"The Instant Book That Wasn't"

By Elizabeth Manus

Published October 23, 2001 6:50PM (EDT)

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I read this article with interest. You see, I am an independent publisher who has been struggling to get my books into the chains, Amazon, and distributed by national distributors such as Ingram. While it has been a long, hard three-year battle, my company has succeeded in doing this. We are succeeding in part because we give distributors the industry standard 55 percent discount. We are members of the Amazon advantage program (which gives Amazon a 55 percent discount). We send catalogs and samples to chain buyers. We've worked hard to get market penetration for three years. We learned the rules of the game, and are succeeding because we play the game well.

In my view BookSurge chief executive Bob Holt doesn't want to play by the rules, he wants to change the rules. That's fine and dandy, but don't expect the industry to bend over backwards for him. The simple truth is, the industry has been flooded by thousands of print-on-demand titles that have little to no audience, and are usually no more than vanity press titles. If the industry has adopted practices to screen out the wheat from the chaff (Ingram's 10-title rule, for example), then that is simply one of the "downsides" to POD technology that lets anybody with $200 become a "publisher."

If BookSurge wants to establish itself as a publisher of "real" books, with a "real" audience, perhaps it should take the thousands of dollars it doesn't spend on offset publishing, and hire someone who understands, and can work with the book industry, instead of against it. Perhaps they should promote their books.

Ohh. Wait. They are promoting their book, and their company. They are using the tragedy of Sept. 11 to generate sales and media attention for one of their three titles. It's this kind of profiteering that makes the entire POD industry look bad. Even if they are giving all the profits of the book to the Red Cross (which they are not), they are using this title as a shoehorn to get instant access to chains, distributors and online retailers. They are doing this instead of spending the time, energy and money that is needed to do this.

Like most POD publishers, BookSurge wants a cheap and easy way to get their books into readers' hands, but what they fail to realize is that there is no cheap and easy way to do this. You have to work hard, and spend a lot of money, to find your market, and get your product to that market and into your customers' hands... Just like any other industry. Welcome to the real world ...

-- Jeremy Lassen, Owner, Night Shade Books

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