vs. just the technology... digital printing and POD have been used by major houses as well) and the cost factor. Why pay someone hundreds and maybe even thousands -- then more for the POD printing with no distribution (at least not in-store) when you can do the same thing yourself for $$ cheaper. POD's cost is prohibitive and only makes sense for very small runs (less than 500).

POD does attract writers who lack the business know-how of self-publishing. Most writers are just writers -- they are not business savvy. And POD/vanity fills that need for them to get something personal published.

Greenwolf103
08-21-2004, 05:28 AM
I didn't decide to go with POD to get a book published for personal reasons. I just wanted to try it, you know? The company I'm going with charged less than $300 and they've got a lot of authors who have gone on to other successes.

I was in a position to send this book to a traditional press, but decided not to. Certain reasons played a role in my making this decision.

The co-owner is a writer's advocate and she's written about how to get your POD book into a bookstore. I know another POD author and she's offered some tips on that, too.

I have had some favorable pre-publication reviews of this book, so I'm guessing (hoping) it's not of poor quality. At least my other ones won't go through the same company.

Still, this isn't enough to break down the bad reputation that POD publishing gets. Which means you really, REALLY need to put in some legwork to promote/sell your book if you do go through a POD.

maestrowork
08-22-2004, 01:15 PM
Let us know how it works out for you, especially on marketing and distribution which usually is a problem against POD (many bookstores don't want to carry POD books).

I think if done well, POD is a very viable solution. However, there's still a lot of bad stigma about POD/vanity (the lack of quality control and legit reviews) that authors need to overcome.

I'd be very interested in hearing your experience!

Greenwolf103
08-22-2004, 11:30 PM
Thank you, maestro. I will share that experience. Er, when I have some to share! :grin

bfdc
09-17-2004, 08:04 PM
Seems to me that this conversation is confusing vanity publishing business models with print-on-demand manufacturing models. It's apples and oranges.

Print On Demand (POD) is a way of manufacturing a book, not a business model. The actual quality of the book is dependent not only on the print quality, but the expertise of the binder. Doesn't have to be POD to look like trash. And let's not forget the cover art and editing when the quality of the book is figured.

Whether it's manufactured by POD, offset press, or copied by monks, if you pay to have the book printed, it's vanity publishing.

As for the return policy, I really don't know how that's connected with POD alone when it seems that that is a product of the publisher's business model. My publisher, Archebooks Publishing, has a detailed return policy for all its books, whether POD or offset--and Barnes and Noble stores are one of their biggest distribution links, as well as amazon.com and B&N online.

Bob/bfdc

veingloree
09-17-2004, 08:07 PM
Yes, indeed. But it may be a confusion that is beyond unconfusing. there are still probalems with both POD and vanity that are confounded further by adding them together. i.e. POD is more expensive + vanity is harder to distribute = POD/vanity outfits are generally a disaster waiting to happen to the budding writer.

Greenwolf103
09-17-2004, 08:34 PM
bfdc said:


if you pay to have the book printed, it's vanity publishing.

Not exactly. Keep in mind the self-publisher.

veingloree
09-17-2004, 09:04 PM
Hmmm. Vanity publishing encompassing self-publishing, I think.

CaoPaux
09-17-2004, 11:26 PM
Maybe this will help:

sfwa.org/beware/subsidypublishers.html (http://sfwa.org/beware/subsidypublishers.html)

sfwa.org/beware/printondemand.html (http://sfwa.org/beware/printondemand.html)

Morris
10-11-2004, 05:24 AM
There's still a great deal of confusion about using Print on Demand to self publish (become a publisher) and paying somebody a fee to act as a publisher for you. It turns out that the majority of POD books that actually get into circulation in the US and UK are printed by Lightning Source, because of their distribution tie-in with Ingram and the fact that both Amazon and B&N will order books direct from them, and even on a short discount. This make it a genuine business model for small publishers and self-publishers with niche titles they that can sell a couple thousand copies a year. When I decided to investigate POD instead of sticking with McGraw-Hill, I bought and ISBN block ($225) and set up as a publisher with Lightning Source. The economics are explained in an excerpt at:

http://www.fonerbooks.com/pod.htm

On books with a cover price of $14.95, I end up netting over $7.50. Compare that with working as a trade author and maybe netting a dollar if you got a good contract. It's not a perfect system, I find it works best when combined with Internet marketing, but there's almost no upfront cost, and your books will usually be available for special order through and bricks-and-mortar store, plus reasonable shipping times online. Oddly enough, I'm writing this at a moment when one of my titles (the one about print-on-demand:-) is on special order at Amazon, but that's a temporary glitch, and it's 2-3 days on BN.com as usual. The other issue is quality of photographs, but if you stick to text and line drawings, it's surprisingly good. I've sold over 5,000 POD books by this point and I've only had one customer complaint about quality.

