What is POD Publishing? Should I consider it?
An Article by Bettie Corbin Tucker
Our reviewers receive many PRINT ON DEMAND (POD) books to
review, and we have no problem with reviewing books that utilize this method
of book reproduction. For those of you who don't understand the
difference between POD and traditional publishing, allow me to clarify this.
Traditional publishing is done through the use of offset presses in which there are
plates and film involved. In other words, printers take camera-ready copy,
and print the pages, using plates and ink to obtain clear, clean pages
that will then be bound. Once the pages roll off the press with the
various color of inks, the operators then begin the time-consuming job of
cleaning the machinery in preparation for their next job. Therefore, while the printer is in operation,
it is more efficient to print a large quantity of pages. The greater
the number of books printed, the cheaper it is for the customers.
Some printers actually print additional pages for future binding if they
believe there is the possibility of additional book orders. And why
not since it literally costs nothing extra, other than the minimal expense
of the paper and ink! In all cases, the plates are kept by the printer for
future printings. Let me emphasize that if you are self-publishing your book
using traditional printing, you should print enough copies
to take advantage of the lower costs. This allows you to sell your book to
your customers at a very reasonable price and still make a profit. You
may pay several thousand dollars upfront, (depending upon the size of your
book and the quantity printed), but you will have all the books in
your possession for immediate fulfillment of orders. You, if
responsible for fulfillment! This is the way that the larger mainline,
traditional publishers usually get their books into print for their contracted
Print on Demand (POD)
With the advancement of modern technology, authors have been
given the opportunity to publish their manuscripts using a POD printer or
publisher. This can be very beneficial to authors who have limited
capital to invest in their work. Compared to an offset press, this
method uses a higher speed direct-to-image electrostatic process with a
toner blend that reproduces photographs well. There is no film or
plate. To the average eye the book looks fine; to the educated eye, there is
a difference. What you are really comparing is toner based printing
(POD) VS. offset press printing. With Print On Demand publishing, an
author can initially invest less than $500 as a setup fee. The fee
varies, depending upon the publisher or printer and what they are offering.
There is nothing wrong with publishing your book via a POD publisher as long
as you understand all of the facts. A POD publisher or printer fills
orders only as needed. When someone orders a book, it is printed and
then shipped to the customer. The retail price has to be high
enough to cover the printing costs of the book and allow both the publisher
and author some profit on each one sold, even after meeting the
various discounts that are demanded by wholesalers and online bookstores.
The advantage is that authors/publishers don't have to pay money for the
printing until the book is actually sold, so there is no money required
after the initial setup fee. However, other than family members
and friends--customers may not be willing to pay this higher amount.
Bookstores and POD
Bookstores rarely accept POD books because they are so
expensive and most are not returnable. Authors may sometimes find local
bookstores who will promote and sell their POD books, but national
distribution is another matter.
Another reason bookstores don't want to carry POD books is
that many are poorly edited and designed. Some POD publishers do
minimal editing, but you as the author are ultimately responsible for what
the finished product looks like. It is crucial that you proof each
page of your formatted manuscript many, many times before giving your approval for the
printing. Also have a qualified editor/proofreader go over
it--especially if you aren't sure of your skills when it comes to
punctuation and grammar.
There are many POD publishers who will publish anything that
is submitted to them for a significant fee, and they publish it exactly as it is presented.
Aware that less than one percent of all manuscripts submitted to publishers
are accepted, they drool with anticipation as they easily find desperate
writers who are willing to pay money to see their work in print.
They aren't worried about editing or sales--they have made their money
upfront, and are depending upon you, as a naive author to sell
books to your friends and relatives. They will then pay you a small
percentage from the books that you sell for them...books that are probably
full of errors. One day you will, undoubtedly, find them to be
an embarrassment. These "bad apples" give all POD publishers a bad
name and isn't fair to the few reputable ones.
