Best Case PoD Scenario - Just Spitballing an Idea

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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Sgt Spanky

In my previous thread we discussed how PoDs can suck. Based on the feedback in that thread there's clearly plenty of ways they can do this, many of which were discussed at length.

So, we know PoDs can certainly suck in a variety of ways but is there ANY scenario where they may actually be beneficial? I think it's possible. I've been thinking about this and I believe that a PoD book can possibly, not likely but possibly, help to advance an author's career under certain circumstances and with a bit of luck.

Before you dismiss the notion as the ravings of a fevered mind, consider that once printed, you can promote your work by handing it out to groups and institutions that could then read it and recommend it to others. This might include churches, schools, book clubs, associates, etc... Over time, if the work is a hit with these readers, word may start to spread as the copies are passed around to more and more people. This would obviously take an undetermined amount of time and a lotta legwork's not impossible.

Obviously this could also lead to nothing more than a local fanbase or, if the work stinks, nothing more than tired feet and shattered illusions and it certainly doesn't replace being signed by a real publisher. The point here is, this may indicate at least one legitimate use for a PoD to help get your work out to the public in book form.

I'm trying to examine this from all angles before dismissing it out of hand.


Sgt Spanky

Thanks anyway but I'm not looking for links, I'm looking for a discussion.



Over time, if the work is a hit with these readers, word may start to spread as the copies are passed around to more and more people. This would obviously take an undetermined amount of time and a lotta legwork's not impossible.

Obviously this could also lead to nothing more than a local fanbase or, if the work stinks, nothing more than tired feet and shattered illusions and it certainly doesn't replace being signed by a real publisher.

---...isn't this the scenario that is currently followed now? and that it... um... 's u .....well you get the idea.---

I think the entire industry needs to be reworked.
One comment that always comes up is that a book costs too much to produce once the demand hits a certain level. Is this a result of the machinery, technology, ink supply, paper supply, set up? If these costs went down perhaps the 'legit' POD wouldn't have to charge such an outrageous price for books. Something else I found from certain printers, the machinery isn't all that reliable. Hence the company invokes a certain percentage into each published work to cover the costs of screwups. This is also attributed to the ever loving idol... the computer and its software... which of man made and prone to crashing.

The retail outlets don't stock these books. One reason is the above. The other seems to be misguided information on the availability. LSI/Ingram ...(whatever)... seems to think it has a solution to this and will put it into effect next year. A) This does not solve the current problem. B) No guarantee it'll solve the problem at all.

Then there is the lack of respect you may/may not receive when you say you're an author using POD. Agents may not touch a piece of work that has POD beside its name.

Another question may be .... is the technology/media/(whatever James or Victoria want to call it) really for book publishing?
I know for a fact I can print off multiple posters, cards, flyers, vinyl flags, magnetic signs, backlites, two way plastics...etc. using the same technology. The cost for what is produced isn't all that bad. But it seemed when it came to something bound .. the cost went through the roof. Like a calender for a certain project I was asked about. The client wanted a simple run...maybe 100-200 prints. He fell off his bar stool when the cost was mentioned.

Is POD a good idea?..... ummm...Yes,..I think it is.
But, its been tarnished by a bad rap. Kind of like the swastika. Get rid of the storm cloud over its head, rethink the idea, market the idea...then see what happens.

Sgt Spanky

Re: POD..Again....

I agree, Whacha. That's why I keep examining this issue. It's not a perfect solution but it seems to offer SOME advantage over doing nothing at all. You'd basically be making an investment in yourself and seeing to what degree you can generate your own buzz. Even if nothing comes of it, it's an effort to advance yourself.

Any opinions to the contrary?

Sgt Spanky

Re: POD..Again....

By the way, I promise this will be my LAST PoD thread. :snoopy

Tish Davidson

Re: POD..Again....

I really do think that there is little benefit to POD for fiction. There is just too much competition from traditionally published novels for a POD to make much of a mark - and generally if the novel were good enough to make a splash, it would have been picked up by a traditional publisher.

However, I think there is a place for POD in non-fiction for workbooks, specialized material, hobbiest tracts, etc. I know one woman who has successfully published a POD book on organizing Christian women's conferences. Obviously it is a tiny market and she isn't going to get rich, but POD served her purpose, and she has something useful to sell when she speaks to church groups. Another example of a potential POD project is a workbook for a consultant who is helping horse trainers set up their barns as businesses or improve their business management. The workbook covers everything from hiring stable help and immigration regulations to keeping records for taxes, to feeding and shoeing schedules. Again, the market is tiny and specialized, and the workbook is an adjunct to the consulting. But unless there is a way to reach the target audience outside bookstores, book signings, etc. I think those who go POD are likely to be disappointed with the size of their readership.

