PDA

View Full Version : Is there a downside?



Heath
01-08-2008, 05:22 AM
Is there a downside to doing POD while at the same time courting an agent?

I have a number of people wanting to read my book "when it's published," and I thought, why not just publish it by POD and keep looking for an agent. It would be out there, I could test the waters to some degree, and still proceed as I'm going.

Is there a downside to that strategy? I realize the book is already "out there," but I wouldn't be mentioning it to the agent unless it came up, and I would pull it off POD once I get represented.

veinglory
01-08-2008, 05:25 AM
You will have used first publication rights which is what most publishers want. And some agents are disdainful of self-publishing and won't even look at a self-POD book. Those would be the down sides, I should think.

Heath
01-08-2008, 05:53 AM
I suppose First Rights is an issue if they make it an issue, but from what I've read, it shouldn't be...at least for novels. So what if a few hundred copies have been printed already as long as the POD can be withdrawn/canceled? Maybe that's the nature of the beast though.

james_b38
01-08-2008, 06:58 AM
I would advise against trying to work the book from both ends. If you want to self-pub you need to make sure you have the desire and willingness to go whole hog. If you only want the book "out there in the mean time" you may end up doing more damage than good. You do run the risk of alienating a number of agents and publishers (like veinglory stated) so I would make sure that you were very confident you could make some cash off of your early release.

If you go ahead with your plan you need to be very forthcoming about the status of your book from the get go. To hold back that kind of info may come back to haunt you.

If I were in your shoes I would make the people wait and try for an agent first. You can always self-pub later if you get tired of the whole process.

veinglory
01-08-2008, 07:33 AM
Even selling one copy to a member of the public would kill first rights, I should think--technically speaking.

ResearchGuy
01-08-2008, 06:41 PM
Even selling one copy to a member of the public would kill first rights, I should think--technically speaking.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't "first rights" pertinent to magazines, and not as such to books? First rights are a big deal for magazines.

I'd still agree with the recommendation to give exclusive priority to agent/publisher, with some form of self-publishing or subsidy publishing as an eventual fall-back, if needed, in this case.

--Ken

Bufty
01-08-2008, 07:01 PM
The Agent may google your book title........before you mention it's been self-published.

PinkUnicorn
01-08-2008, 10:24 PM
Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't "first rights" pertinent to magazines, and not as such to books? First rights are a big deal for magazines.

I'd still agree with the recommendation to give exclusive priority to agent/publisher, with some form of self-publishing or subsidy publishing as an eventual fall-back, if needed, in this case.

--Ken

First printing rights is for books

First serial rights is for magazines

It's basicly the same for both and I've heard publishers cross over and use just "first rights" for both books and magazines, as is been done here on this thread.

If you self-publish via POD than you have printed up this book's "first edition" and when you finally find an agent and the agent finally finds you a traditional publisher, you will only be able to offer "second edition" (aslo known as "reprint") rights. As a general rule, unless the book as sold over 10,000 copies a publisher will not buy second rights.

The average book sells just 500 copies. (at the average 4% royalty of wholesale price that averages out to : $1,000 - $1,500 total pay for you the author for the entire life of the book)

Rarely does a first book make over $2,000 for it's author.

The average life of a book is 3 months. (meaning the publisher pulls it off the shelves and stops selling it just 3 months after it went to print)

In order to keep you book in print past those 3 months it must become a "bestseller".

In order to become a bestseller, you must sell an astronomical total of 10,000 copies in that 3 months time.

Most publishers DO NOT promote your book. The books that become bestsellers, had an author that put a lot of their time and money into marketing the book themselves. Most books, regardless of publisher, sell only as many books as THE AUTHOR promotes. This is true wither you publish via Scholastic Books (with it's 100 new titles each month, including Harry Potter) or Twighlight Manor Press and it's 10 books every other year.

Basicly all a book publisher does is list your book in their catalog and hope that book stores choose to stock it on their shelves.

