What used to be called print-on-demand (POD) publishers are increasingly being referred to as “author services companies.” POD is a digital technology that prints anywhere from one to 1,000 books at a time. The rest of the time the book is stored as a digital file on a large server. This eliminates the need for large press runs and storage space. The appeal of POD is that it makes it possible for many would-be authors to see their books in print, which may not be possible through conventional publishing methods.
Most author services companies, such as CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), LuLu, iUniverse (owned by Barnes & Noble), Infinitypublishing.com, Xlibrus, and PublishAmerica offer a variety of packages to authors and contract out the actual printing to Lightning Source or some other digital printer.
The set-up fees and cost per book or per page vary from publisher to publisher, so it’s a good idea to shop around. Obviously, the quality of the books produced this way runs the gamut. It is up to the author to ensure that the book meets the same high standards demanded by a conventional publisher. Since that doesn’t always happen, the value of being a “published author” may be compromised. It won’t take too many obviously inferior books to give POD the same poor reputation once attached to “Vanity Press.”
Benefits of POD
- You can tell your story the way you want to.
- You retain the rights to your book.
- You retain editorial/creative control.
- You still receive a royalty.
- Your book can be a means to an end or an end in itself.
- You can say you are an author
Disadvantages of POD
- POD is a technology—shorthand for digital printing.
- POD companies charge an up-front fee, which can be as high as $1500.
- Most POD companies have strict guidelines for formatting, page size, and pricing.
- There is an additional charge for editing and marketing; and, in some cases, purchase of the marketing package is mandatory.
- If the company designs the covers, it owns the cover design.
- Wholesalers and retailers may not buy POD books because they are non-returnable, higher in price, and often lower in quality.
- While POD is far better than Vanity Press, the principle is similar, i.e., books are printed as submitted for a fee and are not subject to editorial quality control.
- The author has little control over production; quality of printing varies from one company to another.
- The ISBN number is often in the company’s name, not the author’s, making the company the publisher of record.
- After an initial number of complementary books, authors must purchase copies of their own books at about 40 percent of retail.
The larger POD printers produce high-quality books. But no matter how you plan to publish your book, remember that to attract a buyer, it must have a catchy title, eye-catching cover, solid content, and excellent writing.