Thursday, March 26, 2009

(Self) Publishers

Since Beth had such awesome news (applause) this week, I thought I would talk about publishers. There are some great websites that help you filter out the bad ones from the good ones. I don't mean the big houses versus smaller presses. Independent presses can be just as sparkly as the New York giants. But there are nasty people out there who prey on writers so you have to do your homework. Learn how to spot cons and scammers at Preditors and Editors. Also, check out Writer Beware.

Here's a great site that defines the many different types of publishing. Traditional, subsidy, vanity, and a few others.

Here's two types of publishing you may want to steer clear of:

1. Vanity Presses. These are "publishers" that you pay to publisher your work. This is not how the game is played. People should pay you for your work.

From Wikipedia:
With vanity publishing, the author will pay to have their book published. Since the author is paying to have the book published the book should not have to go through an approval process as it would in a traditional setting where the publisher is taking a financial risk on the author's ability to write successfully. Editing and formatting services may or may not be offered, and they may come with the initial publishing fee (or more correctly, printing fee) or might be at an additional cost.


2. Print on Demand. Same concept, only the trick is you don't pay much up front. You pay to have each book printed. Then you go door to door to sell them. Not cost effective.

From Wikipedia:
Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received.POD fuels a new category of publishing (or printing) company that offers services directly to authors who wish to self-publish, usually for a fee. These services generally include printing and shipping a book each time one is ordered, handling royalties and getting listings in online bookstores. The initial investment for POD services is usually less expensive for small quantities of books when compared with self-publishing that uses print runs. Often other services are offered as well: formatting, proof reading and editing, and so on. Such companies typically do not spend their own money on marketing, unlike traditional publishers.


And for a laugh, read J.A. Konrath's experience with POD

5 comments:

Mary Welk said...

Whoa! Gotta take exception with this post. Joe (bless his heart) is knowledgeable about many things, but his article confuses print-on-demand (POD), which is a printing process used by large and small publishers alike to release books in trade paperback format, with vanity publishing, which is a scam intended only to take a person's money. Publishers can print small runs via POD; i.e., they can print 100 review copies prior to a book's release, or they can print 2500 copies that are pre-ordered, then if the book is selling, they can order more books printed. I once heard best selling mystery author Barbara D'Amato say that POD is the wave of the future in publishing. And it should be. Publishers large and small are being killed by storage costs. POD knocks off a lot of the overhead costs of publishing while saving both publishers and bookstores the cost of returns. POD does not mean the books aren't edited by the publisher; vanity publishers are the ones who don't edit unless paid for that service. Vanity publishing is a death trap. POD is still more expensive for small print runs and wouldn't work for best selling authors like Grisham or Patterson where the publisher can pretty well figure they'll sell 100,000 books. POD is great, though, for the first-time, previously unknown author or the mid-list author whose publisher wants to re-release his/her out-of-print back list in trade paperback format. Don't forget, Alexander Mccall Smith's "#1 Ladies Detective Agency" series was first introduced in the U.S. by a major publisher in trade paperback format before it hit the bestseller list. Now you can buy his books in trade paperback or in hardcover. The publisher isn't saying, but I bet those first books were printed via POD technology. Don't confuse a printing process with a scheme like vanity publishing. There's a big difference between the two, and writers need to be familiar with those differences. POD books only become problematic for an author if the publisher marks them as unreturnable when they're entered into Ingram's system. That's when bookstores won't buy them.

Enchanted Crystals said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Welk said...

I never said Joe wrote "an opinionated article". I'm sure his experience was real, and I'm also sure the idiot he was conversing with via email was exactly that -- an idiot. The fact that this person never figured out that Joe was a published author who has no need of his services only proves that fact. Joe never named the company this person represented, but the hints he gave leads me to believe it was Lightning Source, a print-on-demand (POD) printing company owned by the Ingram Book Group, the largest wholesale book distributor in the U.S. Ingram Book Company is owned by Ingram Industries, a family-owned company that deals mainly in books, music CDs, and boats. Ingram bought Lightning Source several years ago to solidify their hold on the wholesale book business. They more or less control the POD TECHNOLOGY PRINTING PROCESS in the current book publishing industry. Again, POD is a "printing process", and should not be confused with the term "publish on demand". Vanity publishers "publish on demand". Lightning Source offers its "printing technology" to large and small presses alike, but they also offer it to people who want to self-publish their work. The problem occurs in the self-publishing process when people using Lightning Source don't acquaint themselves with the limited services offered by the company. Lightning Source is not a publisher, so they do not offer editing or promotional services like true publishing companies offer their authors. Lightning Source is in business to make money for Ingram Industries, and Ingram doesn't give a hoot if unsuspecting people lose a ton of money by self-publishing an unedited, unpromoted book.

As you can see from what I've written, I'm urging you to differentiate between "print-on-demand" technology -- POD -- and "publish-on-demand" companies. The two are not the same, but you seem to be saying that they are. My advice to any writer is to try to find a publishing company through an agent for your work. You can investigate how the publisher manages the printing of their books, through traditional print runs or through POD printing. More importantly, though, investigate their editorial and promotional services, how they distribute their books and, if they are a small press, do they accept returns from bookstores. These are some of the important things to know before signing a contract.

Enchanted Crystals said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Enchanted Crystals said...

"Lightning Source offers its "printing technology" to large and small presses alike, but they also offer it to people who want to self-publish their work.
Lightning Source is not a publisher."

Exactly. That is who I was talking to. Authors who want to self publish their work. We actually agree on this.

I thought I was clear that there is a difference between POD and Vanity. If not, I apologize. I did update the post. It still, however, is not the best way to jumpstart a career.
Authors should think twice before skipping the "publisher" part. But some authors do this, out of frustration.