Saturday, 4 October 2008

Print On Demand or Publish On Demand?

According to my dictionary*, “publish” means “to make public; to proclaim, promulgate; to cause to be printed and offered for sale”. That means that each edition of each and every book can only be published once, when its publisher first makes it available for sale on its publication day.

Books are not published one copy at a time; they are published one edition at a time. Individual copies of each edition are sold as the orders come in, but each time an order is fulfilled that doesn’t mean that the book has been published all over again: it means that someone has bought a copy, that’s all. When an edition sells out further copies might be printed but that’s not a new publication, it’s a reprinting of an existing edition. If a book were to be substantially changed then that would result in a new edition, which would have its own publication date: but it would not be an entirely new publication, just a new edition of a previously published book.

So when you read publishers claiming that POD means “publish on demand”, you will now realise that this is a nonsense. POD refers to the printing technology known as “print on demand” and nothing else.

The use of POD technology isn’t restricted to the smaller or dodgier publishing houses: some of the larger publishers use it to keep older books in print (which has its own, somewhat worrying, implications). But generally, if a publisher uses the phrase “publish on demand” you should be wary of them: they’re in bad company. The phrase was coined originally by PublishAmerica, which is one of the grand masters of vanity publishing and the weasel-wording which is associated with such practices. It’s a meaningless term which is designed to confuse.

Publishers which rely solely on POD technology to print their books are generally either unwilling or unable to invest their own money in printing reasonable runs of the books that they publish: and whatever their reasons for using only POD, they are best avoided. If you don’t believe me, read Lynn Price on the subject: she knows what she’s talking about.

*My dictionary is so old and tatty that it’s lost its cover and several pages, front and back, otherwise I’d attribute it properly here. Apologies to whoever wrote and published it: I owe you a credit.


Jane Smith said...

Amongst other things, background artist wrote, "well what if i said, her yr crap, how dare you think of publishing, that's what yr saying innit?"

That’s actually the opposite of what I’m saying.

Writing well is hard work, and I hate to see writers throwing their work away by publishing it badly. This blog has already helped prevent some writers from doing that, and saved them quite a lot of money along the way.

Meanwhile, if you don't like what I write then remember that you are not compelled to come over here and read any of it. If you want to continue to comment here you're welcome to, but follow the rules: cut out the insults, try to keep on-topic, and stop posting long rambles in an attempt to publicise your own work. Forget the rules and I'll delete your comments completely.

Jane Smith said...

In yet another long, rambling post background artist wrote:

'"if you don't like what I write then remember that you are not compelled to come over here and read any of it*

'One could say more or less verbatim, that if you don't like what others write in the sense of it being below the level of quality you are advocating for published authors, you don't have to tell them that.

'It's ok, i knew i was winding you up and fair play as i just expected you to delete it.'

He then went on to make several statements about someone I know nothing about, which I consider to be libellous. Consequently, I'm deleting his whole comment and will continue to delete his posts until he manages to behave himself. Just to make myself clear: I expect people to observe the law here, as well as expecting them to behave like reasonable people.

Pah. I have no rules at all and then four come along all at once.

Sally Zigmond said...

Poor Background Artist. You've completely missed the point of this blog.

As I see it, no-one, least of all Jane, has any problem with people who use the internet or paper or city walls to express themselves artistically. Nor is she old-fashioned, miserable or elitist.

Nor does she object to people who self-publish, use a blog to disseminate their art or use companies such as Lulu to produce their own books.

This blog (if I haven't missed the point as well) is to help those who wish to follow the traditional, tried and tested, route to publication, to understand the process and to avoid vanity publishers who pretend to be on the side of writers but which often charge money for a very shoddy end product.

No more. No less. You carry on with what you're doing. That's fine but please allow others the same freedom. There's room for all of us.

Jane Smith said...

Background artist posted a fourth over-long, rambling comment to this thread, which I have deleted. It included swearing, name-calling, insults, misinformation and some god-awful poetry, and it was that last which swung my finger towards the delete button.

BA, don't post here again: you are no longer welcome. If you do I'll delete your posts unread, and if you persist I'll feel moved to report you to Blogger for your idiocy.

Sally Zigmond said...

Spoilsport! I like a laugh in the mornings.

But, to be serious, I understand your reasons.

Anonymous said...


Insults? Name calling? Okay, these I can put up with. But you say the guy actually used Poetry?

Now that's just evil.

Richie D

Jane Smith said...

Next thing you know people will be interpreting my blog through movement and music.

Richie D, you're going to have to sign up to a Blogger account and stop pretending to be anonymous. We all know who you are: it's the way you add your name in at the bottom that's the giveaway.

(How's the writing going?)

Anonymous said...

Too many log-on options. It's getting like Starbucks. I just want a plain coffee.

The writing is going very well now that I'm not distracted by the internet. Except for your blog. Oh damn.


Sally Zigmond said...

Xlibris? Do me a favour. Everybody's heard of Xlibris and its ilk. Pro? Are you serious? It's vanity/scam for the internet age. A total rip-off. Don't take my word for it. Make enquiries. Someone is making money out of it and it sure ain't the writers they publish.

