Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Review of 2009- my year as a POD published author

Posted on: December 21, 2009

At the end of 2008, after years of rejection letters from agents and publishers, I decided to publish my novel, ‘Tasting the Wind’ in a ‘Print on Demand’ (POD) format.

POD is not to be confused with self publishing. If I had self-published there would have been a lot more donkey work- buying my own ISBN, submitting the legally required copies to the relevant libraries and so on. It would also- and I have this on the authority of self- published authors- be far more expensive. With conventional self-publishing the author pays for a print run and ends up with a garage full of physical copies. POD books exist in cyberspace, and can be printed off… well on demand, as the term suggests.

So how was it for me?

The down side.

So you can have a nice, glossy covered version of your work without having to suffer another rejection. But what are the down sides?

These are probably in proportion to your expectations. If you think that a POD book is going to make you rich and famous, then think again. Some writers (including myself at one time) will point out the occasional author who has self or POD published and as a result has been ‘noticed’ by a major publisher. These are so few and far between that it can in no way be relied upon to get your book into the bestsellers list. Also, once you have gone down the POD route you have used up your first publishing rights.

 The fact that the technological revolution has enabled you to publish a book which has had no editorial input or proof reading means that anyone at all, regardless of talent or lack of it, can publish a book.  Even as a POD published author I have to admit that I am very careful about buying POD  work, and like to find out as much as I can, including reading a sample if possible. In order to give others a chance to decide before buying ‘Tasting the wind,’ and because I believe it will stand the test,  I have put the opening chapters on my website,  and you can read a whole 25% of it on Smashwords, where it can be downloaded as an e-book.

Even after ten years of work, ‘Tasting the Wind’ admittedly has some typographic and grammatical weak spots. Despite careful readings by myself, family and friends, seeing your book in a published form for the first time will highlight some obvious errors previously unspotted. *

The company that I published with – , have had their fair share of criticism. Their original plan to publish 5000 books by Christmas 2008 was never going to happen in reality. For £39.99 YWO printed my book, bought an ISBN number and placed it on several online book sellers sites including Amazon and Book Depository. YWO get 40% of everything I sell. I am aware that I could have gone down other routes which would have retained me more of the royalties, but as I knew that these would not be phenomenal figures I didn’t get over concerned about this.

I’m not sure if marketing should come under the downs or the ups, as it has provided an enjoyable learning experience. BUT it is hard work, and can consume a lot of your time. The best thing that can happen to a POD book is that it finds a niche audience or manages to get national press coverage (which to my knowledge two YWO books have done.) Talking of the down side, as I am, this brings me to my two greatest disappointments. Both ‘Community are Magazine’ and one of the Royal College of Nursing  journals showed interest then decided not to pursue the interview/ review. An appearance in either of these would have really boosted sales, but que sera sera… 

One last thing about  the downside: there were  frustrating delays in the publication of the book and the appearance for a short time of someone else’s cover with my information on some of the sites.  I don’t know if I’m particularly blessed with patience or just plain stupid, but at a time when people were panicking and withdrawing their work I decided to wait and see. The POD project was new to Ted Smith and the team, and they would be first to admit that there were teething troubles.

Then came the day when the first copy arrived, which leads me to…

The Up Side

I had heard all sorts of terrible things about the quality of POD books, including one of a writer doing a signing where the books were so poorly bound that they fell apart. No such problem with books published by YWO- I have handled several copies of ‘Tasting the Wind’ and books by other YWO authors and all have been sturdy and well produced.

I have made a lot of lovely contacts through developing my web presence. I received an e-mail from an Australian Speech Pathologist who was using parts of ‘Tasting the Wind’ in her lectures. The director of a company which specialises in workplace disability adjustments ordered signed copies for all of  his staff. I was also contacted by friends of David Heffer, a friend and colleague who was killed by the IRA and to whom ‘Tasting the Wind’ is dedicated.

Talking of web presence- I succeeded in what I set out to do by blitzing as many outlets as I could find. Google any combination of ‘Allan Mayer, Tasting the Wind and you will find pages and pages. Not that many people will Google those words, but I am pleased to say that if you also Google ‘Learning Disabilities novel’ I now appear on the first page.

Although, as I said, you will not earn fame and fortune through a POD novel, you may earn a small amount of local celebrity. I have appeared several times in local papers and have been approached by people who have seen the article and even bought the book. I am also pleased to have appeared twice in the magazine of  Derian House children’s hospice, to whom I was proud to give the first month’s royalties.

The critics of POD publishing say that only your friends and family will buy your book. This is patently untrue- living as we do in the world of the internet there is more potential than ever before for creating sales worldwide.

