David L.Is There a Demand for
Print on Demand?

by David L.
August 2007

Print on demand (POD) is a viable option, especially for a writer trying to promote his literary work to various agents and publishers in the book industry. In addition, POD is useful if only a limited number of books are required to serve its intended purpose. Another instance in which using a POD company makes sense, is if an author has already been signed by an agent and /or publisher and was left unsatisfied by their options. Notwithstanding, POD can be beneficial when promoting one’s material through marketing options such as book clubs, radio, and television. Because POD is rapidly advancing in technology, it is creating new opportunities for writers who wish to see their work in print. This unique combination of traditional and self publishing provides prospective authors a relatively affordable option for getting their books out to the general public. But make no mistakes about it; POD companies always make money while the vast majority of authors who use their services more often than not end up “in the red.” Very often, POD companies are nothing more than carefully disguised “vanity presses” or “subsidy” companies that offer no type of editing services, and the ones that do often require significant editing fees. As you can see, POD definitely has its strengths and weaknesses.

POD companies can be useful, especially when dealing with a targeted, niche market or certain non-fiction genres. Because the print run on a POD is often very small, it is a key advantage when large sales are not a primary focus. POD companies are also useful for authors who tour or speak at seminars and want to supplement their income with a steady cash flow. Although royalty advances rarely exist in the POD world of publishing, you receive a higher net amount per book sold. Of course, this also means you need to somehow find a way to market your work in order to compete with the large number of book titles that are on the shelves at your average bookstore. If you are a writer with the ability to tackle multiple roles, POD may be successful for you. Keep in mind that not only will you be responsible for the complete handling of promoting and selling of your work, you will need to educate yourself about the book industry. For example, become computer literate and internet savvy, as the Internet is a great option for self-promotion. You will need to maintain ongoing contact with your local bookstores and develop a positive rapport with them because ultimately, they are your lifeline. I say this because you will be unable to secure consignment with most major chain stores; they simply do not have the time or shelf space to take on a new author. However, some POD companies are able to get at least a few copies of your book listed for sale on a major chain bookstore’s website, because of this some authors envision using their POD experience as a steppingstone to getting signed by a conventional publisher or courted by a renowned agent. Although this is a rare occurrence, it is a possibility.

The ability to explore this route, however enticing, can also lead to unexpected detours. Before you go in this direction, you need to know as much as possible about a POD publishing company and whether it can be utilized to effectively fit your personalized needs. First of all, the amount of money that you pay per book will be considerably more with a POD company than what you would expect to pay if you ventured into traditional self-publishing. Expect to pay at the minimum, $5 per book ($6-8 for a standard size paperback being closer to the industry average). Ultimately, the larger number of words, or amount of pages printed, the more costly-per-book average. If this has not caused you concern by now, then consider the fact that at least 10% of your POD book venture will go towards sending out complimentary promotional and review copies; meaning no profit and a direct loss to you.

In the area of marketing and promotion, don’t expect much from POD companies. Some may provide marginal marketing plans, but there will be a charge for those services. Many do little more than provide the POD author with printed postcards, wallet sized business cards or 8x5 posters with the front cover of the book. With proper research, you can utilize these same marketing strategies at a fraction of their price. Although some of these promotional items may help stagnating sales, without proper follow up, those promotional attempts rarely generate responses. A better suggestion would be to use the grassroots approach to promotion. Get on the phone and tell all of your friends to go to their local library and reserve a copy of your book. Make sure you donate a copy of your book to your local branch first…you may even get a favorable write up in your local paper! Secondly, tell everyone that orders your books to post a favorable review to the chain store websites in order to gain credibility and a fan following. A third suggestion is to use every shortcut at your disposal. If your POD is only giving you a smaller percentage on books sold through their own bookstore website, become creative. Use your own email and instruct potential book buyers to contact you via email for book discounts and for added incentive, tell them this way they can receive their copy personally autographed by you!

An inferior quality is often a problem with using POD services. Most POD companies don’t require any editing restrictions, so completed manuscripts filled with blatant errors are frequent. Additionally, cover design is also often of inferior product and cannot compete with standard publishing. If you plan on preparing a manuscript, make sure you read the fine print in the contract regarding editing. An author is responsible for the final draft, so when the book is near its completion stage, hire a professional editor. The money you pay now will save your reputation as a serious author at a later date.

