There is a discussion on Scribophile about Print On Demand, specifically, can you make money with it? Here are some of the comments:

> One entry says:

I formatted and uploaded my book to Amazon paperback format today. I went to price the book.  Amazon informed me that the print cost as about $7 bucks.  I chose 60% royalties.  And the lowest Amazon would let me price is $13.  And at the $13 price point, I make exactly $0 dollars.

Ok, I figured that the missing $6 would go to shipping. I went to order a few copies for myself, and Amazon is charging shipping on top of the base price. Also, I have heard something about “author copies” that cost less.  (Is this a real thing?)

> Re: CreateSpace.

It’s really ridiculous how much they charge for POD. At first it seems very reasonable – they get 40% and the author gets 60% BUT added to their 40% is a “flat charge” of $.85 on books 180+ pages and a per page charge of $.012 per page for 180+ pages. After all is said and done the author only get less than 15% – after US taxes it’s less than 10% – UGH. All of this was based on a price point of US $8.99.

Also I believe the author copies are $4 and change – but I’m sure that people that are more “in the know” can answer better.

> I don’t actually . . .

self pub through Amazon. I use, once you approve your book then they link it to Amazon and couple of bookstores. If you order your copies and sell yourself you can make quite a lot of money.


Does anyone here do POD? It occurs to me that to set up at a sidewalk/school arts/craft fair with copies of your book would at least have your thing seen by a lot of people. Best would be to get yourself written up in your local paper and blow it up into a poster.


> Here are some words of wisdom from Jay, formerly of Book Country:

As someone who has a work available in POD you will be in that great fraternity of the self-published. No one on planet Earth will be aware that you have a book available for sale, other than because you sent them to that Internet sales page. Does my telling you that I have one of my novels available free on Smashwords motivate you to rush over there to read it? Probably not, and that’s free.

Would it make you rush were I to tell you it’s really good (just as every self published novel’s blurb does)? Again, probably not.

How about if I tell you that you can buy a printed copy for twelve dollars, plus shipping? Not much of a plus, when you can buy an award winning author for a lot less in your local bookstore, and pay no shipping fee.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but my view is that if we can write well enough to be worth the money—professional level writing—we can sell our work to a publisher. And if not…

Well, I disagree with that. Trad publishers are looking for work that is commercial, highly salable, according to their idea of that elusive quality. That method bypasses a lot of good stuff.

> And, a rebuttal: 

That’s a pretty gloomy outlook and incorrect IMHO. I have a friend who has written a series of 6 novellas, no more than 30 minute reads each that sell for $1.99 for digital copies and $9.99 for print, she’s making a cool $60k/yr. Self Published and POD. It just takes a little work. If you’re a midgrade author with a “normal” publisher you’re not going to do any better than that and still have to do 90% of your own advertising and promotions.

Several people on Scrib say that small publishers use POD, CreateSpace, whoever. Is this true? Atthys, you should know the answer to this. I have imagined that POD must have a giveaway lesser quality of materials. But if a legitimate small publisher uses it, that can’t be true.

> Finally, another rebuttal . . .

to the first rebuttal to Jay’s gloomy words: Jay’s post is the cold, hard truth. Sad but true and what aspiring writers need to know.


I want to know if POD is a waste of time or not. Who’s dipped a toe into this fountain? Somebody thinks it useful. I begin to see POD jobs move through our compositor process at work. All but first-run titles are followed by a description, pbk (paperback), rerun, enlargement, create final file (for fully illustrated books set up by the publisher’s designer, tricky text wraps and the like), etc. I see, not often, but more and more: POD.

I suppose these jobs must be from small publishers. Next time I get hold of one, I am going to look at the info to see who the client is. Here’s an interesting thought: can it be that even large publishers are going this route, small runs, to manage inventory and returns?

Why do we label them POD? Is there some technical difference between the set up of  a traditional print run and POD? Are costs trimmed/shortcuts taken in one way or another? Are hawking-their-wares authors the main market for POD? Is this the new generation of vanity press? It seems to me more valuable as a sales tool than anything else. I’m going to pay more attention to our POD jobs, try to figure this out.


> A final Scrib post sums it up for us:

Q: How is a writer supposed to make any money?

A: Day job.



23 thoughts on “POD?

  1. GD Deckard says:

    Thanks for the all the info, Mimi 🙂

    I’m interested in “Print on Demand” when Bob Vs The Aliens comes out but it will be a price point decision. Too high & nobody will buy it, too low & I won’t sell it.

