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  1. #1
    Gary Kessler

    POD authors' club sales

    On some string recently I noted that some POD-producers had a pretty good sales base developing. Don't know if they planned this all along or are just now realizing the potential and developing it. Large-scale POD-producers such as PublishAmerica, with it's well over a thousand titles now, can now exploit their author discussion boards, where camaraderie and mutual support are developing to point where authors of the POD-producer are buying each other's books, talking up each other's books, and even going to on-line stores such as Amazon.com and writing glowing reviews for each other. (A downside to the latter is that one or more person not liking PA has gone to the Amazon.com and B&N.com websites and submitting bad reviews for PA authors.) When the POD-producers get smarter, they'll also use their authors' interest and willingness to get sales tables established and set up at book fairs at little or no cost to the company.

    If the base of authors gets big enough and the authors get chummy and supportive enough, such a POD-producer doesn't really have to worry much about there being no real outside promotion or sales for the books. In a somewhat writers/readers club setup, the authors will boost each other's sales and up the POD-producer's profit. The POD-producer can also offer slight discounts for such inside-the-club buying, with the POD-producer and author sharing the cut but both being satisfied because the overall sales volume goes up.

    Nothing wrong about this that I can see--it just looks like an upside for the authors and POD-producer that can be (and is starting to be) developed out of such a business

  2. #2
    Quite Disappointed With What I See.

    Re: POD authors' club sales


    Yes, you have a valid point. However, seeing as the messageboards are open to the public to view, there is a good side and a bad side.

    The good side is just what you mentioned. A lot of good, free advertisement for anyone.

    The bad thing is that there are still a huge number of people posting on those boards who feel that talking about nudity, and general immature banter are the main topics. Personally, I do not get an image of professionalism. What I get is the idea that the "authors" posting on these boards are indicative of the type of authors which PublishAmerica has in their stable. This tells me that if the writers are all like that, then I would have no interest in reading any of them, no matter how good they really may be.

    I have also noticed an interesting habit of a "feeding frenzy" on those boards. If someone doesn't like another person (for whatever reason), then that person feels it's fair to attack them. Then, something interesting happens...the others on the boards join in the assault. It horrifies me that authors, all striving for the same thing, would be in this sort of competition. It gives me the idea that this publisher gives out higher royalties for whomever gets in the best assault.

    For me, this says only one thing. That this publisher has a stable of writers who love to bicker, argue, and act as immature as possible. If this is an indicator of how they write, then I think I shall pass on any works published by this company.

  3. #3
    Gary Kessler

    Re: POD authors' club sales

    Oh, what I posted doesn't have anything to do with what you posted. And that allows for everything you said to be true with no demure--or support--from me.

    First, sharing information on an author's discussion board and buying each other's books doesn't constitute any advertising or promotion outside that set of folks. Posting favorable reviews on Amazon.com and B&N.com also doesn't have that much to do with outside advertisement. Anyone with the least bit of sophistication doesn't really believe in the objectivity of the reviews put on those websites for books not published nationally--and as I opined on another string, people rarely browse and happen on to the listings of such books on Amazon and B&N (or the PA website for that matter); they usually go straight to books they already know about and what to price and/or order. Since PA books aren't promoted, no one in the outside world knows they exist outside of the limited number of people the author of the book can chat up.

    Second, the overall behavior on that board (which again very few other than the authors themselves ever look at)--whatever it might be--has not stopped the authors there from showing interest in each other's books and buying them. With a high volume of works available for order, this increasingly will help overall sales of the company's books in ways that never happen among the authors of traditional publishers.

    I was just making an observation on something that actually has developed and is happening in the atmosphere of such POD-producers. I don't see the need to trot out a littany of "you, no you" argumentation every time the development of the POD-producer business paradigm is discussed here.

  4. #4
    Teena Haywood

    Re: POD authors' club sales


    I am a published author with Publish America. I must respectively disagree with you on the point that PA books aren't promoted. PA promotes our book(s) thru Amazon, BN, Borders, Walmart, Ingram, Baker & Taylor and Brick and Mortar stores.

    Furthermore, when we, as authors, encounter any type of issues concerning the promotion of book(s), PA goes above and beyond the call of duty to solve correct our problems.

    The authors you see on PA's authors message board are a close knit family and even families have different opinions at some point. Because we are individuals, each has an opinion on any given subject. No individual is going to agree on a subject matter everytime. That's the beauty of being free to express one's opinion. Actually, my personal interpretaion of the board is authors helping authors.

