Saturday, January 30, 2010

What is a POD? And What is "Maintaining Control" of Your Book?

Earlier today, I made a post on an Amazon forum about POD publishers. What does it mean to be a POD? What is the difference between service oriented PODs like iUniverse, AuthorHouse, and Xlibris as opposed to other PODs like Lightning Source and TextStream. And what does using one POD over the other mean in terms of your control. As one of the principal goals I stated in the previous post is maintain maximum control over all aspects of your book, I thought it would be a good idea to repost my response to another author's question about iUniverse, what does it mean that iUniverse is a POD, and what impact does using their ISBN over buying your own ISBN have over your "control" over your book.

Here is my response...

Keep in mind that Print On Demand is only a method of printing. iUniverse, Xlibris, Createspace, Lightning Source are all the same, POD companies, the real difference is the level of service that they offer to help you get your book ready for market. Lightning Source and Text Stream are bare bones, they do nothing except accept your files and print your book. iUniverse, Xlibris, Createspace offer more services--editing, marketing, book design, etc. The result is the same. Your book is printed as the book is ordered - print on demand. They are NOT publishers per se, they are printers. But because they provide you with the use of their ISBN number and their printing service, you are bound by their terms. For a publisher to be a publisher in the true sense of the word, they will not charge you a penny. They will do everything from editing book design, marketing, etc. AND pay you a royalty. Through iUniverse and such services YOU PAY them to handle those services ... and that makes you a self-publisher when you use them.

In terms of your ISBN, iUniverse is the publisher associated with your ISBN number--not JOe Shmoe. So, if you, as Joe Shmoe, wanted to take that ISBN and print your book with TextStream (baker and taylor), or Lulu, or Booksurge, for example, you as "Joe Shmoe" could not use that ISBN number anywhere you choose to use it. iUniverse will always be the publisher of record for that ISBN, not you.

Here's a practical example.

9780615307046 is my ISBN number.

That number is associated with K.L. Brady/LadyLit Press (my imprint). I use that ISBN number with Lightning Source, Createspace, and Text Stream - and the publisher of record is K.L. Brady/LadyLit Press.

Your ISBN number is 987876568788, that number is associated with iUniverse, iUniverse uses that number to get you into Lightning Source -- and the publisher of record is iUniverse.

What does that mean for you?

Say you and I want to get our books into a Bart's Bookstore. Bart requires requires a 50% wholesale discount and returnability and that the book should be competitively priced at $14.95 to sell.

For me, it's not an issue. I can set my price at whatever I want, I can offer returnability (and it doesn't cost me a penny, no special service to purchase), and I can dictate my wholesale discount.

iUniverse dictates your wholesale discount and your price. So, iUniverse may say the maximum discount you can offer is 40% and your minimum price is $16.95. Furthermore, iUniverse says books cannot be returned.

I've just got my book on a bookstore shelf and you did not, because iUniverse controls your terms--and I control my terms.

It makes a big difference for stores. Otherwise, it's not a big deal.

Also, I'm not saying those are iUniverse's terms, I'm just using those figures and policies as an example because that's how most PODs work. They dictate your price, your wholesale discount, and your returnability. I maintain total control over everything.

That is the difference.


  1. Great! I actually started a writer's blog as well a few weeks back but not quite as detailed as yours since I am not yet where you are with this even though I have obviously realized a lot of things I would do differently next time. My story will be more complete in a few months!
    Today I posted info about reduced ISBN costs for 2010 and a Writing Contest. Check it out


  2. are so right because I am actually in the process of getting my book printed by Lightning Source so I can have Ingram distribute. I just set up my acct with them. Borders cannot (does not want to) order my book from Createspace because they are competitors. My first Book Signing went well and they will carry the book if others go well that I have set up. There was no one stop shop for this info. All these publishers with free publishing guides did not really give up the goods because they want you to use them. I had to find info in bits and pieces all over the net. So yes, I will direct my writer friends to your blog. Then I don't have to repeat the same info and maybe they'll believe someone
    The real issue for me was with the ISBN. I did not come across info stating exactly why I needed mine till much later so that was already done.

  3. This is excellent! I have heard it is best to get your own ISBN when you self publish but I never truly understood why until I read your post. Thanks for your blog, I am enjoying reading through the content.