POD people

In re-reading your Amazing Archives of Wisdom and General Spiffiness, I noticed that you take a rather dim view of e-publishing, equating it with self-publishing and websites like iUniverse and xlibris, where the author pays the publisher and is not subjected to a review process.

This is not the case with some e-publishers, particularly those that specialize in Erotic Romance. For example, an e-publisher like Ellora's Cave sells over 30,000 e-books a month, and that's not including the titles they do put into print and sell through bookstores (Red Sage, Whiskey Creek Press-Torrid, Liquid Silver, and many others are all e-publishers who do this.) Their books can be found, for example, at Borders, although they chiefly consider themselves e-publishers.

Would an agent make a distinction between this type of publisher-one that does not accept all submissions, does subject authors to an edit-and-revise process, and does pay royalties without asking the author to pay to be published-and iUniverse? Do you?

The scumbags at AuthorHouse, xLibris and iUniverse have really mucked up the pool of POD publishing. Because they are the most well known of the scam mills, it's easy to assume ALL POD publishers are the latest incarnation of vanity press.

I know that's not the case but sadly, if someone tells me they've been published by a small house that uses POD the burden of proof for "is it crap" shifts to them. I assume it is; you have to prove otherwise.

That said, if you're going to use this as a publishing credential, I'd advise investing some time in writing several sentences or a paragraph that explains (as you did here) that the publisher isn't a vanity house and including a link to the website. It won't get you past the truly convinced that "no good book was ever published by anyone other than traditional process", but it will get you to me. I'll look.

Also, let's remember e-books are NOT POD books. E-books are text on a screen, a special device that lets you read things, and coming soon to your cell phone, Ipod and Blackberry. POD books are separate objects: books. There's nothing E about them.

I don't think POD technology sucks. I think it's the wave of the future.

I think companies (and I will not call them publishers) who use POD to persuade people they can be "published authors" are one step up from Dorothy Deering (see TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING).

I recently read Yvon Chouinard's book LET MY PEOPLE GO SAILING. He's the founder and owner of Patagonia, the sporting goods and clothing company. He's persuasive by example that companies that do good in the world can change things for the better. As I look around MY industry I see incredible waste. 25% of most books are shipped back to the publisher and recycled. That's just wasteful in the extreme. Let's not even talk about the hundreds of thousands of pages of manuscript that come and go out of just my office here in a given year.

I envision POD technology changing how book production work and making us MUCH less wasteful and better earthlings.


MJ said...

From the iUniverse web site:

"iUniverse's services in book publishing are endorsed by industry leading author organizations, including the Authors Guild and ASJA. iUniverse is a proud member of the Association of American Publishers, Publishers Marketing Association, and Small Publishers Association of North America. The company's major investors include Warburg Pincus and Barnes & Noble."

Anyone endorsed by the Authors Guild, ASJA, and Barnes & Noble is not a scam. There are many POD companies that are out to rip people off, but iUniverse seems to be legitimate.

I am not exactly impartial, however. My cousin and I used their services to publish a biography of our grandfather. This book was exclusively for our family and everyone was thrilled with the result. We were extremely pleased with their service, low cost, and the final product.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm stayin' outta' this one. You're on your own Miss Snark. But you can deal! Did you see the post on you at www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/.....he liked the soccor mom!

Maya said...

Ron: You've just made Miss Snark's point for her.

You wanted to produce a keepsake for your family. It was never intended to be a commercial venture that would make money. Therefore, you were happy with your experience.

People for whom the iUniverse experience will be satisfactory are those who are seeking to publish a non-commercial product intended for a very small or unique audience; those who are just dying to label themselves as an author; or those who refuse to change a word of their masterpiece in order to make it commercially viable.

You approached it with realistic expectations and were, therefore, satisfied. However, any would-be author who seeks self-publishing as a shortcut to the larger industry is likely to be disappointed. There are a few exceptions. M.J. Rose leaps to mind. However, she was already a PR savvy person when she chose to self-publish her first novel.

Miss Snark was not sneering at your keepsake. She was warning naive lambs away from a very sharp set of shears.


Shadow said...

Ron: Maya is right on the money. That said, check out my review of iUniverse. I'll also be looking at Lulu and BookLocker shortly.

