Archive for June, 2011

POD: Some Very Good Questions

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Most of my readers know that POD publishing and POD printing are not synonymous. It’s entirely possible for anyone to set up a publishing company (which is totally trivial to do), and send a file into a POD printer. And you’ve probably heard that it’s a much better idea. The questions that many of you may still have include:
–Why is it a good idea?
–Would price per copy be the only reason for not printing with a POD?
–Is there a marketing or PR reason to use one POD over the other?

Why is it better to use a POD printer than a POD publisher?
Sometimes it’s not. Those times are when you expect to sell fewer than a 100 copies in the life of your book. This might apply to a gift edition of Aunt Peggy’s early poetry, or a family history.

When you have valid reasons to expect sales of a few thousand copies over a couple of years, then you should be using offset printing, and an inexpensive warehousing option. Or perhaps an inexpensive fulfillment house.

In between those areas, and in a few other special circumstances, you will probably do best with a POD printer. POD publishers charge much more per copy (although those charges are often unclear to the new author — they’re certainly not broken out for you). No one in this business can afford to give away part of their profit. It’s a very low margin industry!

Would price per copy be the only reason you would avoid a POD publisher?
No. POD publishers tend to charge very, very low rates for their design and layout services, but you’re not getting more than you pay for. The quality, although good enough to a besotted author’s eye, tends to seem “a little off” to regular readers who don’t know you, and to show glaring problems to the educated eyes of the people (reviewers, buyers for bookstores, etc) who stand between you and large numbers of readers.

Is there a marketing or PR reason not to use a POD publisher?
There’s the company you’re keeping. Most books produced by POD publishers are, I’m sorry to say, dreadful, in design and in writing. They’re often labors of love, but that can’t save them from an audience of people who don’t know the author. If your book is classed among these “book-shaped objects,” it’s easy for gatekeepers to dismiss it, without a single second’s examination.

And gatekeepers must weed out most of the books submitted to them immediately. There were 3,000,000 books published in the US last year. That’s one every other second, for the every working hour. Reviewers and buyers don’t get to look at books all day, every day. At some point, they have to read some and write reviews, or look at some longer, and decide how many to order, for which store or library branch, or do whatever else justifies their paychecks.

Oh, and one last reason why you may want to go to POD printer: your book might actually do well!
If your book “breaks out,” you’ll probably need print runs of several thousand copies each month. You can’t afford to give away half of the possible profit, or more, by not switching to offset. But if you publish through a POD publisher, when you want to change printing, you have to change the publisher. That means changing the ISBN (because the original one came from your publisher’s block), and that means starting over with all the marketing, reviews, and other momentum builders.

Most POD publishers also don’t sell you the rights to the cover or the layout. You pay for these things, but you don’t own them. So, when you need to start printing more inexpensively, you also have to get a new cover and a new text design, and that, too, will damage your sales momentum.

There are other reasons, of course, for any decision. And there are exceptions to every generalization.

When you’re making decisions about publishing:
–DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST! There’s usually a simple, obvious solution that’s quite wrong for your book and your bank account.
–Read books before you make books, because even blogs like this are much too short to cover all the important things you need to think about.
–Crunch your numbers. Your P&L spreadsheets should be at least 2 pages, if they’re to include all of the important variables.
–Be aware that the popular press is an unreliable guide to the complexities of something like this industry.
–Don’t blindly follow the herd. It may be thundering over a cliff.

BEA 2011

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Overall Impressions:

–Reed and the Javits staff have found a way to obscure the fact that it no longer fills an entire floor with exhibitors, but there was plenty of space around the edges for curtained enclosures and meeting rooms of various types.
–Despite the small number of exhibitors (or perhaps because of it), the aisles were full, and the mood seemed upbeat, enthusiastic and intent. I heard far less of the “this will be the last show” chatter.
–The “concurrent events” brought new blood into the mix. This bodes well for the future. Unfortunately, the total attendance didn’t go up with the inclusion of this new blood. That doesn’t bode as well.
–Oddly enough, I saw far fewer of the independent publishers’ booths and the denizens of Writers’ Row. It could be that the word has finally gotten out that those locations aren’t really offering the full benefit of being at the show, and that this isn’t a place where you go to sell a bunch of books on the spot.
–This was the “All Ebook, All the Time” BEA. I know that e- is the coming trend, and I certainly advocate being aware of how it can be used in your own publishing, and what the pros and cons are for your operation, but surely we could have found more topics to discuss? Maybe next year?

I attended one very interesting lecture, and yes, it was ebook-related. The presenter was from Attributor. If you publish in niches that suffer from large amounts of organized piracy, I would invest in their services. They search all of the darknet and legitimate file sharing sites (after all, there are legitimate reasons why you might need to upload things, for example team projects where people are telecommuting). When they locate files that might be caches of pirated material, use AI and expert systems to rank the most probably-pirated of the millions of files found, and then have humans examine them to prevent false positives.

Then they do a tiered enforcement action, resulting in a 99% success rate in getting the illegitimate material yanked, or converted to a revenue producing legitimate sales site.