Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Clearing up POD issues

My first published novel, Metered Space, is a POD book. Print-on-demand. You want the book, you order it, either from Amazon or from my publisher, Zumaya, or even from the printer itself which, in this case, is Booksurge. Two days later, it's in your hot little hands.

Because you can't get it from a non-virtual bookstore, magazines such as Locus says my book's worthless, not listable, and basically should be ignored.

They're missing the point. The reason my book isn't in bookstores is not that my publisher doesn't want to get it there (Duh!). It's because bookstores don't want to order them. See, bookstores have it swell. They order as many copies as they want of any book. Whatever isn't sold, they send back to the publisher at no cost to them. What kind of stupid organization would want that setup changed? See, with POD, they have to buy the books, and if they don't sell, they're stuck with them. Which means that they'd have to take risks. Too bad, so sad.

What infuriates is that mags such as Locus use all kinds of erroneous assumptions about POD instead on zeroing on the real problem: bookstores are calling the shots. Not the author, not the publisher, not the distributor.

Paula Guran has written a good article setting Locus straight on several of their misleading points about POD. What is ironic about the Locus article however, is that they admit it's hard to tell the POD books from the others. Their terror is that, in their ignorance, they'll list a self-published book that looks like a "real" book. How awful. As Paula says:

"If you err on the side of a high quality but self-published book that deserves notice, we feel that is commendable rather than not [...]Books are books. It is hard to imagine that Locus truly thinks a book must be printed on paper to be a book, thus saying that e-books, audiobooks, and books on CDs do not exist. But, since Locus deals primarily with printed books we understand their prejudice. If they wish to define a book as "text printed on paper and bound between two covers", POD books, in both senses, exist because they are printed.

It seems that Locus does not know which publishers are POD and which are not, especially since several of the publishers they do list use digital printing to some extent. But, more importantly, they are trying to define publishers by the methods they use to print books. We see no publishers referred to as "rotary letterpress" publishers or "sheet-fed offset lithographic" publishers, or "web-fed offset lithographic" publishers. Surely Locus realizes the absurdity of this.

Thanks to Michael Allen, the Grumpy Old Bookman for pointing me to Paula Guran.

1 comment:

The Zero Boss said...

The whole publishing system is in desperate need of repair. Fortunately, I think blogging + POD have the power to deliver a nasty shock to the publishing industry within the next fear years. That's the one thing that POD has been lacking: an efficient way for writers to market themselves. Blogging gives them that power.