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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


On March 19 “Mystery Writer” sent us the following comment:

“I have written a cozy mystery and am trying to get an agent with no luck so far. The ‘On Demand’ publishers are calling me and tell me that most publishers expect authors to publish ‘on demand’ before they will consider them. Is this true? What do other people think?”

It’s an interesting question and one worth discussing. I’d like to know which on demand publishers are saying these things. (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.) My experience is that self-publishing (the old word for on demand) can work against a new author. Many agents and publishers do not want a book that has already been “out there,” preferring to work with new material. Having said that, the first two non-fiction books I sold had been self-published prior to their sales to big New York houses. Both of these authors were high-profile and media-savvy and their self-published books were selling very well.

So there is no right or wrong answer to this question. I have a feeling though, that many new fiction authors self-publish or go with on demand publishers for the wrong reasons. They’ve worked long and hard to finish their novel only to find that their work has just begun. It’s often harder to land an agent and a publisher than it is to write a book. So authors give in to the “instant gratification” and lure of the on demand publishers. “Hey, kid. Come with us. You’ll have a real book with your name on the cover in no time! You’ll be an AUTHOR!”

The self-publishing option works better for some non-fiction authors who often are building a platform and can sell their books when they travel the country, teach courses or give presentations. Their self-published book can help elevate their status and can attract the attention of agents and publishers who are looking for a non-fiction author with a large following.

But “Mystery Writer” is the author of a fictional work. I’d advise her to concentrate on making her book as good as it can possibly be. Hire an editor if you can or have a trusted literary friend give you feedback. Join a writer’s group and go to writers conferences where pros will often give you good advice. When your work is as good as you can get it, begin working on your query. Investigate blogs and websites to discover what works best in a mystery query. Then try again. After all, if you can’t find an agent you can always take the on demand bus at a later date. What do you all think?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"It was the end of the world as she knew it,
and Kate Carmichael felt something short of

-- Alissa, First Lines Contest

We took off our agent hats and our publicist hats, put on sunglasses and SPF 15 and took off for Florida earlier this month. Jon's mother owns a little place down there and it was time to check on the property. Her home is in a "backwater" region of Florida with limited email access and, though I am the proud owner of a new HP Netbook, I did not use the great little machine to post a blog entry.

The weather was perfect for winter-weary souls--60s and 70s, most days. (The Floridians say it's "cold.") We spent most of our time cleaning, throwing out items and boxing up others that Mom can use up here. We were able, however to make side trips and enjoy the weather.

We flew back in a tropical rainstorm and arrived in Philly just in time to participate in a massive Nor'easter. "At least it's not snowing," grumbled Jon as he glared through the soaked windshield as we floated down Rt. 95.

Since we've been back we've been working hard to get caught up. We've requested several partials and a manuscript or two. Again, your patience is much appreciated as we plow through the projects.

I made an executive decision while we were gone. From now on I'll request emailed partials and manuscripts. I can load them on a memory stick and read them nicely on the Netbook. Saves paper and shelf space.