Wading through the sea of Print-on-Demand titles, one overpriced paperback at a time--and giving you the buried treasure.
Friday, June 03, 2005
A personal message to major publishers who don't utilize POD: ARGH!!
There are certain things I find unacceptable in this day and age (like having to watch TV at a certain time of day. Why can't the programs be offered on demand? With the same advertisers built-in to the program no matter when it is watched?)
More importantly (and on point): why do some publishers avoid using POD for titles about to go out of print? Here is a sad, frustrating story that your POD-dy girl recently went through:
A friend of a friend of mine suggested I read one her favorite authors: Catherine Ryan Hyde. She said pick up any title and enjoy. Well, there is nothing I enjoy more than enjoyment, so off I went to my local Barnes and Noble.
Titles available? Zero.
Thinking I would fix B&N's wagon, I promptly zipped over to my local Borders.
Titles available? Zero.
Even my favorite used bookstore was coming up dry.
By this point, I had invested three hours and consumed enough cappuccino to have blood squirting out my eye sockets.
I returned home and punched up Amazon while dialing my friend-of-friend. Convo ensued . . .
Girl: What's the deal, friend-of-friend. I couldn't find a single title by Hyde. Friend: What do you mean? Girl: I mean no one was stocking them. So I need your absolute favorite title so I can buy it on Amazon; I am not taking any chances. Friend:Uh, okay, a must-read is EARTHQUAKE WEATHER. Girl (typing): Nope, it's out of print. Friend: What? What about FUNERALS FOR HORSES? Girl (typing): Nope. Out of print. Friend: WALTER'S PURPLE HEART? Girl (typing): Out of print. Friend: Well, they must have ELECTRIC GOD. Girl (typing): No. Also out of print. Friend: But . . . that's becoming a film starring Nicolas Cage. Girl (typing, switching quickly to IMDB.com): Wow, you're right. What's the deal with that? What publisher wouldn't keep a book in print when a movie tie-in--with Nick Cage, no less--is on the horizon?
*brief silence* Friend: Please tell me they still have PAY IT FORWARD in print. Girl (typing, back to Amazon): Sure enough there is one edition in print of Hyde's PAY IT FORWARD, the mass market version, undiscounted, with only three left in stock. *brief silence* In unison: Huh.
So, Simon & Shuster and Pocket are, at a minimum, guilty of letting good books go out of print even when they have the means to stop it--nothing short of not preventing an armed robbery when one might have the presence of mind to do so.
Here's hoping that putting ELECTRIC GOD back in print (when demand from the movie drives it) will cost Simon & Schuster a bloody fortune--and that the only person who sees a profit is Catherine Ryan Hyde. ______________________________
Fresh out of prison and ready to taste life again, POD-dy Mouth is here to give the last installment in our first Agent and Editor Q&A series. What an incredible ride it has been. We've had laughter, we've had tears. Mostly tears. But maybe Editor Two will give us that silver lining. Who knows.
Editor Profile: This editor acquires/edits fiction and non-fiction for an imprint at HarperCollins. [He/She] has been in the industry for over a decade and has recently made a name for [her/himself] with some recent top sellers. Editor Two lives and works in New York.
Girl: What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company? Is there a difference in quality between POD and traditionally self-published?
Editor Two: I will say POD or self-published print run is the same to me and my colleagues [that I can speak for]. If there is any stigma attached to self-publishing, it is the same for both. But I will say that if a writer self-publishes, he or she better make it the best thing ever written, especially if no one is helping to edit. A writer queried me not too long ago and mentioned the book was available POD. I was intrigued by the premise, so I checked it out on Amazon. Unfortunately for him, the reviews of his book were terrible, lots of discussion about spelling errors, lifeless characters, plot holes and so forth. That was the end of that.
Girl: If you like a book, do you care if it was once published POD?
Editor Two: No. If I am truly moved by someone's writing, I don't care if I read it on an overpass on the L.I.E.; if it's good, I'll try to buy it.
Girl: What if someone pitched a POD book to you and told you it had sold 1000 units in 6 months? Or 3000 units in a year?
Editor Two: There is no way to put a bad spin on good sales. Like a good blurb, it can only help me sell the book to [my house] internally. A track record is a great thing, as long as the sales are in a brief time period. I don't want someone to tell me they sold 2,500 copies over ten years. The first year a book is in print--whether traditional, POD or otherwise--is key. Outside of Stephen King picking the book up and loving it (like Memory of Running) it is a real sign of what is to come.
Girl: Do you think POD will eventually revolutionize the publishing industry?
