Thinking of publishing as print-on-demand?
Publishing a new work solely as print-on-demand (POD) is increasingly popular if you cannot interest a traditional publisher.
Here are some points to consider:
- Company overheads may amount to little more than maintaining a website and servicing prepaid orders. Even if you are not being asked for money, proceed with caution.
- The more reassurances you can get on production matters (e.g. paper, binding, cover), the better.
- Get guarantees about the retail price and that orders will be met within a specified time.
- POD works will not be stocked in bookshops, so it is vital that they are accurately listed in the publisher’s catalogue and on its website. If you have your own website, include details there, too - especially for specialist non-fiction topics which can be located by search engines.
- Limit any licence you grant as much as possible, e.g. 1 or 2 years. Or preferably, self-publish. That way, you keep 100% of any income, not just 10%, you are in full control over all matters of production, and you are free to go to a conventional publisher if your work catches their eye.
- Be very realistic in your sales expectations, especially for works of fiction, poetry and memoirs.
If an old work has gone out of print, bringing it back as print-on-demand can be a good idea.
Some points to consider:
- Be certain that all rights have reverted to you.
- If the original work was first published less than 25 years ago, you will need the publisher’s agreement if you want to make a facsimile reproduction (particularly relevant with books involving illustrations, tables or other design elements).
- If you included illustrations or quotations from elsewhere, check whether permission needs to be obtained afresh.
- Do not underestimate the problems of marketing and distribution.
Print-on-demand as it affects conventional publishing agreements
Developments in cheap print-on-demand (POD) should make it easier to keep slow-selling titles available. This is good news; but it is prudent to consider safeguards. Works still available via POD might never go out of print, but the publisher might be sitting on a title which a new publisher would be happy to relaunch and promote along with its publication of your latest book. You may feel that your work needs extensive revising but the publisher, happy with minimal sales in return for minimal effort, will not make the necessary investment. The POD copies may be sold at a very high price, not listed in the catalogue, and/or take weeks between order and delivery.
If your publisher notifies you that it will be switching from conventional publishing to POD, here are some points to consider:
- POD rights should never be licensed to a third party without your agreement.
- There should be guarantees about the quality of paper and binding of POD copies, and that they will not be sold at a price which differs by more than, say, 20% from the retail price of the traditional-form version without your agreement.
- Your royalty should be no less than that on traditional copies, and any escalating royalty rate should continue to apply.
- The POD version should be included in the publisher’s current catalogue, and orders met within a specified time.
- You should have the right, if you choose, to terminate the contract if sales fall below an agreed threshold in any two consecutive accounting periods (or the right to terminate at any time on, say, three months’ notice).