Friday, February 20, 2009

Dirty Words - Self-Publishing, E-Publishing, POD

Just wondered. What's wrong with self-publishing, e-publishing, or print on demand technology? At times, I get the impression some people believe books published by any of these methods don't meet the standards of those published in the traditional manner.

All things being equal, if a book is edited correctly, looks good, and reads good, what more could readers want?

What's your take on this subject? Please share.


  1. Morgan,
    I feel as if writers are hung up on these things not readers.

  2. I agree with Morgan and cmr. I think this is more of a stigma for authors than for readers, but to take it a step further, I think there are others in the industry who also tend to look down on it. I think self-publishing is starting to gain a little respect within the industry and e-books are becoming a force themselves, but POD is still not respected. Just my thoughts.

  3. I recently read and reviewed a self-published book -- it was wonderful. The author not only has a great style and writing voice, she also had the manuscript professionally edited. I've also read some excellent e-books as well. As for POD, my publisher uses this technology. My books have received glowing international reviews from readers as well as reviewers and have won awards. So I have to agree with the two previous comments. Readers know what they like and couldn't care less how a book is printed as long as it takes them where they want to go.

  4. I think the problem lies in a few areas (and I am a self-published author):

    1) While I may have done EVERYTHING write..written a great book, had it professionally edited, had a professional cover design, etc., the reader doesn't know that and is taking a chance by picking up my book. When a traditional publisher's book comes out, the reader knows it's been professionally scrutinized and edited or the publisher wouldn't have released it on their brand. I'm sure there are TONS of diamonds in the rough, like I like to think mine is :), but the reader needs to be willing to take that chance.

    2) Availability. Because many POD books are non-returnable (though this is starting to change), the big name bookstores won't carry them, so people are forced to go online if they want to buy them. As much as we love technology, only 20% of books sold are sold online. That's a major hurdle to overcome. I've sold 20-30 books at a pop at a book signing and still can't get the store to keep a few on the shelves.

  5. I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, Morgan.
    I think that perhaps editors, people behind the scenes of old fashion publishing, etc., that fear of being eliminated from the process. If a book is good, well written and edited correctly ( I think someone already commented on this also) it should be valued the same.

  6. In today's economy, I think views are changing.

    I agree that readers aren't hung up on how a books is printed or published. They just want a good "read."

  7. What an interesting topic. We have lots of self-published, etc., books come through. I personally don't see a thing wrong with non-traditional forms of publication. I say thank goodness there are alternatives for writers who wouldn't have this opportunity to be published.

  8. And I agree with Chris up there. I can go through a book and find typos up the ying yang but someone who is a reader reading the same book says they never noticed.

  9. I think it goes back to the idea that only books that make huge amounts of $ are good books- a falsehood/myth, we all know.

    It will be interesting to see how the market goes in the next few years.


  10. Before I became an author I used to look down on them. I thought they were something to do for christmas presents and families not something for the world. Now that I'm an author and have had people beg me to self publish because they don't want to wait on the publishing industry for my YA Jane Austen rewrites to come out--I see the benefits of it and a whole different side of the picture. It definitely has made me stop and pause quite a few times, especially when i hear amazing success stories, I don't think I would turn down a self-published book anymore. Definitely not. LOL! I know how hard it is to break into this business!

  11. Anonymous9:17 AM

    POD's are slowly gaining in acceptance, overcoming the old stigma of "not as good as" the traditional BIG pub hs books. There are lots of fine quality self-pub & POD's p[roducing books just as well written and produced as the bigs - sometimes even better.

  12. I'm a fairly new author published through an e-publisher. I've heard all the arguments at this point and I have to say I agree with Chris above on this. It seems that the people with the issues pertaining to such things are the old school authors.

    These are writers I respect and who became published sometimes in an era that did not have the internet or other options available to them other than the big publishing houses or genre magazines as a way to get their writing out there. They've worked hard and suffered for their art so to speak. I respect that.

    These same writers need to come to the understanding that this is a different generation and a new millennium. Publishing is one of the few industries at this time that is having a difficult time coming to grips with the next step in the technological evolution of publishing.

    Yes, in the beginning and maybe even now there are questionable e-publishers that do not hold up a strong set of standards. Right now there are numerous e-publishers, but eventually the best of the best will survive and the others will fade away into distant memory. As long as the readers enjoy what the writers with these red-headed step children of the publishing industry are providing they are not going to disappear.

    I have to wonder if in the past there was such controversy when technology forced the evolution of publishing despite the naysayers.

  13. Morgan,

    Most of my editing clients self-publish, so obviously I'm all in favor of it. The two caveats are that it is harder to get wide distribution for a self-published book and that good self-published books are lumped in with the atrocious ones.

    Of course, there are good and bad books published by every method. However, I have encountered a number of authors who plan to self-publish who contact me for editing then are appalled that I actually suggest changes to their golden words! They wanted an editor to say their book was perfect.

