True confession time: I’m a POD person, I’m out and I’m proud!

Mood Swing front coverEarly in this blog’s brief history, I posted about my bipolar diagnosis, saying I’m out and I’m proud. Today’s post is about an aspect of my identity with perhaps even more stigma attached – I’ve published my two mysteries POD, or print-on-demand, rather than with a traditional publisher. A discussion on Murder Must Advertise got me riled up this morning, and I realized I hadn’t come clean how my books made it into print. It’s high time to change that.

My history in a nutshell: I began writing fiction in the 1980’s, inspired by my work as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie. After years as a free-spirited painter in New York’s SoHo, I found the institutional atmosphere overwhelming, but I was fascinated by the patients I worked with. The experience inspired my first mystery novel, and I produced a second as well. I managed to land a New York City agent, Kay Kidde of Kidde, Hoyt & Picard, but she didn’t sell my books. I stashed them in a drawer and forgot about fiction.

In the 1990’s I left the mental hospital and founded ElderSource, Inc., a Licensed Home Care Services Agency. The business did well, but it pushed me over the edge – it was while running ElderSource that I was first diagnosed bipolar. My husband and I sold the agency and moved further upstate to the Capital Region, where I did a year’s stint as Assistant Director at a psychiatric social club. They fired me the morning after I disclosed to one of the club’s consumers that like her, I had a bipolar diagnosis. Once again I turned to fiction as therapy: the experience inspired Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders.

Eldercide (2008)While attempting unsuccessfully to find an agent for Mood Swing, I wrote Eldercide. Perhaps mental illness was too specialized a topic, I thought, and I hoped for more success with the novel that drew on my home care experience. No such luck: the rejections continued. Approximately 18 rejections for each book – not many at all, but enough to throw me into a profound clinical depression. Once again I nearly gave up, until some writer friends convinced me to try print-on-demand publishing. I did due-diligence online research on POD companies and settled on Virtual Bookworm, a company in Texas that received consistently good reviews. Within two months of my decision, I had a published book in my hands. I had a major say in the design and layout, and I did my own cover illustration. Lo and behold, my depression lifted, and it hasn’t come back since.

Do I still want a big-time agent and publisher? Yes, that would be great, but my life no longer depends on it. And I plan to acquire them on my terms, when and if I choose. In the meantime, the people buying my books don’t care who the publisher is. Bookstores and libraries carry them when I do the necessary outreach, and they’re available worldwide through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. At my high school reunion last month in Milwaukee, I learned the school had purchased both books for their collection of alumni writers. And a fellow alumna from Norway, an exchange student back in the day, had bought them both as well.

Do I recommend POD publishing to other aspiring authors? Absolutely. I’ve got a lot more to say about it, so check back on Monday, when I’ll post a Q&A dialogue with myself about print-on-demand. If you have questions you’d like answered, leave them as comments, and perhaps I’ll answer them in my post. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

You can read the first chapters of both my mysteries by clicking on the tabs above or the pages on the right. If you like what you read, I encourage you to buy them! This fall I’ll be reissuing Eldercide with a new cover and a new title, Evening Falls Early. When I do, I plan to add a couple of pages with brief blurbs from other authors. These will include the authors’ own titles and/or websites, so it’s an ideal place to draw attention to your own work. Space is limited, though. I’ve already got some good quotes, and I can’t promise to include everybody, so act fast if you’re interested!

17 thoughts on “True confession time: I’m a POD person, I’m out and I’m proud!

  1. I think this is a great topic…one that holds interest for lots of writers.

    Agent rejection rates exceed 97 percent, maybe 98, depending on the source you read. Why? Some reasons are valid, I’m sure. Not everyone can write a good story, or, has a good story to tell. However, there are lots and lots of other authors who, for whatever reason, can’t get the attention of agents or publishers for their quality work. That’s neither right nor fair. Why not, then, self publish and for all the reasons you cited.

    Look forward to the FAQs.

    Best regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

    • Thanks, Galen. I’m convinced perseverance and personality factors are a biggie in terms of who gets published and who doesn’t.

      I’ve had authors say, “Julie, your books are really good,” in a tone of incredulity. Then they tell me I’m good enough to be traditionally published. True, and I’ll be delighted if they help me with some useful contact information.

    • I agree – and my POD publisher just told me they can get me on Kindle. (Doing it oneself, apparently, is technically very daunting.)

  2. I’ve read some great books from POD publishers (mostly nonfiction), and also some not so good. The big difference is usually in the editing (or lack thereof).

    My questions: Do the POD sites make an effort to tell beginning authors that they must not only self-edit, but should often hire a professional editor as well? Or do they offer editing services as part of their contract?

    • Hi Patricia,
      Great question, and one that I’m planning to address tomorrow. (I’ll quote your question directly, if that’s okay.)My own publisher does offer editing services, but they vary in this regard.

  3. I’m finding it easier to get my POD book into Borders and Barnes and Noble. Some stores will order a few copies and some won’t. But many will at least give it a go and order five copies, especially if they can return them for a full refund.

    My name is Steve, and I’m a POD-a-holic.

    Stephen Tremp

    • Yes, returns are a big issue with POD. It’s good that some stores will order copies for you. I haven’t tried very hard to get them to do so, though I vow to do better in the future. More often, they take them on consignment, and I’m not organized enough to follow up and see if they’ve sold them. Many authors tell me consignment is a bad idea.

  4. To clear up a misconception – print on demand is a method of printing, not self publishing.

    My first two books, Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams, were with a small publisher who used print on demand technology, but she did not accept returns. I had a very difficult time getting into book signings and usually had to bring my own books and take whatever didn’t sell home with me. I did go through the editing process and I could make suggestions about the covers, but the choice was not actually mine.

    This time, I went the self-publishing route for Killer Career. It’s very liberating to call the shots myself, but it’s a lot more work than having a publisher do it for you. Also, there are guidelines that are required by the printing company. They weren’t the easiest to figure out. I received a thorough edit three times from Helen Ginger and I’m confident my book is the best it can be.

    Morgan Mandel

    • You’re right about POD, Morgan – the term refers to the technology, not the publisher. I’ll be posting about this later today.

      What publisher (or printer) did you use for Killer Career? “Self-publishing” is another term that has varied definitions.

      Can I quote you with a link when I write my post?

  5. Great post, and I’m very interested in your follow-up on editing (or lack thereof) in POD. I agree that this is the biggest barrier to the format gaining wider acceptance – there’s no filter, so it’s really hard to know what you are getting.

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