I’m normally a live and let live type of person and am happy to offer a bit of advice only when asked. However, nothing gets the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up faster than the Print On Demand paradigm. Why? Because this type of business plan has broken so many hearts, and I see them cross my desk every day. This series isn’t an attempt to sway writers away from this type of publication, but to educate. Knowledge is power, and my sole purpose in writing this little series is to empower the writer.
Here are the things that bug me the most:
- Poor editing – you get what you pay for. Low budget means they can’t hire the best editors.
- Lousy covers – a small budget = inferior covers
- Higher retail prices – there is a premium for ordering very small print runs as opposed to offset printing where large print runs drive down the printing prices and lower the retail price.
- No marketing – POD companies, on average, don’t have a marketing budget.
- Watch where the money is flowing – the POD publisher is dependent upon the author buying their own books at inflated prices to stay in business. In fact, their authors are invariably their only business. They already know they can’t sell to the bookstores so they sell to their authors. This is why you’ll usually see that POD companies have a huge number of released books. They need a high quantity of authors to offset those who don’t/won’t buy their own books. They already know that there are more authors who will buy their own books than those who won’t.
- No reviews – POD books will never be reviewed by the large trade magazines. The stigma is that POD books are inferior and the trades make it very clear that POD books will not be reviewed. Ever.
- No return policy – this is a huge issue. Whether a book sells or not, the publisher must pay for the print run. Returns on those books can strangle a publisher because it’s cash out and nothing to offset the balance. POD companies avoid this problem by making their books non-returnable. Bookstores, in return, won’t order or stock their books. Who get penalized? The author. Why? Because they bought 200 of their own books with the idea of selling them to the bookstores. Now they have to think of another way to market their books.
- Zero distribution – small press distributors like Mid Point, IPG, Consortium, etc. make their money on signing publishers whose business plans are conducive to selling product to corporate buyers, indies, and libraries. The books have to be marketable, strong and have good appeal. The submission process for publishers is a lengthy and arduous process as the distributors pour over the publisher’s financials and lineup. In a word, it takes money; something POD’s don’t have.
Why do these things bother me? Because they NEVER tell the prospective author any of this. Instead it becomes a sad tale of after-the-fact discovery.