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Fledgling writer? POD could help

Amateur writers can now take the help of Print-On-Demand to get two books published at the same time.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Bangalore
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2008 05:29 PM IST

Afraid you might not be able to churn out a Harry Potter series, but the 'author-in-you' is waiting to indulge in wee bit of narcissim and see a book published under your name - help could just be well at hand, thanks to a fast catching concept, Print-On-Demand (POD).

Scores of 'writers-in-the-closet', nursing ambitious dreams of having books published under their name, but worry that they may be now J K Rowling (and publishers seconding that thought) are now turning to POD, a digital technology that makes it easy to produce books one or two at a time in small lots rather than prints running into hundreds.

POD enables a person to have a few copies published, the number could vary from as low as just one to 10 or little more, said Leonard Fernandes, Co-founder of the Goa-based Cinnamon, providing the book-on-demand services.

A writer could walk in, furnish his manuscript and walk home later as the `author' of a book, sans the hassles of begging publishers to read the manuscript, getting manuscripts approved, being handed over rejection slips or waiting for some far-sighted publisher to spot a potential 'Booker prize winner' hidden within the covers of your rough drafts.

POD has simplified the entire process to enable a person "who decides to be a writer, to be one", said Leonard that he sees two such writers turning up at his office daily.

POD could be the answer for those who are not really business savvy to make the rounds of publishing house but know that have material that could set the mind on fire and others who are not waiting to be among the best selling bookseller category but neverthless want to have their book published for those sharing the same interest.

For those who are not blessed with the craft of writing, there are firms who offer `ghost writers'. "All the person has to do is to sit with the ghost writer and convey his ideas".

The ghost writer writes out the pages, the cover design is prepared by the firm and the rest is all handled by them", said a publisher. Book-on-demand or self publishing is only part of the POD offering.

The POD service is also availed in case of authors who want to have their out-of-print books back in circulation, industry focussed information or books that might not find many takers but nevertheless have a demand in the niche segment, like technical manuals or academic books.

"We receive a lot of POD orders for institutes running training courses", said Sushev Mehrish, proprietor of the Bangalore-based Meher said.

"Earlier these institutes had to print minimum orders of training books running to hundreds though they may have just 25 students. Now they opt for POD." POD also proves advantageous when it comes to printing technical manuals, where constant updates or revisions take place. As technology gets obsolete old books are of little value.

"One can revise a book every time it gets into print", says Leonard, which offers a huge advantage.

"We have had clients from an academic institute that just wanted four copies of text books for each module", he said while others include a group of alumnis who wanted their memoirs published or a budding poet his poems.

"The concept is picking fast thanks to growing awareness", said Shyam Sundar, Marketing Manager, Thompson Press. "We have large number of IT firms, corporates who come to us for event related printing. Instead of printing 200 copies, they could have just a few copies for an upcoming conference or an event", he said.

"The advantage of POD is that you do not have books lying unsold", said Sundar. "It helps you print what you want, the quantity you want, the way you want and the price you want to sell it at", says Leonard.

Some of the firms allow an author to decide the price of the book and the royalty percentage, while others offer a package deal, said another publisher. Cost of printing a POD book was higher than traditional offset.

"A POD book might cost Rs 180 per copy as against Rs 50 in offset printing. However, a writer would have to shell out Rs 25,000 to get 500 copies in offset (a number he would not require) as against just Rs 1,800 for 10 books", said Leonard.

"The cost could be 60 per cent higher than offset", said Sundar, but it ensures no wastage of book, cuts down on cost of inventory, reduces delivery time drastically.

However, the downside of the POD published books was book stores appeared reluctant to store self-published books and worse still critics were wary of reviewing such books. But the advantage of time and cost factor for short runs is pushing this market further.

"We expect the market to grow. It should happen because it is a win-win situation for both the POD providers and the consumer", said Sushev. Meanwhile, for those desparate to add the sobriquet "writer" to one's name there is lot that can be done.

Get a book published, send invites to dear and near ones, get ribbon cut by a neighbourhood hero and get set on an autograph signing spree. Thanks to POD you could be a `celebrity writer' at home and your immediate neighbourhood.

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