Morris

skylarburris
11-07-2004, 04:09 AM
POD--of the variety where you pay a set-up fee for the publication of your book--is indeed vanity publishing, but it is, for many of us, a less expensive alternative to self-publishing. When you can't afford the expensive risk of self-publishing, you can get your book out there through POD.

If you choose a reasonable POD, you pay only a small set-up charge. You don't have to obtain your own ISBN, you don't have to distribute your books yourself, you don't have to collect sales and taxes, you don't have to ship. A lot easier than self-publishing! You don't have complete ownership, but you get better royalties than you do through traditional publishing. (Of course, you sell fewer copies because you don't have a publisher with a vested interest marketing your book; so you make less overall.) But if your work isn't being picked up by a self publisher, and you know you have an audience for it, vanity POD may work for you.

I published my novel, Conviction: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, through a vanity POD earlier this year. When I get my next royalty check, due any day now, I will have already made back my up-front cost plus an additional $100, and I will continue to receive a 50 percent royalty on net receipts as the book continues to sell. For me, this has been a good investment, and I'm glad I did it. However, my book is published under an imprint that has published a lot of very poor books--because almost anyone can get published by a vanity POD (in some cases--anyone; with the press I chose, there is some selection--so only "virtually anyone").

No, people won't generally review vanity POD books, and I can understand that. Most of those books are...well...crap. Reviewers don't want to waste their time on a gamble. And bricks and mortar stores won't carry them because there are no returns. Again, understandable. If you choose to publish via a vanity POD, then expect that your book will only be available through online retailers.

I am a little perturbed that Amazon.com suddenly says my book is out of stock and that there will be an additional $1.99 charge to order it. POD books should never go out of stock--they're print on demand after all! I've never seen this message before. I hope, as a previous poster said, that this is just a glitch.

skylarburris
11-22-2004, 03:31 AM
But if your work isn't being picked up by a self publisher

I meant to say TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER there.

The Amazon issue has been resolved for me.

I am satisfied with my POD experience so far, but I suppose if I had not made a profit and were not still selling, I might not be!

writersblock
04-16-2005, 06:32 PM
This will probably sound stupid, but could someone tell me what the difference is between POD and self-publishing. These terms are often used in the same breath, or so it seems.
:Headbang:

Richard
04-16-2005, 06:52 PM
With traditional self-publishing, you pre-order x number of books in the hope that you'll make your money back. With POD, your printer runs one off as and when someone places an order.

veinglory
04-16-2005, 06:59 PM
A small press can also use POD technology and not be vanity or self-pub. It is just a machine that can make you one book when you need it rather than 100s in one go. POD is more expensive but more flexible for small runs.

maestrowork
04-16-2005, 07:17 PM
POD is a technology. Self-publisher could use POD or offset -- whatever will save him more money and make the most profit.

I think people confuse POD with vanity, because most vanity/subsidary publishers use the POD technology because they don't "warehouse" the books -- they're truly print on command. The difference between vanity and self-publishing can be found elsewhere in this forum.

writersblock
04-16-2005, 10:00 PM
If you POD with a company such as Lightning Source, which seems to have good distribution channels, wouldn't it be easier to get the interest of brick-and-mortar bookstores likes Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc? A publicist told me that a big problem with PODs / self-published books is that they're not widely distributed, so that book sellers don't have easy and fast access to them. Sorry if all my posts sound babe-in-the-woods stupid; I am new at this so my learning curve is sky-high.

Richard
04-16-2005, 10:17 PM
Not really. It doesn't give them any reason to buy your book over any of the others fighting for limited shelf-space. As long as you have an ISBN, anyone can ORDER a copy of your book, but that's not the same thing - it's why all the vanity presses can say 'available' rather than 'shelved'.

POD as a self-publishing business model usually falls down because it's much more expensive (per book) to print them up individually than to order a cratefull of them in one go, the actual quality of the book itself is usually nowhere near as good as a professionally done paperback, there's rarely any way for the bookstore to return them and get their cash back, nobody really trumpeting them to the stores and the rest of your audience (the author doesn't count in that respect - that particular struggle is behind the scenes, which is why you get a lot of new writers thinking that the publisher doesn't do anything for them that they couldn't do themselves) and so on.

writersblock
04-16-2005, 11:04 PM
If shelf space is so limited, how do traditional small andr independent publishers elbow their way in? I assume industry biggies take up most shelf space.
I was seriously considering POD-ing with Lightning Source, it looked good for a while, but now, after reading all the posts, I really don't know what to do (sigh!) :cry:

soloset
04-18-2005, 05:51 AM
Maybe this will help:

sfwa.org/beware/subsidypublishers.html (http://sfwa.org/beware/subsidypublishers.html)

sfwa.org/beware/printondemand.html (http://sfwa.org/beware/printondemand.html)

Thanks! These links make it very very clear.