Editor Two: Three or four years ago at BEA, I listened to some folks speak about POD--I think it was people from Lightning Source or Xerox, but I'm not sure. Anyway, they were talking about how every book in the future would be printed on demand right at the cash register, even in the mom-and-pop bookstores across the country. I was unconvinced then and I am only a little more convinced now. It's a neat idea, but I see it only being riddled with hassles. I hope I am wrong, because I think it would solve a lot of problems. But think about how often ATMs are down. Now think about how much more complicated a POD book binder is. If a machine breaks and a store is "unable to provide product" to its customers, what happens next?
Girl: Do you think POD publishers are taking advantage of hopeful authors by giving them a glimpse of being in a bookstore?
Editor Two: Honestly, I think the real draw for these authors is being able to hold the book in their hands and for that I would think it is good. As for getting the books in stores, I would imagine that is extremely unlikely. If a publisher is telling prospective authors that, then I would say yes, they are taking advantage. And from what I know about POD, it is pretty cheap to set-up. So if a writer is paying tons of cash, I would suggest it is a rip-off.
Girl: Do you think POD publishers will have an impact on books already out of print?
Editor Two: I'm not sure. I do not think the actual POD publisher's like iUniverse will take this role other than by the individual author. The large publishers will get the POD piece done without getting involved with a third party. Actually, I assumed that was why Random House bought Xlbiris.
Girl: If someone POD'd a book but still wants to pitch editors/agents, should he or she simply send the paperback?
Editor Two: Depends. Most of the submissions I receive are agent based, so I am usually getting it in manuscript format. And I would always want to get fiction that way. But if a book is non-fiction, particularly books with addenda or charts/tables/pictures/drawings, etc, then I would rather see the finished product, to see how it was all put together.
Girl: Bonus question: True or false-"If you have a brilliant manuscript, your book will find a home/get published."
Editor Two: Basically false. I am a believer that the books that get published are the best books out there--though not necessarily ALL of the best books out there. Certainly some are falling through the cracks.
Girl: Anything you want to add?
Editor Two: POD is a viable way to get your book into the marketplace, but you cannot expect similar results to a traditional publisher. I suggest considering it once all the other avenues are closed. Start by trying to find a literary agent and work your way down.
Editor Two, thanks for being with us today, and for shedding a little more light on this dark world of publishing. We'll let you get back to work; I'm sure there is some book with "ya-yas" in the title sitting on your desk that needs some attention.
Thanks, folks, for sticking with me through this first Q&A session. There will, of course, be more goodies on the way. And more quality PODs to unearth.
THE KING, MCQUEEN AND THE LOVE MACHINE by Barbara Leigh and Marshall Terrill, (Xlibris)
We're talking the King (Elvis Presley), (Steve) McQueen and former president of MGM, Jim Aubrey (known as the Love Machine--among other nicknames.)
THE KING, MCQUEEN AND THE LOVE MACHINE is first and foremost a memoir, and secondly a "tell-all" tale of Hollywood exploits (maybe exploited isn't the right word.) Why wasn't the book published (as most tell-alls are) by a New York house? The book is 25 years out of date.
Too bad, too--because this is an interesting book (50+ pictures included!) of a time past, but shows not much has changed in Hollywood. Fans of yesteryear (especially those who were in their "prime" during the late 70's) will get a good jolt of entertainment here. Otherwise . . .
How many of you know who Jim Aubrey is?
There is an entire generation out there that has never seen a Steve McQueen movie (not even THE GREAT ESCAPE!)
Everyone knows Elvis, but seriously, even the King would admit he's played.
But most of all . . . who is Barbara Leigh? Well, she's Vampirella, of course!
It doesn't really matter who she is; she has a good story. And we get it all from the neglected upbringing to the courting (and sexual encounters) with Elvis, Steve and Jim, among others. The book is actually quite tender, and at times almost innocent:
"I was too shy to speak up, having little in common with these celebrities. I felt as if I was being watched. I couldn't quite explain it, but the feeling was there—a sixth sense, perhaps. Call it intuition, call it whatever. I call it luck."
The book was actually written by Marshall Terrill who has had biographies published on folks like Steve McQueen and Aaron Pryor (by traditional publishers, mind you) though the writing here isn't why you are reading. It's the story. It is simple and entertaining, and considering the material, you'll likely walk away smiling.
I am an author and instructor, in that order (for now.) My debut novel (which debuted in the midlist) was released by Penguin Putnam in 2004 and my second novel was released early 2006.
As for this blog, it has been profiled in many online magazines, blogs and news stories, including the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, the Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News, the LA Times and Publishers Lunch.
To answer the deluge of questions I have been receiving from publicists: I'll review pretty much anything that is good--but it better be good, or I'll never look at another one of your books again. Then I'll hunt you down. Fiction preferred (no fantasy or young adult, go easy on the science fiction.) Non-fiction should be memoir, humor, self-help. Definite no-nos: cookbooks, textbooks, porn, books without verbs. And it must be POD (no small presses.) Otherwise, email with pitch first.