Vicki Hinze © 2000-2011
What do you think of publishers who publish on demand? Is it worth the money? Do they really try to get your book out there or do they just say that to hook in?
It depends. I know that isn’t the answer you were hoping for–a straight good or bad is far easier to decipher–but the truth is, it does depend. Like in everything else to do with writing, there are no absolutes.
There are however a few guides you can use to see if Print on Demand is right for you.
First, what is the purpose of publishing? If you’re doing a family history for a small number of people, this could be an excellent way to do it. Each person could order their own copy, copies for their children or other interested parties, and there wouldn’t be five hundred copies stuffed in someone’s garage.
If you’re doing a book that is of local/regional interest and you don’t expect the book to have broad appeal, this could be a good way to get it into print and have it available for those in the local/regional area.
Some nonfiction books that appeal to a specific niche could be successfully published in this manner.
But if you’re writing novels and your target is a broad audience, odds are significantly less that print on demand will accomplish what you want accomplished. There are many reasons, but some that have most impact are these:
1. The costs are typically higher than those on competing books, which makes them a harder sell to readers unfamiliar with the author’s work. You’re asking the reader to take a risk on a book by someone they don’t know.
2. The format (print on demand) eliminates the potential for impulse buying. A reader can’t pick up a copy, read the back blurb, read the first three paragraphs or pages and decide to give the book a shot. Even if you post the cover copy and first chapter, it doesn’t have the same impact on readers as holding the book in their hands.
3. The reader has to establish enough interest in the book and maintain enough interest in reading it to actually get it in hand. That’s difficult to do because of the time lapse in a field where instant gratification (book in hand) is the norm.
4. Few print on demand companies have strong marketing and distribution. Both are essential to fiction writers, particularly new ones. The writer also loses a great deal of genre identification by the book being on the shelf near like books, where readers are most likely to give new or unfamiliar-to-them authors a try.
Before agreeing to spend a penny with a print-on-demand publisher, a writer needs to ask him/herself what this publisher can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. You can copyright a book, have it printed or printed on demand, and hand sell it. So what is this print-on-demand publisher going to do for you and your work that you can’t do for yourself?
If you’re promised marketing and distribution, get specifics. In this case, you should not be paying any fees or costs. The publisher should assume those and you should be paid an advance/royalties on the books. Personally, I have no knowledge of a print on demand publisher who has a strong marketing program. That’s not to say one doesn’t exist, only that I haven’t heard of one nor have close associates mentioned knowing of one.
Overall, I see little merit in taking this route for novels/fiction. But that isn’t an absolute. There are specific occasions where it’s been a decent idea.
My best advice is to examine what you’re publishing, why you’re publishing it, and what realistic expectations are for sales on the project. Look at the track record of the print-on-demand publisher, and ask what s/he can do for you that you can’t. If you’re investing money with the publisher, you might as well do it all yourself. Your potential for regaining your investment is higher.
Be aware that many bookstores (chains) are not permitted to buy print on demand books from even local authors. They aren’t set up for it and can’t get authorization to do so. There are a lot of complications that come into play with this type of publication. Most have to do with sales–and I’m assuming that would be the reason you’re interested in doing this though you didn’t specifically state it.
If your interest isn’t in sales, or I haven’t touched on your purpose for considering this route and you need more information, please write me with more specifics so that I can better advise you.