Archive for December, 2009

POD Lets Authors Resolve The Catch-22 of Publishing

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Many thanks to Joe Shaw, Executive Editor, for allowing me to excerpt the following article from The East Hampton Press and The Southampton Press. The article was written by Tom Clavin and published on December 8, 2009.

The Cure For Jet Lag by Lynne W. Scanlon and Charles F. Ehret, Ph.D., was published more than a quarter-century ago. Yet it could well represent the future of book publishing.

A Springs trio teamed up this year to issue an updated version of the book using the print on demand—or POD—process. Indeed, with a growing number of writers making use of the POD method, Publishers Row may be moving from Manhattan to the East End, which for many years has already seen its share of writers, editors, and agents.

“This area is a hothouse of creative types, from writers to artists who can benefit from print on demand books,” stated Lynne Scanlon, the co-author of The Cure For Jet Lag.

“These folks will gravitate to POD not only because it is the most expedient way to produce a book, but because literary agents and editors could care less about un-established writers these days.”

But don’t the authors of books published in non-traditional ways risk acquiring a sort of stigma as not really being professional writers, thus giving agents a reason to steer clear? “Good luck finding an agent if you don’t already have one,” Ms. Scanlon said. “That’s the Catch-22 of publishing.”

Her career in publishing has included being a marketing executive with Barnes & Noble and a book publishing consultant in addition to an author. In 1983, she collaborated with Charles F. Ehret, Ph. D.,  who had been conducting research underwritten by the U.S. government to reduce the problems associated with long-distance air travel. The original goal was to make the U.S. Army’s rapid deployment forces more effective.

Dr. Ehret himself served in the Army’s 87th Infantry Division and won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge. With Ms. Scanlon doing the writing for lay readers of the results of Dr. Ehret’s research, Overcoming Jet Lag (the original title) was published.

It was a success when issued by the Berkley Publishing Group, selling more than 200,000 copies worldwide and remaining in print for more than 20 years. Sales eventually faded, but problems with jet lag did not. Last year, Ms. Scanlon wanted to release an updated edition of the book, but did not want to wait the 18 months or more it would take a traditional publisher to have new books on shelves. There was also a financial incentive: After publishers and agents and book wholesalers get their slices of the pie from a $20 book, the author’s slice may be as thin as $3.00.

Ms. Scanlon worked out an arrangement with with Dr. Ehret’s estate and founded Back2Press Books, which specializes in republishing titles that have sold in excess of 100,000 copies. Naturally, The Cure for Jet Lag would be the company’s first effort. There would be no long editing and production process nor any danger of printing thousands of copies that might not sell. The new edition would be printed on demand and be readily available on the internet (www.thecureforjetlag.com) as well as at the major chain bookstores and selected shops.

What is POD, other than the dreaded form of the infestation in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” The plain language answer is that it is a digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound in minutes. This makes it easy and cost-effective to produce books in small lots rather than in large print runs. What has long bedeviled traditional book publishers is the practice of “guestimating” how much a title will sell: if the prediction is wrong, a publisher has to warehouse or even destroy tens of thousands of already-printed books.

(more…)



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