    I certainly hope that my response does not sound argumentative. Just wanted to clear up any misconception concerning PA.


  5. #5
    Glen T. Brock

    Re:On blowing one\'s own horn


    Nice defense. I\'d like to throw in a few choice words myself.

    Anybody know where ballyhoo came from? I don\'t know either, but it came out of the 19th century and described someone who uses sensational methods to promote something. Aint no sin in it.

    David O. Selznick unabashedly promoted GONE WITH THE WIND, even making a nationwide talent hunt out of the search for Scarlett Ohara.

    When I was selling collectables, I used to get \'press packs\' of old movies (not neccesarily good ones either). One of the things inside the press pack, along with the camera ready copy for newspaper ads, were movie reviews, scandelous gossip about stars, directors, producers, and anybody else related to the film. All Prepackaged, complete with word count and line length. Promotion is an industry. All those movie magazines that proliferate the newsstands are little more than press packs strung together like a line of carp.

    While I was in the book business I did alot of business with Ingram\'s Distributors. Before Amazon came along they were the big dog on the street. They published a monthly guide to the new books being released that had a tag line for every one of them. Retailers were encouraged to produce an in house newspaper to hawk the new stuff. I wonder where the reviews came from?

    Self promotion was around before P. T. Barnum invented it. It has it\'s limitations.

    One last thing. I distinctly heard somebody sniffing about the adult book industry. As I pointed out in my previous remarks I used the adult book industry because it is a market in microsism. I have not written anything of a prurient nature, nor is my publisher any less for having published adult material. I understand that the Constitution of the United States has a cure for blue nose.

  6. #6
    Gary Kessler


    Just a correction to your posting (which I don't take as argumentative, just incorrect on a point).

    What PublishAmerica (and all other publishers and book producers) does with Amazon, BN, Borders, Walmart, Ingram, Baker & Taylor is called distribution, not promotion. These are two different things. Promotion is not simply listing books in a distribution system and waiting for someone to initiate orders; its solicting book reviews, running newspaper ads, maintaining targeted prospective buyers lists--both on institutions and individuals--and sending press releases and printed seasonal catalogs to these addresses regularly, setting up radio and tv interviews, setting up and sponsoring book tours, combining like books together for periodic specifically targeted sales campaigns--often with discounting, and providing book sales points at book festivals.

    What exactly does PublishAmerica itself do in the real sense of book promotion other than feature some of the books it publishes on its own website, send release announcements to addresses provided to it by the authors, and send a limited number of review books to reviewers that the author has drummed up him/herself? I'm not saying PA isn't doing something that a lot of other publishers and POD producers are doing, I'm just saying it does next to nothing to promote any of its books in the understanding of what book promotion is in the publishing industry. If PA is giving you the impression that it is actively promoting your book, perhaps that's where a problem is located.

    Please elaborate on what PA does to "promote" its books to mortar and bricks bookstores. To my understanding, any relationship it has to bookstores is restricted to sending press releases there if the author includes bookstores on its "to announce" list and hopping up and down with glee in the rare event that a bookstore actually orders any books directly. These aren't anything much that PA is doing; these are activities initiated by someone else (usually the author). It would be very good to know that PA has an active promotion campaign toward bookstores (or anyone else) that it does itself and pays for itself. Elaborate please.

    I periodically check with a range of bookstores to check on the rate at which POD-produced books are being stocked in bookstores (I'm including this discussion in a book I'm writing), and this continues to move at a glacial pace and is still high, high up on the mountain. Although by the definitions I recognize, PublishAmerica is technically a publisher rather than a POD-producer, I specifically ask about orders from PA when I interview a cross-section of bookstores, and they still uniformly are saying that they consider PA a POD-producer, providing books that did not meet traditional publishing world quality standards; some have policies to stock the book if they are approached by a local author, but others have the policy of not stocking at all and only ordering one at a time when a customer asks for it. This shouldn't be a surprise to you, Teena, you folks say the same thing frequently in your own PA discussion board discussions.

