I am not sure that I have been communicating to my readers as accurately as I would like what iUBR is all about. I have always been a big picture kind of guy. I see books as things we all read, and POD books as those things we may wish to read that maybe only a small number of other people wish to read, too. I would always hope that this small cadre of readers for a particular POD book is the only reason the major publishers are not interested in it. I am not one to seek out my entertainment within narrowly defined genres. If you ask me what kind of music I like, I might answer that the more difficult it is to classify, the better I like it. I am always looking for the new niche. I don't want to discover how much a book so closely fits within a popular genre. I'm looking for square pegs that are good because the author has created a quality package, and not because the book slips silently into a well-worn groove.
This is not a genre review site. I don't even select books for review based on genre or my personal taste in subject matter. I want everyone to know right now that I have never agreed with the concept of a reviewer of any sort of work reviewing a piece and panning it simply because he does not care for that particular genre of book, album, or movie, etc. I find that sort of review entirely despicable. Even if a highly paid, name-recognized critic has been ordered by his editor to review something he doesn't like, if he cannot duck the assignment, it is his responsibility to give it his best shot and describe the work in a manner that will be useful to his readers who do enjoy that genre. The books selected for review at iUBR are chosen because, from the result of my research of the book and the author in question, it appears that the book may deserve my attention and the attention of readers. My personal choices of non-POD reading material have very little influence on my choices of books to read and review at iUBR. I know this may seem a little wacko, but remember, I am fascinated by the big picture. In this case, the big picture is the world of POD and its new role in the larger world of publishing.
We all know that Print On Demand is an all-new animal in the jungle. This technology has allowed many thousands of writers who want the center-stage limelight shone on them to step into the light at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, we have all met at least a few vampires who should never have been brought out into the light! There are many slap-fighters out there who love to scream at the top of their lungs that all the POD authors are vampires! According to them, if the writers cannot stand the sun, they should just go back where they came from and let only real writers stand in the spotlight. I love to speak in analogies, and here is one for you. I read certain housing bubble blogs daily, and they have a refrain they have run in the ground since the issue came to light. Most of the people who post and comment on these blogs want housing prices to crash and teach all the people who are crashing with these prices a lesson they won't forget! Do you see a similarity there to the POD slap-fighters? Neither group is actually wrong. Many of their positions on the issues are correct. The problem is simply that they are so busy insisting their correctness that they never see the many shades of grey inherent in both issues. Some foreclosures are sad stories of collateral damage, although the bulk of the problem was begun by selfish, greedy, arrogant investors. Many quality POD books have been created for a market ignored by the mega-publishers, although the technology has clearly opened the gate to the barnyard.
There are many ways in which a POD book and a traditionally published book are not synonymous. One of the most significant issues is editing and another one is proofreading. POD authors have to create or approve a cover design and write a cover blurb. Even if they do not do all this personally, they must participate considerably in the process. There are no teams of editors, proofreaders, cover designers, or marketers available to do these tasks for the authors. There is no one to say, I don't think I would do that, if I were you. There is only the author and his computer. Of course some writers have friends available for help or advice, and some writers pay certain professionals for their manuscript or cover design expertise, but the final product is mostly the result of the writer's brain and his symbiotic relationship with his computer.
I had once hoped that I would discover more active participation in this honorable, but time consuming, project called iUBR. I can personally read and review so few of the massive number of iUniverse books continually being published. I had hoped for a more organized effort from other POD review bloggers and other websites with intentions similar to mine. There are so many deserving POD authors out there who will never have a chance to connect with their readers. Hold onto your knees because here comes the part that is so difficult for many of you to swallow. Those books that do not meet iUBR standards drag us all down into the muck. We must face this fact. We cannot hide from it and hope it goes away. Believe me, it won't. I have been reading the posts of the past twenty-four hours at the IAG Yahoo Group, and yes, the subject being discussed has spurred me onward with this article. This matter is at the very heart of my first post introducing IAG to the world. There is no easy answer. I said that then and I am still saying it. I support IAG, as well as all the other websites and blogs trying to do the right thing for the good guys among the multitude of POD authors. I realize we are a herd of rabid egos on acid. I realize we are the cats when you hear how difficult it is to herd cats. The problem is that the dogs will always win if we do not organize ourselves better and defend our hard-won territory. We shall never succeed in that endeavor while participating in a never ending succession of catfights.
My assessment is that there is absolutely no correlation in the world of POD books between quality of composition and book sales. There is no correlation between awards and quality or awards and sales. There is no correlation between cover design or cover blurbs and sales. There is no correlation between editing or proofreading quality and sales. There is very little correlation between promotional effort in the form of time or money and sales. There is very little correlation between five-star reviews at Amazon and editing, proofreading, or sales.
There is a moderate correlation between book quality and the age and maturity of authors. There is a moderate correlation between the percentage of quality versus non-quality books according to the publisher; i.e., Lulu prints more trash than iU. There is a moderate correlation between the professional attitude of the authors and the age of the authors. There is a moderate correlation between the success of the authors and the authors' bad attitudes, particularly if the perceived success of the author is due to the wrong reasons; i.e., when the author's success is greater than deserved, either because of the book's length or quality or the ease with which the author has exploited a niche. There is a moderate correlation between the success of a book and its online searchability.
There is a high correlation between a book's subject matter and the quantity of obsessors for that subject matter. There is a high correlation between a book's sales and its obsessors when the title or subtitle is highly searchable. There is a high correlation between the name of any famous person, either alive or dead, and the success of a POD book about that person. Finally, there is a high correlation with the success of any POD book that has been effectively tied into a connection with some other entity. I have seen successful POD books connected with video games, movies, places, comedy acts, musical acts, journalistic columns, and probably a few things I cannot recall right now.
Here is an example of just one little clarification of the IAG dilemma. Someone at IAG has suggested reading only the first chapter or selectively reading individual pages scattered throughout the text to get a synopsis of the quality of a POD book. The problem with this is that many POD books get increasingly worse in their error count as the story progresses. I assume this is because the author is getting increasingly bored and impatient with what is surely the most tedious element of publishing. Awards and reviews have also been mentioned within the context of vetting a POD book, but this field has already been heavily compromised by many unscrupulous paid review sites and paid award scams. As you know, I can tell you a thing or two about the legitimacy of these things, too! We need to rise above these issues. We must take the high road if we truly wish to succeed in the big picture, but there are members of IAG who clearly wish to support these scams. The end does not justify the means when the barnyard starts mooing and braying, making each of us look like just another chicken looking for a worm. Welcome to the catfight.