Print On Demand
To be clear and up front from the get go, Animal Dreaming Publishing DOES NOT OFFER PRINT ON DEMAND as a printing option.
While many publishing companies out there who offer self-publishing services use print on demand (POD) technology, please don’t fall for the trap of naturally assuming it’s a good idea because, in our opinion, it’s not. Publishing companies that offer self-publishing as a service will tell you that POD saves trees, and that in this day and age, they are all for preserving the environment. This is a lie. It has nothing to do with trees or saving the environment. It has nothing to do with being ‘mindful’ or ‘conscious’. What they’re doing is making something that’s not so good sound inviting by making you feel guilty. The truth is, they won’t tell you the disadvantages of printing on demand – but we’re not them. We are more than happy to point out the pitfalls because we know what they are. And there’s a few.
Distributing POD titles is a major problem, and – in truth – is almost impossible to achieve. No regular book distribution company will distribute POD books. It’s just not viable to list POD books in their sales catalogue simply because of the time frame POD takes to deliver. When a sales rep enters a store and showcases the titles in their catalogue, both the book store owner and the sales rep must feel comfortable that, within a week of placing the order, the books will arrive at the store ready to be sold. When you go down the POD path, the first obstacle will be the time frame, which may see the bookstore being forced to wait up to a month for the book to arrive at their store. Very few retail book stores are going to be willing pay up front and then wait a month for a book to be delivered just so they can pop it on their book shelf in the hope that someone will buy it. It’s just not going to happen.
And it’s a similar story for online stores that specialise in POD titles. While POD books are available in some 25,000 bookstores through Ingram, for example, most of them refuse to stock them. Why? The reason is POD is just that: print on demand. If there’s no demand, there’s no reason to print. And if there’s no reason to print, there’s even less reason to stock the book.
In short, POD books are only ever ordered when someone specifically requests one. Which means, no one hits print on a POD book until a firm sale has been secured. And from where we stand, this doesn’t scream confidence from a retail customer’s perspective. What it does scream is ‘I don’t believe in this title enough to risk paying $ to print a large run of hard copies’. And if you as the author (let alone your so called ‘publisher’) doesn’t believe in your title, why should your potential readership?
When you compare the costs involved in printing large quantities of your book, printing books POD can end up being a very expensive option. Going down the POD path to print a humble 200 page book, for example, could easily cost up to 4 times (or more) to produce than printing 2000+ copies of the same title. It’s as simple as that. And when a book costs more to print, it has to retail at a much higher price (so the self-published author doesn’t lose money or rob themselves of a viable profit margin) – which means, the POD book usually ends up being too expensive for a retail book store to consider stocking. Besides that, the costs involved in producing the POD book are often so high there’s no room to offer the retailer the standard wholesale discounts regular printed books can – which, in turn, further clips the wings of the book’s potential to soar.
To alleviate the risk of a publisher losing a potential POD author as a client, they may include on their website words to the affect: ‘For additional copies, request a separate quote’. What this means is that – for an additional fee, you can change your mind and print hard copy books in favour of continuing down the POD path. But, what they often don’t tell you up front is that this will blow the cost of production out, and more often than not beyond the budget you may have originally earmarked for the project. Not a pleasant surprise by any means. Alternatively, they may offer the opportunity to print and deliver between (for example) 30 and 500 copies of your book or oracle card set to your door, but again – the cost of production will outweigh any chance of you being able to get those titles into a bookstore or to have them picked up by a distributor.
In short, the per-unit cost of POD is usually much greater than those incurred by traditional printing. Traditional printing means the more units you print, the less you pay per book. While, at first glance, the cost of POD may appear cheaper per book compared to the idea of printing thousands of units, when you add up how much POD will cost over time for the same number of books is obscene. And due to the way POD is set up, POD books often end up priced higher than books printed in the traditional way, which is an unavoidable truth when distributor discounts, author profit and other costs are factored in.
While POD books are not new, most booksellers are still learning about them which means most bookstores really have no idea how to order books printed this way. While your POD book may be listed on the Ingram Database (the largest content inventory available within the book industry, accessed by most major book retailers), and while your book may be listed in their store’s own personal database, it doesn’t mean that your book is ever going to find its way onto their shelf alongside books printed the regular way. At this point in time, the cold hard truth is that POD books will often come up listed as being ‘unavailable’ or needing to be ‘back-ordered’, which – when it happens over and over, will drive book sellers, customers and authors crazy with frustration. Not only that, many bookstores employ cataloguing systems that do not provide backordering (the act of placing an order for or reserving a product that is temporarily out of stock) as an option. Booksellers want the ordering process to be easy and stress free, for their customer’s sake if nothing else. So, if they’re faced with one block after another – the simple truth is they’ll inevitably blacklist your book, and tell enquiring customers that it’s out of print.
In today’s economic climate, the retail industry has never been more fragile; a simple truth that has also had an impact on booksellers and distributors alike. Distributors need to sell books, and booksellers need to feel safe stocking them. Whether a bookshop orders one book or a hundred, the risk is the same. And that risk comes with the question, ‘Will the books I’ve just paid good money for sell? Will I get my money back? Will I sell them and make a profit, or will I be forced to discount them if they don’t sell just to recoup my costs?’ These sorts of questions prompt retailers to negotiate with their wholesalers in ways they may never have been able to do in the past and, in turn, they force the wholesalers to rethink the way they provide their goods to the retailers. In today’s market, there has to be a sense of ‘win win’ for everyone, with risk factors kept to a minimum for all concerned.
And it’s with this in mind that major booksellers find themselves in a powerful position when it comes to ordering books through their distributors. Most wholesale distributors (or even the publishers themselves) will offer what’s known as ‘sale or return’ to their more established retail customers, which means a bookseller can order any number of books they want, with the knowledge that they can give them all back (so long as they’re still in mint condition) if they don’t sell. POD publishers cannot compete with this because, as self-publishing companies, they don’t accept returns. And while there are some new options in place that, for a fee, take on the risk of returns, it’s usually up to the self-published POD author to accept the returns themselves (at the risk of the books being returned damaged in ways that prevent them being offered for resale).
In short, POD books are usually non-returnable, which means that most book stores will opt not to carry them. Most retail stores are more concerned about ‘what if the book doesn’t sell’ these days than they are about supporting a self-published POD author.
The truth is, POD books are not afforded the same level of respect as those self-published and printed in the traditional way, and the reason is that ‘Print on Demand’ is relegated to the same basket as what’s known in the industry as ‘Vanity Publishing’ (books that are only published to appease the ego of the author). As a direct result of this perception, it is very hard to get POD books into libraries or physical bookstores. And that’s a fact.
Read more about Vanity Publishing HERE