    This is not to say that PA is evil and everyone else isn't. This is more to say that authors at PA--and at POD-producers as well--seem so intent on looking at the silver lining that they don't fully research what services they are going to get and what their own responsibilities will be in the process and go to the best option for them with eyes fully open. Most of the folks who are railing about how they were screwed by PA didn't pay a whole lot of attention to what they were signing up for. And a lot of authors who have published with PA have continued to kid themselves on just where this places them as far as development within the publishing industry (which isn't far, considering traditional publishing's attitudes toward all alternative forms of getting into print).

    There are good circumstances for chosing and taking advantage of the services offered (while being fully cognizant of the services not being offered) by the POD-production process. And PA is a step above POD-production by the definitions I recognize. PA is a good choice for certain types of books; it's not a good choice for someone trying to break into national/international-level traditional publishing. PA isn't traditional publication and it gives author no standing in traditional publication and doesn't provide some of the significant services that traditional publication does. I agree that you can be satisfied with PA publication--and shouldn't have to justify this satisfaction to anyone--but you can only be fully satisfied if you don't kid yourself about what it provides for you.

    There's an internal doubt operating in the apparent need for PA authors to continually launch massive defenses of the choice they made, isn't there? Those who fully researched the possibilities and settled on PA with their eyes open have no internal need to defend that choice--or to care what choices anyone else made. Just as those who have looked at the PA choice and decided it isn't for them, have no cause to continually tear down those who did make this choice with their eyes open.

  7. #7
    Linda Alexander

    Re: Teena

    I'm one particular PA author who went into this w/my eyes open. I've been writing professionally for over 15 yrs, & this book is my 3rd. The 1st was w/a small, but "traditional" publisher. The 2nd was w/a POD publisher that is no longer in gen'l operation -- a bad choice on my part, overall, but still an opportunity. When I signed my PA contract, I was aware that there would be no large-scale promo. I was aware that they would produce my book, make it available through all the major distribution routes, give it the req'd ISBN #, etc. Would there be a glossy catalogue, a salesperson going about yucking up my book & others from PA? No.

    So, to a great degree, I can only agree w/your post. PA is publishing a great # of folks who've never been published before. Some of them know exactly what they're getting into. Others sit & twiddle their thumbs after they've signed the contract, wondering why their book's not selling. They moan about their choice of publisher & badmouth PA all over creation. I contend, however, that these folks wouldn't've been too happy even if they'd been put into print by a "traditional" publisher -- because they are under a mistaken impression of the difference between publicity & promotion. And they think their job stops w/the words "The End."

    Promotion is the work I do myself to get my book title into the public eye. Promotion is what I must do to actually SELL books. Publicity is, most often, the result of that promotion . . . or it can be the high-level shtick put out by a publisher, but usually only if the writer's name is Nora Roberts of Stephen King.

    Your note is the 1st of this ilk that seems to respect the position of POD in the industry as it becomes more of a player. I appreciate that, because there are those of us who are writing to be read, whether our book has a Random House imprint or a PublishAmerica imprint. I see the current atmosphere of the industry to be very unfriendly to 1st-time & early-career writers. As another writer who's been banging doors for years stated, it's a "train wreck." There's little publicity for us sorts even w/a "traditional" publisher. Yes, they put out that brochure. Yes, they have a sales staff. But will they yuck up my book? Probably not, not unless I've found some extraordinary way to PROMOTE myself & my book to them so that my profile rises out of the masses.

    So, in the meantime, I'll use POD to get my work out amidst the crowd of others. I'll use it as a caling card of sorts. It's a legit way to get a book out, & for those of us willing to beat the pavement, willing to sell our own version of the "Pet Rock," it's an excellent way to work in & around the current process, as it evolves into something new that none of as yet can fully imagine. POD will have its place in the publishing industry of the next generation. It will fit in, eventually, just as the paperback book had to find its way. And as you indicate at the beginning of your 1st thoughtful note, it's beginning to create its own culture in the process.

    I believe in looking at both sides of the coin & knowing what I'm buying before I pay my nickle. I agree w/you that many are touting only the silver lining of POD & loudly denouncing those that attempt to make known the less wonderful aspects. Still, think of it as if you were in this box -- w/so many in the publishing world, w/that world resisting change, trying to beat down a choice that does have merits, it's only natural to get a bit defensive. After all, I'm in this to sell books, maybe make a bit of money (imagine that!), & get some exposure, so I can move up the food chain w/the next book. If all I get is mud slung at me, I'm gonna get a bit testy.

