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  1.  (4781.1)
    Some of these books look really great. Specifically:

    stml's Bookakke titles look really amazing. I'm guessing that the titles are public domain, but those covers are really great, and the new intros add a reason to want to pick them up.

    Paladinb: That book looks really pro, and I'm interested in your seemingly tireless efforts to get your book seen in stores.

    The art in the video for United Comics looks pretty great, although who knows what the books actually look like, but sounds interesting...

    blu: Really nice art, but I'm not sure what you're selling... Prints? Seems cool, though.

    It's those kind of projects that show POD to not simply be "vanity" printing, when they look that great and when the talent is really there (although I'm judging books based on their covers, here, but sometimes that will get a book home with you, and after that the quality doesn't matter because you've already bought it.).

    My main concern is still that quite a few people here seem to be content selling a few copies to family and friends. At that point, it seems like you should just ask them to borrow some money and email them the work for free... And perhaps some of it IS vanity printing, but I would still like to hear more about people who are really trying to get a work seen by new readers through promotional tactics; not just Myspace friends.

    Anyway, it seems like the problem with family and friends buying your work is that they're doing it not because they want to read a Zombie Western novel, or whatever, but because they care about you and don't want you to slit your wrists if your book doesn't sell any copies. It's the same reason you can't ask those people for an honest critique of that same work; because they'll just tell you it's good. ...and that's fine if that's what you're doing it for... But as an actual way to make a living...

    So congrats to the POD'ers here who are doing good and are happy with their results... Keep up the good work. All of this is just so interesting.
    • CommentAuthordeshan10
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2009
    I recently helped a photographer friend design a book on Blurb. I work in offset print design usually so this was a great opportunity to see what digital print could do. The book came out much better than we expected. The photographs were off his digital cameras; RGB files, they were edited as RGB files and the print happened in RGB so the colour matching was really very good. The clarity of text though, left much to be desired. The hack for this might be to design each page in Adobe InDesign or equivalent, save as high resolution JPEGS and then import those into Blurb's software for layout. POD seems to me to be the (short term) future of print in terms of colour control, speed and quantity selection.
  2.  (4781.3)
    I'm watching this thread carefully, because it's a subject I've been debating for quite some time. It seems there's a dead zone for art-stuff that Mr. Consumer wouldn't want to hang on his wall (due to content or color scheme or the cost of a frame), or doesn't particulary want on a T-shirt (due to content or color scheme or the clothing style). The book as art object seems a great way to go about getting content out that fits this awkward inbetween. After trying to sell prints through Cafepress and being horrofied at the product quality, I've become terribly skeptical of any printing on demand companies, and it's nice to see so many people speaking well for the photo quality of Blurb books.
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    @Andrew - thanks and yes, we're selling art prints on a variety of papers and canvas.
    • CommentAuthorDanMcGirt
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    I am in the process of using Lightning Source to relaunch my Jason Cosmo fantasy adventure series, originally published by Signet/Roc some years ago. Originals are out of print and I got a reversion of rights from the publisher. I organized my own publishing imprint, Trove Books, as a vehicle for doing so. Bought a block of ISBNs, registered as an LLC, etc. A bit more work, but it allows me to bypass intermediaries like Xlibris, iUniverse, Lulu, etc and work directly with Lightning Source, who does most of their POD printing anyway. (i.e. Lightning Source works with publishers, not authors, so I became a publisher.) Advantage of that is, I have full control over every aspect of the book and get to keep the lion's share of the (hypothetical, hoped for) profits. I can't speak yet to my success or failure with this approach, as I'm still putting the pieces together. --Dan McGirt
    • CommentAuthorpaladinb
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    @blu - thanks for the comments and hope you enjoy the book if you pick it up!
    • CommentAuthorpaladinb
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    @frequentcontributor - glad you liked the look of the book. I really tried my best to get it looking as professional. I knew it was the only way bookshops were going to take me seriously. It's been a lot of hard work but I know if I don't put in the effort I want see the results and no one good having a good story and waiting for someone to discover it (I wasted a lot of time doing that). You have to get out there and make stuff happen.
    • CommentAuthorrothstei
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    While it looks like there is some high quality stuff made POD, I would add that folks shouldn't overlook "traditional" printing just yet. Many of the online printing houses are able to do POD by stringing together many jobs in one long run (depending on their equipment, of course). But digital tech has made other solutions more feasible for short runs, as well. Digital printing, in other words, HQ "copiers", are really doing amazing things, and are so close to offset in quality that anyone but a printer can't tell the different. I, as you might guess, work for a print shop. For some reason in Portland, OR (where I'm at) has a ton of small shops, some of whom have invested in really good digital equipment. Digital is great for fast turn around, and also small runs because it runs complete book sets, not having to plate each page like offset printing. I also am a writer/self-publisher, so I've investigated this, and do my own printing ('course, I get a discount!)
    But here's a sample job-- 300 pages, 8.5 x 11", perfect-bound (paperback style). We do the pages in b/w digital on 60# paper, and print the covers on heavier stock on the offset press. We produce 100-300 books for the customer, at roughly $10 per book. I think that's a pretty good price, though I haven't really shopped around the POD market.
    I would say this--for less than 100 copies, go online. But if you think you could move 100 copies of your book throughout its course, check out your local print shop (a print shop, not a copy shop!).
    Here are some other tips:
    Ask about digital. Many shops are still experimenting with it, and might offer you a deal if it fills up the time slots on a quieter machine. The iGen4 (by Xerox) is an exceptional machine, does full color almost photo quality. There are other good machines too. Often they don't even think of running your work on a digital press until you suggest it.
    Ask them what the cheapest way to do things are. At a local shop you'll talk to a salesperson, who will pitch you a price. Of course, they want to sell you more print. But if you tell them what you're goals are, they'll help you with economical paper choices and other cost saving things, in the bindery for instance.
    Get your files in order, in pdf. If they don't have to do much pre-press, that will save you.

