Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, July 28, 2012

When will people stop demonizing POD publishing?

Recently, a writer friend shared a link to this article.

I wanted to share some comments on that article:

1. Print on demand (POD) publishing and self-publishing are NOT the same thing.
2. There are POD publishers that will not charge you to promote the books. One POD publisher does zero promotion for my book. On the other hand, an independent press which uses POD technology to publish print books, promotes my books like there is no tomorrow. You just gotta find the right people and I did with Gypsy Shadow Publishing (the independent press).

3. I agree, self-publishing IS expensive. Pretty much the big reason why I won't go there anymore. You need to pay thousands in total to get a business name, set up your web site, get your book edited, hire a cover designer, hire a proofreader, etc., etc. What's interesting is that I have found POD publishing as well as indie publishing to be A LOT less expensive. And self published authors get more respect than POD authors. Go figure!

Finally, I felt that this comment was really unfair:

"Today, the economics of the POD business model allows for more low-volume specialty and niche publishers to exist, but it also allows for the existence of the pseudo author mills, publishers that seem very much like normal small presses at first glance, with owners who genuinely care and do not set out to scam authors. Yet, in the end, these POD-reliant publishers can't offer you much more than the typical author mill."

Oh, really? And has the author of this article done her homework with every single press out there using POD technology to back up such a claim? Gypsy Shadow Publishing, which uses POD technology, does promote their authors – without charge. They have also provided FREE cover art, FREE editing, FREE promotion and a nice personalized page on the company site. All of the POD-reliant presses out there are not "pseudo author mills" and can actually offer their authors a fair deal.

Additionally, some POD publishers, as well as the indies, cannot be labeled as “author mills” because they do not publish everything sent to them. There are gatekeepers out there. They may accept or reject a submission, but this is not true of every POD publisher.

I have been published by traditional publishers, independent publishers (one of which does not charge for publication), and a POD publisher. I have also gone the self-publishing route, but that one failed miserably because I was not very handy with cover design, layout, typesetting and design. That stuff is a HUGE headache which, thankfully, I don't have to worry about with POD or the independent press. Also, my indie publishers have created AMAZING cover art, got the EAN barcodes for my books, ISBNs and CPNs. And they edited my books for free. I didn't pay a penny to them for cover art or editing, and GSP is using POD technology to print their books. Until I signed on with Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing, an independent press that DOES NOT charge authors, my other traditional publishers really haven't even tried to promote my books; one of them even shut down. (I have not had to pay a penny to Great Minds Think Aloud for cover design or editing, either.) So I have had better experiences with independent publishers. But like I said, if you want to go with POD (and Booklocker is the only POD publisher I have had a book published with), you gotta find the right fit for you and your book.

If I waited to get a contract with a traditional press for all of my books, I'd be waiting until I was an old lady. I have had two literary agents and both of them ended up doing a lousy job, so I have no interest in trying to find a third literary agent.

Also, the article notes how authors who go the self-publishing route will need to put in a lot of legwork for promotion, creating press kits and other advertisements. Well, guess what? This is true no matter who you publish your book with – traditional, self, vanity, POD. This is true because, nowadays, a lot of traditional publishers won't bother to put the money and time into promoting a new author UNLESS and only UNLESS that author is a celebrity. These days, authors have to do the bulk of promotion for their books, especially new authors. That includes scheduling a reading and creating their own web site. (Some indie publishers will create a site for authors free of charge.)

Here is another truth: Not all POD publishers out there are churning out books just for the sake of having MORE books. They are not interested in getting money from authors thanks to what an author is willing to pay to get into print. These POD publishers actually reject submissions. The one POD publisher I have signed with (Booklocker) carefully goes through submissions. They don’t just publish anything. I am saying this because a lot of people assume that the books published by a POD press are unedited, unprofessional and of very poor quality. Not so with Booklocker; they DO care about what books they will publish. The same goes of the indie presses, including the indie presses that use POD technology.

I have shared this article and the comments with Charlotte Holley, CEO of Gypsy Shadow Publishing, LLC. Here is her response:

“Most indie publishers use POD because that's the only way it's affordable for them to play the game. Mega publishing companies are going broke on the "traditional" publishing game, and several of the big guys are also utilizing POD now. Macmillan comes to mind, and there are others.

Some people like to cling to the past and cut down the innovators in the business, but the facts are incredibly in favor of using POD printers for all print books. POD is the GREEN solution for print books. In the past, publishing houses did huge first runs of 50,000 books of each title . . . (some more and some less, but you get the point). Most new authors won't sell more than a few thousand copies (and that's being very generous, believe me!), so what happened to the other 45,000 copies? Destroyed! All those trees up in smoke, which is just as tragic as the wildfires that spread across the country this time of year--more tragic, really. Millions of trees literally gave their "all" for those books that few people ever got to see. What a waste!

What else? Warehousing costs were a huge expense because all those thousands of books had to be stored somewhere until they were trashed. Returns (we recently got a taste of that!) ate into profits and caused publishers to become even more unapproachable for a novice author, or even a seasoned author who may have had a run of low sales. And what about those authors? They were often released from their contracts (read that as dumped) and sent packing. The next book they submitted was at least twice as hard to sell. It's often as hard for a seasoned author to sell a book to a trad publisher as it is a first-time author. I'd say roughly 50-75% of the literate (and some NOT so literate) adults in the world are aspiring authors. For every manuscript we accept right now, we probably get another 5-10 we can't accept, and the number grows all the time. The competition for an audience has never been greater, and at a time when fewer high school grads are literate . . . reading is in danger of becoming defunct. (What the kids are writing and reading is cyber slang that's almost not recognizable, except by the cyber-savvy of us who bother to keep up with the times!)

eBook and POD publishing make sense now more than ever, and for thousands of authors, it's the best opportunity they're ever going to get to make their dreams of being published come true. Times change. Businesses that don't change or adapt are doomed to go down the tubes, whether they are large trad publishers or small presses. Everything out there is subject to the same laws of obsolescence. Everything!”

I have nothing against people who want to go with traditional publishing or get agents. That is all fine and dandy for them. And I’m not against landing a contract with a traditional publisher myself, either. But please don't look down on anyone who uses POD or start bashing POD publishing. Just like the self-published authors out there, we POD and indie authors deserve a chance.

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