A primary reason that authors go the self-publishing route is because they want to retain 100% of their work. It is very important that a self publisher be able to print books within a set number of copies that are affordable and at the same time, getting the best possible price per copy. Most POD companies will not allow an author to use their own designated ISBN number, thus ownership is ultimately lost. The ISBN is a “blueprint” to finding a book in an ever-growing database that houses book titles. So in other words, if a book club, cataloger, filmmaker, or distributor wants to pre-purchase your book, they will have to go through the channels of your POD company. This often proves to be a dead end as POD’s are rarely equipped to offer the competing discounts as these transactions often require. Secondly, independent bookstores, large book chains, and major wholesalers are cautious of housing POD books because of the inability to return unsold copies. Another obstacle to take into account is discounts. Because POD companies charge a higher per book rate, authors are rarely able to offer these generous, but necessary discounts. Think of it in terms of this: you pay anywhere from 60-75% of the retail value of the book for review or purchase purposes. Whenever a book is sold to a wholesale distributor or bookseller at the 40% required discount, you would take a loss on every book sold!

My first book, It’s Like Butter, Baby was published via POD and it debuted in June of 2004. To date, it has sold close to 2,000 copies with only regional promotion (NY/NJ/CT). With little more than a generic website from my POD company, I armed myself with the resources to learn the pros and cons of POD over conventional publishing. Although I strongly recommend dealing with a conventional publisher, it may not be too disheartening to delve into the murky waters of a POD company to attract attention to yourself. Since my book’s release and positive reviews, I have been contacted by a number of regional publishing companies as well as the two largest distribution wholesalers in New York City. My final verdict: shop around and sign a deal when you know instinctively that you are getting the “most for your buck” or an advance check that commensurate your book’s worth and writing talents.

David L. is an author and publisher for Total Package Publications. To contact David L., email him at: contacttpp@totalpackagepublications.com or visit his website at: www.totalpackagepublications.com.

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Michell :
Posted 2421 days ago
You get a nice box full of books to hand out to your friends and filamy. Other than that, I really don't know of any. It costs a great deal of money, you have to promote yourself, many self publishers are fly by night scam outfits, there are thousands of lawsuits against various self publishers, their books are often of very poor quality with loads of errors in them, I could go on and on. Personally I see no benefit to it other than the fact that they will publish anything as long as you are willing to pay for it. Personally, you would be better off researching the GOOD small publishers by surfing Preditors and Editors, joining Absolute Write Water Cooler and getting the Writer Beware free online newsletter. Self publishing is just another name for a vanity press. Unless you plan on writing ten thousand letters to bookstores asking them to stock your book and going around from store to store with boxes of books, I would steer clear of self publishing. Space in bookstores is now at such a premium that the major chains are even charging the A List publishers a dollar extra to stock their books on tables near the front. What chance would your little self published book have? Very little. And if you have to pay for an editor as well, a decent editor gets between 2.50 and 4.00 per page to edit. Sometimes more depending on the manuscript and what has to be done to it. Sound worth it to you? Not to me. C.
Donovan Harris :
Posted 4076 days ago
Real powerful words from a powerful person. I read your first book which was done through POD and although you had your cards stacked against you, victory and the opportunity for another breath of life materialized as a result! I haven't picked up your 2nd book yet, but I hear it's a banger! Thanks for the info and looking forward to future commentary from you. Keep doing your thing!
$havonne :
Posted 4076 days ago
Very informative and well written piece. Thanks for the insight David L.
Author-How To Deal With A Difficult Woman
Tanya White :
Posted 4076 days ago
Hi David, Thank you for the article. I just published my first book through a POD company and have experienced the above scenarios. Being a creative marketing mind, I have been offered pre-order discounts, and other sales discounts etc to get readers purchase directly from my site. Your article has helped me to weigh my options for my future book projects.
Tanya White
Author-How To Deal With A Difficult Woman
Kurt Canty :
Posted 4076 days ago
Thank you. Your insight is most timely. I am in the editing process of the first part of three novel series tentatively titled 'SECURITY'.
I had planned on utilizing the services of a POD service. But after your informative article I will explore the option of local print houses a bit more. I would be interested in learning more.
Theodore L. (Ted) Whidden :
Posted 4076 days ago
David! Thank you for this informative article. I have just released the soon to be famous book series (3 parts at this time) The Solomon Series: Great Pyramid Mystery Resolved. At present it is available in eBook format only. This saved a number or print/distribution costs, but promotional costs are HIGH! I am debating a POD arrangement to fulfill print orders, but looking around. Thank you for the input.................FYI: I went with a small publisher whose real intention appears to be to piggy-back my book's success. They seem to have lost interest and whereas they are listed as publisher, they seem to have little to offer in the way of insight and assistance. I would like to see more information on these pseudo-self-publish operations.
Many thanks for your input above. This is helpful!
Ted Whidden<br />www.SolomonSeries.com



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