    Service is better, proofing is better, quality is often better. I'm not simply trying to say "go local" here--digital printing is the way of the future in my opinion, and now the tech is really catching up with desktop publishing. Even for color.

    cheers and good luck
  3.  (4781.9)
    @rothstel I've looked into using some local print shops for the single issues I'm making and the bottom line is that it's cheaper for me to go with something like Ka-Blam at least for a smaller run of single issues. I don't have to pay trim or stapling costs. We'll see what it looks like when I get a test copy back though.
    Oddly enough, Ka-Blam only accepts TIFF files whereas Comixpress accepts damn near ANY file which is probably really inconvenient for them. I would like to switch to a printer eventually but that's only if I can get this thing off the ground.
  4.  (4781.10)
    I found CreateSpace to be surprisingly easy. I enjoyed the challenge of creating and designing my own cover, and the process really solidifies the book as an extension of my work, rather than the writing itself. I did my MA work on liberature, which is a movement that asks - among other things - the writers to be involved in the entire bookmaking process instead of handing the manuscript off to someone else. It's like writing music and then giving the sheets to someone else to play without any instructions on what kind of instruments to use. It's similar to how Mark Z. Danielewski went to the publishers to be hands-on with his book House of Leaves, because the book itself is so much more than the story, in some ways.

    Anyway, I really like how when I look at my book, I know that the whole thing is how I wanted it, warts and all.
    • CommentAuthorwhatever
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    If my price sheet is still accurate, a batch of 100 8.25"x11" 300pg books would run you $6.57@ from Lightning Source.

    Ordered as a one off from, say, Amazon the production cost would be $6.70 (no bulk discount).

    Lightning Source: learn to love it.
  5.  (4781.12)
    So long as you love doing your own distrib.

    The appeal of things like Lulu and Createspace is that they'll take care of the whole deal if you want them to. I don't have time to stuff envelopes.
    • CommentAuthorwhatever
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    Ah, but Lightning Source is _owned_ by a book distributor. When Amazon/B&N/random bookstore orders, they ship it and you don't even pay shipping. Createspace is Amazon-only. Hands-free distribution and better reach than Lulu or Createspace.
    • CommentAuthorVetes
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    So, I'm thinking of self-publishing a short story anthology to sell at a local book store and maybe some conventions and such. However, I have no idea what to use. Let's say I wanted to print off 50 or so of my book through POD. Obviosuly, I would like to have it be purchasable online as well. I can't find the information on lulu, createspace, lightning source, and others until after I make an account.

