PRINT ON DEMAND - A Definition and a Comparison Copyright 2005, Michael LaRocca
The purpose of this article is to consider Print-On-Demand publishing as an alternative for aspiring author. It has its strengths and its weaknesses. You may wonder as you begin reading this, but in end I'm going to say some good things about it.
The title explains technology. The way that literature has traditionally been printed involves running many copies simul- taneously in order to bring price per copy down. Smaller print runs, such as advertising, brochures, or concert programs, cost more per copy because they are small print runs. Until recently, printing a single book was all but unthinkable.
In case of novels, traditional print publisher begins by printing several thousand copies. His goal is to run off smallest number of copies he can while getting best possible price per copy.
These books are then sent to bookstores, which tend to prefer something along lines of what has succeeded before. The remainder sits in a warehouse somewhere. Perhaps to be shipped as orders come in, perhaps to be joined by any "remaindered" copies bookstores couldn't move.
This represents an investment on part of that publisher, hence his paranoia about experimenting with new formats or (more importantly) new authors.
Print-On-Demand (POD) uses a completely different process. The end result is, price per copy on a small run is much lower. How small of a run? Try one book. Zero inventory. The book is economically produced when reader orders it, not before.
This technology was probably invented for sales literature. Then someone realized it might be a pretty cool way to get ARCs (Advance Review Copies) out to book reviewers before book was actually available. Finally, someone decided to get it into publishing mainstream.
Why is it so much cheaper to publish a single book via POD? The reasons really aren't relevant to this article, besides which they'd probably bore you. But if you care, first link below spells it all out.
http://www.jdwrite.com/writing/pod_01.htm http://www.jdwrite.com/writing/pod_02.htm http://www.jdwrite.com/writing/pod_03.htm http://www.jdwrite.com/writing/pod_04.htm http://www.jdwrite.com/writing/pod_05.htm
I recommend reading (or at least skimming) all five of those, by way. It's quite a comprehensive analysis of how. Then come back to this article to determine why. Or if.
Have you ever heard of author who self-published and wound up with a best-seller? They do exist!
Now look at all self-published authors who couldn't do that. They're vast majority. The author who uses POD faces similar longshot odds.
POD has a definite advantage over other self-publishing, in that you don't wind up with a few hundred (or more?) copies of a book in your basement because you can't sell them. Thus, it's cheaper, with no difference in quality unless you hook up with losers.
But neither option will bring you readership that you'll get from a successful book with a traditional print publisher.
I have self published. I went to a local print shop back in pre-POD days, ran off 80 copies at $3 a copy, and sold them to local bookstores for $6 a copy. Lots of fun, and lots of learning, but I didn't get rich. My wage per hour stunk, but that was fine with me because I honestly didn't care. I broke even and gave away rest. A pleasant way to spend lunch hours during work week.
Most of us, though, just don't have that kind of time. And even if we do, why bother? Take money you'd have invested and buy some Microsoft stock, then take time you'd have invested and write more books. You'll be happier and you'll make more money.
Having said all that, why am I recommending POD at all? In my case, it's because I've written some books that no print publisher will ever pick up. That's my honest appraisal.
If I were a mercenary type, I'd follow that up with something like "Why'd you even write those books then?" But if you're a REAL writer, you know answer.
It's always about writing first, marketing second. Two different hats. I'm assuming you already did writing and now are wondering what heck to do with it.
As an example, my EPPIE 2002 finalist is too short. I wrote it back when print publishers wanted 40,000 words. Now they want 50,000. But it doesn't take 50,000 words to tell that particular story, and I'm not padding it. Even if I were willing, it'd stink and nobody would buy it. Give publishers some credit. They know padding when they see it. The same goes for readers.
As another example, consider my short story collection. Critically acclaimed and selling moderately well, but no traditional publisher wants short story collections from unknown authors. It's just that simple.
So, I simultaneously published these books in e-book format and POD format. E-books are cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but paperback option is still there for those who can't or won't ever read an e-book.