POD INDEX and Self-Publishing Analysis

A couple of weekends ago we launched the POD INDEX for author solutions services—a rating index of publishing services we have reviewed over the past three years. I made the following comments when we first introduced the POD INDEX for June 2010:

“The POD INDEX for author solutions services is something we have been working on for the past couple of months and over three days of the weekend we compiled the June 2010 index (56), which marks the first month of flotation for all the author solutions services we have reviewed. More details on the POD Index this week, how it works, and what plans we have for it and some of the things we learned over the weekend.”
I actually chose not to report back the following week because reading back over nearly sixty author solutions service reviews (about 100K words of analysis and links), reflecting on the comments made to the site, and the many emails received on a daily basis from authors—it did reveal some shortfalls in our earlier reviews through lack of thoroughness and consistency we were applying up to the winter of 2009. But significantly, all the analysis did reveal the emerging trends, practices, and beliefs held by authors who consider or follow the path of self-publishing. The POD INDEX also allowed us to take a far wider perspective and comparison of services—set side by side—and to a depth of critical analysis we had never previously undertaken.
In the first six months of 2010, we have updated many of the earlier reviews we did throughout 2008 – 2009. In the world of self-publishing and independent publishing, a few months can be a very long time in an industry, which up until ten years ago has hardly changed in its core traditional practices and views for more than a hundred years. In the past ten years the pace and impact of digital publishing and the growth of the Internet as a highway of business and consumerism, combined with the explosion of online social networking—firstly as an avenue of recreation, and now a tool of integration, promotion and commerce—has all been truly extraordinary.
During our analysis of reviews, three definitely stood out and deserved substantial updating—CreateSpace (256.21), iUniverse (232.56) and Lightning Source (268.40). To present this overall analysis of the author solutions services we have covered would have been pointless without first addressing these shortfalls. We decided to address those shortfalls in the past week. Following comparisons of the 70+ services reviewed (some we decided against posting on the site), we also re-evaluated all of the ratings over the past three years, though some of these specific individual ratings on UK services will not be disclosed until my book, To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish: A Seriously Useful Author’s Guide is published in September, for obvious reasons. However, all review ratings, whether disclosed here on POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing or not, have been built into the POD INDEX when all the reviewed services were floated in June 2010.
Before I discuss the POD INDEX, I would like to touch on some of the fascinating findings we extrapolated from pulling together all the information needed to create the POD INDEX and discover what the flotation rating of every service we reviewed over the past three years. Much of that information also included a great deal of feedback, comments posted to the site and correspondence conducted with authors and companies offering publishing services. So, in no particular order—some of the finding and conclusions:

• Despite authors’ perceptions—for the most part—few author solutions services who openly disclose costs have actually implemented price increases since late 2008. If anything, many of the larger services now indulge in regular promotions and discounts on books sold to authors. (though I would always suggest careful consideration from authors buying books from author solutions services beyond what they really need or can actually sell and recoup a profit)

• Many global author solutions services were slow in implementing currency changes on their international sites resulting in anomalies and losses to their own detriment at a time when exchange rates were highly volatile on the US and UK markets.

• One of the poorest areas for author solutions services was not what they offered, but how they presented it online – resulting in badly designed websites filled with typos and grammatical errors, and out of date information. Some people just could not care less about window dressing or making a good impression.

• Author solutions services—like their mainstream counterparts—are no more geared towards the advent of ebooks than their mainstream industry counterparts, with many simply offering downloadable versions of the book’s PDF file. Ironic considering the arrival of digital publishing and POD is what helped so many vanity presses and subsidy services escape some of the self-publishing stigmas.

• Authors remain overly pre-occupied with copyright infringement on books they are consider submitting to a publisher or author solutions service and consistently seem to confuse copyright with publication rights.

• There is a distinct divide developing between informed self-publishers and those authors who self-publish simply for the gratification of seeing their work ‘in print’.

• There is a distinct move by self-published authors away from ‘publishing packages’ to more DIY orientated services. There are two very definable groups of self-published authors emerging in the past two years—the novice and the savvy author. Few authors fall in between—that may mean authors are doing more homework and research than ever before.

• Self-Publishing is steadily moving away from print in favour of e-books as a first self-publish option. In two to three years time self-published books will predominantly be ebooks and authors will be less concerned about a print option until they get picked up by a mainstream publisher.

• The savvy authors are the ones choosing ebooks to test the publication waters over the need for immediate print publication.

• Within the emerging group of savvy author—there exists another subgroup—those authors who are entirely rejecting the whole premise of having a third party control and publish their books. They are—by their actions—publishing by a process of deliberate circumvention.
The POD INDEX is here to stay. It will be updated every month. There are a number of criteria included to arrive at the POD INDEX rating and also weighted formulas to arrive at the index evaluation:
The reviews we carry out and the rating we give them
Titles published per month
Costs charged for services
Period of time a company is operating
Average titles per year
Comments posted to this site
Email correspondence to this site
Development of a company
This POD INDEX will not change a great deal, month to month, but instead, it is intended to monitor the steady growth or decline of an author solutions service. We welcome all input on the POD INDEX over the coming months.

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