    Any help?
      CommentAuthorCorey Waits
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009 edited
    @ Vetes, I can't vouch for the others, but you aren't looking hard enough on the Createspace page, 'cause it's easy to find all the relevant pricing info without needing to make an account.

    Start here. That's the book publishing overview page. From there you can easily get to Pricing & Royalty info, and whatever else you might need to know.
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    We at Gameplaywright Press printed our first book, Things We Think About Games (introduction by Wil Wheaton!), with Lightning Source and distribute ourselves. It's doable at this point because our operation is so small, because we're trying to maximize our per-copy profits, and because I'm willing to spend some of my TV-watching time filling envelopes in order to do that. If we'd known how many copies we were going to sell, we might have gone in for a distribution package. We're in our fourth printing since the book came out in August, which is much better than we expected. (These are tiny print runs made possible because they're POD.)

    We sell copies from our site via PayPal, but we're doing the bulk of our business through Amazon and Indie Press Revolution. We had Lightning Source send one of our print runs straight out to IPR, which is essentially distribution.

    Note also that Amazon isn't discounting our price at all, which helps us with the per-copy profits as we intended, but probably isn't helping us sell more copies. We're still refining our goals and our methods as we learn.

    We chose Lightning Source based mostly on production costs — we knew we wanted a stack of books to toss into retail channels and have at the summer conventions, and the cost to have a stack of them on hand through Lulu was too much for us.

    That said, I had a good relationship with Lulu when I was building the POD projects for White Wolf's Alternative Publishing projects and would recommend them if you want POD-style order fulfillment. The Lulu reps were passionate and helpful in lots of good ways, and we printed some special POD editions of Requiem for Rome as promos for conventions and writers. White Wolf's offered a lot more POD titles since then.

    We're working on our next two titles now and, unless something changes soon, we'll be printing under the same model if only because it worked for us once. I'm eager to try out some other POD projects, though, and am loving the hell out of this thread.
    • CommentAuthorWidgett
    • CommentTimeJan 21st 2009
    Okay, here's the tale. I finished my novel, Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, a while back. Back before POD we have now, back before much of anything. Let's just say that I explored self-publishing (pre-POD) after I became convinced I was wasting my time trying to get my book published by a traditional publisher. And self-publishing in that way didn't seem to work for me for two reasons: overhead costs (I was in college) and lack of space to become a warehouse. To get enough books to bring the price point down, I could basically sleep on stacks of my books for God knows how long in my small apartment. So I waited. And when POD became viable, I leapt on it. This was...2003. I did mine through Three Moons Media, a front end to Booksurge and run by some people who were attached to the hosting company I used at the time. The people there were very easy to talk to, correspond with, revise with, and they gave me what I wanted. I designed my own covers and basically just handed them the text and the artwork and they assembled it. It was worth the upfront cost (which I think was $200 at the time...not sure what it is now) because just like Warren doesn't want to stuff envelopes, I don't want to learn Quark or other programs. I already know more programs than I want to at this point anyway. So it was worth it to me to save myself that headache.

    My book got in print, I sold some copies, and the copies continue to sell at a steady trickle. I've since published a collection of short stories as well using the same means, Magnificent Desolation.

    My first novel is available here from Amazon or here as a free downloadable PDF. It's a straight up fiction coming of age story. I tell people I got the normal book out of my system first. And it was just important that I prove to myself I could write a novel.

    My short story collection is available here on Amazon or here as a free downloadable PDF. It's less normal.

    If you download a freebie, all I ask in return is you tell me what you thought of it. widgett at need coffee dot com.

    This year I plan to publish a collection of my poetry--two chapbooks I self-published that I sold out of and a third book's worth of unreleased material--and also the first two "seasons" of my Something Else short fiction pieces as one volume. Something Else is where I started writing on my phone wherever I could based on pics I took with my phone's camera--inspired by Warren's Available Light...which if you haven't read, I urge you to do so. So that's sixty-two finished short stories, of which the first two "seasons" make up forty-eight. I started thinking of them as episodes of the anthology television series I'll never get to make. So, hence the seasons.

