Podcast Player

Put my show and this player on your website or your social network.

Friday, March 23, 2007

POD and What It Needs

Like it or not, POD is here to stay.

For those who don’t know about this phenomenon, POD stands for Print On Demand. It’s a method of producing books as they are ordered, one at a time, instead of using the print runs most commercial and small press publishers rely on for book sales. Print runs cost thousands of dollars up front, but with POD technology, a publisher can save on production cost by paying for each book with the money from the sale. The trade-off is the per unit cost, which makes POD cover prices higher than the average trade paperback.

Many people still use the term “POD publisher” to describe a self-publisher or vanity press that uses the technology. In reality, POD refers only to the technology, and a number of small, legitimate presses that employ a selective submissions process and don’t charge authors for publication use this method to produce books. This can be a good thing, since publishing isn’t exactly a million-dollar industry for small presses. The technology allows them to cut costs on storage, production, and returns.

Unfortunately, the proportion of good versus bad publishers that employ POD technology to produce books is far worse than the same in commercial publishers -- there are more bad than good. I believe publishers using POD and selling books primarily online can be successful, thanks in large part to the popularity of Amazon and BN.com. However, there has to be a shift in the way many of these publishers work.

It seems I'm not the only one who believes this. The POD Critic is hard at work to raise awareness of publishers like this. The blog is run by a lead editor at a small commercial publishing house in New York, and features (very honest) reviews of POD titles along with industry news and insights.

The POD Critic's aim is to help both authors and publishers. S/he (who is anonymous, of course) writes detailed and critical reviews for books submitted to the blog by the authors. Of the four titles thus far reviewed, only one has received a relatively high rating... it almost makes the grade of A Worthy Read. See? Honesty! The best thing about the reviews is the detail. S/he actually makes excellent suggestions for improvement -- getting a bad review from the POD Critic is like getting a detailed rejection from an agent or editor instead of a form letter. Any writer interested in improving their work would do well to listen to the advice.

For publishers, The POD Critic offers suggestions that will help make the POD publishing model viable and successful. One of the posts talks about the importance of an in-house editing style. Though small publishers using POD may not have the channels and the clout of larger publishers, if they put out professional quality titles, they can develop a loyal reader base and increase sales.

The most recent post on The POD Critic mentions that word is spreading, and other industry blogs, authors, and publishers are sitting up and taking notice. Here's hoping more POD publishers take the advice to heart, and start working harder on the quality of their titles. We'll all benefit from an industry-wide raising of the bar.