Now that Amazon’s new Print-On-Demand policies have been announced, and the most vocal comments are already out there, I’d like to add my thoughts. I wanted to be sure I understood the issue, and saw what all the fuss was about.
First, in case you missed the excitement, Amazon made the decision to require all Print-On-Demand or POD authors use Amazon’s own POD company, Booksurge, for printing POD titles. The ‘or else’ was that they turn off the ‘Buy The Book’ button, while still allowing the title to be advertised on Amazon, IE, readers would have to purchase the book elsewhere. (As I understand it: some of the comments out there are a bit complicated.)
The concern for the legitimate self-publishing industry (you will call down a heap of well deserved abuse on yourself, if you insist on using the old term, ‘vanity presses,’ which were generally unscrupulous businesses) is that many smaller print-on-demand presses will be shut down as a result. The reasoning is that authors will shy away from POD companies who can no longer sell their books on Amazon. Unlike traditional publishing houses, who only see the book purchaser, self-publishing companies recognize authors as their core customers.
As someone who uses a large ‘supported self-publishing’ company, iUniverse, I assumed they would figure out their response with or without my input. To add to the confusion, iUniverse has recently merged with another company, Author House, I think. Nothing seems to have changed in my own dealings with iUniverse, they still respond to my questions in a timely manner and always seem happy to hear from me.
It turns out iUniverse was one of the first companies to agree to the terms set by Amazon, which means subsequent copies of my books sold on Amazon will be printed by Booksurge instead of iUniverse. I’m not sure what the end of all this will be, but iUniverse has done one thing many others have not–they’ve earned my trust.
In fact, I was somewhat surprised to read one comment that suggested iUniverse had ‘caved in’ because they wanted to keep their customers–the authors–happy. As an author, I find there are few individuals or companies in the publishing industry who are interested in keeping authors happy. From submission to commission, the author tends to be considered last.
I’m not suggesting an author revolt–we authors tend to be more solitary individuals, with wide expanses of geographical distance between us. Ironically, there are so many of us that if we did decide to stop writing, the traditional publishing industry would most likely be thrilled…less work for them, in wading through so many manuscripts (apparently there’s quite a backlog.) Besides, if you’re like me, there’s an internal drive to keep on writing, very similar to breathing. Therefore, I suggest looking for a publisher who is interested in some degree of your happiness: one who can meet your standards, and one who doesn’t ignore you because ‘there are just too many of you.’
There is a lot of writing talent out there. One blog suggested this was just cause to discourage all writers, so the ‘real’ writers would stand out, in spite of some very talented writers being lost in the process. While I understand the argument, I strongly disagree with it. I also have musical talent, cooking talent, and talents for business and relationships. I consider NONE of them expendable, and do the best I can to use each of them in turn. I don’t believe in ‘talent to burn.’ Unfortunately, some good writers will be lost because they can’t get past the ‘gatekeepers,’ (those in the publishing industry with veto power to reject manuscripts without giving justification) or they don’t know how to find a good self-publisher, or they don’t know how to ‘sell’ their book.
A quick aside here, there are still some authors out there who think their books are ‘art’ and therefore must not be subjected to the ‘crass’ process of marketing and publicity. Yet, unfamiliar as they are with the term, ‘starving artist,’ these same authors want to see their books magically skyrocket to the best sellers list.
Finally, someone has raised the issue of quality control with Booksurge. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on that right now. I haven’t seen any of their work, and I think there are probably still a few iUniverse printed copies of my books in Amazon’s system. Ordering one right now, ‘just to check,’ would probably result in getting an earlier copy instead. Right now, publishing continues to be an industry that authors have little hope of influencing.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly