How to Choose a POD Publisher

Print On Demand Publishers (POD)


  1. Print a single copy of a book at a time, as it is ordered. In comparison with most vanity publishers, author does not need to purchase a set number of books.
  2. Books available online, but unlikely will ever be available in a retail store.
  3. If author only wants to reach a specific, small niche audience, this is a low-risk way to do so.


  1. Authors must do their own marketing.
  2. Books available online, but unlikely will ever be available in a retail store. (advantage and disadvantage)
  3. These books are often not regarded as true publishing credits by the publishing industry.


  1. Set-Up Costs: If you choose a POD publisher with a minimal or free set-up fee, you will probably pay in another way. These publishers often have higher cover prices (not your choice), which can make your book not a popular choice to purchase. AND they usually pay lower royalties.
  2. More on Set Up Costs: Make sure you understand exactly what the fees cover. Don’t pay for services you don’t need. You want a basic package that includes cover design, internal layout, an ISBN, and distribution to online retailers. Additional options can include copyediting, copyright registration, and promotion.
  3. Cover Price: Because it costs more to print one copy of a book, cover prices on POD books are somewhat higher than mass market paperbacks. Some POD publishers will let you set your cover price within a certain range. But usually that means a lower royalty rate.
  4. Royalty Payments: This is a percentage of net receipts, a percentage of what remains after the printing costs and distributor’s discounts. Lulu and CafePress let you set your own royalty, but that affects your cover price.
  5. Control of Your Work: If you want complete control of layout and cover design, use a service like Lulu. If you want all of the work done for you, use a publisher like iUniverse.
  6. Future Changes to Work: Be sure you understand the contract and what rights you are giving the publisher. Some publishers want exclusive rights to the work for a specific number of years. Some will let you terminate a contract at any time with a written request. Some will let you make revisions in the future.
  7. Distribution: Most POD books will never be available in a retail store. Rarely, you can get the POD publisher to offer a reasonable discount to stores and accept returns. You want the book available with online retail sites. You want to be listed with Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Borders, if possible.
  8. Author’s Discounts: You will want a discount on copies you order from the POD publisher for local book signings, donations to libraries, gifts to family and friends, and for promotional copies.
  9. Reputation: Be wary of POD publishers that make too big of promises: low or no set-up fees, and the books will be sold by the big chains. Watch writers’ forums on the Internet and check the Better Business Bureau in the publisher’s home state (although they are not always covered by BBSs).


© 2010 Starla Kaye

The Smarts Button

This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.