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"POD Publishing Is Partnership Publishing" by Rolf Gompertz



"Once authors were at the mercy of agents and commercial publishers.  No more."



I became a self-publisher in 1974, when I started the Word Doctor Publications.  In 2001, I turned to Print-on-Demand (POD) Publishing, better named POD Partnership Publishing.  I have now published three books this way, through  I am glad I did so; and I'm pleased with the results.


 These books include my new biblical novel, Abraham, The Dreamer: An Erotic and Sacred Love Story and new editions of two self-published books, the retitled A Jewish Novel About Jesus, and a spiritual self-help book, Sparks of Spirit: How to Find Love and Meaning in Your Life 24 Hours a Day.


 Why did I switch from independent- or self-publishing to partnership publishing?  I have three reasons: occupational preference, economics, and book survival.  After 40 years of working for a living, I was finally free to choose what I wanted to do full-time and how I wanted to do it.


 Occupational preference: While I find everything about books fascinating, I realized that I truly prefer writing to publishing.  I'm a writer.  That's my passion.  I decided to concentrate on writing. 


Economics: The best thing about self-publishing is that it gives the author total control.  But the economics of self-publishing are something else.  They are not as glowing as they often sound or as rosy as they are often painted.  There is a great economic squeeze that cuts deeply into profits.  Take a book that sells for $14.95, for instance.  A distributor or wholesaler requires a 50 percent discount, and more.  That leaves you with $7.50  (rounded off).  The printing cost can be anywhere from $2 to $3 a book.  That leaves you with $4.50 a book.  Out of this you may have to pay shipping costs (media rate is $1.42, for one pound or less, USPS).  Then there are publicity, promotion, and marketing expenses.  You may even have to accept returns of books that didn't sell, for credit or refund.  It takes skill to operate a profitable business.  I preferred the challenges of writing to the challenges of business. 


Book survival/longevity:  This is a very personal, subjective matter, an "author thing".  Writing, at its deepest level, has to do with making a statement about life, asserting one's identity, seeking immortality.  Commercial publishing is about the bottom line: Can the book make money, preferably big money?  If not, it does not get published.  If it does get published, it is given three to nine months to succeed.  If the book does not make it within that time period, its life is over.


Self-publishing, on the other hand, allows for a book's nurturing and longer lifespan.  But when a company changes hands or goes out of business, a book's life may end.  That is where Print-on-Demand Partnership Publishing provides an ideal answer.  The new digital technology eliminates the need for costly inventory.  A 300-page book can be printed, cover and all, in less than 30 seconds.  POD printing/publishing allows books to be kept alive virtually "forever." 

        It allows books to be discovered and rediscovered. 

        It allows one or many copies to be printed instantly, on demand. 

        It allows ongoing profits to be made, by all concerned. 

        It allows authors to take control of the writing and marketing of their books, while the publisher provides the technical support and services including printing, online bookstores, author websites, listings, order fulfillment, sales- and royalty reports, and various forms of author support.


Years ago, "vanity publishers" existed to publish the works of amateur writers at a high cost, paid for by the writer.  Few of their books were actually printed and even fewer sold.  These books had little, if any, value and were generally shunned.


Some refer to today's POD publishing as "vanity publishing", or, more politely, as "subsidy publishing".  True, the decision to publish lies with the author, not the publisher.  It involves a nominal fee, which means that anyone can get a book published, including amateur writers.  However, POD publishing attracts a great many professional writers, with excellent track records.  POD-published books get picked up by commercial publishers.  POD books also generate significant media attention. 


When the self-publishing movement began in the 1960s and 1970s, self-publishers were often stigmatized as vanity publishers.  Today, self-publishing is a major, economic force.  Estimates vary as to the actual number of independent publishers, from 25,000 and up, and from one-title firms to firms with 2,500 titles in print.


Why would professional writers go the route of Print-on-Demand Partnership Publishing?  There are several reasons: their book may have been turned down by their own commercial publisher; they may not have been able to find an agent or commercial publisher; or they may not have wanted to wait the nearly two years it takes to get a book published by a commercial publisher, when they could get it published within two or three months through a POD publisher. (My third POD book was in print within three weeks, from the time of submission!)


