Greased Lightning: Print on Demand

I note Mr Victor Keegan has writ­ten a sequel to his earli­er Guardian art­icle on self-pub­lish­ing. He makes some inter­est­ing points. For example, 50% of all books pub­lished with an ISBN sell few­er than 250 cop­ies. Now that’s inter­est­ing. A second stat­ist­ic is worth repeat­ing: only 1% of manu­scripts sub­mit­ted are pub­lished. Is it just me, or is this second stat extraordin­ar­ily high?

Back to the art­icle. It is nice to see the main­stream press catch­ing up with a tech­no­logy that is now long-in-the-tooth; yes, it has yet to be accep­ted by main­stream pub­lish­ing com­pan­ies, but this is due the lum­ber­ing nature of these com­pan­ies (say more expert com­ment­at­ors than me).

Does the job­bing writer need to know much about deliv­ery mech­an­isms? You’d think not, but it nev­er hurts to have a work­ing know­ledge of the industry you hope to join. One example where fore­warned is fore­armed comes from our Great British high street. On these, the behemoth­ic bricks-and-mor­tar shops of Ottakar’s and Waterstone’s and highly aller­gic to Print-On-Demand titles. Why? For one, POD pub­lish­ers are not in a pos­i­tion to acqui­esce to the terms of such stores, and need treat­ment that shop man­agers regard as char­it­able. POD pub­lish­ers often have a Distributed Market Department (DMD) — i.e. their authors. POD books are, there­fore, unlikely to fly off the shelves. As a writer, it would be use­ful to get ‘boned up’ on this, and know the reas­ons why the loc­al Waterstone’s man­ager calls for secur­ity the instant he or she smells the faint, chlo­ro­form­ic odour of POD (cf. this old post of mine from early 2005).

By the way, in his art­icle, Mr Keegan relates a vis­it to a com­pany called Lightning Source. If you were to click on the cov­er graph­ic of Déjà Vu, to the right of this post, and order it from Amazon, Lightning Source will be the com­pany that prints, binds, and lov­ingly wraps your copy.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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