POD . . .

Just lately as I revise upon revision in the hope that my third novel, a stand-alone story, will be called in by mainstream publishers post assessment, I have been musing on the last eighteen months in which I had the experience of POD publication.

My two novels, those you see in the sidebar, were part of the first wave from independent publisher YouWriteOn.com in the UK.  At the time I was a member of YWO’s writing forums, something which helped me greatly in developing my writing for a potential audience.  When the email arrived in 2008 offering publication, I debated long and hard about whether I wanted to go down that particular road.  At that point in time, I was readying myself for the exhaustive mainstream query process.  There were many reasons offered by learned mouths as to why I should steer clear of independent publishers and POD . . . it would tarnish me, it would never make money, the book production would be second rate, I would have to publicize myself and so on.  And this has even as lately as last week been reiterated in:


What I wasn’t told was that mainstream publication doesn’t make that much money, nor does it necessarily guarantee a first rate product in terms of paper, binding and reproduction and mainstream authors are expected to sell themselves as much as any other author.  And I still want to know why being Pod-ed independently in the past will tarnish me as a writer for future querying on future novels.

Of course, this does not in anyway negate the excitement and wonder of ‘the dream’, that one’s book should be chosen to be published by one of the major houses in the world and spread to a far wider audience than could ever be achieved by one’s own efforts.  It is and will ever be the defining moment for a writer and certainly this writer, with future novels.

But to be fair, when I eventually chose to accept  YWO.com’s contract, what I found was excellent paper, binding, rendition of cover-design and internal graphics, swift communication between publisher, printer and author and smooth functioning distribution through the major online retailers, along with 60% of the royalties coming my way.

But the ephemeral things were the real bonuses, because it certainly doesn’t make heaps of money. (but then it hardly cost me a bean either).  Through marketing in electronic and print media, I met readers and managed to establish a small niche group of loyal fans.  Some of those readers have become close friends. I’ve been sold in bricks and mortar stores, including the most exciting news that I was the biggest-selling first-time author sold in one store.  I have taught myself how to Facebook, blog, Twitter (not too good with 140 characters) and have guest-blogged globally.  I have entered a world by my choice, not by the choice of a marketing department.  And I have maintained control over my output . . . ie I can put as little or as much time as I want into the actual marketing of the novel.  Most times, whatever I have done has been for fun . . . for example the book-trailer or the upcoming ‘virtual’ masked ball on the blog.  I suspect if someone else had pressured me into any of these things, I might not be enjoying them quite as much or been afraid I wasn’t doing them right.

There have only been two negatives:

One was the absolute bollocking an agent gave me over my decision to be published a) independently and b) in the UK but then decided she would call both novels in.  She proceeded to ask me to join them together in a humungous 190,000 word ms and continued treating me in the most appalling manner.  As the books were already on the market and I could see she just wasn’t an Anne of Green Gables kindred spirit, we parted ways.

The other negative has been the lack of an editorial department to work on the manuscripts, pre-publication.  No matter how many times one reads with a red pen, there will always be something a professional editor could have picked up with that eagle-eye because the absolute best are employed by the major houses.

But what joys there have been along the POD road: the first reviews, the emails, letters and cards, even a superb hand-embroidered postcard.  From as far away as Italy, England, America, Canada, even South America (Remember that I live in Tasmania, at the very bottom of Australia.  Almost the very bottom of the world!).  And what a thrill it is to send copies to people who have won the books on Goodreads or on fellow bloggers’ sites.  It  reminds me of bespoke clothing or boutique wineries . . . even artworks in exceptional galleries . . . a limited edition of a special piece created for the enjoyment of a lucky (my words, no arrogance implied) few.

Would I POD again?  This is something else I have thought a lot about lately as I revised the new work.  And this is my watershed decision: if it is not fortunate enough to be called in by a mainstream house after a decent amount of time and effort, then I may very well . . .

The question remains then, would it have an audience?