    So readers are taking a chance when they buy a self-published book, probably more of a chance than with traditionally published books. However, I think in most cases, they can recognize the difference fairly easily. The author who is self-publishing because they don't want anyone else having any control of their work will be more likely to have poor cover design, badly printed books, and poorly written promotional materials.

    My first novel was published exclusively as an e-book, and I'll always be happy that an e-publisher was open to a romance with a handicapped heroine when New York publishers were telling me, "No one wants to read about a cripple." My latest novel is both print and e-book.

    I personally read e-books almost exclusively because vision problems make it difficult to read print.

    Although I don't have much experience with POD, I think it's a great way for small publishers and self publishers to produce books efficiently.

  14. Problem is that some self-pubbed authors DON'T write well, and DON'T bother to get their baby edited. Or they use Times New Roman or their line justification leaves big gaps between words, which makes for an awkward looking interior. POD (Print-on-demand) is not a problem, but Publish-on-Demand can be. That said, there are plenty of good self-pubbed books, but traditionalists (big houses, editors, reviewers) stick their noses in the air and won't waste their time trying to find the good apples in our barrel. We indie folks need to push ourselves and our fellow authors to produce the best quality books we can so our bad reputation becomes a thing of the past. We've got knowledge, technology, and the web on our side now!

  15. Self Publishing is wonderful when a writer is an artist that doesn't want to be stymied by a big publishing house that can limit the scope of their work. If the work is a romance, are the love scenes limited? If it's a western, are there only so many gun fights allowed? There are no steadfast rules with self publishing. This is America and our press is free. My novels have true stories shared with me from Vietnam Veterans woven in the story line. I did not want one word of their experiences cut. Self publishing was a choice, not a last resort with me. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with so many talented people here.
    kgcummings... Kathy

  16. Hi. This is so interesting because I just posted a blog today about my experiences with traditional as well as self publishing. I hope you can take a peek.

    Bobbie Hinman

  17. Grace2:23 PM

    The key words here are 'properly edited'. I've used self publishing places but I wasn't aware the books had to be polished and 'print ready' I sent in the books, believing the books would be edited. They weren't and what i received in return was what one would expect from the first draft. I'm all for Print On Demand, although some look down their noses at it and think the writers and books to be sub standard.
    But publishers like Lulu editing can be done and the revised edition uploaded. This is what i like about places like Lulu. This subject has been covered before and there's lots of writers still think the only way to go is through the traditional publisher?

  18. I find it to be fear. It is as if established writers are afraid that someone who "hasn't paid their dues" will somehow deminish their chances. The same thing happened when radio came into existance, when TV came into existance, when computers came into existance, when digital cameras came into existance, when power tools came into existance. I am 57 years old and I can not tell you how many times in my life that I have heard "This will ruin the industry". Some of us, when we see an oppen door to opportunity rush to enter hoping to bring others of our ilk thruogh with us while others try to slam the door behind them. I guess it is the way of the world. I will freely and willingly admit that I am both a publisher or E-Books and a writer of poetry so I do have a vested interest in this thread. Because I offer to publish books for upcoming authors and poets some of the comments almost try to make me feel like satan himself. From my perspective, for every one writer that gets a break there are a million writers that don't. Some of these writers have no talent but others do and I would like to think that it is my lot in life to give some of them a shot. All I have ever asked for is a fair price for my talents and services.

  19. I'm with a small publisher who prints conventional as well as POD. Some bookstores have no problems with this – others treat me like I have leprosy. It’s frustrating. It shouldn’t be about how the book is printed it should be about how good the book is.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  20. Morgan, times are changing, and I really think there will be less and less of those being dirty words. Now that just about anyone can write and publish a book, it does sort of put a damper on the traditional publishing that we all used to covet as writers. The idea of contracts and editors, promotional and marketing help and the like. When you take the self-published route it leaves a lot more work for you to do, and some people don't follow through on it. I think maybe that makes it a lot harder to take seriously for some, but it have a feeling it won't be long before self-publishing and e-publishing are the mainstream.

    Jenny Bean
    Get Inside the Bean

  21. I agree with what Linda Austin said. If everyone would take the time needed to produce quality work, the stigma associated with how it gets into the hands of a reader would disappear. The reader could care less if it was a Random house book or a Richard Random book. (my apologies if there are real richard randoms out there- your name just flew right outta my fingertips!)

  22. Interesting topic, Morgan, and you've received a wide variety of comments that cover just about everything.

    I'm published with several epublishers and both publish in POD and print in some situations. The covers are professional and the printing of good quality. I've been pleased.

    I have to admit being prejudiced against self-publishing in the past, but believe if the writing is good, the plot strong, and it's well editied, a self-published book is fine. Of course, the author has no help with marketing and their effort will determine if the book sells or not.

    I think authors have a reponsiblity to their readers to put out the best product they can.


  23. Most everyone has said what I think too. I've been self-published, published by New York, and published by e-publishers and small independent publishers. Done it all.

    I also judge a big contest for self-published books and let me tell you, some are wonderful and some just awful.

    The biggest problem with self-published is the marketing, not much easier with small publishers.

    But when you want others to read your words, you will do all you can to get the book out there in front of people, right?