Check out your Publisher whether
POD or Traditional
Remember that once you have signed that contract with
a publisher, you have given over control of your manuscript to them.
Read before you sign, check out other authors who have published with them,
put the name of the publisher in a search engine to see if you can find any
background information on the organization, ask to see a sample book,
and do not give your approval to print unless you know your work has been
thoroughly edited. More than one person needs to proofread the final
copy. Also, I must add that if you don't have talent, and don't
have the proper language and grammar skills, then please DON'T attempt to
write a book. Hire a qualified ghostwriter if you have a story
that you feel must be told.
Subsidy/Vanity Publishing VS.
If you pay money to a publisher who publishes books using
offset printing, they are a vanity or subsidy press. If you pay
the money directly to a printer and bypass the publisher, you are
self-publishing. Self-publishing is far more respected by the book
industry. Vanity /subsidy publishers are known by reviewers, and your
book usually won't get reviewed by the well-known reviewers. By the way, if you plan to
self-publish the traditional way, think about purchasing my book on the
subject. It is entitled How To Self-Publish Your Book With Little
or No Money and is available on Amazon.com.
In POD, it is a bit more difficult to distinguish the vanity
press from the self-publisher. Many POD publishers define themselves
as traditional publishers, even though they use POD technology and charge the author a
significant amount of money. I personally believe that POD has its
place--especially in regard to the unknown authors who want to get their
work into print and are willing to acknowledge to themselves that they are
going to be the ones who sell their books--perhaps with some news releases
or book announcements provided by the publisher. If an author
can prove sales with a POD book, this might get the attention of a
traditional, mainline, non-subsidy, publisher. I recently read that the average
book published by a POD company sells an average of 150 books in a year and
that the author's friends and family purchase over 60% of these books.
So if your plan is to get rich, think before you sign that contract as many
POD authors don't ever recover their investment. The same can be said for
those who self-publish by using the traditional offset printing, although a
lower price tag on your book makes it easier for you to get sales.
Remember that non-fiction is easier to sell, especially if you are an expert
on something. Radio talk show hosts are continually seeking appropriate
guests for their time slots. I recently tried POD to see how I would
do with two different books--one fiction and one non-fiction, so I will give
you a report on my findings later on. One POD publisher is well-known and did not
charge me any money; the other one basically helps authors self-publish;
however, their fee is very reasonable, and they don't promise you the moon.
They are upfront with all their authors. But, again, the retail price
of each of these books is going to be much higher than the books I had
accepted and published by traditional, mainline publishers. I'm eager
to see how I make out and hope you will check back to find out the results.
Advantages of Self-Publishing
Most authors, understandably, want to find a traditional,
mainline publisher who will bear all the expenses of their book and pay them
a 10 to 14 percent royalty for each book sold. Why are less than
one percent of manuscripts submitted to trade publishers accepted?
This is because of the high risk factor involved in publishing a book--even
by some well-known successful authors. As readers and purchasers of
books, we tend to hear about the books that make it, not the ones that die
on the bookshelves after six weeks. I'm going to do some more research
but the last time I got statistics, only one percent of the books published
by mainline publishers make them any money. This is why small presses
go out of business so quickly. Of course, any publisher is going to be
very particular as to what they accept...as a former publisher I had to be
very selective. If publishers don't make money, they will soon be out
There are some definite advantages to self-publishing.
If you get your books directly from the printer and sell them yourself, you
are bypassing some of the various people who reach out for a
percentage of your profits. You can sell directly on Amazon and will
not have to share any profits with a publisher. Of course, Amazon
takes their 55%, but still, if you plan carefully and price your book
fairly, you can make a nice profit on sales.
Self-publishing via POD has its special challenges because
of the high pricing. If you want to maintain control of your books and
bypass the publisher, go directly to a POD printer instead of a
publisher. The three that are best known are Lightning Source,
Booksurge and Replica. These POD printers offer various integrated
distribution services which can be a big help to you should you choose to
Check back often as we provide
you with new information!