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James J. Marry

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A Given Take: The Quest for Mainstream PODs continues.
by James J. Marry   

Last edited: Monday, November 25, 2002
Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

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An author's understanding of the world related to promoting POD fiction in a publishing atmosphere that changes constantly. Written by James Marry, author of Shut Up available from most retailers of sci-fi mystery- winner of the 2001 FNAA award.

For those of you who haven't read my previous article on "Print On Demand", I might suggest that to do so is unnecessary. I say that because my development as a commercial writer has taken some very DIFFERENT turns since I last updated that article in April of 2001. At that point, I was rapidly adjusting to the changes that had taken place in publishing with my sci-fi mystery serial and now I have come to the conclusion that one thing is true . The one thing that stays the same is that everything changes.
Okay. Now, we have all heard that statement made regarding thousands of disparate issues and sometimes it will ring true r than other times. For the most part, I have to share with you that although this statement is not entirely a "cop-out", it does come relatively close. To say that publishing is always going to change is clearly true . So why say it?
I think that as authors we have to remember that fact because it means only one thing. It means that we have to keep learning if we are going to stay in the game. Print On Demand offered me an opportunity to offer something outside of the stuff I read everyday, in every book I read, with every character dilemma I shared, and every plot examination I had consumed- to the hungry public. I must say that I am at least pleased that this goal was met for me- though it may be breeding something different some time after the initial event took place.
I admit that some of my initial concerns regarding this experiment do still exist regarding Publishing On Demand.The selling system of books gave me great pause regarding the scale of PODs. Hopefully, each of you realize that when you have a Publishing agreement with a true house that you are expected to sell your books to readers. You will do signings and promotions from day one or the house will drop you like a bad habit. Trade shows and interviews are not to be turned down by any new author and get your running shoes ready. You are going to travel.
And by the way- keep your purse clasp open. The costs for most of your sell-promotion will come from you. Also, you should know that with the time you are going to spend making your child grow into an adult, you might not be able to keep a paying job to feed your normal life style none the less the expense of being a traveling medicine show for a new career in most author's cases. Luckily, with most real publishers you will see the golden goose wink at you before this adventure all begins.
Unluckily, near all of that precious advance money any author will receive on a first or second novel or publication of any kind is very likely to go to this vacuum. At least in the "Real World" publishing scenario, an author does get that money to begin their quest and with subsequent sales has the potential to continue the adventure. Since the publisher has "placed a bet" that you child will succeed into maturing to your choice of career, you also have a little help from that school also.
This "little help" that I refer to can be magnanimous. The publisher will list your book for libraries and bookstores. For a "Big Six" company, this carries great weight in that Mom and Pops, small chains, and the superstores will all see you as a new author who has proven themselves to a hard edged business conglomerate who sees potential in the selling of your book. Not a bad chance that they might just take notice and buy some copies to put on their shelves. Wow.
Think about that. Your book could be purchased by a reader on the day that his eyes are first introduced to your work. Sure, the publisher will probably only push the book to some test market areas, but they will definitely try to use every copy that create with your initial printing as well. So... if Publishing International advances you against 10,000 copies of your child, then PI's marketers will be tasked with placing every one of these copies in a store somewhere. With an order being three to ten copies (predominantly three I would suggest) then somewhere in that neighborhood of 3000 stores could be seeing your book in a shelf space.
Now, let's take a reality check with that. Do you think that most fiction authors with their first novel are going to see an advance against 10,000 copies? And if they did give you that advance, could you live on it until your next book publishes? Even with the added expense that promotion of your book and travel will add to your new jobless experience?
So you've spent a year or so writing the great novel. Congratulations. Now, after a year of search, I'm going to give you and advance against three years of sales of that book for 10,000 copies. I'm even going to give you 30% commission. Our publishing company will sell your book to retailers for $4.00 each since they will need to sell it for $7.95, soooooo... You get 30% of 10,000 times $4.00 or $12,000. Now we want you to sell your book at 3000 locations. Are you ready to go?
Knowing every last drop of this information will not make a writer cease writing. If it gives you any reason to stop writing, then you shouldn't have started to write. Why? Because you are fairly unlikely to get a deal this good in the first place on a first book. Hard Facts are that this is a pretty rosy picture and not a worst case scenario. You might very well be Isaac Asimov or James Michener, but let me pint this out to you. Nobody knows that you are a great writer. Starvation takes a lot less time when you think about it everyday also.
Go long and keep your hands open if you are truly a writer though. Because writing is much less a career for the novelist than it is an obsession. Enter PODs.
I know I lead this piece with the impression that I am telling you about POD novelists and their Quest for Mainstream. Well, heidy-ho and here we go. I am. What is the number one factor missing from this equation for a faithful Print On Demand writer? It's the money, baby! You get to do all of this without any advance and without any placement for your book. At least the new writer on the shelves that I described has 10,000 books out there that can be bought today. He also has a $7.95 paperback price for his artwork. Anybody have a POD work out there for $7.95 that can be read by a buyer today? I didn't think so. And the $12,000 in advance money could give the author a warm fuzzy that PODs only get cold pricklies with. It is not a great way to get attention either.
My novel "Shut Up" that I tossed at this market is a serial. My current plan is to write four more novels using the same concept and main characters- a good thing since Go Figure is ready to breathe soon. The greatest positives for the experience come from three directions. The first is that my readers absolutely love the work. I get new feedback everyday and it is all good. As a starving writer ( I'm an electronics engineer in my alter ego so don't pity me too quick), I absolutely must get this great feedback and I couldn't get it if the book was not being printed. I get e-mail from Europe, Asia, South America and Australia thanking me for writing a story that is different than normal fiction. I can't wait to hear from Africa and Antarctica.
The second positive is that carrying the Shut Up paperback with me on my 150 plus flights per year (from the engineer thing), I have the opportunity to put it in some incredible hands. Point in case, I flew some months ago to North Carolina on a connecting flight. The first leg, I met a very nice lady who was curious about my work. I knew that "talk is cheap" and especially on an hour and a half flight. I'm guilty of talking to anyone and not just about the books. Wound up that her husband is Hollywood infringed and they book received reading by Tri-Star Studios personnel of Sony fame. Unfortunately, the ladies husband didn't read the book, so conversations didn't commence, but... If I hadn't had a book to give the lady on that flight, what was the potential of anything happening? Zippo! Praise POD for that possibility, as shallow a possibility as it is.
And finally, POD gave me an opportunity to write a story- hell, a set of stories- that I feel certain could not have ever gotten published as a first novel for James Marry anywhere else. Now I have a web site on getting hit 10 to 20 times a day to see the work that I'm doing. My screenplay is in revision and my articles and short works are eagerly looked forward to by more than a thousand readers. POD brought that to Shut Up and the subsequent work. Plus, my fans talk about it. And the numbers climb.
So don't think for a moment that I don't see the strength that POD offers to the writer. I laud these strengths and I can only offer one piece of advice to any fiction writer who sees POD as their Valhalla.
Be patient, keep working and keep writing.

James J. Marry can be contacted through or at 

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