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by Deborah Greenspan

Read associated article on Print On Demand Publishing: POD Publishing and The State of the Art of Publishing

What if the publisher doesn't call you with exclamations of your ability to touch the soul of another with your pen? If you're sure your writing is worth reading, there's a new way: print on demand publishing (POD publishing).


This article sponsored by:
Writers Digest
 Specific advice on how to write and sell magazine and newspaper articles, novels and nonfiction books, plays, poetry, scripts--anything involving the written word. Along with in-depth profiles of successful writers, regular departments detail and crafts of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and scriptwriting; the ins and outs of writing on computers and submitting manuscripts electronically; and the necessity of proper trademark usage. The publication provides writers with information, instruction and inspiration on every aspect of the writing life.

At one time, the consumer book market was served almost exclusively by traditional book publishers who looked suspiciously at any writer who dared to go it alone. Unless, of course, that writer made money. James Redfield of Celestine Prophecy fame, for instance, was turned down by a dozen editors before he went ahead and self-published. Publishers would have continued to look down their noses at him, but for the fact that he was able to sell 100,000 books out of the trunk of his car. At that point, Warner Books decided they wanted him after all.

But despite the longstanding stigma attached to so-called "vanity presses" by the traditional publishing industry, publishing houses today are being transformed by new print -on-demand technology (the ability to profitably print one book at a time), and even the largest are positioning themselves to take advantage of it. Booksellers like Barnes and Noble have invested heavily in print-on-demand, buying some 29% of iUniverse, even though they refuse to carry iUniverse books in B&N bookstores. Time Warner, meanwhile, has created iPublish, a more traditional version of e-publishing with layers of gatekeepers to maintain their publishing standards, and Xlibris is owned by Random House.

According to Steve Riggio, vice-chairman of Barnes and, "we're entering an age where the distinction between publisher, author and bookseller will blur. Some authors will write their books online and sell directly to their readers. Some publishers will sell directly to consumers. And some online booksellers will become publishers."

While many traditional publishers bemoan the explosion of the new "vanity press," the fact is if it's profitable major players don't want to miss out. Laurence Kirshbaum, chairman of Time Warner Trade Publishing, notes that the internet is "growing rapidly" as a consumer marketplace. According to figures by Accenture, "in five years the consumer e-book market could be roughly 10% of the $32 billion consumer book marketónot counting print-on-demand, which could double the total" (Publisher's Weekly 3/19/01).

This potential $6.4 billion segment of the market represents books published by e-publishing companies like iUniverse, iPublish, Xlibris, Indie Publish, Infinity Publishing, 1st Books, and Llumina Press, and is composed of all types of books from non-fiction to fantasy. All kinds of writers from novices to powerful authors whose names are widely known are taking advantage of e-publishing opportunities. For instance, Stephen King offered his e-book, "Riding the Bullet" on the internet, and then sold "The Plant" in $1 installments over the web.

The new "vanity press" is no magic act, and it won't disappear any time soon. This new technology will redefine the book industry. While some traditional publishers will continue to ignore print-on-demand, and others will attempt to profit from works they don't believe can sell by making money on the printing, when all is said and done, the biggest change will come when writers recognize that they can, for a very low cost, take charge of their own publishing destiny. Publishers who understand that they can work with writers to make their dreams reality may change the face of publishing forever.

Deborah Greenspan is a publisher and professional writer of television scripts, movies, books, articles and documentaries. Her books are available at Llumina Press at where writers take charge of their publishing destiny. You can reach the author at

---Read associated article on Print On Demand Publishing: POD Publishing