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POD Publishing

November 5, 2010

Some Thoughts On Print On Demand Publishing…

Since I started print on demand publishing a number of people have asked me about it. I can only speak from experience. Writers and academics deliver whole lectures and seminars on the subject, and while I probably wouldn’t self-publish a novel myself, I think for non-fiction self-publishing and/or POD – and indeed there is a significant difference here – is certainly a viable option. The biggest selling POD titles as far as I’m aware are all non-fiction. You are dealing with a specific market and aiming your book at a target audience – probably a niche audience – which helps enormously with promotion. With a novel, you really need to get it into the book stores – Waterstone’s and/or WH Smiths here in the UK, for example – and novels are notoriously difficult to sell to booktraders. I’ve heard stories of authors, self-published ones, making thousands from self-publishing their own novels but you have to wonder how much time they spent on promoting their titles and how much time they could have spent writing their next book. Indeed, how much time had they given up and how much work had they neglected? Personally, I think you can only do so much promotion before you should really start working on your next book. Building up a back catalogue is important, certainly with non-fiction.

With self-publishing you basically do everything yourself from having the cover designed, to getting the text correctly formatted/typeset and buying the ISBN, finding a printing company, etc. How many copies do you print and where do you store them? How many do you think you’ll sell? What about pre-orders? If it’s a massive 600 page tome, postage will be high so will it sell to readers living abroad? Think about all those trips to the post office! Of course, you have to pay for all this yourself. There is a lot of legwork. A lot…

But with POD you just need to locate a publisher for your book such as Lulu in the States or AuthorsOnline here in the UK, which is the company I went for, publishing is free. You do have to pay for their services, however. It all depends on what you want in your package and there are several to choose from: I went for the cheapest option, which included an ISBN, a copy sent to the British library, website presence on Amazon, etc, because I knew a designer who could design the cover and format the text; if you want the POD company to do all that then the price of their services goes up. It can run into several hundred pounds. Does this make sense so far?

You want to keep costs down because the chances of breaking even are slim but with enough promotional work – not too much mind – you can do it. So once the cover has been designed and the text is ready those print ready files are sent to the publishers and checked for errors, and then forwarded to the printers. If there are mistakes in the book and they are your mistakes you can have those corrected at any point for a small fee. That’s the beauty of digital printing. Books can quickly be withdrawn from sale. Moving on. A sample copy is then delivered two weeks later. If all is good, then the book goes on sale online. Each copy is printed on demand hence the name. There are no bulk copies stored in warehouses. There are no copies stored anywhere. Copies are only printed for customer orders. Comics, coffee table books, hardback books, pocket sized paperbacks are all published via POD. You can literally do anything you want if you find the right company. But you have to keep thinking about cost. As a self-employed author you are effectively running a small business.

I have published three collections so far via POD – both All Pens Blazing books and Rock ‘N’ Roll Mercenaries – and while I’ve yet to break even on those titles I’m glad I had them published. Your share of the royalties is significantly higher than the share you’d get with a “standard” publisher which is usually less than 10 percent. POD can be as high as 60 percent; perhaps more or slightly less, depending on the company.

The hardest part of self-publishing and POD publishing of any kind is promoting your titles, making people aware that you have this book(s) available. Rather than spending hours and hours on typing thousands of words on my blog or whatever, I’d rather be writing my next book but some people prefer to spend all their time on that one initial title.

So far I have seen no correlation between reviews and sales. I’ve had both APB titles reviewed (very positively) in top selling UK rock magazines but sales thus far show that there is nothing to gloat about. I’ve done many online interviews and sent out a mailing list to over 300 people but I have yet to break even on both titles. With R’N’M I didn’t bother with review copies (you have to buy these yourself, so again, think about cost); I sent out press releases, put free extracts online and did interviews and again, it was the same story with the APB books. The fact is, I don’t have an answer as to what makes these books sell. Not yet, anyway. My Judas Priest book was published through a massive company and that too got some very good reviews, but sales were low. The idea of wide-ranging promotion without spending all my free time and paying a small fortune for ad space is something I have yet to figure out.

A majority of the best selling POD books – running in to thousands – appears to be books on illnesses and medicines and self-help books. Again, all non-fiction. Obviously the subject matter is vital – a book on Michael Jackson, POD or not, is going to sell in its thousands. But does the world need about book on him? I’m interested in exploring new territory.

At some point my next POD adventure will be Amazon’s Createspace which, I believe, is completely free…

Copyright Neil Daniels © 2010

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