I think you see people like Jane and me sitting in plush, glass-plated offices in London, sneering down our surgically enhanced noses at the natives. As if.

You say your post didn't insult me. If I was sitting on a bus and someone leaned over me and called me 'my deepest dearest Sallo' and 'Deary', however well-meaning I don't think I would be wrong to feel insulted, if not threatened. But I'm not deceived or daft. I can recognise sarcasm when I read it.

I hope you are very young because I can only hope you'll grow up. If you are over 30 then I fear it's too late to escape your own self-deluded bubble.

And I expect you think that correct spelling, punctuation and syntax is for outdated losers, don't you?

Don't bother to reply. Please. Please don't.

Jane Smith said...

For those of you wondering quite what's happened to the comments here, I've just had a little burst of waving my deleting finger about.

Just to remind you all: I won't allow rudeness, name-calling, insulting, libelling or any other sort of bad behaviour here, and I'll delete any comments that I think break that rule.

(The temptation was to delete all comments here but Richie's, which would have left him looking rather strange and therefore would have been great fun, but I'm doing my best to act like a grown-up despite great provocation. Rest assured that next time I'm hit by an incomprehensible troll I'll do my best to make Richie bear the brunt of it, just to cheer us all up. He writes far too well for us to be kind to him.)

Michael Scott said...

Hmmm I'm sure I made a comment here once. I really don't know what to say. I know, I can rant about 'qualified' editors and the system only working for submissons formulated to editors requirements.
I like the classic rules of writing, deception being my favourite. My ultimate is the opposite of the suspension of disbelief. I want you to read my entire novel thinking it averagely entertaining (and badly spelled).
Then 19 days later sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night. Saying, actually I get it. So the leather, the whipping and all that stuff. The stud was really a genuine bonafide horse - It makes sense now! That stuff in chapter 19, I was thinking my god these people are gymnasts.

Anyway - I can't do it in the first three chapters. SO I QUIT!

Sally Zigmond said...

I'm not sure I follow what you're saying, Michael, unless you're being heavily ironic. Or having a laugh.

I'm all for people writing what the heck they like for the sheer joy of it, breaking all the rules or turning them on their heads but I'd rather not have to read it, thank you very much. If you expect others to read it or an editor to accept it, then you need to follow their guidelines. They know what they want. They're paid because they do. It's not a blind-folded formula.

And expecting readers to plod through a whole novel thinking it's drivel and only getting the point 19 days later, well, dream on. It's all very well being clever-clever and arty-farty but it's pointless. I don't know anyone who has the time or commitment to invest time, let alone money in the process

But then, you're teasing us, aren't you, Michael, whoever you are? Although I think I have an inkling.

Michael Scott said...

I'm doing what I feel I do best, seriousness in jest. Your partner in crime likes 'The Sixth Sense'- Unless the synopsis is truly excellent, the editor will discard it. It doesn't make it past average until the last scenes.

Novels are going the same way as films. Joe Vs The Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry met Sally and You've got mail are actually the same movie. With the added insult of using the same actors (Okay so Billy Crystal stood in for one) The Posters and DVD covers are even the same!

The first person, early dialogue, quick empathy, chapter 22 lowpoint protagonist, positive ending, structure. Is producing McDonalds style paperbacks.

Oh! 2001 a space thingy! Saw it when was about 6! - That whole ape/bone/spaceship part. I get it now!

Sally Zigmond said...

Michael. Your jaundiced view on movies is based solely on Hollywood mainstream and in particular on the Romance category, which because there are only so many variations on the box meets girl, will they, won't they plot, are always much of a muchness and no worse for that. There are plenty of other good indie companies producing films that are not all the same. Similarly with novels. I'm talking about small independent publishers who can go out on a limb whilst still adhering to traditional methods of publication and distribution; UK publishers such as Tindall Street, Canongate, Myrmidon and plenty of others. Even the smaller imprints, once independent but since swallowed up by the 'big boys' still publish original, high quality books. The Friday Project, Virago et al.

Michael Scott said...

Tosh! (Good word). New writers are required to write to a increasingly restrictive format. When writing is required to conform to strict form and syntax. I think that's called a programming language. Did you know that there are programs to write programs? Now I hear of authors using character name generation software. How long before the 3 act author can be replaced?

Jane asked me to visit - Liven up the blog! I'm going now, you can delete me if you want. I only came to play with you emotions.

Anonymous said...

Jane: Don't worry about making me look a plonker. I can handle that myself.

Jane Smith said...

Richie, it's just so much more satisfying when I manage to do it for you...!

Michael, it seems to me that you have a somewhat jaundiced and misinformed view of publishing. Yes, some films and books are formulaic: but in some cases that's what viewers/readers want. Romance, thriller, comedy, mystery--they all have their conventions and that's not necessarily a bad thing: it just means that the people who like them get what they want. The people who don't like particular genres can read other things.

Sally's right: just as there are indie film companies (including the one that trashed my house filming here last year, and which STILL has not sorted everything out, thank you very much) there are also indie publishing companies which put out quirky, edgy work that the bigger houses won't touch.