    As for self-pub vs traditional publisher, that’s a no-brainer. If the author has to do the marketing then the “traditional publisher” is a worthless leech.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. atthysgage says:

    The publisher of Whisper Blue (Black Opal Books) says the paperback is not POD, but all that means is that they probably order small print runs in advance. I don’t know how small, but I’d bet they’re tiny, so there’s not that much difference. With one exception: a lot of brick-and-mortar bookstores will not carry POD titles. So maybe Black Opal skirts around that by having tiny print runs. It’s not like it makes much difference. No bookstore is carrying the book except the local one that is carrying it on consignment becuase I brought them four copies, and no, they are not selling.

    As far as I can see, POD is fine. If people want the book, you can make money. If not, then no. My books can be had in paperback throught Createspace, but very few sell. The primary business for independent self-publishing authors these days in eBooks, because paperbacks cost too much. The lowest price Createspace will let me sell my paperbacks for is around $12, which is a lot to ask people to spend on an unknown author. (And yes, shipping is added on top of that.) I offer my books on consignment for a lot less in the local bookstore (so no shipping, either) but it’s still too high a price.

    (By the way, if royalties through Createspace really work out to 15% that’s actually better than most authors make even selling through a big name publisher. Ten percent is the industry norm, even less for mass market.)

    Re this: ” I have a friend who has written a series of 6 novellas, no more than 30 minute reads each that sell for $1.99 for digital copies and $9.99 for print, she’s making a cool $60k/yr. Self Published and POD. It just takes a little work.”

    I’ve certainly heard of writers making this work, but it isn’t nearly as easy as this comment suggests. It requires a lot of luck and a lot of marketing. An author has to find a niche that sells and figure out how to captilize on it. It certainly takes more than “a little work.” In fact, very few authors acheive this level of success. (And seriously, 10 bucks for a 30 minute read? Who can do that?) I’d like to see this author’s work and try to figure out how they are managing consistent 60K per year sales, ‘cuz that’s exceptional.

    One final note: there are two advantages to small press publication: free editing and free covers. These are not negligible perks. That said, I still can’t say that small press is any real advantage over self publishing.

    That’s your gloomy news round up for June 19th, and your reporter, signing off.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. There are many, many indie authors making six figures a year. A lot of them post at the kboards writers’ cafe, and I never read about them attributing much of their success to selling paperbacks. Ebooks and audible – that’s where the money is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GD Deckard says:

      This question is meant to be more friendly than it might sound:
      A WHOIS check shows that “” is a secretly registered domain name. Can you say who currently owns the forum?


      • I only joined a couple of years ago and am not fully aware of who owns it. I’m pretty sure, though, that it isn’t officially affiliated with Amazon. I’ve seen threads where they mention the founder of kboards and gave his name (which I can’t recall) and referenced the fact that he died.

        To be clear, the moderators there make absolutely no claims; they’re there to keep things civil. The information at the site comes from indie authors (some anonymous and some not) who say, “Hey, this is what I did and these are the results.”

        I tend to trust that most of these authors are making the kind of money that they say they are. Personally, I made ten billion dollars just in the last minute so … Okay so maybe I can see why you might be skeptical 🙂

        All I know is that I’ve learned a lot about the business of self publishing from reading the threads there.

        Liked by 4 people

        • GD Deckard says:


          OKAY 🙂 OKAY I have to defer to anyone who made ten billion dollars just in the last minute.

          I looked at the site and will return for a closer look.
          Thank you, very much, for letting me know about it!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I go the kboards writers’ cafe from time to time and have found some useful information there. There’s a lot to sift through so it can be a bit of a time suck, but useful if one has a specific question and types it into the search bar.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. atthysgage says:

    I, as usual, have gotten curmudgeon all over this thread.

    I didn’t mean to imply that there weren’t plenty of people making money off of ebooks. There are. But they are the exception. (A few thousand succeeding out of millions who are trying is still exceptional.) Most of us aren’t making any money at all, and it’s not for lack of trying. I even understand how most of them seem to be doing it (write in one genre, write a ton of books, market to your own email list of former readers) but obviously there are also many things I don’t understand as well. I wish I did, but my investigations usually lead me to transparent gurus who will gladly share all the secrets if I only pay them sufficiently. (Transparent Gurus. Sounds like a Robyn Hitchcock cover band.)

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m in my third year as an indie author and am almost ready to publish my third novel. I was in the red up until March, but now that I’m in the black, I fully expect to stay that way. My thinking is that this is pretty decent for a new business. I’m making a profit in my third year, and my income is increasing as I release more books.

