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To POD Or Not To POD
by Charles W. Sasser

You are an aspiring writer who has spent years striving for success. Finally, after jumping through the traditional hoops of mainstream publishing for year after year, facing rejection by editors and agents, getting nowhere, you turn to alternative publishing: Publish yourself; subsidy publishing; or Publish On Demand (POD).

Publishing a book yourself is time consuming and expensive. Subsidy publishing is not as time consuming, but it can be even more costly. POD is the only prudent choice. So, should you POD or not to POD?

The answer is yes—and no.

“Table Top Publishing” technology makes POD both practical and relatively inexpensive. POD works this way: Copies of a book are printed only on demand from purchasers, and for a fixed rate per copy no matter if a customer orders one copy or several hundred. Since there is no need for a POD publisher to warehouse product or maintain a large infrastructure, thus minimizing his financial risk, he can release books that might never have seen the light of day through a regular commercial press.

If you expect to make the New York Times and get rich overnight, then POD is not for you. POD rarely offers an advance against royalties—and royalties are almost always modest at best. While the POD publisher lists titles with Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and similar vehicles, distribution is limited and your publisher rarely invests much in promotion. Neither, for that matter, do most commercial houses. What this means is that it is going to be primarily up to you to promote and market your own book.

POD is NOT subsidy publishing. The legitimate POD demands no financial backing from you, the author. The POD house expects to garner a profit from selling books, the same as any other commercial publisher. The subsidy publisher makes his money not from marketing books but instead from gullible and eager would-be authors.

Google “POD” on the Internet and nearly eight MILLION hits pop up. The vast majority of these are not legitimate PODs since vanity publishers are attempting to blur the distinction between themselves and POD and falsely assume the high road with publish on demand. Most of these wolves in sheep guise are out to fleece the writer, not sell books.

For example, one “POD” ad begins like this: “Have you ever dreamed of making writing you career? Do you have work or life experiences that would help other people? Do you have a great story to share with others? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ then don’t wait any longer. Become a published author today with (Fill in the company’s name).”

The prospective author is then urged to request a “free self-publishing guide.” It will be the last freebie you’ll get. A “basic package” can start at upward of one thousand dollars and reach as high as ten thousand. Add on a few options like those below and you’re talking about some real change:

HANDLING AND SET UP FEE: $500;
LAYOUT: $12.50 per page;
ENCODING SERVICES: $8.50 per page;
EDITING: $2.00 per page...

Guess who’s making the profit here, and from whom it’s being made?

The idea is to purchase your book at cost plus a profit for the publisher and then sell it yourself for your own profit. Buy a copy for ten, sell it for fifteen. A friend of mine discovered too late in the small print that in order to receive his “author’s discount,” he had to buy in minimum lots of 500 copies. He ended up buying at retail prices through Amazon.com and selling his book at a loss in order to have any distribution at all.

This having been said, have I used POD and would I use POD again? The answer is yes.

I’m a professional writer. I’ve made a good living at it for 27 years, having published more than 50 successful books with commerical houses such as Simon & Schuster, Dell, HarperCollins, St. Martin’s, and others. Two of my books, however, were released through AWOCBooks.com, a legitimate POD in the classic commercial sense. Why POD?

POD works best with nonfiction directed toward a narrow or particular market—or books that prove too controversial for the mainsteam. My MAGIC STEPS TO WRITING SUCCESS, quite obviously, is intended for aspiring writers. GOING BONKERS: THE WACKY WORLD OF CULTURAL MADNESS is political nonfiction satirizing political correctness. The books are as professional looking as most commercial endeavors—and I find that, since I am also a public speaker and teacher, that I make reasonable profits from my personal sales.

Should you POD? Yes. As long as you understand the nature of the technology, what it can and cannot do for you, and what to expect. I predict that, due to rising costs and competition from legitimate PODs, most commercial houses will by necessity take this wave to the future. It might be a good time to get in on the ground floor with a dependable, reliable and legitimate POD.

© Copyright 2006, Charles W. Sasser

Charles "Chuck" Sasser is author of more than 60 published books and thousands of magazine articles. Visit Chuck’s website, www.CharlesSasser.com

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