I've not seen any real evidence that new writers are required to write to a formula--unless you consider writing in a particular genre to be too formulaic. In which case, how do you propose that a genre be defined?

Sally Zigmond said...

I like lively debate but with someone like Jane who is a published writer and has experience of working in publishing so therefore knows what she's talking about. On the other hand, I get a little tired of disgruntled trolls who talk, well, tosh (I didn't say it first) because they aren't prepared to listen and learn and work hard to achieve publication and then, having fallen at the first hurdle, convince themselves there's a cruel conspiracy to prevent their genius from being recognised or that publishers don't want anything original. You can tell these people the truth a million times but they won't listen.

It took me over 10 years to get my novel accepted by a small, independent (not POD) company. I am not glamorous, London-based, or have slept with anyone famous but what I did do was send the manuscript to about twenty publishers and the same number of agents, kept being rejected, although I had three near misses, rewrote it completely about five times along the way and each draft was better than the last. It may not be perfect now and it won't make me rich but at least someone other than my mum and my cat thinks it's worth talking a chance on and paying me an advance.

BTW, it takes a bit more than swapping comments on a blog to ruffle the surfaces of my emotions.

Michael Scott said...

I knew this wouldn't work. I'm outta here. BTW 'Playing with my emotions'- African American expression meaning messing with you. Good luck with your book. Got a link for ya. It's screenwriting but try and apply it.

Anonymous said...

Do you want me to eat anybody yet?


Jane Smith said...

It's a shame I deleted background artist before you made that offer, BFL. Mind you, he was probably a bit stringy.

Sally Zigmond said...

Ah! The power of the post-menopausal woman. Never fails. And thanks, BFL. Better late than never. I hope you at least got a fleeting taste of ankle as Michael scarpered....

Jane Smith said...

Michael, I shall now take a deep breath and remind you of my rules here: I encourage lively debate but will not tolerate name-calling, insulting, or rudeness. Nor will I allow comments which I consider to be libellous, which is why I've deleted your comment. Do it again and I’ll delete ALL your comments. However, if you refrain from such behaviour you’re welcome here any time. Right. Onward and upward.

Michael wrote to Sally, “I concluded 'on the balance of probability' you were narrow minded.”

And yet, in your reply, you revealled yourself to be supremely narrow-minded by insisting that publishing is some sort of Great White Conspiracy.

“The only thing I can suggest is to put place a system whereas everybody has a fair crack of the whip.”

There is a fair system in place already: it’s called the submissions system. People send their work in: the work is read, and accepted or rejected because it’s either good enough or it isn’t. Being good enough includes all sorts of things: the quality of the writing, the story, what competition is out there, and the likely market. It has nothing to do with the colour of the person who wrote it.

Writing is judged purely on its quality by editors, sales teams and publishers, who themselves belong to all ethnicities, religions and genders. They have little or no idea of the ethnicity or religious beliefs of the writers they’re considering unless the writers choose to tell them: so how can you logically insist that that’s why they reject some writers and accept others?

I’ve just been rejected by a Muslim editor: did I react by ranting that this was religious discrimination, because I’m non-Muslim? Or racial discrimination, because I’m white and the editor wasn’t? Or discrimination because I’m a woman and the editor is a man? Nope. I thanked him for his time, had a look at my writing and realised that he was right: my work wasn’t suitable for his publication.

“In the UK 'Baby Father' – Patrick Augustus, led to two BBC drama series. Why did it have to start life in a dodgy black publishers because it was turned down by everybody else?”

I don’t know: I’ve not read it, nor have I researched the publisher or the situation. Perhaps the big publishers didn’t think it was commercial enough; perhaps the story was good but the writing wasn’t. Perhaps it wasn’t submitted to the right editors or imprints. Perhaps it was thought to be good, but there was something else already published which it was too similar too. There could be all sorts of reasons why it was rejected by the bigger publishers, if indeed it was, and for you to imply that this was a race issue is disturbing.

In an attempt to steer this whole discussion back on course, I’ll remind you, Michael, of a comment you made to me in an email just yesterday.

“You're assuming unpublished = inferior quality. The stereotype we're trying to break. In line with political correctness. Throw unpublished authors in with disabled people and black people.”

Most unpublished work IS of inferior quality: that’s why it’s rejected. It has nothing to do with colour. What you don’t seem to appreciate is just how truly awful most of the slush-pile is: and I don’t mean that it’s awful in that it needs some editing; it’s awful in that the bulk of it is unreadable, incomprehensible and/or incoherent. To paraphrase Jim Macdonald, if you can write something that’s grammatically correct, which doesn’t contradict itself too many times and which shows a reasonable understanding of both spelling and punctuation then you’re already in the top ten per cent of the slush-pile.

Michael Scott said...

You skirted around the main point. If YOU are typical of an editor. Then YOU are clueless as to what WE want to read. Furthermore, even in your post. You've assumed you know what I want to write. I've removed the 16 occurrences of the 'N' word from one of my pieces. But now it's false as we don't call each other 'mate'.

I'll close this by saying 'bad form'. I do not believe to quote from a private email is right.

Jane Smith said...

And I think it's bad form to make insulting, libellous comments on my blog. Go away, Michael. There's the door.