Ralyks
04-20-2005, 06:15 AM
POD as a self-publishing business model usually falls down because it's much more expensive (per book) to print them up individually than to order a cratefull of them in one go

More expensive for the reader, yes, but not more expensive for the self-publishing author. The self-publishing author who uses POD doesn't have to outlay thousands of dollars for books he or she will warehouse and may or may not be able to sell; the book is printed and sold through the vanity publisher only when there is an actual known order. For the self-publishing author, POD amounts to less of a financial risk, particularly if set up fees are low or (in the case of Lulu) nonexistent. It also means much less work (since the publisher takes and ships all orders.) The flipside is that, because the book IS more expensive for the reader, sales are discouraged, which leads to lower profits than the author would have had if he had correctly estimated the number of books to print, pre-printed them with a printer, and then sold them all. But authors don't know if they will be able to sell their entire run, and thus some authors are willing to trade off potentially higher profits in exchange for a lower risk and less work.

Richard
04-20-2005, 10:55 AM
The self-publishing author who uses POD doesn't have to outlay thousands of dollars for books he or she will warehouse and may or may not be able to sell;

Well...yes. That's basically the point. However, it doesn't stop a lot of POD printers from charging insane setup charges, which can be thousands, to convert a DOC file into a PDF and go to all the immense effort of copying the file onto a server.

maestrowork
04-20-2005, 06:17 PM
But there lies the rub -- there's always a catch.

Because POD is so easy and it doesn't require a lot of cash up front (anyone can go to Lulu and print a few books...) it becomes synonymous to "lack of quality." With traditional houses, you have the highest quality control. Then you have the self-publishers who use offset printing. Does it mean their books are better? Not really, but there's a preception that since they are willing to risk it all and dump $thousands in the production and promotion of the books, they must at least be serious about it. We are willing to think that they've gone through the whole thing with book design, editing (perhaps even using a professional editor since they can pay for it), layout, etc. etc. The person who can do self-publishing tends to be smarter and more determined and well, financially more capable.

With POD, the idea is that anyone who can open up a Word processor can do it. It doesn't matter if it's Stephen King who is doing it, or grandma Gertrude at a nursing home who's doing it. And when it's so easy, there are literally tens of thousands of these POD books out there without any types of quality control.

For an aspiring author, POD is great. But for a consumer, POD is a big risk. They'll be dumping $20 on a paperback and chances are the book might be real crap (Atlanta Nights, anyone?)

So if you think as a reader instead of a writer, you may start to realize why POD can be problem...

FAB
04-20-2005, 09:53 PM
POD has a bad rap because their are those vanity publishers that have gone out and published everything given to them with $X.00. And, it is true that POD is a method of printing, not a publishing option.

But, on the positive side of POD...they provide the author with more freedom on the final product. Traditional publishers insist on changes to meet their standards and ideas for books. That is all well because, in all reality, they have the sales to back their demands. Yet, if an author truly believes in the freedom to present their story in their way, then POD maybe the better option.

Not all is good, but not all is bad for POD.

GHF65
04-29-2005, 08:54 PM
If you don't mind, I'd like to share a bit here. I'm a POD author. I'd be thoroughly disgusted with my decision to go POD if it weren't for the fact that my purpose in putting the book together was two-fold:

Fold one--I needed an activity to keep me sane and immobile while I recovered from eye surgery.

Fold two--I had a year's worth of both published and unpublished essays left over from a newspaper column and wanted to see if anyone would buy a compilation of them before I wrote any more.

Both purposes were served.

The stuff of which the book was made had already paid for itself, so I didn't need to make a profit. Breaking even would have been nice. I had several platforms from which to market it, so this was a fairly interesting experiment. I went with iUniverse because PC Magazine ranked them number 1. They were also, at that time, running a special, so they were cheap. That is no longer the case. They do give the most bang for the buck, but the buck is now in the $800 neighborhood, which is very high for most first-timers and writers who only want to see their names on the cover of something that someone else might also see.

If you don't care how many copies you sell, POD is an okay way to go. I don't agree that authors get more freedom on the final product, Frederick. I submitted the cover art I wanted, and they didn't use it. I got a stock photo cover instead with no explanation for the change. I had to meet their standards for all of the formatting, from font and font size to layout. They didn't make editorial changes, but they also didn't correct their own formatting error that turned up in the back cover copy. Still, they did a better job than some of the companies my friends chose to try. I was not unhappy with the result.

Non-POD, non-subsidy vanity presses publish your book. Period. This is true self-publishing, and can be fine if you have a platform from which to hawk your ware. Many famous people have self-published, even creating their own imprints (horse trainer John Lyons is a perfect example). You pay the cost of printing X number of copies, and you get the books to warehouse in your garage. On the down side, I know of at least one fellow who spend nearly $20,000 filling his garage with hardbound copies of his self-published, very questionable book. There is no quality control in self-publishing. This fellow drove friends and family (and total strangers) nuts with his book ("The BOOK") and wound up divorced when he decided to try publishing a second book in the same manner.