James D Macdonald

Re: POD..Again....

Print-on-Demand isn't compatible with bookstore shelving -- simply because those books on the store shelves were printed before there was a demand.

Creating the demand is the hard part.

The ideal Print-on-Demand book would create its own demand. That's pretty much specialized non-fiction. Stuff with such a small niche that you wouldn't expect it to have bookstore distribution to start with.

My example of the perfect PoD book is Sailboat Self Steering You can Build: The HV 101 Horizontal Self Steering Vane for Sailboats by William A. Wensel. The number of people who have tiller-steered sailboats less than forty feet long who want to build self-steering mechanisms for them has to be limited. Barnes & Noble isn't going to devote shelf space to this book. But ... if you wanted to build such a device you'd got to considerable lengths to get the book; you'd pay a healthy amount, and you'd be willing to wait for it. This is, in fact, a real PoD book.

Notice that I haven't mentioned the technology used to produce this book. Docutech, letter press, offset, illuminated by monks -- doesn't matter. What does matter is that the book isn't printed until it's ordered.


Re: POD..Again....

It would seem that the idea of POD can help a niche market. This is as far as it will go, I think. Like Tish and James have said, fiction, non-fiction book market is considerably larger and in order to compete with that,... you've got to be large.
Although I think its in the works or already happened,... what there needs to be is a corporation(or perhaps 2 or 3) that distributes specialty POD books through their retail stores.
Just put a store beside a Starbucks, should do fine.

Staying away from a market that is already controlled by the big guys...i.e. fiction, etc. Short run reference books, and topics that are hard to find. Eliminate the charge up front for so called 'setup fees', whether the book has a large market or not, because its POD, the cost is covered. Marketing would be simplified. Instead of marketing a POD publisher like P.A. and having the author market their book on their time, Market the retailer,...stating something like... "Find Niche Market info at our POD retailer.....".

Let's see now, doing this the printer(pod) is happy, the retailer is happy(cause he's achieving the once impossible and that's selling and receiving revenue from POD books) ,the author or authors are happy cause they haven't been ripped off for once. I have a fear of false/inaccurate or restricted information being published, but that's another topic.

This is a start of how I would go about it, I'm sure there would be flaws along the way, but at least I wouldn't be labeled as a crook......(P.A. Authorhouse)

James D Macdonald

Re: POD..Again....

Eliminate the charge up front for so called 'setup fees', whether the book has a large market or not, because its POD, the cost is covered.

This was tried early on by Xlibris -- no fees. They went broke doing it.

While the cost of each book that exists as nothing more than a file on a computer somewhere is small, it is a cost. Being selective about what you print, editing it, designing it -- if you do that, you're really costing money.

The publish-the-slush-heap model has been a proven non-starter.

I can see a kiosk beside the Starbucks that lists out-of-print and public domain books and will print one while you wait, I can't see shelf copies, and I don't see the entire store converted to PoD. (Just for starters, those machines are expensive to purchase, maintaining them is expensive, and any minute they're standing idle is expense without offsetting income.) That means all those books were selected by some editor (perhaps long dead), and edited, and presented to the public, where they achieved some measure of success (else no one would have heard of them).

So ... what I'm saying is that PoD is mostly not the wave of the future.


Re: POD..Again....

This was tried early on by Xlibris -- no fees. They went broke doing it.

---O.K. so an entire store not coverted to POD entirely,.. what about offering alternative printing services or paper products to offset expenses or how about a cyber cafe?---
The proven ...need for this type of publishing must have a loop hole somewhere to make it work professionaly and be profitable.

So ... what I'm saying is that PoD is mostly not the wave of the future.
I can do without the wave, but a nice puddle of honesty would be sufficient. What do you say, James? If you were going to take control, and make it work what would you do?

Sgt Spanky

Re: POD..Again....

I think Whacha's onto something here. Surely a group of imaginative people such as those who post around here can combine our ideas and try to hash out an innovative, new business plan that can work for the PoD market.

...and when we do I get the copyright on it cuz it's my thread.

So there. :thumbs

Oh, okay, I'll share the wealth. :money

Damn ethics. :smack


Re: POD..Again....

Regardless of what your idea is, I think you better plan on checking with the patent office, rather than the copyright office. Otherwise, you could end up in the same situation as Lightning Source.


