Print on Demand – Pros and Cons

My discussion of print-on-demand publishing in yesterday’s blog elicited some wonderful comments. It turns out quite a few of us on Blog Book Tours have gone the POD route, and most seem to be pleased that they did. I especially liked Marvin D Wilson’s comment ( He said his first book, which was POD, has generated more income for him than two subsequent novels that were published by traditional small presses.

Print-on-Demand publishing still carries a definite stigma. I’ve had traditionally published writers say in shock that I’m actually a good writer – so why on earth did I go with POD? It’s true that many POD books are horrible. Some publishers will print virtually anything. A local bookstore owner has started up a POD press, and she characterizes the new business as a “printer” rather than a “publisher,” because they don’t vet or edit the work they print. She candidly acknowledges that much of it is crap. However, she expects her bookstore to be out of business within 10 years, so she’s looking to the printing business for her future livelihood. My own publisher, Virtual Bookworm ( claims to accept only projects that meet their standards, but I’m not sure of the percentage of submissions they actually publish.

I know some authors who’ve self-published quirky novels that would probably never have been picked up by a traditional publisher. Sometimes they’re offbeat by professional standards; nonetheless they’re often more intriguing than more traditional mysteries published by small presses. And I know other authors who’ve gone with small presses of dubious reputation, who let them down by not delivering books as promised or – as is currently happening with several friends – declining to pay royalties or return phone calls.

With the big conferences and organizations, there’s still a big divide. For example, I attended Malice Domestic after my first book, Mood Swing, came out. I was invited to be on a panel and was featured at the first-time authors’ breakfast. But by the time Eldercide came out, they’d changed their policy and decreed I could no longer be considered an “author” or be on a panel. I could, however, attend as a “fan.” I declined, and they graciously refunded my registration fee. Perhaps I’ll be back when they decide to enter the new milennium.

I could continue this rant, but perhaps this is enough for one day. If you’ve read this far, congratulations, and I look forward to your comments.

8 thoughts on “Print on Demand – Pros and Cons

  1. Hey,
    I did get that far and enjoyed it. You’re a good writer. I think those of us who have self-published have to be reminded of that, as well as letting others know there are very good writers self-publishing. I think the statistic is 1% of unknown writers find agents and get traditionally published. The other 99% of us have to do something, right?

  2. Julie, The problem is that too many authors go with POD or self-publish and skip the professional editing phase of their projects. They don’t know how bad their writing is, and don’t understand how a poorly edited book sabotages good writers with good books. It’s not fair that MWA won’t give the good ones a chance, but how are they supposed to separate out the junk so they still present great panels starring great writers?

    I’ve been told the best marketing tool you can use for a good POD or self-pubbed book is word of mouth, because that’s how you’ll get enough sales to catch the attention of a big publisher. I can’t vouch for the validity of that advice, but it does make sense. Have you given out free books and asked the readers to review, tweet, e-mail, and request their library place an order?


  3. This is my favorite post of yours so far, because it brings up an issue people seem to feel strongly for/against. It’s also really helpful for me to hear the pros and cons so I can decide whether to go this route when I finish my book. So thanks for the insight!

  4. “I could continue this rant, but perhaps this is enough for one day. If you’ve read this far, congratulations …”

    LMAO! Loved that. 🙂

    POD just makes sense in a lot of ways. For one, it’s green. Yes, quality is sometimes an issue because any rascal can set up a POD and publish crap for a fee. But there are so many quality outfits pumping out good quality books now it’ll eventually become accepted. Even some of the bigs are moving towards POD as their fulfillment methods rather than printing out a bazillion hard copies right from the git.

  5. I think things are changing in the publishing world. I think it is still true those choosing to go the POD route have a stigma attached to them, but I know several authors who have gone this route and done quite well with their sales. POD houses are recognizing this changing atmosphere and are stepping up their game in assisting authors with getting editing assistance, reputable book reviews, and marketing programs.

    NA Sharpe

  6. Remember the ‘in crowd” in high school? They set the rules, they set the trends, and they stuck up their noses at everyone else. That was then, this is now. We’re all grown up and don’t need the approval of folks we wouldn’t even cross the street to say howdy to.

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