The POD Business

Print-On-Demand (POD) is a way of publishing books that have limited appeal. Book publishers have to count on selling thousands of books to justify a print run so many authors are never published. POD is not quite a vanity press, but it is far from being published the old fashioned way.

The theory behind POD is that there are books that have the potential to sell hundreds of copies that are perfectly good books, but are too limited in audience for a regular publisher to invest in them. Speculative Fiction, especially, seems to be flooded with good books that no one is willing to buy. It makes sense to publish a collection of short stories using POD and hope that word of mouth and simple marketing will sell a few copies of the book.

Arthur Sanchez has put together a few anthologies this way and has had a limited success. Most copies are purchased by the author’s family and friends. Arthur is exceptional in that he gives the author’s their own copy as an advance against royalites. Most anthologies give out a PDF version of the book, which costs the publisher nothing.

The reason that I bring this up is that I am in a couple of anthologies that Arthur did not put together. I have yet to receive the first cent on these. The reason for this is that POD seems to be mostly a failure.

I received a sales report from one of these POD publishers that uses LULU to publish their POD anthologies and this is the bottom line:

Out of 8 anthologies that had sales, the average payout for a story was $1.97. As best that I can estimate, they sold 31 copies – a little less than 4 copies of each title.

It is either a massive failue of the publisher to market the books, or it is intrinsic to the POD system that speculative fiction anthologies just do not sell. I don’t think much was done to advertise the books, but in the April-June 2005, there was practically zero interest in the books, even from the authors.

I will not be participating in POD anotholgies in the future, unless Arthur is backing the venture.

Just as a note, the #1 book on LULU is about a breed of dogs. The top sellers are all how-to, computer manuals or textbooks for college courses. The first fiction book is down at #20.

I want to try POD publishing, but I will start with a how-to book, possibly how to publish a POD book.