11.28.2006

Quel Dommage

Hi Miss Snark

I would like to self-publish POD a book through lulu and at a later point query agents with the manuscript for that same book with a view to representation and publication the traditional route.

I realise this is unconventional. But regardless of the actual 'point' in this, I want to check that by PODing the book, I am not damaging my chances of representation for a traditional publishing deal.

I have asked this question elsewhere, and have got replies saying yes I am, and no I'm not. When I've asked 'how' I'm damaging my chances, I haven't got any convincing reason. I don't see why an agent or a publisher who liked the manuscript would reject it on the basis that I had previously self-published it.

I wanted to check with you.



It's hardly unconventional. I see this stuff all the time. There's an entire blog devoted t0 the stuff that rolls off the POD presses. Take a look at her stats about how much of it is readable.

Mostly we don't reject stuff because it's been published POD. Mostly we reject POD stuff because it sux.

There are cases of people who have gotten picked up by agents and publishers after going the POD route. It's the equivilent of being discovered at the Automat by Woody Allen. Yea it's happened but he also finds 99.99% of his actors through a casting agent named Juliet Taylor.


As to the damage part of your question, publishers are interested in work they can sell. If you have a book that's sold 2000 in POD form to your friends and neighbors and publishers think you can sell a lot more by expanding the scope of your neighborhood to Fargo North Dakota, they'll be interested. There's no problem with selling those rights at all.

The problem comes because most people who publish novels on POD presses and sell them to their 20 friends and neighbors have maxed out the sales reach. Publishers aren't going to invest any money or time in a project that only sold 20 copies, unless there is an Act of God betwixt those sales and the present. Like you marry the Pope or something. Given you are a man, this would qualify as two Acts of God.

All of the above applies ONLY to Lulu and CafePress which essentially act as printers. If you get snared up by those snake oil salesfrauds describing themselves as publishers, but are in fact POD vanity mills, you better look at the contract to see if you actually have any rights left after you pay them a wad of money. THAT is the path to madness and will damge your chances of having that book published.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought POD and vanity publishing were synonymous -- did I miss something? Can somebody please shoot me with the clue gun?

Many thanks,
~A Nitwit

Miss Snark said...

POD and vanity publishing are NOT the same. There's a lot about this in the Snarkives.

Dave said...

It's actually easier to handle a book version of your novel than the manuscript. However, remember READ THE CONTRACT. Don't give up your rights.
Just before I retired, I was a certified instructor for ISO 14000 and could have made a living teaching it to other people and eventually auditing their systems. I could have got certified as ISO 9000 instructor. POD would have been a great way to publish my coursebook. Just have a company buy them as needed. Then I wouldn't have to handle binders or loose sheets. Before any of you ask, remember I said I retired from work.

Maya Reynolds said...

Anonymous 1: You've been taken in by the vanity presses' latest sales pitch. In order to lend credibility to their obscenely overpriced services, they have begun to identify themselves as POD publishers as though it were a BUSINESS MODEL. It is not.

POD or print-on-demand is a TECHNOLOGY whereby a single book can be published digitally (as opposed to traditional presses that cannot economically print a very small book run). Any publisher--traditional or vanity press--can use the technology.

The fastest way to label yourself as a newbie in the publishing world is to tell an agent or editor, "I published my first book POD at PublishAmerica." You're thinking that you're saying, "I'm a published author." But the agent or editor is thinking, "This poor, clueless soul just spent a chunk of money on a vanity press."

As Miss Snark says, Lulu and CafePress don't pretend to be publishers. They admit they're printers. They will provide a bound copy of your manuscript in hardcover or trade paper format. Their prices are much cheaper. But that still doesn't make you a published author in the industry's eyes. You have to be published by someone to whom you didn't pay money for that.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Robinson got a traditional deal out of his Lulu work and Mark Jeffrey is about to get one. But they have immense sales.

It's fine to hope and dream, but you should be realistic. If you can't reach an odd 1000 sales, it's a wasted effort to try publishers and agents after you POD.

Did I try to answer your question at Lulu by any chance?

Anonymous said...

*whips out clue gun*
Vanity publishing: Paying someone huge amounts of money to print hundreds of books (often forcing you to be stuck with huge suplies) and take your rights away.

POD (aka Print on Demand): A publishing method that allows books to be printed one at a time.

A lot of vanity publishers use print on demand to print their books, but it's not synonymous.

For example, Lulu which both the questioner and Miss Snark mention, doesn't take any off your rights and only makes you pay for what you order (which can be as little as one book). See the difference?

Anonymous said...

Original poster here:

Thanks, everyone! I'm actually familiar with the scam that is vanity publishing, I just somehow thought all POD was done by vanity presses. I wasn't aware of any legitimate uses of POD.

And now I am! Thanks again. :)
~Slightly Less of a Nitwit

Maya Reynolds said...

Anonymous 1: The confusion is natural. The vanity presses are working overtime to redefine themselves as "POD publishers" instead of as "vanity presses."

