To answer everyone’s question, we are NOT POD. POD stands for print on demand, where a book is not printed until an order has been placed. We do “print runs” where a number of books are printed up all at once, sent to a warehouse, and then sent out as orders come in. Ingram, the national wholesaler, does not allow returns for unsold books on print runs under a certain number, which seems to be increasing every year, until only the big NY publishers who print 20,000+ copies at a time can have books returned. In fact, Ingram has gotten so bad, that a lot of bookstores are no longer buying through them due to the no return policy.
This “no return” policy is not just for BOB titles, but for most small publishers. Ingram claims that they only allow returns for publishers with very large print runs because they only allocate so much warehouse space per publisher, based on the size of the print runs, and if they allowed returns for publishers with small print runs, they would be unable to accurately estimate the amount of warehouse space needed for each publishers books. How true this is, I cannot say, but that’s what they claim.
Bookstores claim that we are POD, based solely on this no return policy with Ingram, even though most of them know this is not true. We have actually have bookstores admit that they classify us as POD, even though they know that we really aren’t, but if there is a no return policy on your books, they consider you POD, whether you are or not.
There may also be some confusion among you because when you receive an order directly from the warehouse, it comes from CreateSpace. This is because we rent space in a warehouse owned by them. Our publisher is Amazon, not CreateSpace, but the warehouse is owned by CreateSpace, which is a division of Amazon, and so we get a better deal by renting space from them than if we used another warehouse. We also get a better deal on the printing from Amazon if we rent space in CreateSpace’s warehouse than we would if we used another unassociated warehouse. A lot of small publishers use this same warehouse system, and even the large NY publishers rent space there when they run out of space in their own warehouses. This is why is takes the warehouse so long to package and ship books, because they are always extremely busy and they process orders on a first come first served basis. When our print runs are done, the books are taken from the printer to the CreateSpace warehouse. From there a percentage of the run is shipped to Ingram’s warehouse. I believe that the percentage shipped to Ingram is based on genre and how well books are selling in that genre. Then when bookstores order our books from Ingram, Ingram ships them to the bookstore.
Our board of directors understands your frustration and has been working to solve this problem in a way doesn’t involve going bankrupt trying to match the large NY publishers’ print runs. They have worked out a deal with Ingram, whereby we can have Ingram’s own printer print our print runs, making the books returnable. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Ingram has their own printer and they also determine the return policy for publishers and refuse returns for small runs from printers other than their own. Be that as it may, this is an option. However, there are some catches. In addition to the cost of the printing the books, Ingram also charges a set-up fee per title, of $100.00, and the books are slightly more expensive per copy, so the author’s price goes up 5 or 10 cents per book. There is also a fee of $50.00 for any changes made to the cover or text once the original files are uploaded. It used to be $25, but they changed it recently to $50. And this fee applies any time new files are uploaded after the first time. The program is similar to the Ingram Spark program for self-published authors, however, the Ingram Spark program is POD, whereas our deal with Ingram is not. The board has agreed to pay half of the fees, both the set-up fee and change fees, for authors who want to do this. However, we have been reluctant to mention it to the group as a whole, as we know that money is tight for most of you, plus the fact that just because bookstores can return unsold books under this program, there is no guarantee they will stock your books. This just removes one excuse. The board decided only to pay half the fees because they want to limit the program to authors who are really serious about promoting, which they are more apt to do if they pay half the fees. It will also cost us more for the print runs, and more to ship the books to the warehouse, since we can’t use the CreateSpace warehouse for books not printed by Amazon. CreateSpace’s warehouse and Amazon’s printer are in the same block, I believe, or at least very close to each other, whereas Ingram’s printer and warehouse are not even in the same state.
If this sounds like something that you think you want to do, let me know and I will forward the request to the board. And don’t forget when considering this that bookstores can buy books directly from us, at the same discount Ingram gives, and we do allow returns for unsold books.