by Floyd M. Orr
Not "rated" by the Author.
edited: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2004
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There is an elephant in our refrigerator that we rarely mention when discussing the sales, or lack thereof, of our books.
You may have been reading on numerous Internet message boards very heated discussions that have invariably turned into childish slap-fights over why POD authors are treated so derisively by traditional publishers, reviewers, the media, and even the reading public. We as POD authors tend to read these with the same intensity that we watch the aftermath of traffic accidents on the freeway. We are very glad that we happened to be driving in the other lane, but we still want to know how badly someone else was injured. We also want to know how and why the tragedy occurred. As self-published authors, we want to know more than anything else on earth why our books are not selling in the numbers we had expected. We want to know about the failures as well as the triumphs. At least one of the slapping authors is usually one whose books either have not been out long enough or the author has not done enough research of the problem or spent enough time and/or money on promotion, or someone who is kind enough to defend the rights of others in the pursuit of their publishing goals. The antagonist is usually a mean spirited, know-it-all, holier-than-thou personality type. He insists that he knows all about how POD publishing is nothing but a scam; POD is a process, not a type of real publisher; 99% of all POD books are poorly written and edited and ready for the dumpster; nobody is a real author until they have released a book with an established, traditional publisher; and/or that POD books nearly always sell so poorly that anyone who releases a book with an established, mass-market, accept-every-manuscript, POD company is a sucker of the most obvious type. Let's cut to the chase, shall we? I am sick of reading these diatribes, and you probably are, too. I cannot speak for you, but I am tired of reading about it because there is one ominous presence in our modern culture that has ruined it for all of us that is never mentioned, although I sincerely think it is truly embedded within the minds of some of those presenting the nicer side of the argument. The antagonistic side just shows its level of fatheaded ignorance by not mentioning it. Of course they are aware of it. Their usual intention in the first place is to start an argument. If they told the whole truth, there would be no fight. The people starting these heated discussions are just massaging their own egos. I am going to drag the vampire out into the sunlight. The ominous presence is the way that American corporations for more than thirty years have systematically controlled the consuming public for the creation of unfathomable profits. The key is not simply that business is in the business of making money, and that's the way it has always been. The key is the way the corporations have slowly, carefully, and deliberately strangled the life out of the middle class since the first hint of economic downturn came to America in 1970. The Sixties really were a special time. If you were born after the Baby Boomers, they don't even want you to know this. They want you to think that life in these United States has always been this way. They want you to think you have to buy $100 sneakers made by children in Southeast Asia for two bits an hour. They want you to think that the job market has to be founded on quicksand. They want you to be so absorbed with selfish consumerism and celebrity worship that you never see what they are doing behind the curtain like The Wizard of Oz. Do you think this has nothing to do with why your book isn't selling? Do the corporate mergers have nothing to do with why your manuscript was immediately thrown in the trash by every traditional publisher you sent it to? Does this not also apply to your books that reviewers sell for personal profit on Amazon, Half.com and other sites without even reading them? Ten years ago you at least had a prayer of getting your manuscript into the slush pile without hiring an agent. Today, that's how difficult it is just to get an agent, and without one, your book goes straight to the pleasantly titled Marketplace at Amazon! In spite of all the arrogant egomaniacs telling you how your writing, which they have never read, must show incompetence or else you would land a traditional publishing contract, this is the real reason for the explosive growth of the author-paid, POD publishers. Quality and diversity have been squeezed out of every pore of our consumer culture. The anaconda cares for nothing except short-term profits. If a ghostwritten celebrity autobiography will sell the quickest, then that's what the snake allows to live. It cares nothing for redeeming subject matter or quality writing or the furtherance of art. Snakes can't read and neither can the rats the snakes feed on. While disparaging anything that concerns psychology, sociology, or many of the other social sciences, the corporations have learned how to effectively use them to control us. The American public, in its own way unique to our time, is as brainwashed as any culture in all of human history. We hoot and holler so much about our freedoms that we never see the forest for the trees. We are so busy convincing ourselves that it is our right to buy the tabloid trash at the checkout stand that we never realize how many of us must really be buying it! When we learn how many thousands a photographer was paid for an embarrassing photo of a celebrity, we need to extrapolate truly how many copies of the trashy tabloids must be selling to consumers. When we witness the extreme success of some of the tackiest shows on television, we must wonder how many quality programs never make it to the airwaves. When we know how many of our consumer goods are manufactured by young women and children in sweatshops, why do we keep buying more and more of them at Wally-world? Why do we keep choking down McCardboard burgers, washed down with overpriced sugar water? Are we really that stupid? There is a method to this madness, and you can read more about it in my own POD books. I know how the pythons and anacondas have so easily succeeded in their asphyxiation of American culture. We must fully accept our own part in this psychotic nightmare before we can stop it. This is what we must learn before we can turn the tide. This is what I call The Last Horizon. Book Sales - Part 2 The hard part is securing a contract with a traditional publisher. The elephant we are discussing is the invisible force that keeps our books from being read and accepted by traditional publishers. We are held at arm's length from the readers to a much lesser degree. Buyers and readers care only that the book is about a subject they want to read. Nothing else really matters to them. Yes, of course it is true that the major POD publishers have opened the floodgates for any hack that wants to claim authorship. We as individual writers can do very little about that, other than making sure that we are not the ones releasing the junk with the bad grammar, sloppy editing, or rambling content. We also cannot help the simple mathematical issue of the cost of printing our POD books in low production numbers. We can only do the best we can with this wonderful new technology that has been offered to us. The great majority of us can only shove the elephant away from the peanut butter when we reach into the fridge for our POD snack. In spite of all the negative harassment we have to read from the many arrogant buttheads who seem to thrive among us, we can succeed in offering the right peanut to the elephant, and that nut can be a POD book. I have personally had an excerpt from my first book published in a pachyderm compilation, and that came about directly because a member of the big gray fraternity read it in my POD book. Not only has this happened, but also you can read more of my writing coming out in another compilation in three months. Yes, you guessed it: Pachyderm Press rides again! The next time you chuckle at a slap-fight between a POD author and his seeming nemesis, just remember this story. You most likely know why you chose to release your book with a POD publisher. The elephant was more than happy to occupy your refrigerator and eat your SkippyJifPeterPan, but he had no intention of taking the morsel you offered. You can get his attention, but first you have to get him out of your refrigerator!
