My post on promotion prompted some questions regarding POD vs. mainstream publishing that I felt important enough to answer here.
If authors have to promote themselves and sell their books themselves without any help from the printers or editors or anyone else involved in the process, what’s the difference between going POD and going with a publisher?
What I tried to convey in my original post is that selling books is a two-pronged attack – marketing and promotion, which comes down to support and money.
The mainstream published author has the full support of their publisher working with their sales force to market their titles for national sales. Meanwhile, the author promotes locally. Publishers invest thousands into producing a quality product. They have to because those books are headed for store shelves. PODs don’t have those same constraints
POD authors also have publisher support, as in, “gee, I hope that author sells a lot of books.” PODs have very little money, so they don’t have a national sales force, and they don’t have distribution, which means POD authors don’t have anyone marketing for them. This puts them in the position of being the unpaid sales and promotional force for their publisher, and that is where sales are generated. The POD makes their money off of authors buying their own books.
If no author ever bought their own books, PODs would cease to exist. Mainstream publishers will sell books to their authors if they want a few, but we certainly don’t depend on those sales because they are a drop in the bucket compared to store sales.
Further complicating things is that stores don’t stock POD books in great numbers because their business plan doesn’t allow for large print runs and a whole host of other factors that make them largely ignored by the bookstore industry.
Conversely, mainstream authors aren’t a sales force, they are promoting their books – letting their local audience know about their book’s existence. It’s like actors who go on press junkets to promote their new movies. The publisher and author make money from those books being on store shelves. Authors don’t have a big enough reach to make much of a dent in overall sales.
Isn’t promotion one of the aspects where I’d expect the agent to help out? I see that as division of labour: I write, the agent books me at various promotion happenings that (s)he thinks are relevant to the book, I go there and smile at people and try to convince them I’ve written something interesting.
Your agent’s main purpose is to sell your manuscript to a good editor. The agent isn’t your PR person – for that, you would either hire a publicist, or if your publisher has one in-house, they’ll help you (but not to a large degree).
Now agents have the responsibility to prepare their clients for the rigors of promotion. After all, they do have to put together some sort of promo plan when they query the editor. Problem is, the Cosmic CEO didn’t create all agents equally. So while some are fabulous at working on promotion ideas, others sit on their hands.
And this is the point I was trying to make; BE PREPARED. Your book’s success depends on the public’s acceptance of your book, and they’re only going to know about it if you’re out there showing your pretty face. I’ve known too many authors who were very well-published and have marvelous distribution only to experience dismal sales. Why? Because they weren’t actively involved in promoting their book. Yes, Gertrude, big publishers can suffer from a book’s tanking just like us mortals.
So the choices are pretty clear. Mainstream publishing has a lovely umbrella that protects and supports their authors with national distribution, an excellent product, and a great reputation. POD offers . . . a book. And your hard sweat and ability and willingness to sell books out of the trunk of your car. The choice seems pretty clear.
*Thanks Aloria and Pelo. Great questions!