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POD and Self-Publishing

Ah patience, my friend. I have about a million writers I want you to meet.

Patience is the most effective way to negotiate the maddening world of writing and publishing.

Self-publishing, for instance, is not something to throw yourself into even if you have a great book or story to tell. Be excited, certainly, but then begin that process of due diligence and check out the necessary steps you must pass through to execute the deed successfully.

The phenomenal growth of print-on-demand (POD) publishing indicates a very strong market of writers who want to get published. It may directly challenge the traditional print system in the years to come but that is for the future to find out.

I have some ornery opinions about it at The Digital Writer.

Is it merely vanity publishing spelled differently? It can turn out that way. A writer needs to assess the material she has and make strategic decisions on whether to try and publish it through traditional channels or do it herself. If you are going to publish through regular channels you still need to do a lot of preparation like researching publishers and agents, preparing book proposals, establishing some idea of how the book will be marketed, and so forth. There are horror stories in traditional as well as self-publishing.

"Personal publishing and short-run production of books aimed at specialized target audiences are among the fastest-growing parts of the book publishing market, according to Frank Romano, a printing industry expert and professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology. "Approximately 30 percent of book titles are now printed in quantities less than 100, and that could reach 50 percent by 2010, Romano points out."

From Business Wire 9/13/05

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Are you ready to do some of the following tasks?

  • Editing
  • Designing the cover of the book.
  • Getting an ISBN
  • Copyright registration
  • Library of Congress card number
  • Bar code
  • Prepare a marketing plan with names and numbers of all possible connections that will help you promote the book.
  • Fulfill orders that may come in.

Remember that mistakes in self-publishing can leave a lot of good intentions in the dust as precious money and time trickle down into the good Earth.

So, be prepared.

Tools and technology are just that. The intention of the mind and spirit using those tools is the key.

A skeptic will say that POD is useless because one person can't possibly do all the things a publisher can do unless the writer spends the same type of money and expertise on promotion, production value, editing and the like. So why not allow the traditional publishing system sift out the good from the bad?

But that presupposes that a person would self-publish for the same reason a person would try and publish a book in mainstream publishing. There are many motives for writing and publishing. For instance, any literary writer who is innovative should do as much self-publishing as he can, as James Joyce did seventy years ago or so.

Another reason would be if you had an idea before the mainstream has caught up with it and need to fix the idea in some form and build on the idea. Self-publishing, in this case, would be the way to go.

It's becoming popular to write family histories, war tales, and cookbooks using self-publishing. It gets the ball rolling in the right direction. If the ball is picked up by another publisher great; if not, you have produced something of value.

And remember that, now, writers are operating in a system of many platforms. The platforms don't necessarily compete, though it feels like it at times. The platforms attract different audiences. Remember that.

Still, the very worst thing you can do is rush the book into print under the pulse of adrenaline that it will solve a multitude of personal dilemmas.

POD, especially, is a tempting route but you will be disappointed unless you have some marketing plan, do rigorous editing, and think about the cover before the last second.

The innovative writers of today are going to make it much easier for this new literary system to mature and get efficient. It will benefit writers and readers beyond anything imaginable.

The more I research this area, the more I see creative, intelligent people creating networks and seeding the new literary system in very interesting ways. It means that any new or creative idea struggling to survive in the market will have a greater chance of success.

Beyond that, a knowledge of self-publishing prepares the writer for a publishing career, traditional or not. Knowing what needs to happen to take a manuscript from a raw state to a finished one is an antidote to the ways and means a writer can get ripped off in the publishing world. Knowledge is power. It's ugly to see how many businesses exist because of the ignorance of people.

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P O D  R e s o u r c e s

ForeWord Magazine reviews independently published books
Lightning Source
Small publishers, artists, and writers network
OnDemand Book printers and eBook companies from John Kremer, self-publishing expert.
A self-publishing blog by Stephen Weber
Before going into POD I'd recommend listening to this podcast of interviews with some of the CEO's of POD publishers. Is it simply vanity publishing in new clothes? Well, all publishing is a kind of vanity, the question is what benefits do all the parties get.

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David Eide
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David Eide
copyright 2000-2005