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Monday, August 13, 2012

Caveat Emptor, Would-Be Authors: Avoid Common POD Publishing Mistakes

I was happy to be asked to speak on self-publishing options at a conference two weeks ago. When I talk to a potential ghostwriting client, I often find that they have a lot of misconceptions (and just plain old misinformation) about print-on-demand, or POD, publishing. So that leads us to the topic of today's post (and of my latest ebook for writers, Dollars and Deadlines' 7 Biggest Mistakes POD Authors Make--and How to Avoid Them). (Here's the Kindle version.) 

The biggest mistake is that authors don't realize that POD publishers are in it for the money--and their primary customers are not book buyers. Their customers are book authors

POD companies make money in two ways—by selling the author services upfront (whether it’s a whole “package” that includes a cover, interior layout, and distribution, or à la carte, where the author cherry-picks the specific elements he needs), and by printing books. And because the number one buyer of most POD books is the author of said book, authors are the ones keeping these companies in business.

Get it? A lot of would-be authors do not.

Let's look at a real-life example. If CreateSpace charges me $3.65/book for my POD book on ghostwriting, GoodbyeByline, Hello Big Bucks, I guarantee that it costs significantly less than that to print one. Let’s say it costs $2 to print each copy (and I bet it’s less than that). That means that for every book CreateSpace publishes, it nets $1.65. Considering that the average number of POD books sold is less than 100, that’s not a big money-maker for POD companies. They tend to make their money upfront, on the services they sell to authors.

And that can add up to a lot. At one POD company, you could choose the basic publishing package for $728; an “advanced” publishing package for $2,534, which includes a press release; or another “advanced” package that includes a video book trailer for $4,853.

And that's not counting all of the "extras" that POD companies push. You can easily spend thousands of dollars for everything from copyediting to publicity kits to reviews to press releases. There are a lot of uninformed authors out there, shelling out a lot of money, for books that are likely to sell fewer than 100 copies. Yikes! 

My advice to authors who are going to use a POD company? Do your homework and know what you need and what you're paying for. If you need copyediting or proofreading, for example, I suggest you ask around and hire a professional not connected with the POD company to do it. You’ll probably spend less and get a better result.

And save your marketing dollars. POD companies are not marketers. Yes, they’ll list your book on Amazon and in distributors’ databases, but that’s not the same as getting your book into brick-and-mortar bookstores. They can’t do that because they don't allow returns the way a traditional publisher does.

Yes, POD publishers are a smart option for some authors (including me). But make sure you understand what you're getting before you agree to work with one. 

For more on how to be a smart POD author, check out my ebook, Dollars and Deadlines' 7 Biggest Mistakes POD Authors Make--and How to Avoid Them) (Kindle version). It'll be the smartest $4.99 you've ever spent--and may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on your next POD book. (Coming soon, another ebook for authors--this time on making more money from every article you write!)

Got questions about POD? Comment here and I'll do my best to answer them! :) 

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