Thanks anyway but I'm not looking for links, I'm looking for a discussion.

Oh. I thought you were looking for information. I thought you were looking for a way to profitably and honestly run a POD publisher.


"Please do not query us if you are a first-time author seeking publication for an original book. Your time is better spent with the large New York publishers."

WOW! This is a quote from Wildside's submissions page -- I didn't think that any POD publisher was this honest! Thanks for the link, HConn.

Sgt Spanky

I poked around the site a bit myself and they appear none too author friendly so far as the new guy goes.


I don't know that I agree, Sarge. I think the best friend you can have is the one that tells you the truth.

POD may not be the best route for a new author. It seems to do okay with public domain works or previously published work from pro writers, though.

Wildside and fictionwise do this for sf/f. Is there a POD company that's publishing long out of print mysteries? Or romances?

There's a niche there, for the person with the contacts and the gumption.


Spanky and Whatcha

You seem to spend alot of time and energy trying to find a way to make PODs work. What you fail to realize is that they do work.

In order for a business to work they need a product or service / a market for that service / and a way to make a profit.

PODS product or service: Printing services
PODS market: Writers who want their works printed
PODS make their profit by: charging the authors for printing or charging for the books that are printed.

Traditional Pubs product: Books
Traditional Pubs Market: Book buyers
Traditional Pubs make profit by: selling books to book buyers.

In the traditional model writers are not the market they are independent contractors who manufacture the product. Traditional pubs put their resources into selling their product - the books.

If PODS did the same thing they would no longer work - in fact they'd all go under. There is no quality control on the books and far too many titles produced. There could never be the demand to cover marketing and distribution costs for the large majority of their titles. They'd go bust even quicker if they had to eat the cost to print these books prior to an order for purchase - because most of those books will never sell.

PODS will not change their model because there is a huge market for their product and huge profits to be made by their model.

Many choose PODS because they don't know the difference.
You do know the difference, so instead of trying to find ways to make PODS do something that they will never do, why not put your energies into being published by a traditional publisher who will do all the things that you want a publisher to do for you?

James D Macdonald

Let's not confuse PoD publishers with vanity publishers.

We've already mentioned Wildside. What they do is take out-of-print and/or public domain books -- where there's not enough demand for a commercial publisher to be interested, but there's a steady demand among fans, completists, historians, and connoisseurs; enough to sell a hundred copies a year or so, this year and every year, forever. The people who want those books really want them, and will wait a while and pay a bit more to have them. Wildside specializes in fantasy, science ficiton, and horror.

It's entirely possible that somone will start up a similar PoD press for old, out-of-print Westerns, or mysteries, or romances, or nurse novels -- cherry-picking the best from decades ago to bring back into print. Why not?

That's a perfectly reasonable use of digital technology.

Those hypothetical PoD presses wouldn't be interested in original novels by newcomers, but they'd probably be profitable if they kept their expenses low. Nor would they be selling to the authors. (Note that Wildside sells Carmilla. J. Sheridan LeFanu died over a hundred and thirty years ago -- he's not buying 'em, nor is his family.)



... and what you don't seem to realize, is the large POD companies, that charge their authors to print a book are considered crooks through out this site. Yeah they work alright, but as I've said before (and I can't believe I'm saying this b.s. again) the only people making money are the ones who own the company. P.A. --no good, AuthorHouse--no good, etc,etc,etc,... the communication that I was having with AH, the rep was more interested in my money than my plan for a potential book. End of relationship
There is no freaking way I'm in a position to start up a company like the one discussed. What we're (Srgt. and I) saying is there may be a way to make this type of business better for both parties without hiding under a blanket of lies, vague contracts and tiny royalty checks.

Wildside has been mentioned, and seems to have found something that works for them... without taking away an authors money shoving it in their wallets, ...their future is yet to be decided.
Prime example of corporate turn around.
Lee Iaccoca walked into a dying company. Took their product, came up with a different concept. Not only turned the company around, but one of the concepts turned the entire industry around.
We're just firing out ideas, and making use of the board. make PODS do something that they will never do....

----"never say never"----

Julie Worth

" there ANY scenario where they may actually be beneficial?"

Well yes. To add to what Sgt Spanky said, I use POD copies for getting feedback, and for the odd submission, (when the agent is agreeable). I also use them for self-editing.

The Lulu POD is both inexpensive and (for me) convenient. For instance, I write in a ready-for-print format. So all I have to do is print it as a PDF file, upload that to Lulu, and I have a new edition in five minutes or so--for free! And to get the actual book, I pay them less than ten dollars (for a 250 page book). Plus shipping, of course, which is presently free for orders over $25.