    One last thing and I promise to go away. I know there's been some concern about POD and what good it is. Why should I if I'm not going to sell more than just to family and friends...and the like. Here's my thing: the major problem here is that everybody has differing definitions of "success." To me, success was opening the box and seeing a bunch of copies of my book in print. I cannot tell you how unbelievably badass that moment was. And it was just as badass for my second book. I don't know how you guys reacted to that moment, but I don't see how that can ever get old. Maybe I'm just a total attention whore and like seeing my name in print. Anyway, I give more copies away of them than I should because I want to be read. That's what I do this for. If your idea of success is being able to get your friends and family to buy your book, then that's cool for you. If your idea of success is to be the next Insert Famous Author Name Here, for example, then POD is not some sort of magic bullet that will make that happen. You'll still have to bust your ass to market and sell and all of that. The main benefit is you get to start now rather than wait for a publisher to tell you when you can.

    It makes me happy as hell to see so many people on this thread getting in print and using POD for so many different types of books. And I urge anybody reading this: stop waiting for permission from some traditional publisher to open a box of your own books. I don't care what service you use, but if you've got something you want people to read and you believe it's worth being read, then just use something.

    Okay, rant-thing ends. Thanks for the thread, Warren.
  6.  (4781.18)
    We've been using Lulu for Æternal Legends (my first creator-owned RPG!) but that's not too unusual given that it's a roleplaying game. We point people to our Lulu page, or they can buy from Indie Press Revolution, or Lulu do distribution direct to game stores that order from us. Given that there's two people in total involved in the process, both of whom have day jobs, it abstracts the whole printing/warehousing/distribution chain nicely. We also use Lulu to provide copies to Indie Press Revolution, who act as a distributor. Which is damn handy, really.

    The market for small-press pen'n'paper RPGs is tiny. Tiny. As in, the hundreds. Publishers know that and savvy purchasers know that. So the whole segment has jumped at the chance to do POD, mostly through Lulu. If it weren't for POD, we'd never get to publish physical product; gamers in general have embraced the PDF e-book in ways that other segments haven't simply because for the longest time it was the only way to get small-press stuff. Now a lot of stuff is being offered POD and that's in response to customer demand: people said "I'd be willing to pay the price of a book if this was actually a book, but the PDF price is too high." Publishers thus flocked to Lulu and the like so they could offer books.
    • CommentTimeJan 22nd 2009
    I've seen a couple of mentions of, which is the site we were considering publishing Zombie Death Squad through. Can anyone tell me if it gets you n ISBN as well? As then we can see about getting the book stocked at stores.

    The whole POD thing is something I've just started looking into myself, as a way to maybe bring in some much needed money. I'm currently in the process of putting together and then deciding if I'll go ahead with it, a poetry book and a book of short stories. The comic is something I'm doing as part of a group, so that will definately happen. Ka-Blam seems to be the best site we've come across so far, and we know that Monkeys With Machineguns use them, so we kinda automatically assumed we will too. But if anyone knows a POD site that does comics that they think is better (and more importantly, cost effective), gives a shout like.
    • CommentAuthorwhatever
    • CommentTimeJan 22nd 2009
    @ mojojoseph: If you're doing a color floppy, you're probably best off with Ka-Blam. Seems to be consensus

    @widgett: One of the interesting things about POD that really scares traditional publishing houses is that if the author has a certain amount of resources, it can be very hard to differentiate between "traditionally published" and "independent author." To be sure, there's an economy of scale for book store release, but in e-commerce/mail order world, more and more authors are getting shifted out of the stores. (Wish I had the link from the Fall about how chain bookstores can and can't choose their stock on a store by store level.) The e-Reader Device Wars are in their early stages, and those have the potential to further blur the lines in a few years, should something take off. Their are different service levels to the various POD offerings and if somebody's only interested in being in print and doing a friends & family run, Lightning Source isn't the way to go. Lulu and CreateSpace (which used to be BookSurge, IIRC) fill the one-off, low circulation run nicely with much less set-up costs.