My posts about print-on-demand and self-publishing have inspired many thought-provoking comments. Today I’m going to feature a few of the responses. First, the question I promised to answer in today’s post:
With so little quality control in the POD field, how do you convince people your work is worth reading, let alone buying?
The answer, in a word: marketing. Bob Sanchez makes some excellent points:
How do you convince people to buy your POD book? Some entities, such as the big chain bookstores, may be unconvinceable. But if you are asking about convincing individuals, it’s been my experience that no one cares whether your book is POD, and most people don’t even know or care what POD is. At a book signing you talk to the potential customer about your work, and either she is interested or she isn’t. I have never, ever heard someone say she wouldn’t buy my book because it’s POD. Never. In fact, many people are impressed and delighted to meet an author in person.
Specifically, I suggest that you collect reviews and reprint snippets from the best ones. It can even be an Amazon review. The biggest reviewing outfit, Kirkus, won’t review POD except for a fee, but you know what? The average reader neither knows nor cares who Kirkus is. So forget them and go for free reviews on Midwest Book Review, Rebecca’s Reads, Amazon, Kaye Trout’s Book Reviews, or any of a number of book-reviewing blogs. All your potential buyer wants is a little third-party reassurance that your book is worth the money.
On CrimeSpace, an excellent social networking site for mystery writers and readers, I asked how much stigma is attached to publishing with a print-on-demand press. Debbi Mack replied:
My book was originally with a small press that used POD to print its books. Now I’ve reissued it through Lulu, which will publish whatever you give it. Technically, I’m not self-published (bear with me here) because Lulu obtained the ISBN and has non-exclusive rights to publish the work, with Lulu listed in the bibliographic info as publisher. I just reissued my only published novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, through Lulu and I almost feel duty-bound to explain to people that it was once published by a small press, just so they know someone actually chose to publish it and it was edited before its release.
While some people and certain entities which I won’t name continue to turn up their noses at people who go this route, I think a lot of former disbelievers are warming up to it more. It takes determination and relentless promotion and I just released my book through Lulu this month. I found the publishing process a bit less than transparent at times, but maybe it was just me blundering through the process. Anyway, the book’s in their system, so now I’m just promoting and marketing like crazy.
I heard about Lulu because my SinC chapter reissued its anthology CHESAPEAKE CRIMES (in which I have a story) through Lulu after the publisher went under (the publisher who originally released my book). . . if you write a great story and manage to build a following, it is entirely possible to land a traditional publishing contract. If nothing else, the experience will make you better prepared for doing even more of the same once you land that contract. Because, in reality, most authors don’t get the big promo $$ from their publishers.
Kris Neri says:
. . . two of my three publishers use POD technology. All are advance/royalty paying traditional publishers. And yet when I recently updated my Sisters in Crime Books in Print page, I had to beg the SinC board to include those PODs in the printed BinP version because one of their criteria of professionalism is that that the publisher print at least 1000 books. A POD from a traditional publisher is still being treated, in some quarters at least, like a self-pub.
There are pluses and minuses to PODs. . . . The publisher of my Tracy Eaton mysteries is putting the first chapter of the next book at the end of each of the titles. When he reprinted DEM BONES’ REVENGE, my forthcoming title, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, hadn’t yet been edited. The editor then suggested a new first chapter before the existing one. Since I liked the idea, I asked the publisher how that could work, since he’d already included the old first chapter in his publication of DBR. He said he’d simply change it after I revised it, and some copies of DBR would be printed out with the old first chapter, while some would have the new first chapter. That provides great flexibility.
I answered that I hadn’t realized Sisters in Crime had this particular requirement for 1,000 copies in print, but they did hassle me about being included in their printed Books in Print. I used to be there, but now I’m only on their web site. That requirement is really antiquated, not to mention environmentally heedless! When both my mysteries came out on Virtualbookworm, I ordered 100 copies for myself, and I’ve ordered more as needed. People have ordered them directly from Amazon and from Virtualbookworm, and nobody’s complained about the time lag. There’s no longer a need for warehousing thousands of books (except for the top sellers).
Granted a time lag might be problematic in some circumstances, but that can happen with “traditional” publishers too, or with small presses masquerading as traditional. I have a friend who published with a small press who promised books in time for Malice Domestic, where she was on a panel. They didn’t come through, and lately they haven’t been paying royalties or returning phone calls. Now she’s struggling to get her rights back. So in these changing times, it’s “buyer beware.” I heard someone on a panel somewhere say that with the ease of the new technology, small presses spring up like mushrooms in the lawn after a rainy spell, and disappear just as quickly.
There’s much more to say on this topic, and I welcome your comments. On Friday, I’ll address Jeff Herman’s questions:
Can self-publishers sell their books to conventional publishers? Should they want to?