On Being a POD Author

POD = pod

As a self-published POD, I think I may be in a good place, considering. Just got into two bookstores, and I am awaiting a blurb from someone I hope is influential enough to convince more people to read my book.

I learned today, however, that having a book in a store, on a shelf, doesn’t necessarily place me above pod (lowercase) status when compared to the Published butterflies.

I’ve been trying to schedule a reading at one of the stores that currently has my book, but the woman who schedules the events has yet to return my call. Assuming she’s just busy, I took the trip to the store today to drop off some of the postcards I’d made with the store’s logo on the back. I thought they might be something they could place on their counter near the register. I had no intention of bothering the scheduling woman, however; I try not to be a pest.

The man at the register said I certainly could place my postcards there (and why wouldn’t he? they’re selling my book), and even asked if I’d like to place a postcard inside the book.

I walked to my own very special spot on the shelf and slipped in a postcard.

“Excuse me,” he said, and waved at me from across the store. “Maybe – do you want to sign it, and then we’ll put a sticker on the front?”

“Sure!” I said.

He advised me to bring a copy to the front and gave me a thick blue marker. I signed the inside, and he slapped a sticker on the cover that said “Autographed copy.”

“Have you arranged a reading?” he said.

“Not yet. I’ve called, but haven’t heard back.”

He started typing on the computer, said, “I’m going to look at getting more copies.”

“I think the problem might be that it’s POD,” I said. “They’re not returnable.”

He looked at me, then, and muttered something before rushing to the other end of the registers and typing into a different computer. I followed him over there so he wouldn’t have to come all the way back to where I was.

“They’re not returnable,” he said, emphasis on “not.”

“Guess I shouldn’t have signed it then, huh?” (Now, of course, I realize it doesn’t matter if I signed it or not – once a book is signed, it’s not returnable; so, my signing an already non-returnable book really affects nothing at all.)

He turned to me and said, “How did this get into our inventory?”

Quite insulted, I said, “Someone in your store ordered it.”

“We don’t usually order POD,” he said.

“It went through a review process.” I stayed very un-indignant. “Someone read it and decided they liked it enough to order it.”

“Well,” he said. “Okay.”

And then he was pretty much done talking to me. He’d previously been very excited by my presence in the store, it seemed. He was extraordinarily helpful and attentive. I think it was not only due to the customers waiting in line that he lost interest so quickly.

I brought my book back to the shelf and left the store.

I don’t know whether, due to the non-returnability of my book, I’ll ever get the chance to do a reading at this particular store. But, at the very least, I hope they don’t throw away my sad little POD postcards.

  • I’m not even going to attempt to get my book on a shelf somewhere. I get enough attitude being POD that I don’t need some clerk somewhere to diss me on top of it.

  • My suggestion to you is to ensure that those books actually sell. Whatever you have to do to get people into that store to purchase those copies. If they sell the copies they have already ordered, it gives you a chance to get in the door for an event.

    You can also offer to do your event on consignment with them. That way they have no risk and you can show them that you are willing to be flexible on the terms.


  • MeiLin,

    That is very sad. If you took the time to write and publish the book, be strong enough to fight for it. You deserve it. Sure, there will be those who will give you attitude, but what about those are willing to give it a try and see what happens.

    Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t sell those others short.


  • I don’t think MeiLin is doing anything sad. She is just choosing not to put her energy into a retail venue that does not want her. I decided a couple years ago to remove bookstores from all my marketing efforts. They want big name books that will sell, or gimmicky things that people buy for gifts. Marketing and selling online is a very reasonable course for self publishers. I also believe in direct-to-reader sales through craft fair booths, markets, yard sales, and fundraising. Although I offer print books as well, most of my sales are for ebooks.

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to get in a bookstore or do readings. I just get more return on investment marketing in other ways.

  • It does work better if the books can be returned. The big publishers expect to get half of what they print back, which is where all those cheap remainders come from. Last year I talked to a bookstore owner who had gotten stuck with 30 copies of a mystery she couldn’t return because she could not find either the author or her publisher. She had sold all she could in her local market, so they just sat there. She resented giving them space which could be used for other books. (Very small store).

    One chain does stock my book, getting the copies from Ingram. They take between one and three copies a store at a time unless I’m doing a signing, in which case they order ten and I bring extras (Always bring extras). They have 150 stores, so they sell a lot. I doubt if they would bother if they couldn’t return them. All books go on consignment, by the way. It takes months to get paid for the ones sold and Ingram plays a cute little game of returning what they have on hand before the bill comes due and then reordering. So far, the new order always is larger than the returns.

    Readings are actually a lot of fun and so are table events. But they’re not for everyone. I agree that the big chains seem to be slaves to the Best-Seller syndrome, but other stores remember that they are in business to sell books; any books. You just have to convince them that they can sell yours.

    These are very tough times for booksellers right now. Everyone is too scared to spend these last six or seven months. We’ll just have to ride it out. Keep promoting your book regardless. Get it into as many channels as you can. You can’t sell it if you don’t have it.