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.

Published by Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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