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.

Published by

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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