Things are likely to get even more confusing in the future. Amazon purchased a company called BookSurge back in 2005. BookSurge operated as a vanity press that used POD technology. Amazon is planning to use BookSurge as a POD press to offer publishers the opportunity to print their books on a subscription model.

Amazon suggests that publishers provide digital files of their books. Then Amazon will take the orders online, print the book and ship the book to the customer for the publisher. No massive print runs, no warehousing of printed books, no returns.

Interestingly enough, Amazon has been acting as the online agent for Borders Book Group since 2001. It would seem a natural for Borders to take advantage of this POD print/subscription model. However, the new CEO of Borders just announced that his company is "reviewing options for its Internet relationship with Amazon." That certainly suggests that Borders may be considering taking their online business back in-house.

Ryan Field said...

This is a fascinating post for many reasons. If I were going to go the route of self-publishing I'd look into iUniverse rather than lulu or any of the others.

yossarian said...

I'd like to ask the original poster why -- if you want a legitimate publishing career -- would you pursue POD or vanity presses or iUniverse or any such thing? Why not just write books and pursue agents, and then a publisher?

POD makes sense for some projects, like the retired gent above and his ISO coursebook.

But why, if you eventually want a real agent and publisher, would you publish the book yourself first? What's the point?

Mark said...

POD is the backbone of the new vanity press, and has made it easier to scam people. When the verity of their books are questioned out comes It's technology canard. Sure it is. One that is used 99.9 percent of the time by vanity presses including Publishamerica. Lulu allows just the printing option sans everything else but does indeed act as a pseudopublisher as well. They cover all bases.

Fees can come on the backside as is the case with PA. Jack the price up five bucks a copy and short shrift the roylalties on the net on the average 75 copies sold, and you have $375. There's your fee. That technology helps spike the price as well, and produces an inferior product. It's a technology that only helps the owner of the doctutech machine.

MTV said...

Since savvy business people have a model today, my model, whether you are published traditionally or vanity or POD, would require some kind of PR firm to assist you in placing and pitching your book. This can provide the extra horsepower you need to assist you in becoming a household name.

Obviously, the kind of PR assistance you seek will vary depending on your method of publishing. Presumably, a vanity publisher should be providing some marketing areas for you. If they aren't then POD would make more sense. Then engage your own PR people.

If you are a first time author, even when you are picked up by a publishing house, you will be given a time window to produce sales on your first run. After that the publisher will move on. If your connections and platform are good you might get a second shot at another work.

As Mr. Trump says - It's not personal - it's just buinsess

queen serene said...

I had a terrible experience with Booksurge.

The set-up was ideal: I delivered press-ready files, and they took care of all the messy business end of things. I got a 25% royalty. I paid NO USER FEE because I pre-ordered over 100 books for myself (clients who do so have the fee waived).

All was well until the product was shipped out. The majority of books produced were defective: pages falling out, discolored covers, white splotches on the covers, etc. Of the 135 books I purchased, over 100 were defective. It was a huge embarassment and headache for our organization.

The books that were produced correctly looked gorgeous. The paper is high-quality bright white--no newsprint. The image quality was top-notch. It's too bad they failed to deliver consistent results. I pulled the book a month after publication, and this is causing all kinds of problems with our customers--Amazon is continuing to take orders, but then sends delayed-shipment notices after the fact, and then finally sends order cancellation notices weeks later.

Thankfully, as this fiasco unfolded, we were in negotiations with a traditional publisher. And the fact that the book had already been "published" and publicized led this publisher to expedite their acquisition and production process. Our new edition will be published next summer.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Robinson didn't get a traditional deal. He landed an agent, but in a nutshell, he found that his work was too Christian for the mainstream and too mainstream for the Christian market. Consequently, he started his own POD-based press and his second book is selling nicely.

Anonymous said...

But why, if you eventually want a real agent and publisher, would you publish the book yourself first? What's the point?

E. Lynn Harris, who writes books about African-American men who live on the "down-low," had to go the self-publishing route because he couldn't find a publisher interested in his first novel. He sold it himself through bookstores, beauty salons and other venues targeted to black customers. He eventually sold enough books to interest a traditional publisher and today he's a best-selling author. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Lynn_Harris

Harris is a unique case but in some instances, if your novel tackles challenging subject matter and you're willing to promote the book yourself, it may make sense to go the POD/self-publishing route.

Dave said...

There are other legitimate reasons for PODs:
If you compile a family history and need to print 5, 10, 20 copies, then a POD like Lulu is the way to go. Chances are that no publisher will be interested in your family history (please don't be offended by that) but your family and close friends will appreciate it. You can give the 20 copies as gifts. You won't need a 100 or 200 and you won't have to market the history to anyone.

Marlo said...

I hate when the name of tech gets sullied when some jerks use it for ick.

POD is just a way of printing. You might as well rail against Gutenberg.

Among the highly respected (and yes, royalty paying) small press, POD, and specifically Lulu, is used because the quality is really good, and you don't have to have a set print run. You can print exactly how many you need, as they sell. There's no waste of money, no waste of paper. Lulu doesn't take any rights, they don't charge any setup fees, and they allow you to set the royalties. A small press just can't afford the massive investment of the big boys, but they no longer have to dash pages off a crappy dot matrix (or ink jet) and staple them.

