Print on demand (POD), a cross between self-publishing and digital technology, is a hot publishing trend. Your book will be printed within weeks, but POD is still a gamble. Answering these questions before you sign with a POD publisher will save you money and angst.
1. Is the publisher reliable? Read Internet reviews, articles, blog postings, and books about POD. If you know someone who has used POD interview him or her.
2. Do the printed books look good? Request a sample book from the publisher. It should have a professional looking cover, a sturdy binding, and clear, readable print.
3. What is the formatting fee? This will be the highest fee and chances are it doesn't include corrections.
4. What do extra services cost? POD publishers will edit, design your cover, write the back cover copy, write your bio, press release, and more. Editing is the most important service. The editing should be thorough, not a quick glance at your manuscript. Choose extra services carefully because they add up in the blink of an eye.
5. Are there hidden fees? You shouldn't be charged a reading fee or a fee to obtain an ISBN number.
6. Does the publisher have a distributor? Book sellers avoid POD books and won't carry your book unless it's listed with Baker & Taylor, Ingram, or a local distributor - yet another fee.
7. Is the contract fair? Some POD publishers pay low royalties. Find out the royalty rate and how often royalties are paid. You should also receive some free books and be able to buy books at the industry discount.
8. How long will it take to recoup your money? This number should be available and if it isn't, ask for it. Remember, this number is a guess, not a fact.
9. What will publicity cost? Most POD publishers don't publicize books. Get a publicity estimate from a book publicity firm. Add up the publicity and publishing costs.
10. Are you willing to spend this much to see your book in print? POD is a gamble and you may lose more than you make. But if you have the funds to invest and a book that fills a niche, go for it!
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 26 years. Her current work focuses on health and she is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, co-authored by Dr. Lois Krahn, is her 24th book. The self-help book was published by BookSurge, a POD publisher. Go to http://www.harriethodgson.com to learn more about her work.