It’s been a while since I blogged about how to sniff out a POD publisher by looking at their website, and I’ve had a few questions about it recently. Additionally, there is a great chapter in Tackle Box about the signs to look for and I have the whole POD Series you can read under the Classic Posts section off to the right of the screen.
In this day and age, it’s hard to figure out what a publisher is really about from their website unless you know what you’re looking for, so I thought I’d give a breakdown for easy digestion. Most of them are a template and this makes your job a lot easier. Here are some of the things you may see on the POD website:
- POD websites are geared toward attracting authors, not readers. This is geared to excite the author out of their skivvies because they feel they have a chance at their dreams. Keep in mind that PODs make money off their unpaid sales force – their own authors – because their books aren’t in bookstores. They need a fresh meat supply at all times.
- They may mention with great pride that 10o% of their authors are unagented. This is also meant to excite authors because most don’t have agents, so many believe they have a chance at their dreams. Sound repetitive? A commercial trade press will NEVER consider this a bragging point.
- They may offer a higher percentage of royalties, but they may not say what those royalties consist of. Net? Retail? Net can be iffy. For example, paying on Net should mean that the author is paid royalties on what the book actually sold for – the discounted price that the publisher sold to the bookstore. However, some POD publishers will extract their production and incidental costs, which are hard, if not impossible, to verify. This means the author is could be left with a few nickels to rub together.
- They may state, “Professional covers and layout.” Puhleeze. This isn’t a selling feature. This is simply a part of doing business for the commercial trade publisher. It’s like having a car lot saying, “Oh heckititeetoot yes, we even include the tires with your car!” Well, gee, I hope so.
- They may also say, “Our average lead time is less than six months from acceptance of the contract to books on the shelves.” This is a dead giveaway. There is no way I can accept a book and get it on the shelves within six months. For starters, my distributor needs a four to six month lead time just to get it into their catalog, which goes out to the genre buyers. We allow for three months to edit a book, design the cover, do the layout and interior design. Then we get the ARCs out to reviewers, who need a four month lead time. You see where I’m going with this, right? Anyone who hands out a short lead time like this more than likely isn’t a commercial trade publisher. Mind you, I’m talking US publishers.
- “Tired of being turned down?” Commercial trade publishers don’t exist to ease the plight of the unpublished. They exist to buy great books and sell them to our lovely readers. It’s very common for PODs to use this type of verbiage in order to make them look like they’re the Great Savior to the downtrodden and defeated. Commercial trade publishers feel that if an author is rejected over and over again, it may not be suitable for publication.
- “Give us a chance.” That is something you will never hear from a commercial trade publisher. We know who we are, so you either want to work with us and believe you have a book that will tickle our fancy, or you go elsewhere. We don’t beg to be given a chance. Instead, we have to prove ourselves by getting your book on store shelves and into readers’ hands.
- There is no reading fee and we never ask authors to subsidize the publishing costs. Anyone who tells you this is someone who doth protesteth too much. I’m not saying they’ll do this because they probably won’t. But my point is that they even bother mentioning it. It’s pedestrian, and commercial trade presses don’t say these things because, like, um, why would we?
- We want to be your publisher! Now this just makes me squidge because I want to ask, “how do you know you want to be my publisher? Do you have any standards, or is this just a general cattle call?” If I were to put up anything of this nature, it would be more akin to, “I am a snarly old bat with incredibly high standards who will bite your ears off if you send me junk!” The POD blurb gives the idea they’ll accept anyone as long as they have a constant pulse. We, OTOH, have an acceptance rate of 1%.
- Genre. Most small trade presses limit the genres or niches they accept because they don’t have the editing staff to adequately edit Westerns, SF, Fantasy, Horror, Historical, etc. The POD press will accept just about any genre in existence. Be mindful of this. You want a properly edited book, and I guarantee that a POD press has very few editors on staff, and they can’t possibly do justice to every genre. No way, no how.
As I’ve said in the past, I hold a very tepid affection for POD companies because I’ve seen too many victims of those who made grand promises only to pull the literary rug out from underneath a lot of good people. PODs can be great for OP books or niche. But for the standard “I’m not ready for primetime publishing” PODs still make me growl. Or rather, the beagle growls, and I drink. I detest seeing authors get ripped off, and these guys do it either by design or sheer stupidity because they think they just invented the wheel.
Know what you’re getting into and know how to recognize the signs so you can say, “Ahhh, gotcha!”