Wednesday, March 31, 2010



Brian Rush, an alert reader, showed me the error of my ways with yesterday's post. Here's what I said:

"I make the assumption that you all understand that 'on demand' publishers charge the author for their services and the finished books and the price can be high."

And Brian said:

"There is no reason for anyone to 'understand' this, as it is not true. What you are calling 'on-demand publishing' is actually vanity publishing, an entirely different subject. 'On-demand' refers not to a type of marketing arrangement but to a publishing technology which allows books to be printed only when purchased. It is not exclusively used by vanity publishers (the ones that charge authors a fee). It is also used by traditional publishers (so far mostly small ones), and by self-publishing outlets that do NOT charge authors a fee, but instead take a percentage of all sales (which is also what traditional publishers do).If you want to give people advice about self-publishing, I would suggest learning a little more about the subject. I pretty much stopped reading at the point I just quoted above."

Brian is correct, harsh, but correct. Mystery Writer used the term "on demand" and I heard "vanity." I believe that's what she was talking about. But we're not sure. If you're reading this, Mystery Writer, could you get back to us with more details?

Here's a good definition of Print on Demand from

Print on demand (POD) refers to digital printing technology that allows one or two copies of a book to be printed at a time, dispensing with the expense of warehousing books. It also allows a publisher or author to have books printed only as they are ordered, which means that at the end of the year, a publisher doesn't face costly returns from bookstores. In recent years the quality of print-on-demand books has improved to the point that there often is little difference between them and the average traditional print book. says this about self-publishing:

Self-publishing is the act of publishing your work independently of an established publishing house. In the past writers unable to publish their work through larger presses have gone through vanity presses, but with print-on-demand services, there are more options today for writers interested in self-publishing than before.

Hope this clears things up. Thanks, Brian, for calling us on this.


Stephanie Faris said...

Romance Writers of America had an article in its monthly magazine about POD publishers recently...there are SOME of these publishers, referred to by RWA as "author mills," who actually are scamming authors. They put all of the marketing on the author and, in essence, turn the author into a door-to-door salesperson, hocking books out of the trunk of her car. The publisher then puts out no effort, since no copies are printed unless someone is buying them, and they constantly put pressure on their authors to sell, sell, sell, so they can get their cut. So even if it's POD, do CAREFUL research before you get involved with a company like this.

Joe Iriarte said...

You know, it's so easy to make a mistake like that, because a lot of times people say POD when they mean self-pub or vanity pub. I've caught myself "hearing" something other than what was said also.

But you impressed the hell out of me by not getting angry or defensive when taken to task for it--harshly. I'm not as good at not getting defensive, but maybe seeing examples like the one you just set for me will help me get better at keeping my hackles down.

Fawn Neun said...

As the owner of a new small press that will have to rely on POD technology to go to print, I felt the same way Brian did. (Although, admittedly not quite as intensely.)

POD is a technology. That's all it is. A lot of small presses, literary journals and digital publishers that take a ms to print use POD and don't charge a fee. In fact, they pay a royalty.

Thank you for taking this correction gracefully.

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