The reality is that even mainstream publishers expect writers to participate in marketing their books. The reality is that marketing is often embarrassing and demoralizing. The reality is that POD books are still often not accepted by booksellers unless the author already has a "name". Some public libraries won't even accept them as donations! They have an ISBN, but are not in the Library of Congress, so public libraries are hesitant to put them on the shelves.

But, there's another reality. I enjoy seeing articles about me in the local paper, and many of my friends and acquaintances have read my book. Very, VERY few have bought it. Autographed copies make great, cheap gifts. If I wanted to make money, this would not be the way to do so. My small niche audience is far smaller than I suspected.

iUniverse puts your book online. This is a double-edged blade. People can read it for free, which cuts into your meager profits. On the other hand, one of the people who read mine was a translator in Finland who loved it, contacted me, and bought the Finnish rights to it. I may yet make back my initial investment.

I am my own biggest market, having purchased more that 2/3 of all of the copies sold to date.

What to do? Whatever makes sense to you. With any POD publisher other than PublishAmerica, you have a shot-term contract which can be escaped at any time if you find a mainstream publisher to take your book, so you're not locked in, and you do wind up with a book you can send to contests and resellers (and friends and family). In my humble opinion, it's really a very personal decision that needs to be made with all the facts at hand and without concern for how anyone else will view the outcome.

There's a great article in last Sunday's (4/24/2005) New York Times book review section on this subject. If I can find the link, I'll post it. It's worth the read whether you're ready to self-publish or just wondering what it's all about.

James D. Macdonald
05-01-2005, 09:55 PM
Here's the New York Times link. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/books/review/24GLAZERL.html?pagewanted=1&8)

Not a darned thing wrong with any kind of publishing you care to do, provided two conditions obtain:

1) You have to know what your objective is, and
2) You have to have a way to know if you've achieved it.

GHF65
05-01-2005, 10:15 PM
Thanks for posting the link, James.

2baware
05-06-2005, 12:01 AM
I'm curious as to whether or not people here are willing to give advice. I have four finished novels, and I'm 80% done with a fifth. The first one was published two years ago with Publish America, which was okay, but not at all a satisfying experience (their "proofreader" added so many grammatical and punctuation errors that I had to go back and proofread all over again). I've written to and heard back from many agents who either aren't looking for anyone or not looking for what I'm writing. Typical turnaround time: three weeks to two months. My Ph.D. seems to indicate that I'm somewhat intelligent, but I've been scammed by two "agencies"--Karen Carr and ST Literary. I hooked up with both of them very early in their games, so there wasn't much documentation out there for me to find what they were doing wrong. And the last agent that wrote me back compared my plotline to some Japanese Anime cartoon that isn't anything close to the plot of my novel, leaving me to wonder what this person had been smoking or drinking before reading my plot summary and/or writing the response to me.

All that said, I'm considering going with BookSurge to at least get the second novel "out there" (whatever that means). But I just read a seemingly good article by a woman who knocks POD's for many reasons in favor of self-publishing--I was all set to believe her until I saw that her article was a featured page on booksjustbooks.com, a self-publishing company that would stand to gain a lot from people following her advice to self-publish.

Is POD really that bad? I know that I don't like their high cover prices--my first one with PA was $21.95 for a previously unpublished author's first novel. But at least with them I didn't have to pay them anything. Is self-publishing really that good of an alternative? I'm a writer, but I truly suck as a marketer, and I can't afford to pay someone to market a self-published book for me. I know that there are many of us in the same boat, but this boat doesn't seem to have any pleasant ports in view. Our options seem to be limited to dealing with self-serving people who want to make a profit off of us, but not necessarily for us.

I'm hoping that someone out there will have had some sort of very positive experience that hasn't broken the bank and that has led to a book being published of decent quality. If that's you, perhaps you could tell me how you did it so that I can emulate your experience. I'd appreciate any feedback I might get. . . .

Richard
05-06-2005, 12:52 AM
POD is self-publishing - just self-publishing where you don't pay out a fortune before not selling (and if anyone asks, tell them to stick it - Lulu is just one place that won't charge you a bean, and you'll get the same service/lack of same). However, here's the sad truth: if you suck as a marketer, you're going to fail. Period. You're the only one that's going to be promoting yourself, and even if you're really really good, it's probably not going to work. Non-fiction can often do it thanks to niche interest, but fiction readers are already drowning in books - even if you can get their attention, it'll be like selling water to a drowning man in an Eskimo snow shop.

Obvious question - you say you've tried agents. How about the small presses?

MacAllister
05-06-2005, 01:00 AM
I'm curious as to whether or not people here are willing to give advice. Oh, heck yeah! Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it indifferent...Seriously, there are a number of professional writers-of-fiction posting here at AW...I'm not one of them, but I'll give you a summary of what I've learned from Jim Macdonald and others, here.


