Dear Ms. Andrews--
I'm enjoying your blogs. I'm trying to avoid the POD/subsidy publisher thing. What are my options?
Thanks for the note, Martin. This is a popular question among authors that contact our firm.
Finding the right publisher for your book is extremely important, so kudos to you for doing your research before inking a deal. I’ll start off with a little bit of industry background to get all our readers on the same page.
Print-on-Demand (POD) is a publishing method that has proliferated over the last ten years or so. Books are printed one at a time, as ordered. They are not stored in warehouses and have very limited distribution, mainly through online outlets and special order. No matter what the publisher tells you, it’s very rare to see a POD book sitting on the shelves of Barnes & Noble or Borders stores outside of an author’s local area.
When you’re deciding on a publisher, it’s important to determine your goals first. If you’d just like to have your book available through online outlets and “back of the room” sales or if you just want to sell a few copies to family and friends, POD might actually be a good option for you. In those cases, having solid distribution really doesn’t matter and POD publishing allows you to keep your up-front expenses low. Plus, you’ll be able save yourself the time and energy of trying to find an agent and you’ll be able to see your name in print more quickly. But, beware! Typically the overall quality of POD books leaves a lot to be desired (I have talked to many, many POD authors that were very unsatisfied with the final design of their book) and there are many POD publishers that do not have the best interests of their authors at heart. As a publicity firm, we tend to shy away from publicizing most POD books because of the lack of quality.
A large number of our clients are published through large houses like Thomas Nelson, St. Martin’s Press, Zondervan and others. We enjoy working with these books because they are well-designed, well-distributed and are written by authors with impressive credentials. The first step toward getting your book placed with a top publisher like these is finding a quality agent. I always point writers who are searching for tips on finding an agent to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware , who blogs frequently about how new authors can find a top-notch agent. Searching for an agent requires the same type of research and precision that a publicist uses when targeting media outlets for a book.
Things to remember when looking for a good agent include:
- Don’t query agents that don’t rep books from your genre
- Pay close attention to the agency’s submission guidelines
- Be patient…finding a good agent can take time (i.e. don’t hound them!)
- Be wary of any agent that asks for $ up front or recommends paid editing services as a precursor to signing with them.
- If you have a personal connection or met them at a conference where they requested more information, make that clear in the subject line of your email.
Two good places to start looking for an agent are: agentquery.com and agentresearch.com.
If you decide to pursue self or independent publishing, there are a few quality companies to look at. Our sister company, BookPros, has established relationships with quality distributors like Biblio, Ingram, Baker & Taylor and even National Book Network. Going this direction is going to be much more expensive than POD, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Although there are no guarantees that you’ll sell thousands of copies, if you want a quality book with solid distribution and a national publicity campaign (provided by P&P), they are going to be your best bet. They also sport a proven track record of success, several awards for design and many satisfied clients.
Thanks again for the great question, Martin! If any of you other readers have publishing or publicity queries, please feel free to send us an e-mail or leave us a comment.