Books (such as Harry Potter -- traditional published--- and Eragon ---self-published---) get famous, not from the publisher's promotion, but from THE AUTHOR'S having gone out there and told everyone under the sun how great their book was and paying large amounts of their own money (we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of the author's private pocket money, mony they already had BEFORE book's release, in the case of such authors J.K.Rowlings, Palini, Steven King, etc.) for advertising in such newspapers as The New York Times. Eragon, a self published book, became an over night best seller because of a single one day full page ad in The New York Times, that cost Palini's parents over $14,000! Within a few weeks he had big name book publishers begging to sell the reprint editions.

So you see. What you the author are willing (or can afford) to pay for a marketing campaign, is going to determin how many book you sell, not who you choose for a publisher. Keep in mind that when you see ads for book, either in newspapers or on tv, those ads were paid for by the author him-herself, NOT the publisher.

Most writers, once hit in the face with the harsh reality of these facts, never attempt to write a second book, which is why there are so many one book authors out there.

On the other hand a self-published POD book never goes out of print and you earn 100% of the profits off the retail price.

If you are willing to promote and market your book hard enough, you'll make more money in the long run by self-publishing, because you can keep selling your book for the next 10 or 20 years.


If you want to do as you suggest and do both POD self publish AND traditional publish, than you MUST do it the other way around. Tradition publish first and POD later.

Your best bet is to hold off on the POD right now, and focus on finding that agent. Let the traditional publisher buy the first edition rights, get paid your advance and your royalties, let them sell the first edition, than next year after the book has gone out of print, you bring it back out as a POD reprint and continue to sell it for the rest of your life. (A lot of authors do this and after writing 4 or 5 books, they have a pretty steady monthly income coming in.)

I hope this helps.

ResearchGuy
01-09-2008, 01:35 AM
. . . next year after the book has gone out of print, you bring it back out as a POD reprint and continue to sell it for the rest of your life. (A lot of authors do this and after writing 4 or 5 books, they have a pretty steady monthly income coming in.). . .
Care to name several? I am utterly incredulous of the claim.

--Ken

Heath
01-09-2008, 02:47 AM
"THE AUTHOR'S having gone out there and told everyone under the sun how great their book was and paying large amounts of their own money (we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of the author's private pocket money, mony they already had BEFORE book's release, in the case of such authors J.K.Rowlings, Palini, Steven King, etc.) for advertising..."

I'm not sure about the accuracy of this. I know Palini did this, but Stephen King and Rowlings were poor when their first books made it big. Unless you are talking about what they do right now that they are already rich and famous...

But very interesting stuff. I like hearing all these points of view.

Heath
01-09-2008, 02:50 AM
The main reason I was reversing the order (POD first, traditional next) was because I have many people interested in getting their hands on the book (but not 10,000!), and I wanted to at least make it available without shooting myself in the foot.

james_b38
01-09-2008, 02:54 AM
The main reason I was reversing the order (POD first, traditional next) was because I have many people interested in getting their hands on the book (but not 10,000!), and I wanted to at least make it available without shooting myself in the foot.

What is your definition of "many"? The number of actual committed buyers of the "advanced edition" should have a large bearing on your decision. Pre-self-publishing is going to hinder your efforts at traditional placement. Is there enough money on the front side to cancel out the negative that may occur by going forward with your plan? Just something you will need to consider.

Siddow
01-09-2008, 03:06 AM
Heath, you can get copies printed at Lulu.com and keep them private (not available for sale to anyone but you) and have your friends give you the cash to cover the cost of the book. All rights remain available, it's like it's never been 'published'. It's simply a way to get bound copies.

Birol
01-09-2008, 03:16 AM
I suppose First Rights is an issue if they make it an issue, but from what I've read, it shouldn't be...at least for novels.

Why shouldn't it be an issue?