I have four finished novels, and I'm 80% done with a fifth.
Go, you! That's terrific! I'm still finishing my first, and find myself paralyzed with fear regarding what comes after I write "The End" on the final revision...


The first one was published two years ago with Publish America, which was okay, but not at all a satisfying experience (their "proofreader" added so many grammatical and punctuation errors that I had to go back and proofread all over again). Yeah--you might be surprised by how many folks say the same thing. If you haven't found the NeverEnding PA Thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=185606#post185606), and would like a place to commiserate, vent, and so on--I've put in a link for you. It'll provide hours of wholesome entertainment. <g>

If that isn't your cup of tea, then there are a ton of other good writing discussions (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/) going on, too. :)



I've written to and heard back from many agents who either aren't looking for anyone or not looking for what I'm writing. Typical turnaround time: three weeks to two months.Heh--I think that's what agents do. Not that I know firsthand, you understand--but the stories I've heard...

Actually, one writer on this board got an agent after something like 60 submissions and rejections. And from the stories I've heard, that isn't all that uncommon. This is where that PhD comes in handy: research, research, research...which agent is right, which publisher, etc.


My Ph.D. seems to indicate that I'm somewhat intelligent, but I've been scammed by two "agencies"--Karen Carr and ST Literary. I hooked up with both of them very early in their games, so there wasn't much documentation out there for me to find what they were doing wrong. Look--these people are professional con artists. They're good at it. They fleece smart people ever day. So don't feel bad. It happened to lots of other intelligent, decent, kind human beings. You're in good company.


All that said, I'm considering going with BookSurge to at least get the second novel "out there" (whatever that means). But I just read a seemingly good article by a woman who knocks POD's for many reasons in favor of self-publishing--I was all set to believe her until I saw that her article was a featured page on booksjustbooks.com, a self-publishing company that would stand to gain a lot from people following her advice to self-publish.
This is where we really need Jim, or Hapi, or someone who has the credentials to actually answer this with some authority. And I've seen the same question answered numerous times all over the board. My take on it is this: depends on what you mean by "out there." If what you mean is that you want to reach a ton of readers, then no. A regular publisher is really the only way to go: essentially, because getting your book "out there" is about having a network in place for distribution. Without that, then it isn't likely to happen.

There are apocryphal stories about now-bestselling authors who supposedly self-published, to begin with...But most of those stories are misleading, at best; at worst, just plain false.


Is POD really that bad? I know that I don't like their high cover prices--my first one with PA was $21.95 for a previously unpublished author's first novel. ohhhh--okay, this is a whole can of worms. *sigh* PA has a terrible reputation for double-talk, and as a result, some of the vocabulary isn't quite going to translate.

If by POD you mean the technology, digital printing, then no. It's just a technology. Nothing wrong with it at all--in fact, it can be pretty darned effective, and economical for printing one or two books at a time--moreso than offest printing.

If you mean print-on-demand as a business model, it depends. Amazon just bought a POD company that they hope to use to print one-at-a-time copies of out-of-print books. Not sure how they plan to handle the rights, but it's kind of a cool idea, really.

Unless your book is a specialty, niche sort of book--with a built-in market--self-publishing likely isn't for you. Sorry.

BUT the good news is, should you decide to go the route of self-pubbing, there is a room here at AW (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) where you can discuss and research how to go about it, where the good deals are, etc. (You've already found it, or you wouldn't be here, eh? :) )

There are many options other than PA. Cafepress, Lulu.com, Booklocker....etc. They don't take the rights for the next seven years, either. You can do what you darn well please, with your own book. Essentially, you become your own publisher.


But at least with them I didn't have to pay them anything. Is self-publishing really that good of an alternative? Uh-huh, but how many copies of your own book did you buy? Or did your family and friends buy? On average, all PA has to sell is around 50-75 copies of any given book to make a handsome profit.

But we don't hafta go there, if you'd rather discuss other stuff. :)


I'm a writer, but I truly suck as a marketer, and I can't afford to pay someone to market a self-published book for me. I know that there are many of us in the same boat, but this boat doesn't seem to have any pleasant ports in view. Our options seem to be limited to dealing with self-serving people who want to make a profit off of us, but not necessarily for us. Or else just publishing the regular, old-fashioned way. :)

I don't mean to sound flip--but it really DOES sound rather as if that's going to be your most desirable route. And believe me, I do know it's easier said than done--but it IS done by unknown authors, every day. A friend of mine on this board just landed a six-book hardback contract with St. Martin's Press, on the strength of the first novel, submitted through an agent.

Another friend on this board went the direct submission route, and is currently in production with a small press. His book will be out in late summer.

It CAN be done.


But above all, when navigating the literary waters, remember Yog's Law (http://www.sff.net/people/yog/): Money Flows Toward's the Writer.

