By George Kittredge
In my Part 1 post last week, we talked about the option of self-publishing a book. For authors who have the editing, the cover design, and layout resources; and have access to obtaining an ISBN, copyright, and other publishing requirements; and the time and desire to oversee the entire publishing project; self-publishing may be a good way to go.
However, many authors do not have access to resources or possess the necessary expertise to perform these book publishing tasks. In such situations, the alternative publishing choice may be to contract with a print-on-demand (POD) publisher.
So just what is a POD publisher, and what might be the benefits of choosing this publishing option?
Simply put, a POD publisher is a publishing company that has the expertise and resources to provide all of the publishing services necessary to transform an author's manuscript into a professionally finished and commercially acceptable book. Once published, books are printed in extremely small production runs or "on demand" rather than in large quantities. The primary difference between self-publishing and POD publishing is that instead of the author being responsible for the production of the book, it is the POD publisher's responsibility to manage the total publishing project.
But here's something else you need to consider. There are really two categories of POD publishers. The first is what I call an Internet publisher - companies such Lulu, I-Universe, and several others. These tend to be bigger companies, publish hundreds of books each year and work exclusively through the Internet. Generally speaking, these companies produce books for their authors using various templates and outlines the authors can use to submit their content, cover design, etc. Once published, authors can purchase books directly from the publisher on a print-on-demand basis. In addition, Internet publishers allow authors to create "storefronts" as a place to promote and sell their books. For an author who does not require close contact with his or her publisher, using an Internet publisher may be a cost effective option.
The second category of POD publishers are, in most cases, smaller companies that offer exceptionally close, hands-on, and highly customized service to their authors. Such companies directly perform or oversee each aspect of the publishing aspect and generally require author approvals as each aspect (such as cover design, page layout, etc.) of the project is completed. Many POD publishers may not actually do the book printing, but may contract with a POD printer to provide these services. Regardless, the only people the author needs to work with is the publisher. In addition, most POD publishers have the capability to receive, process, and fulfill book orders on the author's behalf.
Thanks to today's print-on-demand digital printing technologies, authors no longer need to risk the expense of having to print and maintain large quantities of their published book. Books can now be printed in extremely short runs that allow for orders to be fulfilled in realtively short periods of time - say 24 to 48 hours. Self-publishers can also take advantage of print-on-demand. There are many POD printers that will work directly with authors.
So, when selecting a publisher and to help you eliminate some of the confusion over the choices you have, think of it as having these three options:
- you can self-publish and contract with a POD printer to print your books,
- you can contract with an Internet Publisher and use the publishing templates and services they provide, or
- if you desire a more hands-on customized relationship with your publisher, you can contract with a smaller POD publisher.
Are there cost differences? Yes, indeed.
In Part 3 of this series to be published next week, I will share some thoughts about economics as well as some marketing considerations when comparing these three models. And then finally, I follow that up with a post identifying a "publishing checklist" that any aspiring author searching for a publisher might find useful.