POD Publisher Book Ranking – Analysis

I want to have a look at what kinds of books sell best from POD publishers. I have selected five of the ‘heavy-hitters’ of POD publishers and listed their top five books by sales rank on Amazon.co.uk this week. The publishers I have selected are:

Outskirts Press

1. How to Be A Super Hot Woman by Mandy Simons and Emily J. Terry (Paperback Mar 2007)
2. The Exclusive Layguide by Michael Antonio (Paperback Aug 2007)
3. Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design by Stanley Marianski, Adam Marianski, Robert Marianski (Paperback Mar 2006)
4. The Master’s Guide to Cunnilingus by Vanessa Ryan (Paperback July 2006)
5. Uncommon Emotions by Lynn Galli (Paperback Jan 2008)

The list of titles from Outskirts Press is weighted heavily toward the category of Relationship/Sex/Dating, numbering 3 out of five of the titles. Of the other two, one is Food/Drink and just one title no.5 is a book of fiction. The date range is predominantly over one to two years in print. The sales ranking for the top title ‘How to Be A Super Hot woman’ comes in at 1849.

1. The Promised Land by Rick Norris (Paperback Nov 2005)
2. Soft Target by Conrad Jones (Paperback Jan 2008)
3. Raising A Vaccine Free Child by Wendy Lydall (Paperback Feb 2005)
4. Swim, Bike, Run, Laugh! by Dan Madson (Paperback Jun 2005)
5. Finding Reality by Keith Loy (Paperback 2008)

Here, the strength from Authorhouse seems to be books in the self-help category with 3 out of five books. The final two fall into the Sport and, again, we find just one fiction title. Interestingly, three of the titles were published as far back as 2005. The no.1 book sales ranking is 2804.

1. Darcy’s Passions by Regina Jeffers (Paperback Nov 2007)
2. K-Pax IV by Gene Brewer (Paperback March 2007)
3. Islamic Banking by Muhammad saleem (Paperback Jan 2006)
4. The Domain Game by David Kesmodel (Paperback May 2008)
5. Fishing Success Off The Beach by Richard Wiegand (Paperback Sept 2007)

Finally we have a list topped by a book of fiction from Xlibris. In fact, the number two title on the list is also fiction. The other three books are Business, Technology and the last title Hobby/leisure. Again, the nature of print-on-demand sees a ‘Jan 2006’ still available and selling from Amazon. The top sales ranking from Xlibris is 9875.

1. 101 Drama Games and Activities by David Farmer (Paperback Apr 2007)
2. The A-Z Guide to Santorini by Tony Oswin (Paperback Oct 2007)
3. Revenge of Killer Sudoku by djape (Paperback Oct 2007)
4. Gundog Training Made Easy by Eric Begbie (Paperback Nov 2006)
5. Withnail & I by Thomas Hewitt-McManus (Paperback July 2006)

No fiction titles appearing at all in the Lulu list. Instead, we have got, Hobby/Leisure, Travel guide, Puzzle, Hobby/Leisure, and a Film Compendium. No 2008 titles feature at all, but again the list stretches back more than two years. The top sales rank for the number one title is 5510, lower than I would have expected for one of the largest POD publishers on this list.

1. Vengeance Is Mine by Brandy Purdy (Paperback Dec 2007)
2. Solider of Rome: The Legionary by James Mace (Paperback Nov 2006)
3. Solider of Rome: The Sacrovir Revolt by James Mace (Paperback Feb 2008)
4. 100 Tips for Hoteliers by Peter J. Venison (Paperback dec 2005)
5. The Ghost Next Door by Mark Alan Morris (Paperback Jan 2004)

The biggest representation of fiction occurs on IUniverse’s list with three Historical Fiction titles. Business Management and Paranormal/supernatural make up the other two. The oldest book still selling here dates back to Jan 2004, more than four and a half years ago. The top ranking book comes in at 2719.

To summarise some of the information, I have looked at the year of publication and also the categories of the published books in the lists.

Year of Publication:
2004 – 1 title
2005 – 4 titles
2006 – 6 titles
2007 – 9 titles
2008 – 5 titles

Categories of Books Published:
Non-Fiction – 18 titles
Fiction – 7 titles

I must stress that this is a general analysis and as with all POD publishing and Self-Publishing, a great deal depends on the efforts and endeavours of the author to market and promote their own work, and to adopt and employ the best possible services and methods available to them. My conclusions are gathered from this particular ranking analysis and my past years research into POD publishers.

It is clear that a book published through print-on-demand technology has the potential to remain available to the buying public longer than a book printed by a traditional publisher through the standard first offset print run. In commercial terms, a large publisher will usually stick with a launched book and market it to the best of their means for a finite period, or until the first print run is exhausted. That is not to say that over a three to six month period, a significant percentage of the first print run may find itself returnable to the distributor/wholesaler, depending on the push and success of the book, and the willingness of the publisher to commit to a second print run if neccessary. With a POD published book, what is printed will find its way to the buying reader, by the very nature of print-on-demand requirements.

From the span of years of the above POD published books, even a low to moderate seller can steadily sell for some two to three years. This may very well culminate in a slow build-up of sales over a lengthy period of time.

POD publishing is no different than traditional, commercial publishing, in that non-fiction far outstretches the sales, and amount of titles published of fiction. On our above lists, non-fiction betters fiction published by POD publishers at a ratio of about three to one.

The strong categories of non-fiction seem to be a mix of Self-Help, Relationship/dating and Hobby/How-to titles. From looking at a wider spectrum of titles available from these publishers, we will also see that Mind/Body/Spirit are also very strong.

Regarding fiction, the concensus seems to be that POD publishing is not a viable method of seeing your great novel become a success. That is not to say that the promotional and marketing efforts of a POD publisher working closely with an author cannot make an exception to the rule. It is tough, but not entirely impossible.

What is clear regarding fiction published through a POD publisher, is that you have a better chance if your novel falls into the Historical or Sci-Fi categories. It could be argued, to be fair, that these are also the trends of success for traditional published books and commercially large publishers.

I would also like to make two observations I have noted from the analysis and my general research of POD publishers. Firstly, Lulu’s ranking surprised me, in comparison to the other four POD publishers. Surprised – simply because I expected them to fair better when the overall sales rankings were compared. It may be simply the time I chose to do the analysis, but I had expected the sales ranking to be significantly better. Perhaps further analysis is required on my part. Secondly, iUniverse came out very strongly in the fiction category, having three titles in their top five. In light of my first observation about Lulu, could it be that those authors who publish through iUniverse and use this POD publisher’s marketing service packs fair better than if they had published with another POD publisher. Is this where iUniverse’s strength lies?

This may indeed become the focus of a future article. For now, please feel free to post any comments and feedback on what you as a published POD author have experienced.

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