And welcome to AW!

maestrowork
05-06-2005, 01:35 AM
There are many roads to success. Unfortunately, self-pub or vanity is the hardest one, almost ALWAYS fails. If you just want to have your book printed so a a few friends and family members and maybe an occasional person on the street would buy it, then something Lulu might be your best choice. Or you can self-pub but you will have to be willing to work your a*s off to market it, etc. to be worth your time and money. And fiction is difficult to sell if you self-pub.

Don't give up until you have exhausted all possibilities. I have heard that Tom Clancy got over 100 rejections before a press picked him up...

If you give up or go with just anyone (can we say PA fast enough?) you're gonna lose. You spend so much time and effort in writing your book, you should spend at least that much time and effort finding it the right home. Again, don't give up so easily.

Medievalist
05-06-2005, 04:21 AM
Is POD really that bad?

No, depending on what you want for you and for your book. Keep in mind that POD or print on demand is a business model (http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/publishing.htm) that simply means books don't get printed until they are ordered. Most PODs use digital printing, a printing technology that allows almost any digital file to become a book. The quality of the book in part depends on the quality of the file, in terms of how well it's written, edited, and typeset. PA is essentially a dishonest vanity publisher; they don't produce quality books, even if the writing is solid.

You could properly prepare the digital file, possibly even hiring someone to design and typeset your book, and then go to either your local printer or Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com) to physically print and distribute your book. It won't end up on many (possibly any) bookshelves or in libraries that way, any more than a PA book would, but you have control over the quality of the book, the rights, and to some extent, the pricing, though it will still be higher than a mass market paperback.

But if I were you I'd try the conventional route a bit longer. There's some really good advice on agents (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html) and here's more about everything you wanted to know about getting an agent (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/01/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about.asp), from Teresa Niesen Hayden (TNH), Tor editor and generally all around sharp person, and Neil Gaiman, who's none too shabby a writer. You might also want to peruse TNH's excellent Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html#40616) on slush piles, what's in them, and how to avoid being in one. Lots of good practical advice, and do read the comments as well.

And in the meantime, take a look at some of the boards at Absolute Write; some of the smartest, most useful things I've ever seen about writing are in Learn Writing with Uncle Jim (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6710).

2baware
05-06-2005, 06:06 PM
I just want to say thanks for the thoughtful replies to my post of yesterday. Right now I'm not in the giving up mode--if I were I wouldn't be working on number five--but I do feel like I'm stuck in the middle of the forest with no compass, no map, and not even any stars to navigate by. I've read tons of stuff on getting an agent, on writing queries, on how to interest small publishers, but when all is said and done, even the agents who say they're looking for clients write back and say that they can't take on anyone else. If they don't like my novel, I'd rather hear that, but it's hard to tell.

Then I go to something like the Elderberry Press website that's well organized, well presented, and seemingly on the up-and-up, only to find out through a Google search that they really aren't (http://www.foxacre.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=50&sid=2102f90364e1950a3df9a934e4714f1b). I believe one of my greatest frustrations is now having the feeling that I have to research EVERY publisher and agent before even considering sending my stuff to them.

Aaargh! (Used to be the title of a great comic book, by the way!)

In any case, thanks again, and thanks for the advice in other directions--I will take it. I think that I'm going to spend a few weeks now researching small publishers and preparing a packet for them. And then actually sending the packet. . . . Good luck to all!

MacAllister
05-06-2005, 09:45 PM
2baware--Good Lord--I'd HOPE you weren't going to give up! You've put an awful lot of words to paper, just to walk away. So I'm glad to hear that you're still determined.

Meanwhile, if we can be of help at all--please don't hesitate to ask. :) And in the meantime, take a look around, and meet some of the folks here.

Best of luck to you!

MadScientistMatt
05-11-2005, 06:48 AM
2baware,

You might want to research the publishing from the other way around. Instead of finding a publisher and seeing if they're on the up-and-up, go to the nearest bookstore and round up a handful of books like yours. Then check inside to see who published them. On a few occasions you may get something from a vanity press with a very determined local author, but if they're getting their books into stores, you can be pretty certain it is a legitimate commercial publisher. That's what commercial publishers do.

wallmell
06-04-2005, 11:23 AM
I have a suggestion for author's who have concerns about POD. I would recommend using Lightning Source, Inc and do so as your own publisher. You have total control over everything. You can buy the books at cost to market however you like and where ever you like. You can approach bookstores and be very active and aggressive in marketing your books. No one will be as passionate about your book as you are.

Think about it. I'm reading how you all have concerns about POD and what they will do for you. Take the initiative. Its simple to be your own publisher using POD. Come up with a publishing name and get started.

I myself am not an author, but I reprint old Catholic books and I wholesale and retail them myself. My last 2 titles are printed at Lightning Source, Inc. and I am happy thus far with the arrangements.