The most important thing is that my book is being read. It is not only being read, enjoyed, and not just sitting on my hard drive.

So how many people have read it?

Well, I once read that a POD book would do well to sell 100 copies. I was happy when I heard that I had sold 122 in the first six months. Fluctuations in my Amazon rankings (U.S. and UK) since then  indicate that it has continued to sell, and I know that some people have passed it on to friends. Having come to the conclusion that my book was not commercial and unlikely to attract a major publisher, I concluded that a small readership was better than none at all. At the end of the day it all comes down to why you write. Yes, fame and fortune as a writer is a highly desirable thing. But in this case so is the thrill of connection I have found when people have sent personal e-mails or written reviews which tell me that they get what I am saying.

I think that fame and fortune can wait until the next book…


*My purpose in writing this post is to give an honest account of my POD experience- not to put you off buying my book.  If you find this off putting please refer to my Amazon reviews, where people I have never met have taken the trouble to point out that despite these issues they would still recommend the book and have given no lower than 4/5 stars.

6 Responses to "Review of 2009- my year as a POD published author"

Now as the night sky crept in, expectations of its creatures and their torment to silence, were that a tranquil slumber would not be harbored till the next day’s dawn. But pleasantly surprised instead, they made a melodic rhythm with their sounds that actually evoked sleep.

Woken refreshed the next morning by the transformation of light; a memory of such a good night sleep could not be had. But upon waking, the realization that this was happening manifested. And the ever present dilemma that he may never make it back home quickly set in, but with a smile of infinite satisfaction he sat, knowing that he never wanted to go back.

Here I am, he thought, outside my element and clueless to everything around me. But already I am happier than I can remember being in years. All my life things were handed to me and I never had to work for anything. Sure I was educated and groomed for success which financially I had. But never was I as happy as now, when I have nothing.

want to read more or get an ebook for2$ go to my web site by the way this is only one of three stroies that are in the book and can be previewed.

Every single thing you have said, Allan, I agree with. I am a writer from 2008 as well and as you have said, found a niche market and managed to get coverage with the national broadcaster in Australia (ABC). In addition bricks and mortar stores have been kind.

I think the stable were more than fortunate that between YWO and Lightning Source (the printers) the actual finished product was so professional. The paper is excellent quality, the reproduction of my professionally designed cover-design and inside graphics was perfect and then of course, we were given ISBN’s and placement on the major lists and on the major-online catalogues. Through that we learned about LOOK INSIDE, about relating to the media, to the internet, to our Facebook fans and any who comment on our blogs and Twitter. In fact all that we would have been required to learn about and participate in with mainstream houses.
Sure its hard work and requires dedication, but that is the lot of a writer anyway, so what’s the difference?
Like you Alan, I’m proud to be YWO writer and commend Ted Smith and YWO for its fearless foresight in the face of critics. Thanks for your commendable blog.

Great to hear from you two and Mr Meyer.

I searched Profound and Multiple Disabilities and found again your excellent book.

Thanks Allan for a very useful review of youwriteon and in particular the publishing side of things.

Clearly the nature of your work meant it was never aimed at a mass market, so POD seems an eminently sensible way to go forward, and clearly has paid off.

But has it encouraged you to write anything else?

Hi miltonkeyneswriter.
Good to hear from you and almost spooky, as Milton Keynes has played a role in the recent good fortune of Tasting the Wind.
Like you say, it was never destined for a mass market, and had a clear niche audience. Just when I thought I had done all the marketing I could (and was getting a bit exhausted by it all) I came across the Social History of Learning Disabilities group at the OU (MK!)
The post following this one is all about that. I did some readings, and as a result have been invited to speak next academic year at Manchester University (Where TTW is on the reading list, I discovered) and I’ll be being reviewed in the British Journal of Learning Disabilities, which is about as big as it gets. Oh, and I’ve been asked by Lancashire Adult Learning if they can use the book on their Learning Disability courses.
So- chuffed to say the least.
The next book? Well, having got advice from all sorts of industry insiders (including my literary hero, Dean Koontz) I wrote the first draft of a high concept novel in a sort of Dan Brown mould. I was pleased with how it was going, but then the pressures of managing a service for people with profound learning disabilities in times of increasing cuts, and of being a full time foster carer, have sort of put it on the back boiler. May be something for my retirement at this rate.
And the surprising revival of TTW will keep me going for a while.

I mentioned in the post that I had been contacted by friends of David Heffer, to whom my book is dedicated. I have recently been contacted by his mum, Lesley, and we are meeting up on September.

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