The Other Side

Some of my previous blogs have taken a jaundiced view of the traditional publishing model. And rightly so. But that doesn’t

mean self-publishing is the magic bullet. I met a nice woman last week who published her historical novel through one of those print- on-demand services. In talking to her, I believe she got a raw deal.

Part of the appeal of POD is the low up-front cost. The only item she had to pay for was editing. Sounds like a great arrangement, right? Not so fast. The book is a hard cover that retails for $31.95 plus shipping. That’s a hefty price tag for an unknown author; definitely not an impulse buy. In today’s economy, I’m sure potential readers are reluctant to part with that kind of money, especially when they can purchase a “name brand” author for $19.95 or less.

Worse still, she has to pay half price for every book. That’s a big problem. One of the best ways to market a new book is by giving away free copies to anyone in a position to spread the word: reviewers, book club moderators, journalists, opinion leaders, the checker at the supermarket who talks to everyone. It’s a tried and true way to prime the pump. I’ve personally handed out hundreds of free copies of “Dice Angel” and “Money Shot.” To me, it’s just part of the cost of marketing. But had I paid $16.00 apiece, I’d need some pretty deep pockets to pursue that strategy.

Here’s the real kicker: She doesn’t own the rights to her own material. Which means she can’t even offer free excerpts on her own website. Her marketing opportunities are truly limited. The only one making a dime off this arrangement is the publisher and that’s probably all they’re making. A dime. I hope she can sell enough books to buy back the rights at some point, assuming that’s even an option.

I post this as a cautionary tale. Look into all the pluses and minuses of self-publishing before diving in. There are other models to consider, which I’ll discuss in my next post.