POD Debate -- Lulu.com
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It's incredibly exciting to be in on a revolutionary process, such as POD. There is mention of it everywhere. It's changing the way traditionals do business. It gives authors hope with the knowledge that they can be published even if they don't fit into the currently selling niche. It makes your pulse race and palms sweat and...
And then the glory of the whole thing passes and you're stuck in the midst of a war which has no right side and drags on forever with no reasonable resolve seeming to be in sight.
That's where I've been stuck recently: in the middle of a POD battle, both with a list of others and with myself. There are such horrid things said about publishing via POD from both writers and publishers. The books are more expensive. Serious reviewers won't touch them. Bookstores only carry them if you're a local author and do signings at their stores.
I can't even argue. Over the last several months, I've sent hundreds of postcards announcing my novel to independent bookstores just to get a statement from my company showing how pointless it's been. At the same time, I have readers urging me for the next book and complaining when I say I hope it will be out by the end of the year because it's not soon enough. A friend comes to visit and would rather spend the time reading my draft chapters than talking with me. I'm still trying to decide whether to be flattered or insulted about that one.
It's frustrating. I'll admit it. I was even having second thoughts about staying with my company although I love working with them and have no issues about their quality or process. One remark from a typesetter who said a POD ISBN is "the kiss of death" made me start to rethink.
Then, I hear how another who uses the same company I do received acceptances from 17 major reviewers in the book's field of interest and I wonder where the differentiation in information lies.
This morning, I looked over at one of the novels I purchased recently and saw the "New York Times Bestseller" label. My first thought was, "So what?" How many of them don't have that label? Does it actually mean anything?
I know from the tons of reading I've done on the subject of publishing and marketing that bestseller lists are not necessary truth, either. Many of them are political marketing schemes based on which authors/publishers pushed the most to have their books up there. Numbers don't always count for anything. One author was at the top of a list simply because she went to those in charge often with treats of some kind and pushed them to push her books. (source: David Morrell, Lessons From A Lifetime Of Writing -- thank you David McClain for the name recall!)
So, does the publisher matter? It seems to depend upon who is answering. It's definitely not the easy route. It may be easier to get your books in print with POD but it's harder to sell them, regardless of quality.
My efforts haven't been completely futile. I have sales other than to people I know. I'm not sure whether to credit the postcards or word of mouth, but then most authors will tell you it's impossible to tell what part of marketing is working ... just keep doing it. For now, I'm staying the course and exploring further marketing opportunities.
One thing I've picked up from the POD list is the importance of a press kit. There must be information available about your book if you want booksellers to consider ordering. You can check mine for an example of what a press kit should contain: http://www.lkhunsaker.com/presskit.htm or do a web search.
Ted Savas Interview on Joe Wikert's Publishing 20202 Blog:
Jan 7 2007 (3 part interview)
JW: What do you think of print-on-demand and self-publishing?
TPS: I might be one of the few people in traditional publishing who thinks print-on-demand and self-publishing is a good thing. I like to think of it this way: It is very difficult to get a book published because a handful of houses and agents act as gatekeepers to what is a rather exclusive world. Huge numbers of manuscripts—many of them worthy of publication—are sitting on dusty shelves because agents and acquisitions editors told the author “No, thanks” one too many times. Most people eventually give up. For the reading public, that means a lot of good material someone somewhere would have found worthwhile will never be read because a very thin handful of people guarding the main gate told the writer, “You can’t come in.” Perhaps it is my libertarian bent, but POD and other alternatives are just fine with me.
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Publishing Company Highlight
Lulu has been a hot topic on the POD list, so I thought it was a good time to highlight one of the best known PODs: http://www.lulu.com
In the last year or so since I first published my children's book with Lulu, there have been many changes. One is the distribution service, with three options. Even better, in my opinion, is the expansion of products offered. Not only are they one of the only PODs that offer full-color books (without a huge outpouring of personal funds), but they now have CDs, DVDs, photo books, brochures, digital media, and hardcover books. I love that they offer hardcover books at individual prices and am already planning how I can use this option.
As with most PODs, all rights to the work stay with the author. Lulu claims only the right to publish, and depending on the author's choices, the right to list the title to wholesalers. This means the author has the right to excerpt it or pull it to place elsewhere or to market it to commercial publishers.
Setup: free, which includes converting a Word document to the necessary PDF file
Listing: depends on distribution package
-- Published by Lulu: $99.95 This includes an ISBN that lists Lulu.com as the publisher and lists the book on "a wholesaler's catalog" that makes it available to Amazon, etc.
-- Published by You: $149.95 Same as above except you are listed as the publisher.
-- A distribution package is not required. You can choose to have it for sale only to yourself or from Lulu's store, which doesn't require an ISBN. Use caution with this option, since retailers will not carry it without one.
Cover art: stock covers included, or upload your own
Annual host fee: None, Lulu Marketplace author page is also free to all Lulu authors. It includes space for your photo, bio, and lists your Lulu books.
Total cost: Cost of books vary depending on page number and binding. Similar but higher than other POD companies. Take into account that there is no set-up fee, though.
Set your own markup to determine royalties. As with most PODs, purchases made directly through their own store result in higher royalties than purchases made through other online retailers.
Decided whether or not to make it available as an ebook. The same markup used with print books applies to ebooks. There is no charge for setting up an ebook.
An advantage I've found with Lulu is that they have several mailing selections. For less expensive postage, a customer can select media mail. Most products ship within 3-5 days; hardcovers ship in 10-15 days. They also ship internationally, which some PODs do not offer.
There is no mention of whether returns are offered to bookstores. Most PODs do not offer returns and this can be an issue to consider.
Overall, Lulu offers a wide variety of products for a reasonable cost. It can be the perfect answer for anyone without funds to actually self-publish, as the whole process can be free if you choose no distribution. Consider, though, that the Lulu publishing name is well-known as a free publisher. That may or may not matter.
I encourage anyone who has any experience with this company or any other to share it in the Market Listings forum: "Invalid Item" .
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David Morrells' book: a product review
"Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft"
Tips for Better Stories
POD Yahoo email list
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Wishing you all the best of luck in your publishing ventures!
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(available for all group members to use anywhere on the site)