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|Reviewed by Mei Minedow (Reader)
|I am new here and was a little taken-back by Mr. Orr's commentary on Book Sales. My first thought was "Me thinks he doth protest too much" The article had such an angry tone which seems to reflect the defensive attitude of many authors who have used POD technology to get their work into print. Statements such as "The ominous presence is the way that American corporations for more than thirty years have systematically controlled the consuming public for the creation of unfathomable profits" and other "conspiracy" theories regarding the traditional publishing industry, don't serve our industry well.
This is, of course, just my own opinion, but what I think the reality of the situation is, is this:
There are what I call the Top 5 or 10 "glamorous" professions that 99.9% of the worlds population would like to have. These include: 1.)Rock star 2.)Sports star 3.)Movie star/actor 4.)Published Author, etc., etc..
Not many people ever reach one of these coveted positions by virtue of the very few positions, compared to the millions who wish to hold them.
I don't think it's a conspiracy on the part of the traditional publishing industry to hedge out great works by brilliant, yet unknown authors. In fact, the holy grail for a traditional publisher is to find the next JR Rowlings.
The sad fact is that there are MANY more want-to-be authors than bookstore shelves could ever hold. And yes it is very competitive - perhaps THE most competitive profession.
But, I can tell you for a fact that it is possible. Also, most successful authors didn't go looking for it, they just built (wrote) a better mousetrap. They established themselves as experts in a specific field.
In fact, I don't think it is the traditional publishing industry who is snubbing brillant would-be authors; but rather many of the POD services who will publish anything as long as they are paid for it. The logical outcome is a large body of work that is frankly, just awful. When books come from a traditional publisher, while they are not ALL good, they are at least good enough to have made it past the editorial gatekeepers.
If you are a person who just simply MUST see your work in print (and I know MANY with this all consuming desire) then by all means go for it. But in my opinion, the only check an author should be signing is the endorsement section on the back.
Don't let these POD services get rich off of your dreams.
|Reviewed by Eddie Thompson
|There is much to learn about putting work out there. I liked your article concerning POD publishing.|
|Reviewed by Ross Walden (Reader)
|Well said! When we receive yet another rejection letter from a so-called traditional publisher that states, "...we're concentrating on our established authors," it means only that they want to continue to turn out the junk that they have convinced Americans is the only thing out there. If you're not John Grisham or Robert Ludlum, the traditional houses won't even look at your work. Agents are carbon copies of the publishing houses and they only look for the garbage that they're currently selling.
We turn to P.O.D. publishing because we believe in our work and therein lie our problems. The books are more expensive than traditionally published works and there are too many first-time authors who don't see the value of a good copyeditor. I have edited some excellent books that would have received poor reviews and even poorer sales had they been published as they were. I have also bought books as a reader that were embarassing to read because of the spelling and grammatical errors. We must encourage P.O.D. authors, but we must also work to rid the industry of the unedited junk that they publish.
Know a P.O.D. author? Volunteer to edit one of his/her books for free if you have those skills. You'll have the pleasure of reading a great book for free and if the author is worth his salt, you'll get mentioned in the book.
When the junk comes out of P.O.D., the reputation of books from these publishers will slowly improve. When quality is the result, consumers won't mind paying a higher price per book.
|Reviewed by Carol Chapman (Reader)
|I read this and stared in amazement, you expressed in a few, well chosen words exactly what has been causing the itch in my sub-conscious. I spent some time the other day at a major department store looking at clothes trying to find a "Made in America" label with no success, everything was made by babies in another country. I work in an industry that is rapidly outsourcing to other countries the work that used to be done over here. Where did the middle class go, and why have we let our dream slip away?
I'm going to go dig my peanut butter out of the fridge before the elephant eats it too. Thank you for a deeply intuitive look at the slipperly slope we are sending our next generations down.
|Reviewed by Leland Waldrip
|Your words make sense to me, Floyd. I've seen the U.S. change from quality oriented society in the '50s and '60's (with its own set of problems and less than perfect situations) to a cash flow/debt flow society in the last couple of decades where the only thing that matters to much of our public and the institutions that "serve" them is the numeric speed of money flow. All other values are subordinated. And the pace of the change, unfortunately, is accelerating, racing away from real values.
|Reviewed by Michael Charles Messineo
|Well written Floyd!! What some people do not realize is there are two types of POD's. The ones that ask you for money to publish your book, and the others who will do the same job never asking for one cent. I have been lucky to have found the latter. There is always the one underlying truth to getting good book sales numbers and that is by word of mouth. If someone likes your book good enough they will tell everyone they know about it. Then it doesn't really matter who published it.|
|Reviewed by Evelyn Simon
|I never knew how serious this matter actually was.
I'm glad to have read this. I'm a newly POD author, and this makes
me very concerned. I thought the reason for the sluggish sales in
my case, were the cause of the book was not yet found in well-known
bookstores, or lack of promotion; I didn't know it was an inside
business concern. Wow, I have so much to learn.
I truely thank you for sharing this.
Evelyn O. Simon.