May 30, 2008
Print-on-Demand is Your Friend
Much has been made of the effect of POD (print-on-demand) publishing. Generally, it is seen as something to be feared, a force for evil that is destroying the “art” of the publishing industry.
First, a definition from Wikipedia: “Print on demand (POD), sometimes called publish on demand, is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received.” Essentially, a book is written, and hard copies are not produced until the buyer requests one by putting some money on the table.
Authors and Publishers lament the existence of POD because in many cases, POD books are works that tend to be published due to the author’s vanity. They feel it somehow dilutes the quality of the genre as a whole. And it is true that they are often works that no publisher would ever publish, and most likely any queries for these books sent to agents like The Swivet would be rejected instantly. They lack quality, often lack any editing, and usually read like a fifth grader wrote them.
But I say that this is a good thing. Beyond the obvious environmental benefits, POD publishing is a new wall between publisher and author. Many, many people write novels in their spare time (especially SF&F enthusiasts) and each and every one of those people thing their novel is worthy of being published. This is obviously not so.
After a few rejections, many of these authors will get frustrated, and turn to places like PublishAmerica to get their work published, because it so obviously deserves to be in print. That’s a good thing, because now the agent and publisher can devote their limited time to looking for works that actually have some merit. Sure, those people wasted the time of a few agents, but now they won’t be bothering anybody anymore, since there books now has a glossy (if ugly) cover, and black and white words. They can sign books for all their friends and feel that they have “made it” as an author.
Agents and Publishers, you ought to be glad the POD exists, since enough rejections will get these “authors” out of your hair so you can do the work you really enjoy. If there was no POD, those authors would most likely keep coming back again and again, and in your professionalism and politeness, you would write a response with a few helpful suggestions that may or may not be listened to. But once that book is “published” you no longer have to worry about those submissions.
Authors, you ought to like it because if you are just out to see your work in print, then you can do so, and if you are serious and have quality work to publish, you now have a little less competition.
This is not to say that all POD books are bad. I’ve read and reviewed several, and enjoyed quite a few of them. But it weans out the people who are just out to say “I’m a published author!” to all their friends and family. Occasionally, there is a gem, a nugget in POD, usually due to some author being too humble or shy, or simply too tired of getting rejected, even when their manuscript is worthwhile. But now the agents and publishers can peruse those by their own choice, rather than dealing with a query.
Additionally, out of print books, especially those out of copyright, get added to print-on-demand titles. This way you can read a hard copy of a book that has been published for thirty years. That is certainly a good thing, especially for enthusiasts of little-known and long dead authors whose works can't even be found in used bookstores.
I feel that POD increases the quality of those works that do get published by big press publishing houses. It also increases some of the quality of the small presses as well, though those can sometimes be “vanity editing” a kissing cousin of “vanity publishing”.
Sure, there are some people being published who are being published just because they have always been published, long before POD came around. And sometimes who you know or a track record can get you published no matter how bad your latest book is. But for new authors, who began seeking publication after the advent of POD, I can be more sure that those books are higher quality, since POD has helped weed out the trash.
I acknowledge that many more factors go into publishing, and that editorial decisions, personal preference, who you know, and what readers have an appetite for have some say in which books get published. What I am really saying to all the detractors of POD is, “What are you complaining about?” In theory, if your work is quality, you will have better access to agents and publishers, as POD allows those who want to stoke their egos to do so, and in some cases, propel some authors into publishing with a big publishing house. What’s wrong with that?Posted by John on May 30, 2008 02:42 PM | Posted to Literature and Language