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Choosing a Fee Based POD Publisher

Get clear on what you want and what the contract says

As a self-publisher, you need your book printed and distributed. Print On Demand means as few as a single copy of your book can be printed and still make sense economically. Of course, you want more than one-at-a-time sales, but it's POD that makes self-publishing practical.

Distribution is how your book will get to bookstores-you need a book distributor for both online and the brick and mortar bookstores. 

It's possible to find a printer and find a distributor as separate ventures, but unless you're planning on going into publishing full time, you probably want to work through a fee-based POD publisher.

Becoming your own publisher has some merit if you're happy doing lots of work to support your publishing business. It's a different business than freelance writing. If you think this is the way you want to go, you'll want to get very familiar with Lightening Source.

Fee Based Self-Publishing

When you publish with a fee based POD publisher, you're still self-publishing, because you're paying for at least the set-up so your book can be delivered. This is important, because there are some POD publishers who are now claiming to be trade publishers - it's really getting confusing. What you want is:

  1. A company that has a decent track record. Insist that they give you some authors as referrals. Call them and spend some time talking with them about their experience. Then go to several writer's forums and ask there - don't be surprised if you get a different opinion.
  2. A contract that you thoroughly understand and works to your advantage. If you don't understand it, ask, and ask until you do or your decide to move on.
  3. A company that will print your book well. Ask for a sample, then order a book or two on your own from their website and from one of the big online bookstores like Amazon or BN. You'll not only get a sense of their production values, but some understanding of how well their distribution process works.
  4. A company that supports your marketing efforts. You can't expect them to do it all, or even most. But they must provide a way for people to order and receive your book quickly online and through bookstores.

The key, of course, is in the contract. Since Mark Levine, J.D., has published an excellent book on POD and eBook contracts, I won't try to duplicate the information here. (Read my review of Fine Print.) His lists POD publishers in his book.

Many of the most reputable POD publishers in the US and the UK actually work with Lightening Source and you'll actually find a list of POD vendors there. Those aren't the only POD companies that distribute through Lightening Source, and I'm not sure how that list is generated, but it's worth looking at.

Lightening Source is a subsidiary of Ingram Industries Inc.; Ingram is a huge book distributor. When you publish through a POD publisher that works with them, you've solved a major portion of your distribution problems.

Other POD Services

Some POD publishers offer editing or cover design or press releases or any number of other ancillary services, usually at an additional fee. Be extra careful here. It may make better sense to hire your own editor and your own cover designer. I've yet to see a POD publisher really market a book - I think it's far better to just accept that your POD publisher will make the book available, and it's up to you to market it.

Self-publishing is a wonderful ride; it can be profitable, maybe, if you're lucky, even very profitable, although that usually takes time and money. You're becoming part of a long standing and honorable tradition.



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