Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frenemies and Technology

The Amazon link to the print version of Angst, Anger, Love, Hope is now available. (Let me digress a moment to say, "Cool!") However, the publisher is listed as CreateSpace. I have one or two perpetually jealous acquaintances who will no doubt do a little happy dance upon seeing this. "I knew it!" one or the other may say. "CreateSpace is a self publisher! I knew she didn't really get a book deal!"

Please allow me the satisfaction of explaining just how wrong my imaginary friends are. (Er, um - that's not quite what I meant, but you get the idea.)

Print on demand. It's a dirty phrase in the publishing world. Sometimes. Or used to be. Or was it ever?

Generally speaking, print on demand refers the technique of printing one copy of a book at a time. Print-on-demand publishing, also known as POD publishing, reduces costs for the publisher because a publisher who engages in it does not have to pay up-front printing costs or any storage costs. Usually a publisher who engages in POD publishing will outsource its printing.

Because of its obvious benefits, print-on-demand technology is ideal for self- and vanity-publishing ventures. And therein lies the stigma; in the publishing industry, print on demand when used to self publish or vanity publish has become known as publish on demand, also known as POD. Essentially, if an author pays enough money, an author gets published. Print-on-demand technology, as used by publish-on-demand companies, has made becoming a "published" author easy peasy.

But it's a mistake to think that an author whose publisher uses print-on-demand technology has done anything less than pay his or her writing dues in full. There is a tremendous difference between a company's use of POD technology as a cost-effective business option and a writer's use of it to self or vanity publish. In the first instance, the author of the book being printed submitted the work to a publisher; the work then had to pass an approval process, not the least of which included the publisher's affirmative decision about the wisdom of making a financial investment in the product. (Because, sad as it might make us, books are indeed products and publishers and booksellers sell them in order to make profits.) Although the author surely invested time and hard work in the book, it is the publisher who invested money. In the second instance, the author used his or her own money to buy a service. Period.

Several companies provide POD services to both companies and individuals. CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, is one such company. Although CreateSpace is listed as the publisher of the Amazon print edition of the book, that is only because JMS Books LLC contracted with CreateSpace in order to make the book available on Amazon. JMS Books LLC owns the ISBN number it assigned to my book and has its own imprint, and my book is available to brick-and-mortar bookstores through reputable distributors. (Whether such stores will have space on their shelves for an unknown poet is another matter.)

I am in no way self published or vanity published. I have not spent a dime to see my book in print or to promote it, nor will I ever be asked to do so.


  1. I've blogged about 'Print On Demand' saying much the same but with a slightly different perspective (some of my non-fiction writing - the kind that pays the rent - has been about the print industry. If you're interested, it's at

  2. Thanks for chiming in, Tom!

    I just want to say to readers of this blog that your take on POD is really worth reading. It explains a lot.

    I think the Espresso Book Machine you discuss is fascinating. I've heard of them, but I've never had occasion to see one. I'll be nerdily excited when I do.