Invasion of the POD people
Twice in the last week I have been asked for advice about publishing. Normally, I will oblige and try to be as encouraging as I can given my somewhat wary attitude. (i.e. This is not a business for sissies, the thin-skinned or people who still play old LPs of Janis Ian's song Seventeen
But these two poor souls were asking my advice about self-publishing. Or as it was known in my salad days, vanity press. Now, let's get our terms straight first. POD (print on demand) is NOT the same as self-publishing, though we all tend to use POD as a shorthand for what is now vanity press operations. POD is only the technology that makes self-publishing possible. So I guess we should be using SP here for the process by which any monkey with an IMAC can publish his memoirs.
That last sentence should give you a hint about where I line up on the self-publishing debate. I can hear the grumbles out there: Well, of course she thinks SP is a scam...she's already made her big bucks and didn't get enough rejection slips to paper a john. Wrongo, pulp-breath. I am neither rich or famous...or without rejection slips. I still get 'em on occasion.
So why do I hate POD and SP so much? I hate the way they prey on dreamers. I hate that they overinflate expectations. But what I really hate is that they make it possible for people to think there are shortcuts, ways of circumventing the craft, hard work and legitimate editorial process of becoming a writer. Becoming...that's the key word here folks. Like way Tiger Woods became a great golfer. The way Renata Scotto became a great soprano. The way your Uncle Morty became a doctor. Or the way your mom became a great cook.
Here is what set me off:
At a Mystery Writers of America meeting, a woman asked, "Should I go POD?" I drew in a long breath so I wouldn't start screaming and spewing spittle. Then I asked her: "Do you want to publish a book or do you want to have a career as a writer?" She looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Well, the latter, of course!" So I told her: "Then do your homework, learn the craft of writing, educate yourself about the market place and your genre, submit your manuscript, get rejected, rewrite, rewrite again, throw out a book and start over, do it all over again and again and again until you are a legitimately published writer."
Wash, rinse and repeat. She walked away. She didn't want to hear it.
The second question came a couple days later. The guy had already PODed his book. And now he was asking me how to "promote and publicize it" and "get it into Barnes & Noble." I didn't tell him the truth, that he had almost no chance. I just didn't have the energy. And you know what? He wasn't going to listen to me anyway.
So what I did was direct him to two websites about PODs and self-publishing. These people can preach the gospel much better than I can.
Writers Beware . This is a site run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It is chockful of great practical advice about agents, PODs, self-publishing and scams. I can't recommend it enough.
The second site is POD-Dy Mouth . This published author brings some balance to the POD debate by offering great advice and warnings but also with her reviews of those rare POD books that deserve notice.
In her words: "So, why am I here? To tell you about an entire world of books we are all missing: self-published titles -— specifically, POD titles. For those who do not know, about four years ago the self-publishing world took an awkward and potentially regrettable turn: Publishing on Demand. This means anyone with a word processor and a few hundred bucks can create a book that can be distributed on Amazon, BN.com and various other online venues without having to pre-print a single book (at an inflated price—about $3 to $5 more per trade paperback.) As a result, however, the world has seen an influx of some of the absolute worst writing known to mankind....
[BUT SHE ADDS]..."There are some good books in there. But it’s like trying to see a constellation through a cloudy sky. There is just so much crap in the way. Well, that’s why I’m here. We’re going to find the good ones."
I beg you. Go read these sites. Before your soul is sucked dry by the POD people.