Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Selecting a POD Publisher

Since Dianne Salerni, one of our illustrious reviewers here at PODBRAM, suggested this site to the IAG Group for information about the current state of POD publishers, I thought I would add a little update. I have posted more detailed discussions of this issue previously, but I want to revisit a few high points. Please note that I don't have time at the moment to research the latest statistics of the recommended publishers, but you can do that for yourself by clicking the links included here. As an aside, I have included the cover of my fourth book. One of the reasons I have always liked iUniverse is not only the quality of their covers, but the agreeable manner in which they will cooperate with any author wishing to control much of the cover design. I have designed all of my covers with very specific colors, fonts, and photos submitted.

Before I list the publishers I like best, I must let you know the parameters that govern my choices. Of course you may have an altogether different set of issues that are important to you, but this way you can fully understand my approach.

First of all, I am an extremely dedicated hobbyist in the field of companies, products, services, and marketing. This brings the size of my list down considerably. iU is the most established, largest, most connected, and most experienced of the POD publishers. Certain other brands claim to have done it first, and certain ones may even claim higher volumes of product or higher sales of product, but none can rival iU when all three factors are included. Who is the least likely to go out of business from under you? Who is the most likely to be first in line to have books printed at Lightning? Who is the first in line to have books shipped out by Ingram? Who is the most likely to be the first available at Amazon and B&N? Who is the most likely to offer special price deals from sheer volume?

Until the AuthorHouse merger, there was never any question in my mind about iU: they were the publisher for me. No one is more aware of corporate BS than me, either. When companies buyout or merge, it is almost never good for the consumer of the company's products or services. Since I have not published another book since the buyout, I cannot comment on the quality or lack thereof of the company's current services. I do still receive all their monthly special deals, however, and I still think this is a plus for choosing them. Even if you pay $599 for their service, when you get twenty books included, that's a good deal that is difficult to ignore.

I like Infinity Publishing. I have always liked this company, even though I have not had any direct dealings with them. Everything about them seems to be smooth, honorable, and professional. Right now they charge about $750 when you include the distribution package, and I would never choose any publisher without it. How good are their covers? I cannot say. I have never had an Infinity author request a review from PODBRAM, so I have not even seen one except online. Do they offer special sales like iU? I don't know. You will have to track their website and get on their mailing list to find out.

Next on the list is Outskirts Press. Everything I learn about this publisher leads me to think that they would make my short list; however, I doubt that I would actually choose them. Why? Mostly because one of the others would beat them to the draw. They don't have the inside job status of BookSurge or CreateSpace, and they lack the monster status of iU/AH or the longevity status of Xlibris or Booklocker. Check them out and see what you think.

BookSurge falls in that beat-em-join-em category, if nothing else. The two main considerations about BookSurge are the possible lack of quality, particularly with respect to the covers, and the lack of Ingram distribution. The former may be only a miniscule issue and the latter may be offered, but I just don't have time to track it down right now. Pardon my haste.

BookSurge leads me to CreateSpace, which leads me to Lulu. I really don't think I would ever choose any of these three, but they certainly deserve a little consideration. Fact #1: practically all POD book sales are due to the particular appeal of the subject matter to a particular audience at a particular point in time. Fact #2: probably 90% of all POD online book sales are through Amazon. Fact #3: you can sell all you want of your book in face-to-face and/or retail outlets, but you must factor in how you will pruchase these books and at what price. Fact #4: you may view Amazon about the same as you would the cop who pulls you over for a speeding violation, but what are you going to do about it? Paying CreateSpace or BookSurge is like contributing to the policeman's ball. You're buying protection, but at the price of limited distribution choices.

Bring that soapbox over here, would you, Maybelle? As far as I am concerned, the biggest booger in the whole world of POD is that an author must produce and market his own book in a very personal manner. There is no team of specialists at your beck and call because yore name ain't Jessica Fletcher! You must edit and proofread your own book. As Janet Elaine Smith has mentioned, she currently recommends Star Publish, who will, at least to some extent, vet and edit your book. If you are accepted by Star, and you can fork over the moolah, fine, I sure won't try to stop you, but if you must choose another publisher, please keep my warning in mind. I do not recommend that you pay any major POD publisher for their outrageously overpriced editing and proofreading services. Remember that I said each author must market his own book, and the prices these scoundrels charge for less than stellar services will blow your marketing budget right out of the water! This does not even address the fact that the more you spend, the less likely you are to recoup your expenses. Janet and I both agree that what you should do is to read your manuscript aloud with a partner to properly proofread it. This is not brain salad surgery, folks. It's just boring, monotonous dirty work like lawn maintenance. As I have said before, make me an offer and I may do it for you if the price is right, or do it yourself. I shudder to think how many POD authors have the arrogant, pie-in-the-sky gall to think they can dispense with this crucial step just by utilizing a grammar and spell-check computer program! Here's a hint: you use the computer program first; then you do the lawn maintenance; then you use the program again; and then you cut the grass again. In many cases, you may still need to get out the weed whacker for another round, even after all these read-throughs. Just take my advice and do it!

Thank you, Maybelle. You can have your soapbox back now. I would think long and hard before selecting CreateSpace or Lulu simply for the reasons stated above. I don't have anything negative to say about either company. I do have plenty of negativity for you neophyte authors, though. Don't you have enough to do already in this book authoring process without having to learn to deal with Acrobat Reader, Ingram, Amazon, B&N, fonts, margins, cover design, and many other things that do not promptly come to mind right now? Like I said, I'm busy. I hope this helps at least a few of you make an intelligent decision. Good luck with your next book!


Peter L. Winkler said...

You have given prospective self-publishers very good advice, especially regarding the need for rigorous proofing and editing. Get another pair of eyes to look at your manuscript, indeed.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comprehensive review on POD. I am afraid I am having one of those terrible experiences with iUniverse post merger. Their systems did not work for weeks, 2 weeks after submitting my final manuscript they sent me email apologizing and asking me to send everything again via email b/c the systems did not work as expected. My custom artcover was too big for email attachment so it took us a while to figure out what to do. Finally they got everything but due to excess of work, they took 6 weeks to do editorial review (they promised 3 weeks) and now they are telling me it will take 180 business days (close to one year) to finish the publishing process... this is 6 months longer than promised when their sales rep talked to me over the phone. It has been a very bad experience where I lost $900! now I am back to step one trying to choose a POD house but I am leery of yet another house like iUniverse and don´t know where to start. I had fantastic reviews of my manuscript and got 500 books pre-ordered thanks to that... but now I need somebody that can actually do a decent work of POD as promised by iUniverse...