Tuesday, May 24, 2005

POD or iPod

Hi there!

As I'm mulling over a contract for my new novel, I can't avoid thinking about my first one.

After Gardenia Press contracted for my debut novel, T
he Gift Horse, and then went bankrupt prior to publication, I felt pressure to get my book out. I was aware of the risks associated of going to print without the prestige of a “real” publisher, but I also knew that finding a publisher could literally take years. I used Booklocker, one of the more discerning print on demand publishers. I still wonder if I made the right choice. Not about using Booklocker, but going POD. Maybe I should have gotten an iPod instead.

Oh, the novel is exactly what Gardenia Press would have published, albeit with a different cover, and I had many readers tell me how much they enjoyed it. Indeed some people finished the same day they bought it, and it’s 296 pages long! Readers don’t seem to care who printed the book, as long as it is a compelling read and free of distracting errors. Locally, I received several invitations to speak and sell books, and my hometown newspaper gave me some wonderful publicity. No way was this venture a failure.

But using POD curtailed the audience. As far as I know, no one bought a copy from Amazon.com, or from any other online booksellers. Barnes and Noble has a “small press program” which is supposed to give such books a chance to get onto their shelves, but all I got for my efforts from B&N was a form letter. Online and print review sites either refused to review the book or ignored my submission altogether. So once the local readers got their copy, sales became sluggish. After this year, I plan to let it go out of print, although one reason for using POD is to give books longer to build readership.

I’ve been told that big publishers have to remainder close to half of the books they print. What that means is the publisher or distributor takes them back and either sells them for nearly nothing, which is where all those “bargain books” come from, or shreds them to create recycled paper. From a purely business stance, POD makes lots of sense— only print books which have been sold, thus no waste. Unfortunately, several such publishers will print anything at all; therefore, booksellers and book reviewers give these books no respect. That’s too bad, because authors whose story is too “different” to win a contract with a big publisher, may never get published, or if the author chooses POD, then comparatively few readers ever see them.

The Gift Horse sold well for a POD, but not well enough to be picked up by a “real” publisher. Which is sad, not because I wrote it, but because this story was worthy of a larger audience. So the venture can’t be labeled a success either.

That’s why I’ve waited patiently to find a small press willing to publish my sophomore novel,
Trinity on Tylos. I hope this new novel finds that larger audience.

As for the iPod, I don’t listen to music enough to really enjoy one, but my teenage daughter loves hers, and this trendy little devise has made our Apple Computer stock worth lots and lots more than when we bought it. Now, that’s a win-win scenario.

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