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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Reasons *Not* to Go POD

In my earlier post this week, I explained why I chose to use POD to publish my latest book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. However, POD isn't for everyone--or every book.

If you're an everyday person who simply wants to publish a book, that's one thing. But if you're a serious freelancer who writes to make money, not just for fun, then choosing POD should be a carefully measured decision. After all, writing isn't a hobby for you--it's your career.

As a serious freelancer, POD may not be for you if:

1. You have no marketing plan for your book. If you're an author already, you know that writing the book is the easy part! It's selling it that takes more time and effort. Unless you're a big name, traditional publishers won't do much for you, but they will do something. Go POD and all that marketing falls on you. If you have no idea how you'll sell the book, why bother with it?

2. The book deviates from your platform. If you're known as a parenting writer, some of your readers will probably buy a book you write on parenting. Same goes if you cover business and author a book on business strategies. But when you write a book that's completely different than what you're known for, it's more difficult to sell. (See reason #1.)

3. You think POD means you can do a half-assed job. No offense to fellow POD authors out there, but editors can spot most POD books at ten paces. The covers look cheap, the books themselves are riddled with mistakes, and the writing is poor. Don't think you can get away with a less-than-stellar book because you're going POD. It should be just as professional-looking as a traditionally published book.

4. You must make a certain amount of money on the book. When you work with a traditional publisher, you get an advance up front (and chances are that's all the money you'll ever see). When you go POD, you're going to spend months of your life writing a book for no advance. (Eeek!) There are no guarantees with POD--your book may sell well, or not. Like so many things in publishing (and life), it's a gamble.

5. You have a fantastic platform. Um, then why aren't you pitching traditional publishers first? If I can get paid to write the book with an advance and have a publisher getting the book into bookstores, that's going to be my first choice. (If you've tried to sell to traditional pubishers with no luck, that's different. Then maybe POD is the logical alternative.)

6. You're not committed to marketing the book long-term. If you're serious about your career, you shouldn't be writing any "throwaway" books. Are you willing to promote the book for at least a year? If the answer is no, why bother getting it into print?

7. You haven't identified your audience. Who will buy your book? Why? What does it offer than other books do not? Let me tell you, when asked about the readership for their books, newbie authors often respond, "everyone." (Don't ever say that to an agent or editor!) You should be able to define your audience so you can reach them and sell to them. This is one reason why it's harder to sell fiction than nonfiction--it's more difficult to describe your potential readers. (Again, see reason #1.)

8. You have a hard time sticking to deadlines. When you write for a traditional publisher, you have an editor (and a contract) to keep you in line. POD is author-driven, which means if you blow deadlines, no one will care all that much--and your book may never make it into print. (As a serious freelancer, I hope this doesn't apply to you!)

9. You want your book in libraries and bookstores. Then you need a traditional publisher--or choose true self-publishing, where you set up your own publishing company and use a distributor that markets to libraries and bookstores. Some POD companies offer "expanded distribution," but the bottom line is that most stores won't carry POD books for a variety of reasons.

10. You don't know how this book fits into your overall career. Ideally a POD book should serve more than one purpose. In addition to producing some royalties, it should establish you as an expert, attract new clients, or help you land speaking gigs--or all three. Carefully consider why you're publishing this book and what you want it to do for you before you spend the time and money to go POD.

Readers, what do you think of my ten reasons? Do you have any to add? And what other questions do you have about POD?