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Last week, Austin’s Greenleaf Book Group, LLC brought us the insider’s scoop on traditional publishing. Here, we present Greenleaf’s thoughts on vanity publishing and new-technology publishing, also known as POD or print on demand.

Vanity Publishing
Another option is to use a vanity publisher. They offer to publish any book, regardless of the quality, for a fee. Instead of an advance, they charge an exorbitant amount and take a 50 to 75 percent stake in the work.

For the up-front fee they help turn your document into a book, but there are many disadvantages:
■ Most vanity publishers charge way too much, given the quality of their production services.
■ They make the majority of their money on the up-front fee, so they have little incentive to help your book succeed.
■ They do not have sufficient bookstore distribution.
■ The production quality of their books is usually poor.

Industry professionals often have a negative perception of books published by vanity presses, and these books are commonly refused media exposure and shelf space in retail stores. It is well known within the trade that these publishers are not selective, and since the quality of their work is consistently inadequate, many books are prejudged because of the vanity publisher’s name or logo on the book.

New-Technology Publishing
New publishing technology has received a great deal of attention recently for offering authors additional options. Of these, ebooks and print-on-demand (POD) technology have received much of the publicity, but authors should proceed with caution. First, let’s take a look at ebook publishing.
■ Most ebook publishers accept manuscripts as vanity publishers do—based on few or no editorial criteria. Without being able to judge a book by production value or publisher, buyers have no reliable way to assess quality prior to purchase.
■ Although ebook publishing may seem like a cost-effective solution, sales are consistently low. The market is growing, particularly with the growing array and popularity of electronic readers, but current figures suggest it is not yet a viable
stand-alone publishing venture for most books.
■ Because it’s so affordable to convert books to ebooks, some publishers, including Greenleaf, use it as an additional option for consumers. Until the market is ready, however, we advise against using ebook publishing exclusively, rather than in tandem with traditional production.

Some ebook publishers offer a printed alternative in addition to an electronic version using POD technology.

POD is widely marketed as a profitable alternative to traditional printing. It’s important to note that there is a difference between POD printers and POD publishers. POD publishers typically offer basic file preparation, design, and sometimes editorial services. After providing these services, POD publishers use a POD printer to produce books and make them available online and by special order in bookstores. You can use a POD publisher as a middleman and service provider, or you can work directly with a POD printer. Before signing a contract with a POD publisher, you may consider the following:
■ Though many POD publishers market distribution services, these services are available directly to authors if they work directly with Lightning Source, Inc., the company most POD publishers use for distribution.
■ Like many ebook publishers, most POD publishers accept projects regardless of quality. This often results in negative reactions from media and book industry professionals.
■ For the most part, POD titles are not actively stocked in bookstores. Typically, if consumers want a particular POD title, they have to order it from a bookstore or online.
■ Few consumers special order books from bookstores; most commonly, they buy a book that is already in stock or they order from an online retailer such as Amazon.com.
■ You may pay for an interior layout and cover design but may not own the rights to the formatted files. In other words, if you leave your publisher (or freelance contractor) for a new publisher, you may not be given the application files or high resolution files you need and will have to pay a second time to have the interior formatted and the cover designed.

Unlike POD publishers, POD printers typically do not offer design, editorial, or other publishing services, but they can be extremely valuable resources, particularly when printing books with unknown or limited sales potential.

Lightning Source is the industry’s leading POD printer, and it is owned by Ingram, the trade’s largest wholesaler. Because of its affiliation with Ingram, Lightning Source can make every title it prints available for special order in most bookstores and online. The quality of its books improves every year, and it offers competitive rates for short print runs.

If you need a few copies in a rush, good POD printers can offer unmatched turnaround times. If you are seeking a national book release, however, you should consider the following:
■ If you expect to sell more than a thousand copies, your price per unit will be notably lower if you use a traditional offset printer.
■ POD printers do not offer the same variety as offset printers, so your design and manufacturing options will be limited to very basic specifications.

The main issue to consider with both new technology options is whether they offer you the optimal chance of success in your particular market. Greenleaf Book Group uses new technology options for projects with special needs and to complement standard formats, but we generally recommend traditional printing and sales channels for authors and publishers seeking mass distribution.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to publishing. As a smart, careful writer, you’ll want to do your research, weigh your options and choose the publishing path that’s the right fit for you.

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One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] If this post tickled your fancy, you may also be interested in Greenleaf’s take on traditional publishing as well as vanity and new-technology publishing. […]

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