I am not a POD cheerleader. I would rather have my novel lie in a drawer than be vanity published. And I never said PODs worked for the authors I said they worked as businesses.

The fact is that the large majority of vanity published works (not all, but most) are not good enough to be published by a traditional publisher. Vanity publishers are not all crooks. Some, like PA have lousy business practices, others do not have bad business practices - they simply are what they are. A traditional publisher will pay authors, not charge authors - but traditional houses will only publish books they think will make a profit for the company. In order to make a profit - the company has to make enough money off each title to cover print production, marketing and distribution for the title plus part of the company overhead - which for a traditional publisher is quite high. This means they need to sell large quantites of each title.

Vanity publishers can make money off selling minisicule quantities of each title and therefore they can print books that are not good enough to be published by the traditional house.

The only way a vanity publisher could give marketing support etc., to their titles and still make a profit is if they become selective in said titles and only publish works they think are good enough and commercial enough to have mass appeal. If that happens, they will no longer be vanity publishers, they will be a traditional publisher and they would reject 98% of their submissions just like eveyone else in the industry does with unsolicited work.

There is no way around this fact. There is no way to make a profit selling amateur quality books to the mass market. Because there is no consumer demand for amateur quality books.

But there IS a demand to have amateur books in print - that demand comes from the authors of these books. A company that provides a service to those authors, is not necessarily crooked, simply by virtue of the fact that they provide these services.

And while I agree money should flow toward the writer - this concept applies to professional writers - writers that are good enough to get their books on bookstore shelves. No money is going to, nor should it flow toward writers with no talent. I as a consumer am under no obligation to buy or read bad books, Barnes & Noble as a retailer is under no obligation to stock bad books. In fact, in order to maintain their reputation to the book buying public - they have an obligation to make every effort to make sure that they offer their consumers high quality books.

Those who want to be published for real and take the time to do a little research on the publishing world can easily avoid the vanity publishers. Those who do not do the research or choose the easy way to print because they don't want to subject themselves to the rejection along the way to traditional publishing have no one but themselves to blame.

Not every author is entitled to be published legitimately. Just because we all learn how to write - does not mean we are all writers.


Lulu serves this purpose best. They don't charge anything up front and they don't try and sell you some package. At the very least, this company may be, what you would might say, a starting point. The cost isn't so bad for short runs, but recently they put their prices up. Then the marketing is up to you. That's alot of work for a small time book. I also agree this company can help an author by allowing them to print a neat concept for a potential book. That's using your noodle, Julie.

....there is no consumer demand for amateur quality books. But there IS a demand to have amateur books in print - that demand comes from the authors of these books.
---this demand comes from the authors, cause they think that there is a demand for their book.---
I do see your point of view, Simon. But I'm not sure if you see mine. It's possible that we agree to disagree.



I do think POD is a good way to get your book into the hands of a niche audience. A traditional publisher isn't likely going to take on a project that has only a small niche audience. I have published a fictional novel via POD for a small niche audience because I wanted them to be able to have a book-in-hand. I've made a profit doing so. I don't think a traditional publisher would have taken on the project, simply because the market isn't big enough--big enough for a small profit, but a small profit is not worth the potential risk.

Lulu sounds interesting. But I wonder at LULU's claim to only be taking a 20% comission--yet, according to their chart, the BASE price of a 250 page book would be $9.53, and then the price would increase according to how much roylaty you wanted, and they'd take 20 percent of your royalty. This looks decietful--they pretend they are only taking 20 percent of your royalty, but surely it doesn't really cost them $9.53 to print a 250 page paperback book? I know with my current POD it can't cost more than $4 to print my 250 page book, because I get a $4.50 50% royalty on books sold through the publisher. (Which means the cost to print must be the cover price of $12.95-$9=$3.95). So really, Lulu is taking it's 20 percent PLY about 50 % of the price of the book.

I hate the duplicitousness in these PODs--I wish they would just be upfront and say: (1) This is how much we will charge you to print and distribute your book (2) Of the cover price, we will take $x and give you $Y for each sale. The end.

Instead, you have to do a lot of math tricks to figure out what is the best bargain for you, if you are interested in getting a POD book out for a niche audience and don't think traditional publisher is going to take the gamble.

Julie Worth

Re: Scenario

(Which means the cost to print must be the cover price of $12.95-$9=$3.95).

So where can I go to get POD books for $4, with no set-up charge (assuming I supply ready to print files)?
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