Sunday, August 31, 2008

POD - Really NOT a Dirty Word

Last night, while sifting through the week's queries, I came upon one which really intrigued me, but I didn't ask for the material. Why not? Because this person made it clear in the letter that he was shopping for a "traditional" publisher, not a POD publisher.

There's so much information and mis-information about that term, POD, an acronym for "print on demand." At its most basic definition, POD is a print technology, just as is offset, digital and so on. But many people conflate POD with other publisher policies and procedures, and the result is a negative connotation. I get a little touchy about this.

Since early 2003, OTP has printed most of its books at Lightning Source Inc (LSI) which is a print on demand outfit owned by Ingram. Since Ingram is one of the largest, if not THE largest, book wholesaler in the business, some nice perks came with the relationship from day one, and over the 5+ years OTP has been with LSI, I have watched them expand their options and opportunities. OTP's relationship with LSI has played a huge part in stabilizing the business...leveling out the highs and lows where Ingram and BT churned books to the detriment of both finances and sanity.

The negatives attach themselves to POD, I think, from several corners. Many self-published books are done POD, and they are often poorly edited, bear substandard covers, are price wildly beyond market norms, don't abide by standard industry discounts and return policies, just as a partial list.

OTP works against these stereotypes. Our covers are done by a professional designer, and we try hard to root out all the typos, wrong word uses, missing or incorrect punctuation and other copy editing issues. Suggested retail is set as low as possible to cover costs, royalty and leave a small profit for OTP, plus we keep to industry standards for discounts and returns. This all sounds pretty "traditional" to me!

From the viewpoint of the publisher, when traditional means that a huge percentage of your capital is tied up in boxes of unsold books, or worse yet, returned copies which are barely fit to be given away, let alone sold...then traditional doesn't seem so much like a desirable state.

And bottom line...does it really matter to your readers which machinery creates your book? I am betting NO on this one...the reader wants a good story, or instructive information, and production details are not high on his list of selection criteria.


Marilyn said...

Amen to this. I've been preaching for several years about POD being nothing more than a technology to print books. For some reason, people can't seem to grasp this concept.

In a time when everyone is preaching green, it also means saving a lot of trees.

Billie is right on that readers don't care one bit how a book is printed, only that it's a good book.

L.J. Sellers said...

Agreed. Readers don't care who the publisher is either. Thanks for clarifying this important point. And congratulations on blogging for a month.