  24. I have reviewed two self-published books. One was pretty awful. The other one needed some editing and input (which he asked me to provide). He has found a publisher that is interested. Interestingly enough, the publisher told him to make the identical changes I suggested.

    I thing you will find that book bloggers are very torn on this issue. One issue that has come up repeatedly is that self-published authors are less than professional when they get a negative review. In fact one book blogger had an author threaten to sue her for copyright infringement because she quoted a sentence. Many book bloggers, myself included, have had bad experiences with self-published authors. Some book bloggers have decided not to take self-published authors any more. I haven't gone that far. But I'm definitely a lot more selective in what I will review if it is self-published. It's always a few bad apples.

  25. I completely agree with you! I have absolutely no problems with any way a book is released - I love self published books just as much as "big" named published books. As long as the story is well written, that is all that matters.

  26. I completely agree with you! I have absolutely no problems with any way a book is released - I love self published books just as much as "big" named published books. As long as the story is well written, that is all that matters.

  27. Morgan,

    I think much of the bad press about POD comes straight from NY, because the technology facilitates competition. POD publishers have a leaner, more flexible business model and can quickly adapt to industry changes. In today's world, that is a strong, competitive edge.

    The two biggest complaints I've heard about self-publishing have to do with editing and return policies.

    Editing is becoming more of an issue from the big houses as well. They cut staff, increase the workload on those remaining, and the result is more and more mistakes make it into print. I've noticed this trend over the last decade. With the latest NY cuts, it will only get worse. So, on the editing front, authors in all publications models need to take on more responsibility for acquiring professional editing services. The playing field is leveling.

    Return issues don't seem to be a problem for readers. Bookstores that carry non-returnable books do accept returns from their customers.

    While traditional bookstores tend to make a distinction between NY published works and all other pubishers, but the on-line stores do not. Many readers who are bored with the lack of variety at traditional stores are finding great books at the on-line stores. Readers don't care who published the book. They only care about the words between the pages.

    Just my long-winded opinion.


  28. Leigh5:39 PM

    I'm going against the tide and cast my vote against self-publishing, at least as a money-making enterprise. A good friend has put out books with PA (PublishAmerica) and BS (BookSurge). She felt she was misled about them being 'traditional publishers' and is starting litigation against both.

    Books in both publishers received either poor or non-existent editing. Virtually every page has errors of one kind or another. She was hoping to make money. Instead, she made money for PA and BS, the latter which is owned by Amazon. Since Amazon has a business relation with Borders, you'd expect Borders to carry BookSurge books. They don't, and even mistakenly report them as 'out of print', ironic since they're supposed to be print-on-demand.

    I have heard self-pubs have a better business relationship with LightingSource, Lulu, and university presses (such as Indiana University and Harvard). However, I don't know if the editing is any better.

    Another acquaintance, Fran Rizer, who plans to visit asked me to arrange a book-signing at a large Christian bookstore in my city. The first question the manager asked was, "Is she self-published? We get such crap!"

    A third acquaintance, Hal White, went with a small Christian press. His book, featuring mysteries by Reverend Dean, is frankly very good, but his publisher can't get his books into bookstores either.

    There are a few sound arguments for self-publishing, which I won't go into here. Remember the rule that it takes about 10 years of practicing to be come publishable. That prompted one man to say if he waited for a traditional publisher, he'd be dead before he was published.

    It's possible I might consider self-publishing one day for reasons of my own. However, we need to look closely at our work and ask if it's as professional as it could be. We might not like the answer.

  29. I'm late to chime in on this topic, but I agree that it isn't about who does the publishing (e or self or POD) but how it's written. Frankly, I'm happier than a hog in slop about e-publishing. I read twice as much now for half the price. What more indeed could a reader ask for? And that's from an author.

  30. I think the whole industry is at the beginning of a paradigm shift like so many other industries today. But just because things are being done differently doesn't mean it's bad. The highest quality possible is still going to come out on top no matter what the process in getting the book out there. That's my humble opinion :)

    Sharon Reece

  31. Finding a "traditional" publisher is not easy. I chose POD so that I can build up a fan base and can show a traditional publisher that I can write books and I can sell them. The key, though, is having the manuscript proofed and editing correctly.


  32. Sounds like the key to any book succeeding is to make sure it's well written, which also means well edited. If you don't trust yourself, hand it over to a reputable professional editor.

    Also, how you do it depends on what you want to accomplish when you get your book published.

    Morgan Mandel

  33. I have also come across great books that were self-published or POD, and others that never should have seen the light of day. It's the author's commitment to the work that makes the difference: good writing, getting it professionally edited, having an attractive and eye-catching cover.

    Someone mentioned an author who was misled by PublishAmerica and BookSurge, so I wanted to mention a book I reviewed a while back that writers should consider reading if they are going to publish outside of a traditional publisher. "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing (Third Edition) by Mark Levine ranks the contracts and services of 45 self-publishing companies. You can find my review here: It seems more than worth the money if it keeps you from choosing the wrong publisher.


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