Most publishers DO NOT promote your book. The books that become bestsellers, had an author that put a lot of their time and money into marketing the book themselves. Most books, regardless of publisher, sell only as many books as THE AUTHOR promotes. This is true wither you publish via Scholastic Books (with it's 100 new titles each month, including Harry Potter) or Twighlight Manor Press and it's 10 books every other year.

This is not accurate. In the agent-publisher-writer paradigm, the writers' primary responsibility is to write.


The main reason I was reversing the order (POD first, traditional next) was because I have many people interested in getting their hands on the book (but not 10,000!), and I wanted to at least make it available without shooting myself in the foot.

How much interest is there really? Is there any way you can spin this in your cover letter to help you sign an agent or publisher?

Heath
01-09-2008, 04:15 AM
"Why shouldn't it be an issue?"
Because:
1) You stop publication of the POD upon request
2) Chances are the audience is not tapped out upon a POD, or even close to that, so you still have the full audience to market to

So in other words, they're not really out anything financial-wise. If anything, word of mouth from the POD publishing may get around to actually help the sales. So what if it's "Second Edition"? That's never stopped me from buying a good book.

I guess I don't understand the financial imperative to getting First Publication Rights on a novel when it's only been in a POD format targeted to a limited audience. What I Googled said that it's not really that important (for a novel) but that it's sometimes made important depending on the agent/publisher.


What is your definition of "many"? The number of actual committed buyers of the "advanced edition" should have a large bearing on your decision.
Mostly a network of people I know. For me, it's not really a financial issue. I have a good, well-paying job as an attorney, so I'm not expecting to become rich and famous on a POD. I just don't want to shoot myself in the foot for other opportunities, in which case all those wanting to read it now would just have to wait...

Unimportant
01-09-2008, 05:05 AM
The average book sells just 500 copies. (at the average 4% royalty of wholesale price that averages out to : $1,000 - $1,500 total pay for you the author for the entire life of the book)

Rarely does a first book make over $2,000 for it's author.

The average life of a book is 3 months. (meaning the publisher pulls it off the shelves and stops selling it just 3 months after it went to print)

<snip>
Most publishers DO NOT promote your book. The books that become bestsellers, had an author that put a lot of their time and money into marketing the book themselves. Most books, regardless of publisher, sell only as many books as THE AUTHOR promotes. .
Eelkat, if you're referring to POD/self published/vanity published books, then yes, most of them sell few copies and earn their authors little money.

But for books published by commercial publishers -- I don't know any of them above the small-press status that *don't* pay advances of >$2000, and most publishers do *not* pull books off shelves or stop selling them after three months. If a book sells poorly and the bookstore chooses to pull the leftover copies and return them, that's their decision, but publishers sell books when and where they can. Walk into any bookstore: I can guarantee you that the vast majority of the books on its shelves were released more than three months ago.

Author promotion is certainly desirable, and can enhance sales, but again, for books published by commercial presses, the majority of sales occur because of the publisher's marketing and distribution, *not* because of the author's promotional efforts.

POD and self publishing certainly has its place, but it's *not* equivalent to a commercial publisher's system with advances, large print runs, global distribution, etc.

veinglory
01-09-2008, 05:27 AM
It is an issue for a simple reason: look for how many agents and publishers take reprints. You have just made you task a good deal harder rather than easier.

james_b38
01-09-2008, 07:14 AM
Mostly a network of people I know. For me, it's not really a financial issue. I have a good, well-paying job as an attorney, so I'm not expecting to become rich and famous on a POD. I just don't want to shoot myself in the foot for other opportunities, in which case all those wanting to read it now would just have to wait...

Since you don't need the $$$ I would make 'em wait. Doing a limited self-pub first may hinder your efforts to accomplish your real goal which is getting a deal done with a good agent or publisher.

