Revolutionizing the Publishing Industry: Print On Demand Books
by Regina Pounds
In the late 1990s, new technology made it possible and cost-effective for publishers and their contracted printers to produce one book at a time (POD). Using the internet, new publishers took advantage of this method and quickly built their businesses. Unlike several e-book publishers, the first POD book ones did not make editorial decisions. Now, in the early 2000s, there are numerous such up-start publishers, and some of these will accept manuscripts only upon editorial approval.
For readers, this means a selection of books as never before. Stories, which would never have been acquired by conventional publishers, for sundry reasons not reflecting quality or taste, now can reach the reading public.
If you are a writer, nothing stands in your way of getting your book published -- at first glance. Unfortunately, a first glance is never enough when it comes to business. Let's take a close look.
There are basic requirements: You must be able to prepare your manuscript for digital printing with a word processing program and -- during the publication process -- to proofread it in the pdf format. You ought to have access to a computer and the internet for easy on-line submission of the manuscript and for promoting your book. (If you don't, you might seek help from someone who can and does.)
On the plus side of the POD business for the writer:
Total editorial freedom, and the responsibility that goes with it.
No more depending on just a few persons to decide over the book's fate.
No more rejections from editors or agents.
No more wasting years while waiting for those rejections.
No more requested revisions that lead to no sale in the end.
No more genre requirements/restrictions.
The book stays up for sale indefinitely, because even if your POD publisher were to go out of business, you could publish your book with another.
No potentially awful alteration of your book's title.
No cover art you dislike -- in most cases, you supply the cover art or at least have a say in its creation.
On the minus side:
No advance against royalties -- depending on the POD publisher you choose, you may pay a small, or even a substantial, fee.
No big Marketing/Promoting machine behind the writer.
Not even automatic distribution to bookstores -- in fact, most bookstore owners won't place your book onto their shelves.
NO visibility to casual book-store visitors... and this is a big one! If you don't tell a soul your book exists, no one will know about it.
Not much respect from people involved in the writing business...the stigma attached to self-publishing of any sort is real and will affect you. Nonetheless, POD authors make a splash by now. Quality books draw attention.
Then there's the matter of competition and pricing. Since POD books are printed in any quantity, even as single item, the cost of the process drives up the price of the product.
To compete in the huge book market is tough for a POD author. Your success is directly related to your sales efforts. That suggests the following: a writer with a specialty topic which will appeal to a special group of readers will see better sales than a writer whose book lacks specific appeal. A writer who has the necessary capital to fund a big promotion drive will have more sales than the one who has very limited means. The writer who has an active social life, access to many groups of potential customers, will sell more books locally than the recluse.
Even under the best of circumstances, the POD writer must be prepared to be patient, persistent, keep the faith in his or her book, take very low or zero royalty payments in stride, and keep in mind that it may take years to build a readership.
It may be an uphill battle, but I chose it and am happy I did.
After two decades of writing, of working hard, learning a lot, winning awards, getting name recognition in business circles, receiving complimentary rejections for stories that were never 'quite right for us,' after seeing my books accepted by an up-start publisher only to waste four years of waiting in vain for the actual publication, after playing by the rules and not getting 'there,' I looked for alternative ways to see my work in print.
Self-publishing pure and simple would have appealed to me, but I couldn't afford the minimum cost of $5000 to $7000.
In 1998, I had my eye on the first big print-on-demand on-line publisher, Xlibris, but at the time the $1000 it would have cost to have my book published (with some choice of cover art) was still too much for me.
In fall of 1999, I came across toExcel, also a POD on-line publisher: $99 to have a book produced, with a royalty paying publisher who'd get all rights, except for movie and TV ones...not bad, not really great either.
I found out I'd have to convert my old-fashioned word-programmed manuscript into a new format for digital printing requirements. So I began to work on that. By the time I was done, toExcel had been absorbed by iuniverse.com. OK. I dealt with that, and finally, a manuscript prepared, I submitted one midnight on-line. Exactly four months later, I had the thrill of seeing THEO'S GHOST available for ordering and listed on-line at the iuniverse.com bookstore. By that time, LORD EAGLEBEAK was in production, and when I held copies of both books in my hand, I was happy with the quality of cover art (which I chose) and perfect bound trade-sized paperback book.
Since then, I have weathered many growing pains with my publisher. I have also faced my personal shortcomings and difficulties. The sheer amount of time any promotion efforts take is enormous.
Non-fiction aimed at a specific group of interested people seems to fare best. Romances? Well, bookstore shelves are overflowing with them, readers like to swap books, and also go to used bookstores. So I had to face reality. It will take a lot of hard work to induce a reader to spend almost twenty dollars or even more to order a romance...unless it looks as if it will become a keeper or make a fine gift for someone!
I made great use of the internet by building websites and I founded a community for writers and readers at iuniverse.com. You may sample "Theo's Ghost" and "Lord Eaglebeak" at their spot in the iuniverse marketplace. So your decision to purchase will be based on a fairly good idea of quality.
Is POD for everyone? No.
Is it here to stay? Yes.
Can you make it work for you? You might. Please weigh your options carefully and do your own research. If you take the plunge, I'd wager you, too, will be thrilled to hold your book in hand within months.
For more information on Regina and her books, visit her web site at: www.reginapounds.com
copyright 2001 Regina Pounds
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