Comparing POD Publishing Models
Print-On-Demand (POD) has two distinct meaning in the publishing
- Where publishers print a single copy of a book at a time as
it is ordered, rather than mass printing.
- A POD business model used by publishers to charge authors to
publish [and sometime distribute] their books.
A typical POD Business Model may include:
- Up-front set-up fee
- Share of the sale price
- A combination of both
Books published under a POD model are not destined to end up on
the shelves in bookstores. Instead they are generally sold online
through the publishers own site and any network sales channels they
have relationships with.
The key thing to realise here, is that you, the author, must do
you own marketing.
POD is the lowest risk, most cost effective model for first time
publishers, and is also used by many multi-book authors.
The charges made by the publisher often stack up to the same over
the average small run. For instance, some charge set up fees and
a lower discount / royalty. Others charge no set up but take a bigger
slice of the cover price.
Control – another trade-off is between revenue
and artistic control. If you want complete control of layout and
cover design – use a service such as Lulu, which allows you
to manage everything. If you prefer to hand it over to the publisher,
go with a publisher like iuniverse.
Set-up Costs - If you choose to minimize your
set-up fees, the trade-off is a higher cover price, which may price
your book out of the market or the publisher may pay lower royalties
on average. If you anticipate only a few copies being sold, go for
no set up fee. If you hope to sell over 100, compare set up fees
and what you get for your money. A basic package should include,
at a minimum, cover design, internal layout, an ISBN, and distribution
to online retailers. Additional services you such as final submission
proofing, copy editing, basic promotion and copyright registration
can either be done yourself of procured cheaper elsewhere.
Cover Price – is higher for POD books than
mass market paperbacks. Depending on the niche, most buyers will
not pay more than around $16 for a 250 page paperback. In many instances,
the publisher sets the cover price, however some will allow you
to set your own cover price within a certain range. Be wary of setting
your cover price too low – you may think it will mean more
sales, but it also often lowers the perceived value of the book,
and also means lower royalties.
Royalty Payments - POD publisher pay you a percentage
of net receipts, [after printing costs and distributor’s discounts].
Some, such as Lulu and CaféPress, allow you to set your own
royalty. Your royalty affects your cover price. When comparing POD
publisher packages, rather than rely on royalty percentages, calculate
the whole package to determine exactly what dollar amount you receive.
Use this to compare between offers. Royalty > Cover Price >
Distributors Discount > Printing Costs > Shipping. Make sure
you understand ALL the cost components in the deal.
Author’s Discounts - on copies ordered by
the author, for a local book signing, to use as promotional copies,
to donate to libraries, or simply to give away to family and friends.
Some also offer bulk discounts. If you have your own website and
wish to sell your own books, make sure the author’s discount
is more than the royalty.
Exclusivity – make sure you understand
your rights to cease publication of your book, revise it in the
future, or seek a mainstream publisher while it is being sold on
demand? Check the contract terms to see if the POD requires exclusive
rights to your work for a period of years. Also check the termination
Distribution – if you are planning on breaking
into offline stores, make certain your POD offers a reasonable discount
to stores and accept returns. If not, check the distribution channels
to publisher offers as part of the deal, and any constraints you
have at establishing any. At the very least, you will want your
publisher to get your book listed on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble
websites and that your book will not be restricted for sale from
the publisher’s own website.
Reputation – if you are just starting out,
stick with the big POD’s. Many smaller POD’s offer deals
that just sound too good to be true, and in many instances they
are not what they first appear. Check our writers forums and post
a question for recommendations. There is a POD discussion list on
Yahoo Groups. Visit and read carefully the website of each publisher
you are considering, being certain to take a look at the contract.
If it is not supplied on the publishers website, contact them for
a copy to be e-mailed to you.
of POD Publishing Service
Next: Comparing Print Costs
Using Economic Models
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