Here are some examples, for instance, of professional writers who have been published through iUniverse: Riane Eisler (whose non-fiction book, The Chalice and the Blade sold 600,000 copies world-wide) published The Gate, a fictionalized, dramatic new memoir of her years growing up in pre-Castro Cuba after a narrow escape from the Holocaust in Nazi Europe, through iUniverse.  Collin Kelley's poetry book, Better To Travel, another iUniverse publication, is currently a nominee for the Georgia Author Of The Year Award.  Lawrence Block, author of the iUniverse book, Random Walk, is an award-winning crime fiction writer, whose published works include 50 novels.  Ron Cutler is an award-winning filmmaker and author of nine novels, including iUniverse's The Firstborn.  Joyce Manard's iUniverse book, To Die For, was originally published in 1991 and made into an acclaimed film, starring Nicole Kidman.


Some iUniverse authors, who have had their books picked up by commercial publishers, include Laurie Notaro, author of The Idiot Girl's Action Adventure Club (2000), which was picked up within a year by Random House and hit the Top Ten on the New York Times Best-Seller List.  Mike Hawley's first book, The Double Bluff (2001), was picked up by Penguin-Putnam as a mass-market paperback under the Onix imprint.  Hawley was given a contract for two more books.  Bill Purcell's book, The Dark One, was picked up by Wizards of the Coast, after they had turned it down originally.  Purcell was signed to a four-book deal, with a terrific advance.


POD publishing is here to stay.  iUniverse, for instance, currently has 11,367 authors and 15,515 book titles.  It publishes 400 new titles a month.  It received the Editors' Choice Award from PC Magazine, with a five out of five-star rating.  There are other POD publishers, so you need to check them out and evaluate their various services carefully.


There are pros and cons to any of the three publishing models: 1) commercial publishing; 2) independent, self-publishing; and 3) POD partnership publishing.  Some I have already mentioned.  Following are others: With POD partnership publishing, authors are totally responsible for publicizing, promoting and marketing  their books.  That's a lot of work, if you do it yourself.  It takes know-how, time, and money.  Or you must hire a book publicist to do this for you.  That costs money. 


Yet you're not much better off with commercial publishers, who  will only do a certain amount of publicity, promotion, and marketing for your book. If you're not one of their superstars, your book will just get some basic publicity, promotion and marketing.  You need to supplement what they do, or your book will fall through the cracks and disappear quickly.


That's what almost happened to Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, published by St. Martin's Press.  When Picador USA decided to bring it out as a trade paperback, St. Martin's announced it would remainder the hardbacks.  Diamant pleaded with them not to do so but use them for promotion.  She suggested that they be sent out to clergy.  Diamant got the lists and the publisher paid the postage, provided the books, and mailed them to female rabbis in Reform Judaism, followed by a mailing to male and female rabbis of Reconstructionist Judaism.  Diamant also had the publisher send around 200 copies to Christian women ministers in New England.  That made the difference.  The book went on to sell 1 million copies in the US. and was published in 18 countries.


The other serious problem is media bias against POD partnership publishing. Some trade and consumer publications actually have a policy against POD published books.  They will not review them. There are now 150,000 new titles and editions published every year.  Yet commercial publishing does not guarantee that your book will get reviewed.  The Library Journal, a major trade publication, receives 40,000 new books published every year.  It reviews 6,000 of these, representing only four percent of the 150,000 new books published every year! 


Consumer publications review even fewer books.  The Los Angeles Times, a major metropolitan newspaper, only reviews 1,500 books a year, representing one percent of the 150,000 new books published every year!


What, then, are the chances of getting published commercially?  HarperCollins Publishers, one of the major publishing companies in the U.S., reportedly receives 10,000 submissions a year. Of these, only 75 books, less than one percent submitted, get published.  Even then, the chances of success are slim.  While the figures vary, they indicate that only 1 out of 7 or 1 out of 10 books published commercially make a profit.  These are among the reasons why other publishing models came into being.


Once authors were at the mercy of agents and commercial publishers.  No more. That changed when the independent self-publishing movement came into being.  Today, thanks to digital technology, POD partnership publishing provides a legitimate, additional choice.  Authors can now get published.   Then, through effort and resourcefulness, they can find ways to connect with their readers.  In the final analysis, there are only two kinds of books and writers:  bad books and good books, bad writers and good writers.


© 2004 Rolf Gompertz


Rolf Gompertz is the author of  eight books, including two  recently published biblical novels, 1) Abraham, The Dreamer -- An Erotic and Sacred Love Story; 2) A Jewish Novel about Jesus; and 3) a spiritual self-development book, Sparks of Spirit −How to Find Love and Meaning in Your Life 24 Hours a Day.  The books may be inspected and ordered at or  Gompertz lives in North Hollywood, CA. Mailto:  His Jesus novel and Sparks of Spirit were published originally by his company, The Word Doctor Publications. 


Read David Herrle's review of A Jewish Novel About Jesus.



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