      As far as I can tell, the biggest key is – write a lot of books. I hear over and over again – if you want to be a full time indie author, you have to put out between 4 and 12 full length novels a year.

      That still seems daunting to me, but my efficiency and productivity are climbing as I get more experience. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for me to publish three this year.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    I typed POD into our database last night. We have had about twenty jobs in the past two years labeled POD. Here’s the strange thing: eighty percent of those jobs were from Farrar Straus Giroux.

    The titles all look like mainstream titles. Save Room For Pie. Waiting For The Past. The French Intifada. I am mystified.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GD Deckard says:

      I think they’re affiliated with Macmillan. Since Penguin & Harper Collins work together, I suspect all large publishers are linked.

      Consider toasters. Yup, the things that toast bread.
      There are many, many brands on the market but all the heating elements are made in Chinese factories that make identical heating elements. So no matter what brand name and style of toaster you prefer, the only difference is the name & style.


  6. Perry Palin says:

    With POD a physical copy of a book is not produced until it is sold. POD is a strategy to save on the costs of printing and warehousing. Most of Mimi’s Scribophile comments are about who gets paid how much for each copy. Amazon is the Godzilla of book sales and Amazon makes the rules, and CreateSpace is Amazon’s baby. If we want to self-publish without a big up-front investment, if we think our market is worldwide, we’ll play by their rules. If we admit to a narrower target audience, there are alternatives.

    A publisher in a nearby small town helps local authors bring their books into print with CreateSpace. His clients have written local histories, family histories, or personal memoirs. Each has a limited audience. They have a small financial investment in their books. They are happy to buy a few copies at a time at the author’s discount. The authors set up their own readings and signings. They have their Amazon pages, and no one buys their books there. Their sales are through hand selling print copies and they make a little money on each copy. No one is getting rich, but they are glad to have their books in print.

    Before CreateSpace, local authors used one of several area printing companies to design, format, and print their books. They had more up-front money in the project, but they kept more of the revenue, and made their own decisions on pricing, marketing, print runs, warehousing, fulfillment and distribution. A good first book will sell a couple hundred copies locally, which is as good or better than the majority of first time unknowns on Amazon.

    The small traditional publisher of my two short story collections does not do POD, but uses short print runs. I haven’t asked, but I think he maybe has a financial interest in the print shop. That’s fine with me. He makes another dollar or two on each copy and has better control of the quality of the product.

    My publisher provided book design, editing, formatting, a few things I didn’t want to pay for or have to learn to do myself. The print paperbacks list at $19.95. Most sell at a discounted price. Depending on how they’re sold, my take is $4.50-$8.00 per copy. I have a narrow target audience, and I was blessed by early unsolicited good reviews from influential readers. I don’t know that I’ve lost sales due to the price. I’ve made a little money, but sales would be higher if I worked at it. Just today I heard from a small business owner who thought my books would complement his products, and he asked how he could easily access them. I asked him if he wanted to start with fifty copies, but apparently I was a little premature with that. When the call was over we were friends.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mimispeike says:

      You have a method that works for you. That’s wonderful.

      My goal is not to make money, I actually give a shit about money. That pie in the sky is too much pie in too much sky. I want to find my audience, period. I will use POD for novelty paperdoll books, as a sales tool. I expect to be famous (or infamous, like Amanda McKittrick-Ros) one day, long after I’m dead. And nobody but nobody is going to talk me out of that idea.

      I would be honored to be listed along with her on the site The Worst Books Ever Written. Or maybe it was Life Is Too Short To Read Bad Books. I was introduced to her on some such a site, and I will be forever grateful to them.

      Here’s the beauty of this mindset: I will never find out I’m wrong.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Perry Palin says:


        Love your comment.

        I’ve made “a little money” with my stories, but not enough to move above amateur rank. My publisher, who is a nice guy, told me before we released the first book that I might not make a lot of money with the stories, but I would make some friends. He was right, and the friends are more important than the money.


  7. mimispeike says:

    It’s Thursday, I see nothing in the pipeline, I’ll keep on yakking.

    You all know MOMA. Do you know MOBA, in Boston? (Is it still a going thing? I don’t know.) MOBA: Museum of Bad Art. The criteria: work created with a serious purpose, an attempt to create something of genuine quality, that fails miserably. Run-of-the-mill schlock doesn’t qualify.

    Frankly, I see that as part of my joke. In case you haven’t realized it by now, because of the screwball nature of my tale, I feel I have carte blanche to do as I please.

    Liked by 1 person

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