POD people...cause this is my favorite topic of course

Dear Miss Snark:

Could we hear your comments about the likelihood of a POD book being picked up by a commercial publishing house? Do POD publishers share in any royalties if the book is picked up? Would an agent in his/her right mind take on a POD book in an attempt to sell it commercially? Have you ever received a POD book in the mail for representation? If so, what did you do with it?

Let's start with a basic review of terms. POD is a way to print books. (Yes I get lazy and misuse it too). What you're asking is if a writer self publishes a book using POD technology, OR "sells" his/her book to one of the vanity publishers that uses POD, is there a chance it will get "picked up".

Picked up is TV or sports jargon. In publishing, we talk about selling rights. Your question is, I think: If I publish with a company like Lulu.com, or iUniverse, or on my own with a small print run, will a big house be interested in acquiring the rights.

Answer: probably not. Totally not if you write a novel. Less totally but still not much if you write non fiction, and totally totally not if you write poems or family cookbooks or family genealogy. Now before you find the exception to this and wave it in my font howling "you're WRONG!!", remember there are always one or two exceptions to the 50,000 books published that way and if you want to spend time and money trying to be 1:50K, go for it.

IF by some stroke of marketing genius you do end up selling rights to the book to someone else, whether the first publisher shares in any of the money is dependent on the contract. Whether you are able to sell the rights is also a matter of the contract language. If the first publisher own the rights, you can't sell them till you get them back.

I don't know of many agents who are keen on selling previously published work unless something else sweetens the deal.

People have sent me previously published books without querying. I throw them away. The library won't take them, and I'm not schlepping them to Housing Works on the train.


Anonymous said...

FYI to Miss Snark and all Snarklings: you can mail your donations directly to Housing Works...

Miss Snark said...

I'm REALLY not going to stand in line at the post office to mail it either. If you insist on having "area 51: the early years" come on over and get it.

BitchySmurf said...

I work in contracts at an NYC publishing house. We do, every once in awhile, buy rights to a book that's already been published by a smaller company. But I have never ever seen one with those online companies like iUniverse, because they take all your rights and then don't do shit with them.

It's usually people who self publish and then continue marketing themselves until they build up a following. Or if there is a POD company involved, it's one that the sales have been big it's hard to ignore, which, let's face it, doesn't happen very often. (And also not signed away all the rights. Read your contracts!!)

Bookview said...

Thanks for this post. I probably should be amazed, but I am, at the number of people I see on writer's boards who have published with vanity presses, then post about how much fun it was, and oh, can anyone recommend an agent? Because now that they've seen a little success with the book (that is, three of their five cousins and a couple of friends bough it), they'd like to try selling it to a traditional publisher.

And of course we have to tell them it ain't gonna happen.

Simon Haynes said...

It DOES happen
I wasn't going to post that for Miss Snark, who already said it's a 1 in 50k chance, but bookview made out it NEVER happens.
It does, it's just really really really (really) unlikely. But not never.

Anonymous said...

iUniverse does NOT take ANY rights under its new manuscript programs. If you work in contracts maybe you should read one before commenting on it. I hate misinformation.

Jenny Bent, a well-respected agent, has represented and sold at least three POD self-published authors, Laurie Notaro, Jennifer Colt and Wil Clarke.

Skylar said...

My "self-published" POD book was "picked up" by a *small* publisher. My contract with the original “vanity” POD publisher was for a mere two year period, and then all rights reverted to me, so the original publisher has no share in anything.

The new publisher is printing an edited, second edition. The initial sales were fairly strong for a self-published POD book, and my new publisher hopes to expand the audience with an improved edition, a better cover, actual marketing (which "vanity" POD publishers will not give you), and at least some physical store sales (vs. the sole, online availability of most POD books).

I know this *occasionally* happens with big publishers too (POD-dy Mouth's blog reveals a few formally POD-published books that have been or will be published by big houses), but this is of course rare.

When choosing a POD publisher initially, I skipped over iuniverse because, at the time, they did appear to assume far too many rights, for far too long, and I was hoping, if the book did well, to do what I eventually did and turn it over to another publisher. I don't think iuniverse now takes as many rights as it once did, however. They have revised their contract. Very few “vanity” POD’s take all rights these days or even exclusive rights.

gdotcom said...

What if you just want a short-run printing to tide you over (no ISBN, no rights transfers, don't sell it on their site) while you're pursing traditional publishing deals?Like instantpublisher.com or something? I realize patience is essential, but I'd like to have something tangible to show for my work without waiting two years, while also not slamming the door on that possibility. Any thoughts or advice?