I hope this helps someone. God Bless! In Christ, Mel Waller

Richard
06-04-2005, 01:45 PM
If you think it's going to sell off your own effort, you're going to get the books far, far cheaper if you just buy a batch rather than getting them individually produced, POD style.

Cathy C
06-09-2005, 03:35 AM
Hi, Guys!


I have very little to add to this discussion that hasn't already been addressed, but I will mention a couple of things (:ROFL: added later when I read what I finally wrote!)

If you're going to self-publish or use a subsidy press (I really don't like the term "vanity." Of COURSE it's vain to want to see your book in print. We ALL want to see our books in print, regardless of the publisher!), you need to do it NOW! Come 2007, the world as self-pubs know it is going to come to a drastic, grinding halt. Because that's then the brand sparkling new EAN/UCC-13 number becomes the standard in the United States. ISBN numbers will NOT be sold in blocks to anyone who asks. Even the big pubs will be forced to get smaller groups and give good reason (like authors on the list) to get them.

If you want to know more about it, I could post an article I wrote about the new regs. They technically went into effect on January 1, 2005, but publishers have until 2007 to fully comply.

Now, as for self-publishing vs. vanity vs. POD, they're all different. As several people have stated, POD is a PROCESS OF PRINTING, not a type of publisher. Unfortunately, it has turned what used to be a very good thing -- subsidy publishing -- into a four letter word. See, here's what a subsidy press used to be, before digital presses came into being. There were originally three types of publishers: Large press, small press and subsidy. Everybody looked fondly on subsidy presses, because they were small press wannabes. They were start-up companies that didn't have the capital to own their own press. So, they would contract with the author to each pay half of a small press run (usually 2,500 books, which is pretty much the minimum necessary to pay to fire up an offset press). They would warehouse the books, and distribute them just like any other publisher in the world. When enough books were sold to pay back the author for his investment, they would move to a standard royalty situation.

But what happened with POD technology is that it removed the need, and the desire of some publishers to participate financially in the production of the book! So, if the publisher has no financial interest in printing and warehousing the book, then who pays? Well, for some companies -- the author pays for the set-up fee to the printer (you don't really believe that these companies have their own machine, do you?! Heck no! That would be a financial investment! They're running your book down to the commercial version of Kinkos!)

In the more modern twist, the author doesn't pay, either. No, it's the READER who pays to print the book. But that turns a $10 book into a $20 book, because each and every time a book is printed, a new set-up fee is paid. If it's not $800 up front to load it and save it in digital memory, then it's $8 for each book to pull the disk from a stack of other similar disks and feed it into the press. (Again, you didn't really believe that there was enough ram on a digital press to hold the entire file for 50,000 books, did you?!)

So, you have to look to the reality of POD. SOMEONE has to pay to print the book. Who do you want it to be? The publisher -- who will have incentive to get the book sold? You -- who will have incentive to get the book sold? Or the reader -- who has ZERO incentive to get the book sold? The reader only knows how much money is in their wallet, and if it's not enough to buy the book, or if the book isn't AMAZINGLY UNIQUE, then you're in trouble.

There are your choices. Choose wisely!

brinkett
06-09-2005, 05:29 AM
If you want to know more about it, I could post an article I wrote about the new regs. They technically went into effect on January 1, 2005, but publishers have until 2007 to fully comply.

Cathy, I'd like to read your article. :)

Cathy C
06-09-2005, 08:43 PM
Happy to oblige, brinkett! This article is the second in a two part about ISBN numbers. The first article explains WHAT an ISBN number is and how to read it. So, rather than edit the whole thing, just ignore the parts that refer to the previous article, or drop by my website to read it. :)

***************


THE FUTURE OF ISBN NUMBERS


Last week, we discussed what ISBN numbers are and how they came to be developed. The system has served the publishing industry well over the years. But even a good system can be improved. Beginning January 1, 2005, the ISBN number will begin to transition to an EAN/UCC-13 number. First, let's talk a little about the EAN/UCC system.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

In 1974, twelve members of the European community decided to establish their own system of book numbering, similar to the UPC (Uniform Product Code) number that appears in the barcode of items sold in the United States. As a result of a number of meetings, a UPC compatible system was created, known as the European Article Numbering system, or EAN. The Uniform Code Council, or UCC (not to be confused with the United States Uniform Commercial Code, which is also known by the acronym of UCC) was established to co-manage the system along with the member countries. The two later merged and changed the agency name to "EAN International". There are presently 103 member countries of EAN International.

WHY A CHANGE WAS NEEDED

What is causing the transition from the familiar ISBN to the EAN/UCC-13 number? Two reasons:

1. Limited supply of numbers. As originally envisioned, the ISBN system allowed for one billion possible combinations of numbers to assign to books. But new kinds of publishing since the late 1980s have literally flooded the market with books. In reality, like the U.S. telephone area code issue several years ago, the end is in sight. While the system was not yet out of numbers, in a few years time, it might have been. The global bookselling industry decided to acknowledge the inevitable and transition the system before a lack of numbers started to strangle the market.

