Call the Weather! See If Hell Has Frozen Over—SelfPublishing.com Endorses POD

DirectToPOD

If you ever listened to the WBJB Radio series of podcasts conducted by Ron Pramschufer, founder of SelfPublishing.com, you know how he feels about Print on Demand. If you haven’t heard his interviews with representatives from Xlibris, iUniverse, AuthorHouse et al., I’ll sum it up for you: he thinks most POD houses are little more than vanity presses out to beggar unsuspecting authors, and even at best the POD printing process produces an inferior product.

So you can imagine my surprise—and that, I suspect, of most other readers of the Publishing Basics newsletter—when I got an e-mail message from Ron with the subject header “New!!! Direct to POD from SelfPublishing.com.”

What accounts for this change of heart?

To quote Ron,

I’m a bit of a hard headed German so I have resisted altering my approach to self-publishing because I know it works. But I’m finally starting to realize that “me” knowing it works, and “you” going to a pay-to-be-published publisher defeats the whole purpose.

(Anyone who can give me a semantically valid reason for putting “me” and “you” in quotation marks in that sentence gets extra pedant points.)

Ron goes on to describe the Direct to POD program this way:

Direct to POD is a program developed by SelfPublishing.com for individual authors who prefer to choose a guided Publishing “Package” to the traditional a-la-carte method of SelfPublishing.com. Unlike the “Pay-to-be-Published” publishers, like Author House and iUniverse, we do not have inflated a-la-carte prices just so we can make it look like we’re giving you a big discount if you buy one of our packages. If you don’t mind the extra work, our a-la-carte self-guided services will always be the most economical way to self-publish your book. Whether you chose the guided or self-directed approach, YOU will:

  • Always be the publisher
  • Always own the ISBN to your title
  • Always own your printing files after your initial printing
  • Always earn ALL the publisher profit

The Direct to POD approach concentrates on helping the author get to the point that printed copies can be ordered. The old saying printers use: “The first book costs a lot but they get pretty cheap after that.” The packages offered are all based on the cost of the first book. Once the author/publisher has received that first copy, they will be free to order 100, 1000 or 1,000,000. Remember…as with all SelfPublishing.com programs… you’re the boss.

The $995 package includes:

  • Dedicated book coach to see you through the process
  • ISBN
  • Layout of text and cover (5X8 or 6X9 fiction)
  • 1 Paperback copy
  • EBook EPub and Mobi Kindle file
  • Inclusion in the Thor POD distribution program
  • 5% discount on first primary print run as well as any additional upgrades or services.

The $1495 package includes

  • Dedicated book coach to see you through the process
  • ISBN
  • Layout of text and cover for paperback and hardcover book
  • 1 Paperback copy
  • 1 Hardcover copy
  • EBook EPub and Mobi Kindle file
  • Inclusion in Thor POD distribution program
  • 5% discount on first primary print run as well as any additional upgrades or services.

By “book coach” I presume he means “publishing coach,” someone familiar with the various steps involved in publishing a book, rather than a writing coach.

But the thing is, if Selfpublishing.com is providing all these services, where exactly is the motivation—for them—in tying it to POD? Because they could just as easily create a similar package for offset printing, with a primary print run of as few as 100 copies for one-color books and 25 copies of full-color books. (And, uh, isn’t “first primary print run” redundant?) With the lower per-book price of offset, the customer would get a comparable deal, even if storage and fulfillment services might add a bit to the package cost.

After all, if the main reason people are paying for POD services (some of which are a rip-off) is because they’re easier than managing the different aspects of publishing oneself, then making offset book printing easy would seem to be the obvious counter tactic. If you can provide an attractive package, you should be able to compete with the AuthorHouses of the world.

Yet, despite the still-visible differences between digital and offset printing (a narrowing gap, less perceptible in text than in, say, business cards), it wasn’t the technology of Print on Demand that really had Pramschufer up in arms. It was the predatory pricing practices of certain companies that used that technology and produce poor-quality, unsalable books for unjustifiable sums of money. Those are certainly practices worth condemning.

The Direct to POD program seems like decent value, but I’m not sure it’s unique  enough to distinguish itself from its increasingly numerous competitors. Since the days of that podcast series, we’ve seen the advent of Lulu.com, Amazon’s CreateSpace, and, in the e-book space, SmashWords, Scrib’d, and Amazon’s Digital Text Platform. And even though I believe (knowing what the cost of a book designer is, and of an ISBN, and so forth) that there are no outrageous markups in these packages, the creation of Direct to POD still looks more like a belated attempt to cash in on a trend than an attempt to protect authors from vanity presses in disguise.

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