Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Thursday, April 10, 2008

PODdy Mouth's Foolish Fantasy

Blogger PODdy Mouth wrote about HarperCollins' new publishing imprint:

Print-on-demand publishers have been offering authors larger shares of the royalties (”profit sharing” to use their term) in place of author advances for years. Print-on-demand publishers have been limiting the costly practice of allowing bookstores to return unsold copies for years.

POD publishers (hereafter PODs) can offer authors generous royalties, knowing that most of their books will never sell enough copies per title for them to have to pay authors a royalty. They don't pay advances because the books will never earn them back. The books aren't returnable because the few copies sold are sold to the books' authors online and PODs don't want authors who can't hand sell their books to return them. Brick and mortar stores almost never carry self-published books, rendering their non-returnability moot.

Now it’s called POD publishing, and it is putting you out of business.

No it's not. That statement doesn't even make sense. Is the success of, say, iUniverse, in any way stealing sales and revenue from any of the major trade publishers? If so, how? PODs publish the manuscripts traditional publishers (hereafter TPs) throw away, seeing no sales potential in such books.

For self-publishing authors looking for evidence that POD publishing is a valid method of publication, one need look no further than a mainstream publisher stealing its business model.

The article offers zero evidence that HarperCollins new imprint will emulate the business model of the PODs. HarperCollins will still acquire books through agents and will employ editors to choose and vet them. PODs publish anyone who pays. There's no filtering. HarperCollins' books will be carried in bookstores. PODs' books aren't. The article offers zero evidence that HarperCollins new imprint will be employing POD printing to produce their books.

The only things HarperCollins and PODs have in common are the non-returnability of their books and the lack of advances (although it's unclear whether there will be some low advances given in some cases). Those do not make HarperCollins and PODs equal.

Totally false analogy. Just like this:

All cats are animals.
All dogs are animals.
Therefore, all cats are dogs.

I read this article with great bemusement and after reading the full thing, I would like to officially introduce the HarperCollins executives to a little branch of their industry (the fastest-growing branch, by the way) called PRINT-ON-DEMAND. Nice to meet you, HarperCollins. Welcome to earth, Robert S. Miller. Apparently your time at Walt Disney has caused you to reside in a little fantasy world.

Sadly, it is PODdy Mouth who is fantasizing.

PODs are printers, not publishers. Unlike traditional publishers, they'll print anything for a fee. They do not spend their money trying to get books reviewed in reputable trade journals and general interest periodicals and carried by bookstores. They don't spend money promoting books.

TPs are often called risk publishers. They risk their capital publishing books. TPs, like movie studios and record labels, lose money on most of the books they publish. The bestsellers subsidize the flops. PODs risk nothing. They make money from every book they print. Their customers are writers, not readers.

P.S.: I posted a briefer version of this post at PODdy Mouth's blog at around 6:20 pm PST and it was up. When I checked back around 11 pm, it was gone.

Update: I apologize to PODdy Mouth for assuming she deleted my comment. On Aprill 11, she posted it with her response.

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