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Some Implications of Print-on-Demand

This morning’s Shelf Awareness includes a great conversation with Ken Arnold that is ostensibly about POD, but also touches on some important author promotion and social networking issues.

While many publishers exploring POD focus on the cost issues, the issue of returns (always a touchy subject for publishers) must also be addressed:

I see POD as simply an economical way to manufacture books without tying up limited capital in inventory. Some review media and bookstores seem to think it’s a problem: the NYTBR categorically refuses to consider POD books; one local store has special policies for dealing with POD (as I assume others do). The real problem is that I will not accept returns, not POD.

Ken also talks about the importance of an author’s self-promotion capabilities when evaluating a title. Certainly many publishers already consider speaking engagements, readings, and signings; few are putting enough weight on digital networking, like blogging and blog tours.

He adds that "each book we publish is selected with the author’s network capabilities in mind; in addition to asking if a book is good, we also ask if the author can help promote it through his/her networks, speaking engagements, website, readings, etc. We emphasize to authors that publishing is a partnership, even with commercial publishers (most authors just don’t know that)."

Few publishers have the capabilities to manage and cultivate and author’s digital relationships, but sites like BookTour and Red Room are springing up to fill the gap.

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