ResearchGuy
01-09-2008, 07:44 AM
. . . most publishers do *not* pull books off shelves or stop selling them after three months. . . .
Welllllllllllllll . . . according to publishing industry memoirs I have read, the average first printing of a new book is 3,000 to 5,000 copies, and it is never reprinted, so actually they do. (One source was a noted publisher, Andre Schiffrin, and the other a bookseller and former publisher's rep. Lewis Buzbee.) The usual rotation is a few months and the unsold books are returned or remaindered. A whole new wave of books will be arriving to take their place. Some of course stay in print longer, reprinted from time to time, and some for a very long time. But on average, they do not stick around for long as there will be tens of thousands of new books published each year and room has to be made for them. You see, the thing is, what you see in the bookstore is what is IN the bookstore, not the tens of thousands of books that are NOT in the bookstore, or no longer in it. To revisit one of your comments, the vast majority of books published more than three months ago are not in bookstores. Study year-old issues of Publisher's Weekly and then look in a bookstore to see how many of those are still on the shelves. Very few, I'll wager.

Stop and think about it. Does the number of titles in a bookstore's stock grow and grow and grow without limit? No. Out with the old, in with the new, and some in steady-state because they keep on selling (Agatha Christie, anyone?). Mass market paperbacks rotate in and out like magazines (not all, but series romances, run of the mill science fiction, mysteries, and the like). Where do you think the remaindered book piles come from, or the discount selections at, say, Edward R. Hamilton ( http://www.edwardrhamilton.com/ )? Sure, some are the leftovers from a second, third, or further printing. Many are left from first and only printing. (But with a printing of only a few thousand, you'll probably never see the remainders. Too few to go far.)

Relatively few book authors can make a living at it. The ones who do are relentlessly productive (Robert B. Parker, John Lescroart, Janet Evanovich -- and the ones who grind out one mass market novel after another, leaving aside those who write one blockbuster every few years). You write three or four series romances a year that sell well and you probably do ok. But those things have the shelf life of yogurt.

Let's do the math here. Let's say 4,000 copies sell of a 5,000 copy first and only printing, priced at, say, $25. Royalty of ten percent on cover price (way higher than is typical these days, I believe, but good enough for estimating). That is $10,000 (probably less agent's 15%, for net $8,500). How many of those will you have to write and get published in a year to make a living these days? If it is a paperback original, the royalty numbers are a lot smaller (smaller percentage of a much smaller price), although the printing might be bigger.

Read the recent Writer's Digest Press book How I Got Published for first-hand views of what it is like. For most, years and years of effort and the writing of at least several books before the first was published.

None of this is an argument for self-publishing or POD publishing. Those have their own sets of issues, limitations, and ('tis true) opportunities.

My opinions and observations. YMMV.

--Ken

Heath
01-09-2008, 08:26 AM
I think ResearchGuy is right. That's what I've read too. They put them on the shelves and then the publishers take them back if not sold after awhile.

Off topic, but straight book sales is not the only method of income. Trying to sell options to the books and similar efforts help financially for many moderately successful authors. John Grisham, for example, got Tom Cruise interested in The Firm before it was published and when his first book had been a bit of a failure.

Mac H.
01-09-2008, 09:30 AM
... after the book has gone out of print, you bring it back out as a POD reprint and continue to sell it for the rest of your life. (A lot of authors do this and after writing 4 or 5 books, they have a pretty steady monthly income coming in.). .



Care to name several? I am utterly incredulous of the claim.

--Ken
I suspect that it isn't making much money, but it does seem to be getting more common for older books that are out of print.

One popular author Lee Goldberg (who has no love of POD) used the "Back In Print" programs by the Author's Guild & the Mystery Writers of America. In both cases, previously published, out-of-print titles would be reprinted .. free-of-charge to the author.


I used those services to reprint my UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS book, which previously had only been available in a very expensive hardcover edition... and MY GUN HAS BULLETS, which never sold to paperback. In both cases, I was very pleased with my experience and I've been getting royalties .. on a regular, quarterly basis.

