Nil By Mouth — Please

Who is POD Girl? Nobody really knows. But, pro­tec­ted by this secret iden­tity, POD Girl has been per­form­ing an hero­ic ser­vice over the past few months with her reviews of POD (Print-On-Demand) books, which she reads vora­ciously in her hunt for ‘bur­ied treas­ures’. Déjà Vu is a book sup­plied via POD, and I returned from Germany late last night to see that she has writ­ten an excel­lent review of it. ‘Treasure’ is a bit much; but she has dis­covered a book that she likes.

One ele­ment of her post that cap­tured my atten­tion was, sur­pris­ingly, the com­ments that fol­lowed it. These days, you see, far more heat is gen­er­ated by dis­cus­sion of a book’s proven­ance than the sub­stance of the book itself. People want to know wheth­er a book is either:

Self-pub­lished (i.e., author-sponsored)


Published by a pub­lish­er (i.e., pub­lish­er-sponsored)

Now, I’ve left plenty of blank space on the screen because these two enter­prises are quite sep­ar­ate. The author-/pub­lish­er- sponsored dis­tinc­tion is a val­id one and, as a read­er, you might find it use­ful because, in gen­er­al, the qual­ity of a author-sponsored work will be poorer than that of a pub­lish­er-sponsored work. Why? There are sev­er­al reas­ons, but one of the most import­ant is that a pub­lish­er-sponsored work will have been pro­fes­sion­ally and thor­oughly edited.

We come now to the prob­lem. Readers are so keen to fig­ure out wheth­er they are about to buy (or merely observing the pas­sage of) a ‘dodgy’ book that they resort to short-cuts to help them fig­ure out wheth­er the work is author- or pub­lish­er-sponsored. Here is an example of a short-cut: “If the book is POD, then it is author-sponsored.”

This short-cut is wrong.

Enough white space?

A book can still be POD (read a defin­i­tion of POD if you wish) and yet be the product of a genu­ine pub­lish­er who has inves­ted con­sid­er­able time and effort into the book and the author. I will say this once and once only: Print-On-Demand is a busi­ness mod­el that allows small presses (like my own pub­lish­er, The UKA Press) to pro­duce books without the ini­tial out­lay required by a print-run. I have not paid the UKA Press one penny for the pub­lic­a­tion of Déjà Vu and the six-month edit­ing pro­cess was so gruelling that I would have been a mas­ochist to pay for it. True, my pub­lish­er does not have a pub­li­city ‘depart­ment’, but it is no shabby pur­vey­or of pub­lish­ing ser­vices. If so, Déjà Vu would not have been reviewed in the Guardian. A few months back, I wrote two art­icles — one here and one here — about my exper­i­ence of pub­lic­a­tion. This should cla­ri­fy the hon­esty and effort of my pub­lish­er bey­ond the doubt of a reas­on­able per­son.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “Nil By Mouth — Please”

  1. POD is the busi­ness mod­el of all van­ity presses. It has yet to be demon­strated, any­where, where a com­pany using it does so suc­cess­fully for the author. It’s designed to help the pub­lish­er only. Print-non-demand. Use it and there won’t BE any demand.

    There are oth­er factors sure, but this is the key ele­ment. No one will ever see one of these books save online. The pub­lish­er will not print any to send around. Usually this falls on the author and this is called, buy­ing your own books, anoth­er sign that you have a van­ity press.

  2. Mark, it does not need to be demon­strated to be unsuc­cess­ful in order to refute your claim that POD is a sign of a van­ity press. It is not true that POD is the busi­ness mod­el of all van­ity presses — sev­er­al like to use tra­di­tion­al print-runs.

    Furthermore, it is not true that POD can­not be found in book­stores. At my loc­al Waterstone’s (a nation­al UK book chain; not sure if you have it in the States) there are sev­er­al POD books on the shelf.

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