Remember the old days when vanity publishers charged writers thousands of dollars to publish and distribute their own books? I can smell a vanity publisher a mile away. The goal of vanity publishing is to make money off of the author and not the book. A vanity publisher will not edit or market your novel, which is to be marginally distributed through their company or out of the trunk of your car. Your audience is comprised of supportive family members and co-workers. It’s a sad sad day when you’ve finally exhausted your network of friends and remaining copies of your masterpiece ends up in the attic or a closet never to see the light of day.
With POD (Print on Demand) publishing, writers today can circumvent the rejection process and publish their own books at minimal costs. When I say minimal, I mean less than fifty bucks. Print on Demand allows authors to publish their books through online publishing houses unwilling to risk monetary loss. These companies act as distributors but also issue ISBN numbers. They don’t read, edit, market, or critique the author’s work. They act as a conduit between the printer and the author. Instead of charging fees up front, these companies share a piece of the royalty. The process is seamless. The publisher (or distributor in this case), isn’t losing any money and makes a marginal profit, and the author loses only a piece of his or her dignity.
POD books are truly “printed on demand” when the book is purchased by an interested reader. The downside is that these books will never see a bookshelf. You can buy them online, but you’ll find it extremely difficult to get them in a book store. There is something to be said about the validation of a New York publishing house backing your work. With powerhouses like Amazon dominating the online market, every dollar counts. Your corner bookstore can’t afford to have your book collecting dust on their shelves. It must sell, to compete with the online market and so, your local book store isn’t taking any chances on a self published book.
But having a New York publishing company behind your work doesn’t guarantee a book sale. Readers like interesting stories, they don’t care about publishers. They want memorable characters, they want to have a good time.
There are hundreds of thousands of self-published books flooding the market. In fact, with online POD publishers like Createspace, Lulu, Xlibris, Authorhouse, IUniverse, Publish America, there are more self published books unleashed on the public each year, than books published by traditional publishing houses (Do not take this as endorsement of these companies, a few aforementioned POD publishers suffer bad reputations). Despite this, there are numerous reasons for going the POD route.
With true self publishing, the author is buying their own ISBN, designing every aspect of the book, from cover to interior. They must also distribute the books and manage inventory. WIth POD publishing, the publisher distributes the ISBN number and will distribute your book through selected sales channels. For example, they may have an arrangement with distributors like Amazon (who also owns Createspace), Barnes and Nobles, or Walmart.com. The author is responsible for some of the design, using parameters or templates from the publishers. The author is doing some of the leg work but not all of the leg work which has made it easier for authors to make their own books.
If you have a group or a club or write cookbooks, and you wish to publish a small number of books , POD publishing is for you. If you have the means to market the book on your own, then POD publishing is for you. As an author, I enjoy writing, designing, and marketing my own books. It’s a fun and enjoyable process for me. But if you hate these things, then POD publishing is not for you. I hate talking to publishers. I can’t stand rejection in any aspect of my life. I loathe conformity.
I haven’t submitted a manuscript to a traditional publisher in more than ten years. As an artist, my objective is to write what I love. But sometimes, what I love doesn’t translate to what traditional publishers categorize as “commercial” enough for the market. So what do you do? Submit hundreds of query letters year after year to hundreds of publishers and hope someone will see the value of your work? There are piles of undiscovered talent doing the same thing. Whatever your goals, understand that the process is imperfect whether traditional or unconventional. Go into it with the understanding that traditional publishers and professional writers scoff and thumb their noses at self published authors. Also remember, the average reader don’t see what goes on behind the curtain, they see a book. If they like it, they’ll buy it. The Internet has made your book, possible.