It's not big money... but it's money I wouldn't have seen otherwise if I hadn't taken advantage of the program. The Authors Guild still offers the Back In Print program, but I believe the Mystery Writers of America program has ended.

Mac

Unimportant
01-09-2008, 11:52 AM
Yes, bookstores rotate their stock. Yes, bookstores pull unsold books and return them. But as I stated before, contrary to EelKat's assertion, publishers do not pull books from the shelves and stop selling them. As long as the publisher has a copy, they'll sell it.

ResearchGuy
01-09-2008, 07:37 PM
Yes, bookstores rotate their stock. Yes, bookstores pull unsold books and return them. But as I stated before, contrary to EelKat's assertion, publishers do not pull books from the shelves and stop selling them. As long as the publisher has a copy, they'll sell it.
Yep. And typically after a few months they have remaindered or pulped any left over copies and the book goes out of print. Storage is not free, space not infinite, and tax laws (changed many years ago regarding this particular issue) work against keeping a stock of poorly selling books. Some books stay in print for a long time. Most do not.

--Ken

SpeckyBrunette
01-18-2008, 01:34 AM
I was about to suggest Lulu but Siddow got there before me :) Have you considered this, though? Using Lulu privately doesn't actually publish the book, it just binds it. I know quite a few people who use this simply for 'test' copies and for friends and family. If people really can't wait to get their hands on it, why don't you do it this way?

8thSamurai
05-01-2009, 06:29 PM
Who on Earth told you that J.K. Rowling and Stephen King spent money promoting their own book?

KikiteNeko
05-01-2009, 06:37 PM
If people want to read your book once it's published, go to Kinko's and print out a bunch of copies.

Team 2012
05-03-2009, 01:45 AM
VERY questionable if having a book on lulu occludes first rights. (Which aren't the holy grail, anyway: if somebody wants an out-of-print book, they buy it) Does it have an ISBN? That's one question.

This is MUCH less a worry than people want to make you think. It's like "common wisdom" that agents freak out over previous self-publishing, but books to get "major-leagued" at times and... have you actually heard an agent saying they're prejudiced against books that have been around POD?

Birol
05-03-2009, 07:05 PM
Yes.

eqb
05-03-2009, 07:42 PM
Yes.

Adding another yes.

jclarkdawe
05-03-2009, 09:18 PM
VERY questionable if having a book on lulu occludes first rights. (Which aren't the holy grail, anyway: if somebody wants an out-of-print book, they buy it) Does it have an ISBN? That's one question. If your book shows up on lulu, it's published. Period. It's that simple. If you have lulu print it, but it is never listed on lulu's catalog, then it probably isn't published. Personally, knowing a couple people on this site who tried just having lulu print their book, to find out that lulu published it, I'd never trust them not to screw it up. I'd go to Kinko's instead.

First rights, second rights, reprints, new editions, foreign rights are all important and it's vital you understand exactly what's going on, or have an agent you can trust. I've dealt with first, second, and third rights on magazine articles, and there are serious restrictions on what you can do when without screwing either yourself or the publisher.

This stuff has nothing to do with the ultimate buyer of the book. It's all about money and being honest. To give you an example: Betty published a book with PA. She then wrote a better book, got an agent, who got her a publisher. Plastered across her book (including reviews) is the phrase "debut author." How cool is that?

Except she wasn't a debut author. Her debut novel was the one published by PA. Reader finds the PA book on the internet, and bitches to the publisher. If you think the publisher was a happy camper, I've got several nice bridges to sell you in New York.

Net result is Betty (which is not her real name, duh!) is now trying to get her second book sold under a different name.

This is MUCH less a worry than people want to make you think. It's like "common wisdom" that agents freak out over previous self-publishing, but books to get "major-leagued" at times and... have you actually heard an agent saying they're prejudiced against books that have been around POD? Yes, Nathan Blansford, Janet Reid, Donald Maas, and probably quite a few more. Janet Reid says that if you have a POD, don't contact her until you get into the four figures for sales.

