Wading through the sea of Print-on-Demand titles, one overpriced paperback at a time--and giving you the buried treasure.
Friday, October 13, 2006
As if this blog hasn't convinced you that there are oodles of great reading in the sea of POD titles, then I . . . would . . .
What's so funny?
Okay, maybe not oodles. Let's say one oodle. There is one oodle of great reading in the sea of POD titles. Let me check Wiki real quick.
Yes, one oodle means 58. There are exactly 58 instances of great reading in the sea of POD titles. And I found them all.
But there may be more. I'm sure there are more. The real sign that much good writing has been overlooked by New York is the increase in POD published titles winning awards (and being finalists) in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. (All this chatter about Nobels and NBAs and such got me thinking). This is not some goofy award given out to just POD books (like, ahem, mine). The ForeWord Book Awards are handed out to independent publishers. Who does that include (besides iUniverse and the like)? Oxford University Press, McSweeneys, Rizzoli, Llewellyn, Other Press, Marlowe, Pelican Press, Howard, as well as a slew of university presses. My point? A lot of POD titles wiggled there way in considering they are battling full blown publishers for the same spots--and the PODers don't get the benefit of editing, cover design, and so on.
So what POD companies are producing the most (read: what POD companies did the majority of winners and finalists use to print their books)?
iUniverse: a stunning 19 (including seven medal winners) Authorhouse:10 (including two medal winners) Xlibris:3 Aventine: 2 (including one medal winner) PublishAmerica:2 Lulu: Hard to tell, because so many authors self-publish via Lulu using their own personalized "imprint" and whatnot. Though at least two instances are present.
So that's 36 titles out of 613 winners and finalists (not including any POD presses I didn't recognize)--or in other words, 6% of the titles. Now, as much as you might hate POD (we all have our moments), you have to admit: Where would all of these great books be without POD? Buried forever.
(6) Naomi Hiraharainterviews Sue Ann Jaffarian, where she discusses her transition from POD (iUniverse) to getting a commercial deal (Midnight Ink). You get a good feel for her experiences with POD and her reasons for going down that dark alley in the first place.
"FACT #2: Each day, an average 125 new authors who are looking to find a book publishing company ask us to publish their book, more than 30,000 per year, an absolute record in the industry." You've got be kidding. Random House probably gets 125 requests a day from agents. Never mind the stuff falling over the transom. Sorry, PA. Not only is this nowhere near a record, it's not even in the ballpark.
Now, here's a real telling piece of info. Go back to FACT #1 and read: "PublishAmerica counts nearly 20,000 happy authors. Each day, an average 10 of them ask us to also accept their next work . . . ." Okay, so let's assume they sign 100 of the 125 aforementioned authors who come knocking on their door each day (we all know it's 125, though). This means only one out of ten PA authors wants them to publish their next book. What does that tell you? You think Simon & Schuster has that kind of retention problem?
"Bookstores appreciate that thousands of our titles are returnable." Because they usually get returned.
"All authors are treated equally here." That is, ignored.
"We assign a graphic designer who comes up with a unique cover design." And they must be prolific, coming up with about four covers a day.
And perhaps most inane: "FACT #9: Does the use of the digital on-demand printing technology make a publisher a POD house? No, it does not. Of course not. According to www.acronymfinder.com, there are 57 different meanings for POD, from Post Office Department to Point Of Departure to Proof Of Delivery. In our world, POD is vanity publishing, and PublishAmerica is no vanity publisher, by any stretch of the imagination." What, exactly, does that make them?
Check out these fun POD/Publishing tidbits for some good reading:
(1) Xerox has found yet another way to make the point that you "can't do this without POD technology" with their new offering of customized Teacher's Edition books. This is the kind of thing (not the publishing of countless bundles of inferior fiction and memoirs) that can/will reshape the publishing industry.
(2) Check out this new blog by an anonymous PublishAmerica author. It has some worthy insights. Best of all, the first post is an open letter to PA and starts with this: "You don’t know me, but I published my first book through your company in April of 2005."
(4) A very new and cool blog is out and about in the land of literary anonymity: The Rejecter. He/She works as an assistant literary agent and offers advice on how to get past the first line of rejections. In the vein of Kristin Nelson's blog and Miss Snark, there is some great info and advice here.
Not really. Please don't start sending your unpublished manuscripts my way because you think I'm acquiring for HarperCollins or some such nonsense.
What I mean to say is, I feel like an editor.
I have not edited anyone's manuscript, but there have been so many (more than usual lately) that are incredibly close to perfect, but they are missing that tight editing to make it truly a joy to read. I try to give it the benefit of the doubt as long as possible, but eventually I just can't take it any longer and close the book (a.k.a. delete the file).
But perhaps I have become most like an editor in this way: I am always looking for a reason to dislike a book. I have such a backlog of reading that it is easier to pass on them than to struggle through and look for the gleam of possibility. Granted, I usually don't have to try hard; the crappy ones stick out like a cold sore on a sunny day. Of course, that means the books I ultimately select are the absolute best, and the ones where I am thirty pages in and still engrossed usually go all the way and end up getting reviewed (though there is a recent exception from three weeks ago where the novel really went down the drain in the final 25 pages--a classic case of I-don't-know-how-to-end-this syndrome).
So, while I hope to impart my wisdom on the legions of writers and readers everywhere, perhaps I have been taught a bit of a lesson as well: no matter how much you think there might be a short cut to good writing (either on the production end or the consumption end) there isn't one, just like there is no short cut to success in writing. This is a long journey for everyone, including me. All we can ask in the end is that we have something to show for it.
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.