Peace Corps Writers
    P.O.D. and You

by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)

P.O.D. books = books that are stored in digital form by an Internet company and individual copies are printed when orders are received.

Read about Thor Hanson's experience with P.O.D.

For other publishing innovations being used by Peace Corps Writers

FOR A BRIEF PERIOD IN THE MID-1990’s there was a wild belief that the World Wide Web was the answer to everyone’s dreams of publishing a book. Soon, we all thought, every RPCV with a story to tell would be published, and his or her story would be widely read before it was made into a successful Hollywood movie. The reason: print-on-demand (P.O.D.) books.
     This publishing nirvana never happened. Print-on-demand companies came and quickly went and by 2000 the P.O.D. moment on the Internet was over. P.O.D. companies disappeared. Or almost disappeared. Today, there are still a few companies publishing books that are available on the Internet. And scanning the list of “Recent books . . .” listed in each issue of this newsletter you’ll see that a sizable number of new books published about the Peace Corps are by .com companies with www. addresses. I believe — with rare exception — that print-in-demand books are the only way RPCVs have to tell their Peace Corps story in print.

However . . .
The problem with P.O.D. publishing is not writing your book, or putting it up on the Web, it is selling it. Unless you have hundreds (or better yet, thousands) of friends and fans who dial up and find it on the World Wide Web, your book won’t be purchased. It isn’t available to see or be thumbed through in a book story, and it won’t be read about in a Publishers Weekly book review.
     The New York Times (and almost all other newspapers) won’t review a print-on-demand book. Bookstores don’t stock them on their shelves. So unless (and this is a big unless) you make an extraordinary promotional efforts on your own, your book will sell less than a hundred copies, and then mostly to friends and family.
     This, of course, is true of most books. Very few books make The New York Times bestseller list. Over 100,000 books are publisher each year; very few of them sell enough copies to earn an income for the writers. And these are authors who have a publishing company, and that company’s sales force, selling their books. If you publish by P.O.D., it is 10 times harder to get your book sold.

So why publish?
Then why publish a print-on-demand book if the reality is that you can’t make money from having your book on the Web, and, in fact, it will cost you money?
     Because the P.O.D. route is a relatively easy way to get published, and does provide you with a professional looking book that tells the story you want to tell, whether it is collection of your letters home from the Peace Corps, or a novel based on your Peace Corps experience.

What do P.0.D. publishers do?
For money (and not a lot of money in most cases), a P.O.D. publisher will professionally lay-out your book, give you a selection of layout design, paper stock , cover design, size and binding, and arrange for the registration for an I.S.B.N. number which is used to list the book in databases open to traditional and online bookstores.
     You then get 10 free copies and can buy additional copies for 60 percent of the retail price. Your book is never “published“ but it is there on the Internet if anyone wants to buy it. It lives forever in a digital file and is ready to print when someone finds it.

Major P.O.D. Companies
Here is a list of five major companies that offer print-on-demand services and the approximate costs of publishing your book. Plan to spend some time at each of the sites as the options for support services and costs vary a great deal.

1st Books Library
Fee: $598.
Royalties: 5 to 50 percent of retail price.
Rights: Author retains.
Options: Prints in variety of hardback and paperback sizes.
Services: Editing and promotional services available at additional charges.
Formats for sale: hard-copy printing; .pdf; eBook.

Fee: $99 to $299.
Royalties: 25 percent of retail price.
Rights: Author retains.
Options: various page layouts, cover designs, sizes
Services: Marketing assistance for extra fee.
Formats for sale: hard-copy printing, eBook.

Fee: $159 to $949.
Royalties: 20 percent of retail price.
Rights: Author retains.
Services: Copyediting included at highest fee level.

Writers’ Collective
Fee: for membership, $175 first year and $100 in subsequent years, plus $50 and a $15 administrative fee per book title.
Royalties: 100 percent of sales price retained by author.
Rights: Author retains.
Options: hardcover and paperback
Services: accepts returns from bookstores.

Fee: $500 to $1,600.
Royalties: 10 to 25 percent of retail.
Rights: Author retains.
Services: Prints paperback and hardcover, including picture books; copyediting and marketing available for additional fees.

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