Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Future of POD

After my extended rant last week, it may seem as if things have quieted down a bit here at iUniverse Book Reviews. The lull is simply because I have been reading a 400-page book and my reading time has been somewhat limited lately. The Proofreading Police walked off the job in boredom and disgust as I delved deeper into Gwynne Wales' The Valley of Death. I suppose I'll soon be denigrating this book's title and cover because that's about all that's wrong with it. The book's about as topical as a CNN Special Report, and it's not badly written, either. Look for the reviews to appear over the next few days. The interview with Deb Welch should follow soon after the review of The Valley of Death.

What's with this business of stating A Novel on the cover of many of the iU books I have been reading? Do you think the buyer might be a little confused? Maybe he thinks it's a hamburger. I know: it's a DVD wearing a thick, bulletproof vest! Am I supposed to read this thing? It looks sort of like it might be some sort of fictional reading material. Have you seen those stupid chrome taillamp surrounds on the latest new cars? What's up with that? Hey, Maybelle, it's a taillamp! Golllleeee! Do you think maybe I can open this thing up and read some sort of story? If we don't have a subtitle, do we have to just make one up? Gollllleeee!!

I know that many of you probably cringed as you read Dreams For Sale. The truth is not always pretty, but, as they say, it does set you free. Let's cut to the chase, shall we? When iU offers one of their better promotional offers of free books, the legendary Select Package may remain the best choice for most authors. This is particularly true when the book in question is a large one, and the deal strengthens if the author has an event in mind at which he can kick off the sales of his new release. The current offer from iU is a measly $50-off and five free books. Big woo. This is not much of a bargain. When the company has offered twenty free books, the choice has been much more tempting. One of the things that spurred me to post Dreams For Sale is iU's steady price increases, not only for their packages, but for the books themselves. When I saw that latest $599, that was the last straw for me. The price eight years ago was only $99. My first book, released in December 2000, was 368 pages for $18. My fourth, released in June 2006, costs $22 for less than 300 pages. See what I mean? For now and always, the worst thing about iU is its corporate greed!

Not only is the company making far more per author, the number of books released annually has multiplied, making it tougher and tougher to promote and market your POD book. The el cheapo methodology introduced so successfully by Lulu is adding massively to the number of competing POD books for sale. I call the whole thing a rotten deal multiplied. The publication cost, retail cost, number of competing books, and limited access to marketing that actually works have conspired to grind a POD author into despair. The stinky horde of smart-mouth slap-fighters isn't helping things, either. What's an unknown author to do?

One of the points I wanted to make in Dreams For Sale is that Amazon sells such a huge percentage of the total POD books sold. Why not just let them be your only retailer? I cannot think of much of a reason not to do just that. CreateSpace could be the new wave of the future for us all. I am not a fan of Lulu for several reasons. First of all, I think authors have quite enough to do without spending time and effort on issues of formatting and production. Secondly, if you calculate all the nickel-and-dime options you have to add to sell your book at Amazon and reach other results offered by iU in their one-shot price, there is not that much difference. My third reason to avoid Lulu is that you still face that booger of a too-high retail price when you sell from anywhere outside the company website. Yes, with every stinking price increase, iU's greed quotient steps further into an unacceptable level. My personal answer to myself has always been that if I am going to spend a ridiculous number of hours on something with my name on the cover, I prefer to pay a little more to have it look as perfect and professional as I can. That's why this blog is called iUniverse Book Reviews.

I hate corporate buyouts. I hate downsizing, outsourcing, Wall Street, Alan Greenspan, and every ridiculously overpaid CEO in this once great country. I love Michael Moore and populism in general. I am probably the only certified car nut in America that loves both Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook! That's why you need to read my first book, Plastic Ozone Daydream. You have never read about or thought about Corvettes in that way before! AuthorHouse does not have a sterling reputation, and I shudder to think what they might do to my beloved iUniverse. iU has always been the Mercedes of POD. Remember that the Daimler Chrysler marriage didn't work out so well, did it?

CreateSpace deserves a much closer look, at the very least. From what I have been able to ascertain from their website, the royalty paid works out to about triple what you would get from an iU book, and you have the option of pricing it lower, if you desire. Better still is the notation that Amazon may choose on their own to discount your book while still paying you the officially agreed upon royalty. That in itself is quite a bit better deal than iU offers. When iU cuts the price to Amazon, the author takes the hit. The leading negative for me at least would be the formatting issues. I am not sure that I would ever want to get involved in that. If I did choose to do my own formatting, I can tell you that I would lean heavily toward CreateSpace and away from Lulu. I say this purely because Amazon is the #1 sales outlet. The details of the production process as they apply to Lulu and CreateSpace would be of little consequence to me. The big deal is having your book for sale at Amazon for a good price. The second most important issue should be the amount of royalty the author receives from each sale. I understand that if an author plans to sell his book mostly outside the confines of the major online retailers that Lulu may be worth considering. For me, it isn't.

Yes, I do think it is next to impossible to get your book released by a major, traditional publisher. You may snare a small, boutique publisher without the necessity of winning the lottery, but the little guys generally offer deals a lot closer to those of the subsidy publishers than you might think. You still need to do your own marketing at your own expense. You can at least maintain total control of your book's editing and content at iU. Why not release exactly the book that you want, when you want? Is this not the best reason on earth to utilize the services of iUniverse? For the time being, I am currently working a lot harder at being a book critic than I am an author, so I am not currently working on a book project. If I was, I would be researching the hell out of CreateSpace.


Amy Lane said...

(i Universe is making us put "A Novel" on our books these days...I was pretty disgusted with this practice myself...)

Floyd M. Orr said...

Thank you for sharing that tidbit of information with us, Amy. I had no idea that iU was behind that particular bit of silliness.