2. Global Marketing Partners. Overseas publishing partners have always existed. However, it was always a struggle for international booksellers, like Amazon, Indigo and Barnes & Noble to identify American books for sale in foreign markets, and vice-versa. For a number of years now, bar codes on American offerings have identified only the ISBN and price. However, Canadian, Central American and European books have TWO barcodes -- one for American sales, and one with EAN/UCC information, which includes more information about the book. Combining the two systems will allow for easier overseas marketing of mass market and e-books.

HOW WILL THE NEW 13-DIGIT NUMBER WORK?

Beginning on January 1, 2005 and continuing on until January 1, 2007, existing ISBNs will simply have the prefix 978 added. This number has been assigned as a transitional number until the new system is fully up and running. So, if you have an ISBN of: 0-765-34913-2, the new EAN/UCC-13 number will appear as: 978-0-765-34913-2. A publisher who has been assigned a block of ISBN numbers should continue to use those numbers until exhausted, but prefix them with the 978. This allows the already-established "check digit" explained the earlier article to continue in use. However, after January 1, 2007, new ISBNs issued will carry a 979 prefix and all ten-digit numbers will be discontinued. The addition of the additional prefix numbers will provide just slightly less than one billion new number combinations. However, blocks of numbers will be more frugally issued to make them last longer so we don't have to do this all over again in another 30 years. Publishers won't be able to obtain hundreds or thousands of numbers in the future. Instead, they will be issued in smaller blocks, but more frequently. Of course, this will also lead to new criteria for allocation of publisher and group prefixes. To date, there are no anticipated differences for POD or electronic books. They will all carry the 978 prefix just as hardback, trade or paperback offerings will.

The 13-digit number will be commonly known as the Bookland EAN or ISBN-13. Why "Bookland?" Again, two reasons: first, the prefix 978 and 979 will identify the product as a "book." Second, the black lines and bars that appear on the back of books are known as Bookland bar code symbols. Although the bar code LOOKS the same as bar codes for other kinds of products used by retailers, the numbering system used to generate the bar code is different. The EAN for normal retail products is a 13 digit number which uniquely identifies that product, down to the size, color and shape of an item. However, a book already HAS a unique number to identify it, the ISBN. The EAN bar code for a book is generated from the ISBN for the book.

In September of 2003, the Book Industry Study Group, or BISG, adopted a policy statement which called for the Bookland EAN to be the sole bar code used for books and book-related products, effective January 1, 2005. The largest issue with this decision is forcing retailers to obtain compatible machine code-reading equipment. Many larger retailers have already taken the plunge. For example, Wal-Mart has already installed 13-digit compatible equipment in all of their American stories. Smaller stores will have until January 1, 2007 to comply, but most will probably transition earlier, simply because they soon won't be able to sell ISBN-13 marked products. It's in their best interests to "go with the flow."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE SELF-PUBLISHED AND SMALL PRESS PUBLISHERS?

For the time being, the transition to the 13-digit system is useful information, but not a reason to panic. However, publishers should submit new offerings to Books In Print in the new format. Several software companies are already starting to market software kits that will transition to the 13-digit number and produce a bar code. However, nobody is required to comply with converting numbers until January 1, 2007. But it would be wise for those with blocks of numbers to check out R.R. Bowker's website for the link "Transition to 13-digit ISBN" with answers to FAQs, at http://www.isbn.org (http://www.isbn.org/), and you might search for "ISBN 13 & software" on search engines.

*************
Hope that helps! :D
Cathy

GHF65
06-09-2005, 10:12 PM
Cathy, you have just set my little brain a-whirling! My first reaction was to send your article to a friend who recently made all the arrangements to start her own vanity press. She bought a block of numbers. It could easily be 2007 before she reaches full-speed, and she may be in for a rude awakening!

Excellent article. I'll be by the website to read the first.

Joanne

Cathy C
06-09-2005, 10:35 PM
Anyone is more than welcome to forward the article, as long as it's sent in its entirety and I'm credited as the author! :D I'm Cathy Clamp, BTW.

Good luck to your friend! :)

(BTW, Schoolmarm -- I'm also east of Eden. Eden, TX, that is... :ROFL: )

brinkett
06-09-2005, 10:40 PM
Thanks, Cathy. You said there will be new criteria for allocation of publisher prefixes. Will it be more difficult for DIYers to obtain an ISBN-13?

Cathy C
06-09-2005, 11:32 PM
:Shrug: I don't know that they've thought that far ahead (or at least, if they have, they haven't shared). I found mention in several articles that the blocks to ALL publishers will be smaller, so the NY pubs won't be able to buy thousands at a time anymore. That MIGHT mean that small blocks will be MORE available, or that they're going to limit new pubs to only a few. I think it's a "time will tell" situation.