Miss Snark: Not trying to tell you what to do, but one way to cut down on "the hundreds of thousands of pages of manuscript that come and go out of just my office here in a given year" would be to accept e-queries. I'm not out to out-Snark the Snark, but it was just lying there begging to be pointed out.

Christine said...

Yeah, I don't think that Xlibris and AuthorHouse are scams, they are honest about what they are - pay to publish houses. Vanity. If the neophyte writer doesn't do their homework and thinks that going with one of those houses thinks they're legitimately published, that's their fault.

That being said, there are OTHER POD outfits, like the famed Dorrance publishing (got some junk mail from them yesterday) and that PublishAnything outfit that deliberately lead writers, some of them a bit more savvy, to fall for their crap that those houses are commercial, legitimate houses.
Those are the scams. And some people, if you've ever looked at the PA forum, take an almost cult-like attitude to defend their choice of 'publisher'. Egad, it's scary. And a shame.

Bunneh said...

Shadow: I'm in complete agreement with you regarding the e-queries; however, I can see Miss Snark's point about not accepting them. By and large, a lot of people are pretty clueless about the things lurking in the depths of their hard drives, and many will send out infected attachments without even realizing it. I'm sure Miss Snark has a great virus scanner, but it does seem a bit like a train wreck waiting to happen.

And what does one do if the virus scanner points out that an attachment is riddled with viruses? My guess would be to write back to the would-be author and thank them for their submission, which I might have bothered opening and reading if doing so didn't guarantee knocking my computer back into the stone-age?

But then, that's just me. ;)

MJ said...


You are right. All I was trying to say is that at least one of the companies she mentioned is not a scam or "scumbag." I needed a service and they provided it. They did what I asked without trying to sell any addtional services. They never promised fortune and fame (I wasn't looking for that anyway). I just think that they do a great job, are a reputable company, and don't deserve some of the name calling.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Bunneh, that attachment problem can be skirted by saying, "No attachments."

I have sent things by e-mail by cutting and pasting them into the body of the e-mail.

That would take care of your threat of a virus problem.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Small point, but Red Sage Publishing is not and never has been an e-publisher. They are a highly respected small press.

Bunneh said...

Bonnie: True, "no attachments" would be helpful. However, I'm not sold on the cut and paste method. Too many times the formatting is lost when you C&P. I once had a student try to email me an essay, and it came through in a big clump of unformatted text. Pink text. After my eyes stopped bleeding, I replied back and asked her to try again.

I'm cynical enough to think that most people are similarly tech-illiterate (not all, of course, but a lot).

Providing rules for e-submissions works in theory, but it's problematic when it appears so many people have trouble following the directions for snail-mail submissions.

Christine said...

Problem is, when you accept e-queries, you get four times as many subs as if you didn't. Ok, it's a query, but it still takes some time to read and reply. Although, I do hear that some agents like the e-query (not sub, just a query) because they can C&P that form rejection letter and hit send in a heartbeat :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Bunneh....ROFL....I loved the comment about your eyes bleeding. That was a priceless word picture! But you are right about technical skills of the ordinary person. I know a few editors that have a big problem with the 'smart quote thing', and I've C&P and then had to spend huge time reformatting. But, where there's a will there's a way!

Shadow said...

Bunneh: I'm fine with snail mail queries only, but I'm also willing to accept that there's going to be a lot of paper involved. It was Miss Snark who appeared to be expressing dismay at the waste, which was the *only* reason I took my life in my hands goading her like that.

Ron: Depending on how many copies of your grandfather's biography you wanted, there were several considerably less expensive options than iUniverse. Lulu, for example, is free if you don't want an ISBN (which you don't need if you're not selling it), and if you choose not to make a profit on it, Lulu waives a commission as well. Each book would have cost $4.53 plus 2 cents per page ($6.53 for 100 pages.) And if you wanted at least 200 copies, you could have gone through Morris Publishing (a printer) and paid only $3.45 (I happen to know they charge a flat 22 cents per book shipping) per book.

MJ said...

That is true, Shadow, Lulu is an excellent company. The reason we decided to go with iUniverse is that they design a custom cover and the book blocks. If we went with Lulu we would have to do that ourselves. We wanted to make sure it looked professional and I wasn't sure we were up to it. Lulu is great for those that are more talented than I.