Sunday, August 28, 2005

POD: What It Should Have Been

Via POD-dy Mouth, I read in NY Times Bestselling Author P.J. Parrish's blog why she hates POD.

"I hate the way they prey on dreamers. I hate the way they overinflate expectations. But what I really hate is that they make it possible for people to think there are shortcuts, ways of circumventing the craft, hard work and legitimate editorial process of becoming a writer."

Well said. And it's the truth. I imagine that the majority of people who publish POD believe that all it'll take is a few review copies to send their books to the top of the sales charts. I know that the majority of people who publish POD couldn't string together a decent sentence to save their lives.

To toot my own horn, let me take a few excerpts from the Apodis Publishing website:

"...most writers who publish with a subsidy press never recoup their initial investment and end up failing to sell their books to anyone beyond friends and family."

"Unlike some other subsidy presses, we'll actually read your novel. If it doesn't make the grade, it won't be published."

So, there you have it. A POD company can offer realistic expectations and a promise to publish only works by those who are serious about the craft.

What I'm getting at, beyond blatant self-promotion, is a fundamental problem in how the industry has marketed itself from the beginning. POD has always been the alternative to those nasty, money-grubbing traditional houses. That's why you've probably seen phrases like "revolutionary new publishing model" or "industry-wide paradigm shift" plastered across POD websites. Well, the truth is, traditional houses put a good deal of quality work into finding good stories and I think we all know which of the two sides is more money-grubbing.

Instead of trying to promote themselves as an alternative, I think the POD companies should have gone for an "indie" type of label. I mean, indie filmmakers and musicians plug thousands of dollars into releasing their own products and get nothing but respect for it. Of course, more often than not, they're often good.

It seems to me, that if a writer shells out money for professional editing, cover design and production, they should fit into this category. Of course, the path has been made and we're too far down it to go back now, so what to do? Go back to the old-school subsidy presses where one had to finance a print run of a couple thousand books and sell them out of a garage? Well, no. That'd be ridiculous.

Here is my dream for the POD industry: First, the return of the backlist. Too many great books have been allowed to go out of print. Second, they serve as a "stepping stone" for the writer who, thanks to the fact that the traditional houses they submitted to just published a similar book, can't fit the book into a marketing niche, or had another manuscript that was just slightly better, can't seem to get published.

It's clear, however, that there are talented writers out there who have gone POD. I've already come into contact with a number of them. Frankly, my hat is off to them. Unfortunately, most people will never hear of them, thanks to the fact that, instead of investing in their authors, most POD companies are content to swim in piles of money.


Benjamin Solah said...

I don't think its fair that you make generalisations. I did a collection of my short stories and poetry through, but plan to have my novel published properly. I don't think you can say all people who use POD 'cannot string a sentence together'

8:06 AM  
Cavan said...

Benjamin, you're absolutely right - but I never said that. I think it's the truth for the majority, but not everyone. As I mentioned, I've encountered quite a few talented writers who went POD.

4:24 PM  

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