    I do disagree, though, that POD isn't a good choice for those wishing to break into nat'l/int'l publishing. Yes, it'll take more effort. Yes, it's a writer-driven effort. Yes, it even gets a bit frustrating. But it sure as heck isn't impossible. Everywhere I've introduced my book, locally & out of my area into nat'l arenas--some chain stores, some indies, other avenues--have been more than happy to work w/me & bring my book into their store. Will I be an overnight success? Hasn't happened yet. But I'm selling books.

    In closing -- I was in an antique mall yesterday. I happened upon a hardback mass-produced book published in 1941. I think it's call "The Tap Root." I read the inside flap & was intrigued by the storyline. The inside flap told of how this mass production had been made possible -- by using a "new" sort of printing techniques & thru the generosity of the author agreeing to take lesser royalties on his sales.

    Sounds to me like the current "traditional" industry has been built on the back of revolutionary publishing ideas, not unlike the up-&-coming POD is making its way into an established marketplace.

    I bought "The Tap Root." It occured to me as I happily took home my $5 purchase, which I've already started to read & enjoy, that I could hope for nothing more satisfying than havingn someone pick up my book in 60+ yrs & find its description interesting enough to want to buy & read. I won't be around to know about it, probably, but it still makes me smile to think about "living on" in such a way.

    -- Linda Alexander


  8. #8
    Glen T. Brock

    Re: Teena

    For your information:

    In my years as a bookseller I found the little things were very important. For example: Whole copy returns are an enormous pain in the rear for retailers to deal with. Solution: Don't buy from houses requiring whole copy returns! Fair? Oh, hell no. Practical? You would be surprised. I had a falling out with Ingrams over returns once. Not only were some strip outs refused for credit but I paid the shipping both ways too. I hate to strip out books just like anyone else that has ever written one does, unfortunatly its the only practical way to credit unsold copies.

    That's one way the PODs will have a saving grace in the market. By limiting returns and targetting market they will eventually out perform the traditional houses. This will be particularly apparent as reprints become proliferate and new titles become scarcer. Remember, those dumps you see at Barnes & Nobel eventually have to be stripped if they don't sell. That's labor intensive and costly both to the publisher and the retailer.

  9. #9
    Lawrance George Lux

    Re: Teena

    Gary's original message outlined the Cannibal nature of the POD industry today. The following messages defined the lack of outreach of PODs to a consuming market. PODs publishers lack incentive to promote or distribute; their business programs are designed to sell Author Services. POD authors do not have the contacts or funds for serious promotion. Sales will remain dismal, as long as these business conditions exist.

    Many things could be done to alter the current lack of marketing. PODs could establish a stable of Newspaper Book Reviewers; easily accomplishable with POD publisher provision of free review copies. This is an expensive proposition, though, which POD publishers and Authors unwilling to bear the cost. POD publishers could charge Authors an additional increase in original price, to purchase half-page ads in Sunday Newspaper additions. This could be cheapened by multiple individual ads per half-page; it is still expensive. Establishing a contract with discount houses--Walmarts, Walgreens, etc.--to take ten copies of each new publication; would require a basic wholesale price hardly above printing costs, but would fund printing registration and aid in Name recognition. Understand the Contract must allow these Discount houses the right of rejection for inferior work, but still an excellent option; discount houses are always looking for cheap merchandise. POD publishers must be sure to limit the cheap wholesale price to just the initial ten copies, with succeeding copies reverting to a profitable return for both Publisher and Author.

    The Publishing industry has always been difficult as a Sales medium. Over half of the Reading public does not purchase, until a friend suggests a work is a good book. Fad reading is the most important element in book sales. POD publishers will have to discriminate between Authors, getting rid of the poor material, if they think to enter onto promotion efforts.

  10. #10
    Reece Daniel

    Re: Teena

    I have to agree with Linda. I too, am a PA author and I went into it with eyes wide open. I understood their part and my role in marketing. For a large segment of the population not named Clancy or Hillerman, publishers such as PA are the ideal route to becoming published.

    Gary has a valid point and a very accurate observation on the POD- PA market niche. There is no need to be defensive if you are published by PA or another similar publisher. Use your energies to promote your book, not defend your publisher.

    As for the gentleman who finds the authors board offensive I have a suggestion. Stay off of it. We enjoy each other's company and are not trying to portray some faux-sophisticated writer image. It's just real people with very good stories to tell and sell. Isn't that what it's all about?

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