The original post for this thread struck me as an approach to how to misrepresent facts to get the result you want. If you absolutely must have a physical copy to believe (or your relatives to believe) that you have a book, go down to Kinko's. Copy it and have them bind it. No question of publishing in that case.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

suki
05-03-2009, 09:30 PM
Two additional thoughts I didn't see clearly stated.

First, which Jim mentioned, but I think could be expanded on - several agents have said being able to market a book as a debut novel is a big deal. It's a sales pitch plus for an agent and a wonderful thing publishers like their marketing people to be able to say and advertise. There are also awards and recognition tied to debut novels.

But as soon as the book appears online at any of the e or POD etc publishers, it is published, and then nothing after that can be your debut novel.

Second consideration are awards. Most book award eligibility is tied to the year of publication. So publishing a book yourself, even if it sells later through a mainstream publisher, would mess with the book's award eligibility.

~suki

Eric San Juan
05-04-2009, 06:08 AM
Adding another yes.
And here's another yes. Just checking in on a few agent blogs makes the answer to this one pretty clear.

Team 2012
05-06-2009, 07:39 PM
But as soon as the book appears online at any of the e or POD etc publishers, it is published, and then nothing after that can be your debut novel.

The "as soon as" here refers to publication date. WIthout an ISBN, what or where is that?

You put up a story for review on this site or Zoetrope or whatever...does that mean it can't be first-published elsewhere?
Now you put up a book on lulu WITHOUT ISBN, why is that different? What is your publication date? Who is the publisher?
Consider explaining the MECHANISM by which this book would be unqualified for debut novel awards.

Not really arguing with the information above, just suggesting it's not that simple. Not that big a worry for a book that really grabs somebody's attention.


Speaking of attention: consider this. just to be thinking about it, OK, not to create dissention and alarm :-)
You self-publish a book (like the long list of successful authors who did so at some point, yada yada)
If it sells 50,000 copies then it could have an appeal to a publisher. (Though I would start thinking: how much of that market has already been saturated?)

If it sells 5 copies, then obviously nobody has read it so it's virgin territory. But hasn't demonstrated any "legs". Of course most selfpub books will fall in between that... but there is an odd Catch 22 there.

The way we have thought this one out, by the way, is that you self-publish as a decision, not an attempt to "break in" or "cross over". If that happens, fine. But the point of self-publishing is pretty defiantly self-expression.

eqb
05-06-2009, 09:53 PM
The "as soon as" here refers to publication date. WIthout an ISBN, what or where is that?

ISBN has nothing to do with publication.

Once your work appears in public (print or electronic), you've used up first rights. Online workshops such as SYW avoid this by providing private, password-protected areas.

Team 2012
05-10-2009, 06:31 AM
ISBN has nothing to do with publication.

Well that has to be one of the more remarkable statements we've seen on the subject.

To a lesser extent the idea that something can be published without the intervention of a publisher is odd.

Would you consider putting up pages on the wall of a pub to be publication?
How about reading a poem to a dozen people in a reading group?

How many chapters would one have to put on a site like this before the book is "published" in your eyes? Or is there a fractional division of the "first", like a split purse in horse racing?

Team 2012
05-10-2009, 06:34 AM
Know what? Upon reflection, this is pretty silly. You obviously know a lot about publishing and have more experience than we do, since we're in TV and such, other than a few forays into printed word.

So how about if we just say, "Yeah, listen to this eqb guy" and bow out without any further bandying.

Okay? It's easy to get caught up in disputes like this and carrying on them past the point of having a point.

Birol
05-10-2009, 06:56 AM
Easy, people.

Team 2012
05-11-2009, 10:27 PM
How much easier can you get than saying, "You seem to know more about this, people should listen to you and we'll bow out of the argument"?????????

And eqb, in view of that why would you paste yet ANOTHER "rolls eyes" comments on our profile?
If you want to say something to us, say it here, okay?
Though what more you could possibly want that's more conciliatry than what we already posted here is hard to figure.

victoriastrauss
05-12-2009, 08:44 PM
Let's cool it here. It's possible to disagree without getting personal.

