No, it’s not Invasion of the Body Snatchers! POD stands for “print on demand.” It is e-publishing without the “e” and on paper. POD has been around longer than e-publishing also and was a trigger for e-publishing. With POD, the publisher has your manuscript in digital form. Instead of the publisher sending off a printer-ready galley to a printer that then prints a minimum of 2000 copies on paper to bind and ship to bookstores, the POD publisher takes orders for the book, prints out from the digital file and binds the number of books for the order and ships them to the person who ordered them. The book never goes out of print. There are no returns or remainders. Sounds great, huh? Maybe too good to be true….?
How does POD differ from e-publishing? They both utilize digitization. POD produces regular books on paper, but e-publishing produces books to download onto your computer or e-reader, no paper involved. POD, however, is done by POD companies that are essentially printers. E-publishing is done by publishers, Amazon.com and most recently, B&N.com. (I think B&N has gotten into e-publishing). All this sounds like more money in a writer’s pockets, right? Not necessarily. If a writer decides to go the POD route and essentially self-publish, he or she will be paying the POD company initially, as with any self-publishing project. The difference between old style self-publishing and POD is that the POD company will handle orders and take a cut of the sale price to pay for printing the book, whereas with old style, the printer prints 2000 copies (or whatever the printer’s minimum run is) of the book and ships them to the author to sell. And, while at least one POD company I’ve researched offers writers “additional services” for additional fees including help with design and layout, cover art, and copy editing, most do not. So, the writer essentially needs to find, at the minimum, an editor, copy editor, book designer, and cover designer (if the book designer won’t do this) and pay them for their work. The outlay could be substantial, depending on the needs of the manuscript.
In comparison, a regular publisher provides an editor, copy editor (although this could be debated), book and cover designers, publicity, printing and distribution, and pays the writer. My impression today about editorial by publishers leans toward the belief that editors don’t edit like they used to, and it’s really in a writer’s best interests to hire a professional freelance editor (preferably one that’s worked at a publisher or been editing for a long time) even before shopping it to literary agents and publishers. Some literary agents will recommend an editor that they work with on a regular basis (be careful about this, however. If the agent hasn’t agreed to represent you before sending you off to a freelance editor, there’s no guarantee the agent will take you on after you’ve paid the editor who could be in cahoots with the agent and kick back a percentage of the editorial fee to him or her.). I prefer to work with editors that are local and have been recommended to me by either The Loft or another writer I trust.
So, what’s a POD book like? I’ve been very curious to see for myself the finished product and have bought a couple POD books, one nonfiction and one fiction. Both are paperbacks, which seems to be standard for POD. When the nonfiction book arrived, I was dismayed to see on the front cover that the author’s name hadn’t printed out completely, leaving blanks between letters. This is unacceptable. I have yet to read the nonfiction book.
The fiction book’s cover was fine and suitably intriguing. Nice design. Inside, the front pages were well done and the layout of the body of the book looked just fine. The font is easy to read. So far, so good. I started reading and on the first page found typos, grammar issues, run-on sentences and inconsistencies in the content. Uh-oh. I continued to read, only to encounter much the same issues in subsequent pages. This book badly needed a really good editor and then a really good copy editor.
I know that when I’m writing a story or novel, I am too close to the material to serve as an editor of my own work. Which is not to say that I don’t edit because I do. I line edit with as much ruthlessness as I can muster. With Perceval, after the line edit, I hired a professional freelance editor to read it and provide feedback as well as suggestions to make it better. It was money well spent. The editor asked me questions that helped me to see holes in the story or places that needed to be cut or a character that needed more fleshing out. She pointed out grammar issues, although by the time she read the manuscript, there weren’t many.
Would I ever go the POD route? I’ve seriously thought about it, researched several POD companies. It’s one way for a writer to maintain complete control over the production process, and also sales and distribution, marketing, and publicity that needs to be done also by the writer. I decided that this was not what I wanted, really. And I cringe inside to think of all the people out there who may have written what they believe is a great book, take it to a POD company, and have it printed without paying attention to the design and editing part of book production…..