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Fee-based POD Publishers
Are Not the Only Game in Town

By Patricia L. Fry

"I saw the ad for AuthorHouse and thought my prayers had been answered."

"I didn't know how to find a publisher and then I heard about Infinity."

"I knew nothing about publishing and it seemed reasonable to pay someone to produce my book."

These are just some of the statements I've heard from first-time authors who are explaining why they chose the fee-based POD publishing route. Most, it seems, are unaware of the options available to them. And many regret their hasty decisions.

Some hopeful authors contract with one of the 100 or so fee-based publishers because they are convinced this is the only way their books will see the inside of bookstores. Some sign up in order to have their books listed at and the other major online bookstores.

News Flash: You can arrange to have your book listed at, and other online bookstores, yourself. You don't need a publisher for this.

News Flash2: Bookstore managers/owners generally refuse to carry POD published or self-published books as well as books published using digital technology and books produced by some of the smaller publishing companies UNLESS the book has a large following. If the book is selling by the gazillions, booksellers will stock it. If it isn't, you'll have to do what thousands of authors/publishers are doing—find other outlets for your book.

Option One: The Traditional Royalty Publisher

If you have a well-written manuscript on a hot topic which has not been overdone, there may be a publisher out there who would publish your book. I'm talking about a traditional royalty publisher who would produce the book for FREE and even pay you royalties (a percentage of each book sold).

There are the handful of major publishers who require that you make your submission through a literary agent. And then there are hundreds of medium to small publishing houses who are eager for good projects. Most of them prefer dealing with the author directly.

How does one approach a traditional royalty publisher? Follow this guide:

  1. Locate appropriate publishers by studying the listings in Writer's Market,, Literary Market Place and, for example. Publishers tend to specialize these days, so make sure you select one that publishes books in your genre.

    Go to the bookstore and look at books similar to yours. Who published these books? Contact these publishers.
  2. Once you've isolated a few appropriate publishers, get copies of their Submission Guidelines. Guidelines vary from house to house, so it is important that you obtain Guidelines from each publisher. Find Guidelines at the publishers' Web sites. If you do not find a link for Submission Guidelines or Editorial Guidelines or Author Guidelines or Submissions, for example, click on "Contact Us" or "About Us." If you can't locate Guidelines there, email or write requesting a copy. When requesting a copy by mail, enclose an SASE (self-addressed-stamped envelope).

    Follow each publisher's guidelines when approaching him/her. Some will request a query letter first. Others want to see the complete manuscript. Most will, at some point, ask you to submit a book proposal. Does the publisher want the information sent in the body of an email, as an attachment or by postal mail? Find out and comply.
  3. If the publisher works through literary agents (author's representatives) only, locate appropriate agents through Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents or visit Choose an agent who is a member of the Association of Author's Representatives (AAR) and who represents books like yours.
  4. Write a book proposal. I suggest writing a book proposal even before you write the book. This is especially true for nonfiction. A book proposal will tell you whether you have a book at all. Many a book project has changed in focus or scope during the book proposal process. Most publishers request a book proposal before they look at the manuscript. Why? A well-researched, complete book proposal tells the publisher whether there is a market for this book, who the target audience is and where and how to reach them.

    A book proposal helps the publisher evaluate the focus of the book. Your synopsis and chapter outline will show him whether you have enough material to write a full book on this topic and demonstrate your writing and organizational skills. The about the author section will show the publisher that you have the experience and expertise to complete this project.

    Learn more about how to write a book proposal from the following books:
    How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less, by Patricia Fry. or
    Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Adams,
  5. Now it's time to contact the publishers on your list. Generally, you will send them a query letter, first. So why did you go to the trouble of putting together a book proposal? Let me count the reasons:

    A: To find out if you have a book at all.

    B: To help you better understand the industry and your responsibility as a published author.

    C: Because publishers/agents will probably request it.

    D: To help you ultimately write the book.

Contrary to what some people will tell you, there are publishing opportunities with traditional royalty publishers. In fact, most of the books published each year come from the many medium and small publishing companies. Do your homework and follow through in a professional manner and you, too, have a shot at landing a publisher.

Option Two: Self Publishing

Some fee-based POD publishers now say they will help you self-publish your book. The service they provide is not self-publishing, however. Self publishing means that you:

  • Establish your own publishing company.
  • Apply for a fictitious business name.
  • Purchase your own ISBN block.
  • Fill out the Advanced Book Information form (to be included in Books in Print).
  • Arrange for the bar code.
  • Order the Publishers Cataloging-in-Publication information
  • Have your book pages and cover designed.
  • Set your price.
  • Arrange for a printer.
  • Fill out the copyright form.
  • Contact your state board of equalization.
  • Post your book at and so forth.
  • Contact and work with wholesalers and distributors.
  • Send out review copies of your book.
  • Fulfill orders placed.
  • Promote your own book.

No matter what option you choose, you are still responsible for promoting your book. Self-publishing simply gives you more power and more control. You are in charge of quality control. You set the price for your book. And you get to keep all of the profits.

If you want to consider the self-publishing option, read Dan Poynter's Self-publishing Manual. or Or Patricia Fry's book, The Successful Writer's Handbook or (This book includes a handy checklist that really puts the tasks of self-publishing into perspective while providing easy access to the agencies involved.)

Option Three: Get Financing For Your Project

Times, they are a changing. With competition fierce in the publishing industry, authors and publishers are becoming more creative. The number of fee-based POD publishers attest to this fact. This is not the publishing model I observed when I became a published author in 1978 or when I first self-published in 1983.

Even traditional royalty publishers are bending in new directions. Some publishers can actually be swayed to publish your book if you bring them some financial backing. You could even get financing for a self-published venture. How?

  • Find a corporation to finance the project. Offer them a percentage of sales or so many books for free to use as premiums, for example.
  • Sell advertising. Place ads in the end pages or even on the cover of your book.

Option Four: Fee-based POD Publishing

As far as I am concerned there is nothing wrong with hiring a fee-based POD publisher. But I can sanction this option only for those hopeful authors who will do their homework. BEFORE signing an agreement with a traditional royalty publisher, printing company or a fee-based POD publisher, I suggest that you:

  • Learn something about how the publishing industry operates.
  • Research several such companies. Read their contracts.
  • Talk to other authors who have used these services.
  • Review author warning sites for any red flags regarding these companies.
  • Look at examples of their published/printed books.

Whether you decide to go with a fee-based POD publishing service, a traditional royalty publisher or self-publish, you should:

  • Hire a good editor.
  • Hire an attorney to go over the contract with you.
  • Make sure that your page layout and cover are exactly as you want them before sending your files (for POD publishers and printers).
  • Follow the company's instructions explicitly when sending any files.
  • Follow up with the tech person to make sure you are on the same page as far as your page layout and cover design (for POD publishers and printers).

In order to be successful, an author must approach publishing using the left side of the brain. You would not go blindly into a business you know nothing about, would you? Well HELLO, while writing is art, publishing is a business.

When you make that leap from contented, passionate writer to published author, you must also shift your attitude from artist to businesswo/man. Heed the warnings and embrace the recommendations above and you could be highly successful.

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