As I see it, the issue of "first rights" is a bit of a relic, dating back to the days when digital publishing (and the phenomenon of easy self-publication by digital means) was brand new and no one really knew where it was going to go. The underlying issue is market competition--i.e., if you put your work online or self-publish it, will you exhaust the market for it, thus making it unattractive to a commercial print publisher? Now that it has become pretty clear that digital or online publication rarely poses that threat, I think the "first rights" issue is probably not a big deal for most print publishers and/or editors. (For epublishers, though, I imagine it is a bigger deal, given the smallness of the electronic market.)

The more important issue these days, I think, is one of perception. If you stick your book up on your website, or self-publish it, and then decide to submit to agents and/or publishers in hopes of commercial publication, you run the risk of being perceived as ignorant or amateurish (you didn't know better/you were too impatient to wait), or as someone who couldn't make the publishing grade (there is still a substantial stigma attached to self-publishing, no matter what you may hear). You will be seen as used goods--not because you exhausted your first rights, but because (in editors' view) you've demonstrated that you're less than professional or that your work is not up to marketable standards. Such negative perceptions may be completely unfair--but these attitudes are prevalent, and writers ignore them at their peril.

- Victoria

ResearchGuy
05-12-2009, 10:13 PM
. . . the idea that something can be published without the intervention of a publisher is odd.
It really depends on the definition you are using of "publish." Writers/authors think in one way, lawyers might think in different terms.


Would you consider putting up pages on the wall of a pub to be publication? . . .
Maybe. Depends on context.

"Publish . . . vt. [transitive verb] 1. to make publicly known; announce, proclaim, divulge, or promulgate. 2 a) to issue (a printed work, etc.) to the public, as for sale [note: no requirement for an ISBN in that definition] b) to issue the written work or works of (a particular author) . . . ." (Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition)

By the first definition, that notice on the pub wall constitutes publication. By the second, it does not. Context makes the difference.

Note that by the second definition, a work can be published with or without an ISBN (irrelevant to the definition), as long as it is available to the public. We tend to think of published books as having ISBNs because most do and those are key to the trade distribution system. But books are also published without them (but of course without the trade availability advantages that an ISBN confers).

At this very moment, I have next to me a book by Shirley Jackson Case, titled The Evolution of Early Christianity, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1914. No ISBN. I don't think ISBNs existed then, but books were being published. Heck, they were being published when they were made by hand, a copy at a time, by scribes.

More than one answer can be right. It all depends on context and meaning.

--Ken

Team 2012
05-13-2009, 06:39 AM
Quite correct, there are many definitions of published. (And we can count on lawyers to have different opinions on them, as they might find fit or luctrative)

Still, in terms of this discussion, I think we would have to say that pages nailed up in the pissoir are not going to prejudice a sale. As far as some book batting around with no ISBN... I find it hard to feature that being a problem.

But I'm sure I could hire a lawyer who would if required. :-)

mercs
05-13-2009, 11:10 AM
This is MUCH less a worry than people want to make you think. It's like "common wisdom" that agents freak out over previous self-publishing, but books to get "major-leagued" at times and... have you actually heard an agent saying they're prejudiced against books that have been around POD? Yes, Nathan Blansford, Janet Reid, Donald Maas, and probably quite a few more. Janet Reid says that if you have a POD, don't contact her until you get into the four figures for sales.

The four figure sales is common sense really. If you've gone out of your way to sell the thing and can only get a few hundred bites, why would an agent bother with it? After all they only get around 10% of your share, so would need to shift a monsterous amount of your books on their own from a position where you couldn't even sell a 1000 to friends and family!

I have seen a lot of agents refuse manuscripts if they believe you are looking elsewhere. There was a reply from an agent to an author on sffchronicles that implied this...