March 25, 2009
"BEST PRACTICES" FOR THE POD INDUSTRY - Part I | printable version
There are lots of snakes in the Print on Demand (POD) industry. And, while most companies charge too much, way too much, there are a few that offer good services at reasonable prices. And, some of those even offer pretty good customer service! I thought it would be fun this week to come up with a list of "Best Practices" for the POD industry.
I'd love it if you'd send me items you'd like us to consider adding to this list! Email me at: angela-at-writersweekly.com.
"BEST PRACTICES" FOR THE POD INDUSTRY
DON'T CHARGE MORE THAN $750 TO DESIGN A COVER *AND* FORMAT A BOOK FILE
Getting a quality book on the market with a professional cover (not a template!) shouldn't cost more than a few hundred dollars. Anything over $750.00 is too much.
DON'T TAKE RIGHTS FROM AUTHORS!
POD publishers should never, ever, ever claim ownership of files that authors have paid them to produce!
Many POD publishers tell some pretty tall tales on their websites. With a few choice words, they can make one thing sound like something it absolutely is not. Some blatantly claim they charge less than any other POD publisher when they don't. Other claim they pay the "highest royalties" when they don't. Don't believe everything you read. If it sounds too good to be true, well, you know...
DON'T LOCK AUTHORS INTO A LONG-TERM CONTRACT
The only reason a publisher would charge someone to publish a book, and then lock them into a long-term contract, is to force an author to keep sending book buyers there. We call this a forced marriage. For the author who later lands a traditional contract, but must turn it down because of their POD publisher's greed, this can be professional suicide. Why would anyone do this to a hopeful author? And, beware of the POD publisher that will only allow authors out of their contract "for a fee."
DON'T NICKEL AND DIME AUTHORS WITH HIDDEN FEES
Don't draw authors in with a special "low" price and then nickel and dime them for every graphic / photo / chart, or if they want to include an index / table of contents / etc.
PUBLISH A BOOK IN 6 WEEKS OR LESS WITH NO EXPEDITE FEE
Lots of POD publisher are running what appear to be author meat markets. They have so much business that they can't get a book to market in less than a 4-6 months...unless you pay them extra, of course. Hmmm... A quality POD publisher should be able to get a book to market in six weeks or less without demanding extra money (expedite fees) from the author.
DON'T STUN AUTHORS WITH OUTRAGEOUS LIST PRICE INCREASES
POD publisher should not raise list prices, on average, more than the cost of living increase each year and they should give authors plenty of notice when doing so!
DON'T SUBJECT THE AUTHOR TO FORCED UPSELLING
Many POD publishers offer authors services they don't want or need, and force them to pay for those as part of a "package." If you don't want 25 so-called "free" copies, or 100 cheap bookmarks, or a press release, or editing, or other items you know are built into the package price just so you can get full distribution through Ingram, which isn't offered as a stand-alone product, why should you be forced to pay for those items? Why can't they just offer you an ‡ la cart list of services and let you choose exactly what you want, while bypassing what you don't?
DON'T UPSELL AUTHORS ON SERVICES THEY CAN GET THEMSELVES FOR LESS OR FREE!
Don't charge an author $150 for a copyright registration they can do themselves for $35 or a Library of Congress Catalog number (LCCN) they can get for free!
DON'T LET AUTHORS MAKE EMBARRASSING MISTAKES
Many POD publishers are only concerned about how much money they can get from an author's pocketbook up front. They don't care if the author's book looks like garbage. Some authors are shocked when they receive the first print galley of their books and find their photos are too dark (or black), or the cover they designed on their own obviously has major design flaws (off-center, etc.), or they find missing breaks between chapters, etc. Quality POD publishers will alert you to these types of noticeable errors long before the book goes to print. Meat-market POD publishers either don't care about the errors, or may even let them pass in the initial run, knowing you'll have to pay them extra to "fix" the problems later. If there are major, noticeable design errors in your book and your POD publisher allows it to go on the market that way, you can bet they are far more concerned about moving onto the next author's pocketbook than they are in publishing quality products.
DON'T OFFER REFUNDS/CREDITS FOR LESS THAN 100% FOR PRINTING ERRORS
We've heard lots of horror stories about POD publishers that only offer a partial credit when they or their printer screw up, even if books are shipped with errors. When a company is 100% responsible for an error, they should refund or exchange 100% of the order. One POD publisher who uses Lightning Source only offered one author a small credit on her order when Lightning Source always refunds / replaces orders with errors quickly, often shipping replacements to customers via next day air.
CHARGE REASONABLE SHIPPING/HANDLING FEES
While adding a modest handling fee is standard in the industry, some POD publishers have been known to double the actual shipping charges. You should always ask a POD publisher for a quote on shipping 100 copies of a specific book via UPS Ground to get an idea if you're going to be gouged or not. You should also check their single-copy shipping costs to see how badly your future readers might get gouged. Sadly, many authors don't think to do this when shopping for a POD publisher.
DON'T PULL THE OLD BAIT AND SWITCH
Remember, you get what you pay for. Bargain-basement PODs with confusing specs that continually upsell you on expensive services during the so-called "simple" setup / formatting process should always be avoided.
HOMEPAGE SHOULD FOCUS ON SELLING BOOKS, NOT SERVICES
Take a good look at the POD publisher's homepage. Are they marketing books FOR their existing authors or are they marketing publishing services TO new authors? Does the homepage look like a bookstore? If it doesn't, you can bet it's a turn-off for your future readers. Everyone who comes to the site will instantly know you paid to have your book published. Like traditional publishers, POD publishers should use their homepages to sell their authors' books, not to sell their publishing services.
Many POD publishers bombard authors with spam after they send just one question by email to the publisher. Others spam anyone and everyone with "specials", so-called "press releases", contests, and more. Some also send out junk faxes, all the while claiming to be book marketing "experts." Real book marketing experts never spam and never send out junk faxes.
DON'T PAY EBOOK ROYALTIES UNDER 50%!
Selling and delivering an ebook is an automated process. Why pay the author less than half of the transaction?
DON'T PAY DIRECT-SALE ROYALTIES UNDER 30%!
If you're selling direct to the customer on your own website, chances are the customer came there after hearing about your website from YOUR author. Why pay your author less than 30% of the list price for the transaction?
DON'T PAY WHOLESALE/DISTRIBUTOR ROYALTIES UNDER 15%!
If you're paying any royalty under 15%, you're dangerously close to paying the same measly royalty percentages paid by traditional publishers.
PAY ROYALTIES AT LEAST QUARTERLY; MONTHLY IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.
Why make authors wait for their money while you earn interest on their royalties? That's not fair!
DON'T CLAIM YOU PAY 100% ROYALTIES WHEN WHAT YOU REALLY MEAN ARE "NET ROYALTIES"
Example #1: List price of $14.95 x 100% royalties = $14.95. We bet you're not paying that!
Example #2: List price of $14.95 less printing and transaction fees = Net Royalties. Calling this number 100% royalties is misleading and authors will only get upset later when they realize what you really meant.
DON'T CLAIM YOUR SERVICES ARE "FREE" WHEN IMPERATIVE ITEMS COST MONEY
Don't claim you publish books for "free" but then upsell authors on items that are imperative for a book's success...like an ISBN, a barcode, and full distribution!
Again, authors, I'd love it if you'd send me items you'd like us to consider adding to this list! Email me at: angela-at-writersweekly.com.