Monday, November 12, 2007

Q&A a la Ann Landers: Stigma, Book Bigotry, and Other Publishing Terms We May Have Got Wrong

Question: There seems to be some confusion between the terms "print on demand" and "publish on demand." Are some calling self publishing and vanity publishing "publish on demand" hoping to avoid the stigma that's attached to vanity and self publishing?

Answer: The term "publish on demand" rather than "print on demand" goes all the way back to the days when monks published a book when they got orders. They'd copy it, illuminate it and deliver it. But only if they already had a client waiting. The term "publish on demand" has a long tradition. We moved away from the monk's model when printing presses were developed. Large runs were more economical so we printed 'em up and waited for orders.

"Print on demand" became a term when digital printers became available. We could go back to doing it "on demand" as the monks did it but it with a lot more speed. Of course, it was also--to many--still "publish on demand." To further complicate the issue, M.J. Rose (and I'm only paraphrasing) said in Poets and Writers that publishing is a word that should only be used when a book is both printed and promoted. I agree. Printing up a bunch of books or even getting one ready to be printed on demand isn't really publishing. Further, the big publishers do a disservice to the whole industry when they print a book and then don't give over a budget so that readers will know it well enough to buy it.

Now, about that stigma thing. Let's just ditch the term "vanity publishing." Some of the best (and richest) authors I know self-publish. The kind of press they use does not make their books bad or good. The content makes them good; their promotion makes what they do lucrative.

In fact, let's ditch anything that smacks of book bigotry. Let's stop doing what we were told never to do when we were young. Let's stop judging books by their covers. And that's a metaphor for judging them any way at all other than by their content.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author THIS IS THE PLACE; HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED; TRACINGS, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T; and THE FRUGAL EDITOR: PUT YOUR BEST BOOK FORWARD TO AVOID HUMILIATION AND ENSURE SUCCESS.
Her other blogs include
www,TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favoite reviews.
www,AuthorsCoalition.blogspot.com, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.
www.TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com, a blog about editing, grammar, formatting, indexing--all the nitty-gritty parts of publishing we're not to fond of but need to know.

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