Yes, vanity presses like iUniverse and PublishAmerica and their scum cousins are disgusting, but to say that is POD is like saying email is spam. Yes, icky scammers abuse email, but that doesn't make email evil.

Mark said...

None taken, but mine has been a published book for nearly 100 years. Binding genealogical information is a use legitimate of the so-called technology.

Silas Coburn

Craig Steffen said...

Miss Snark,

POD and vanity publishing are NOT the same. There's a lot about this in the Snarkives.

True, you've made lots of comments about POD being a technology and VP being a business model. However, this is the first place that I've seen someone make a side by side comparison of companies that differentiates the two. In this case, company A who does POD but is not a VP, vs. company B which does POD and is very definitely a VP.

I guess like many things in life, it's the contract that makes the difference. Company A presumably charges a certain amount of money per copy to print your book POD. Company B presumably charges you money, promised to make you an author and save you from the "traditional" publishers, and charges you money to print the book. What you're saying is when it comes down to it, Company A doesn't own any copyright, they're just a printing service, whereas company B calls themselves a publisher and in fact owns a bunch of rights to your work.

I'm very glad for this post. I've seen some folks in publishing (MakingLight for instance) that vilify vanity presses, and I didn't understand the reason for the extreme attitude. Now I think I do much more--the danger isn't so much in publishing your own stuff, it's being tricked into signing away your rights by those who are more interested in your author's fees.

Yahzi said...

"Given you are a man, this would qualify as two Acts of God."

Or one act of God... and one act of a very skilled surgeon.

:D

Here's a slightly different question: what about E-publishing? What if an e-pub picks up my book, and after 3 years I get the rights back? Would that help or hurt?

Anonymous said...

Is there a chance that an agent would look at someone who went the POD route as overly impatient or easily frustrated, and therefore maybe not a gem to work with?

I can see if you've tried for three years to get the thing in print through traditional means, but it sounds more like you want things right now. Mightn't an agent see that as an indication of a demanding nature?

I dunno. Maybe I'm full of hooey. Just a thought.

Mark said...

There seems to be a blindsopt for the many "services" Lulu provides. They operate as a vanity "publisher," as well as just a printer. Read the page there. If not who screens the work they accept? By the way, they have 1000 memoirs for sale as the publisher. Hello.

The only so-called small presses who use the POD business model are vanity operations. Yeah I know the ones who balk at this: Wildside, and a couple others, but if the model, as is always the case with POD, is to sell online only it's the same thing. That's a tough reality for some. Would miss snark represent a book available in this way online only? I think not, and for good reason. If she disagrees I'm sure she'll say so.

yossarian said...

"E. Lynn Harris, who writes books about African-American men who live on the "down-low," had to go the self-publishing route because he couldn't find a publisher interested in his first novel."

Good point. I'm also thinking of Laurie Notaro and her hilarious IDIOT GIRL books.

But the original poster sounds like he wants to go straight to POD without even TRYING to get published first, yet a legit career seems to be his ultimate publishing goal. That's the part I don't understand.

jennifer said...

I can think of other reasons to self publish, mostly related to the perceived profitability of a project--sometimes poets self-publish, also a collection of short stories might be self-published. These types of books are difficult to convince traditional publishers to take on, but if you can prove your marketability beforehand, they might rethink it. Also, anthologies that do not have any big-name contributors might fall into this category. So I do see reasons to use this technology. It can be a good tool for a writers in very specific circumstances.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I'm most familiar with POD printing as a way of reproducing historically significant but limited demand books and pamphlets. For this market it is ideal, though somewhat expensive.

When I was writing my dissertation, POD publications allowed me to acquire research material to which I would not otherwise have had access.

I'm not sure I'd ever have anything I wrote printed that way. The only exception would be the dragon poems I've written to entertain my children. I've considered having lulu.com print them for me. Then I can give each of my daughters a copy they can keep.

I'm rambling aren't I? I think I need a nap!

Victor Allen Winters said...

Mark said...

"The only so-called small presses who use the POD business model are vanity operations."

Imajine books is not a Vanity Press; they use POD; they also pay an advance and royalties.

Rik said...

[i]"There seems to be a blindsopt for the many "services" Lulu provides. They operate as a vanity "publisher," as well as just a printer. Read the page there. If not who screens the work they accept? By the way, they have 1000 memoirs for sale as the publisher. Hello. "[/i]

This is true - or was true. lulu.com have just begun to offer a new service called "published by you" (where the authour is recorded as the publisher) in addition to their existing service which has been rebranded as "published by lulu". Currently the new service is only available to US based writers, I'll have to wait a while before I get the chance to be properly "self published".

POD via lulu.com is a very good idea for some things - I publish my book of poems through them - but very not so good for other things. When I finally finish my first novel I'll be looking for an agent and a traditional publishing deal. My poems are my hobby; I want my novels to be my career.