Setting Up a Premium Imprint to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff in POD?

swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
edited March 11 in General Discussions
Periodically we have discussed on the Lulu blog the possibility of finding ways to use the Internet to enhance our efforts as self-publishing authors. Because self-published books are so readily available today with no sign of shrinkage in the supply, it's become harder and harder for authors going this route to make their books stand out. Better graphics certainly help as does strong promotion and book reviews in well read periodicals. But all of that is difficult to achieve and costly, as we all know, while we're here using a do-it-yourself POD service to contain costs, precisely to keep costs under control. Some costs are necessary to get the best book possible as people like Ron Miller and others have maintained. But because self-publishing still carries a stigma and because the ease of entry removes the usual third party filters (of agents and editors) so that many offerings don't meet a traditional publisher equivalent standard, we all start out with a significant mark against us. Self-published works often bear a mark of Cain in the minds of many prospective readers. (I have had amazon reviewers write that they almost passed my book up because it was self-published.)

So how can writers here, who are intent on producing quality books and hope to compete with traditionally published authors break through or make a difference with their own work? One possibility is to create a third party screening capacity which would work, through a group of cooperating writers, to review self published books (and make recommendations to the authors for improvement if needed) and follow up with a kind of seal of approval (think Good Housekeeping's Seal of Approval as per Ron's suggestion) that can be added to a book's cover. When a book is published by a traditional house, that publishing modality already announces to prospective readers that the work in question has been vetted and edited by a team of acquisitions and other editors to make it the best book possible (capable of competing in the marketplace for books generally -- the reader has the assurance that he or she is getting a reasonably polished piece of work). But books without any imprint (something Lulu gives us the possibility to produce) or with Lulu's own imprint, announces SELF PUBLISHED to the world. Self-publication implies shoestring budgets generally and author isolation from the realm of outside editors who look at and help rework books with an eye toward meeting a common standard of professionalism. Being self-published can work against our interests in selling our books and making us serious authors in a competitive field.

So the premium imprint could offer us a way to surmount that obstacle. To create it we would need a group of skilled, open minded writers, some from here but perhaps not all from here, who would be prepared to subordinate some of their own writing to looking at and offering guidance to and, finally, voting on the appropriateness of providing individual authors with the premium imprint to add to their book's cover. This can help fill the gap which the absence of editorial "curators" creates for self-published material. Obviously, to do anything like this, besides needing a few willing participants to help set up such a "board" of readers, we will need to set standards, develop reviewing processes, design the logo or imprint reflecting an approved book, etc. Authors submitting their books for this process will have to have a thick skin and understand that the point of the effort is to improve the profile of all self-published POD works. Receiving the seal would not be a forgone conclusion. If it were, we would have no chance at all of building up credibility for the seal among the broader reading public.

So here's the thing: Is anyone reading this interested in this project enough to join with others here to make it a reality? (I have proposed this on and off since joining this blog site and some have said that I should just post something here about it as a separate item and see if anyone is interested enough to try this. So that's what I'm doing now.)

If anyone is interested in this kind of effort and wants to help make it a reality you can reply here, or use the Lulu messaging board mechanism or just email me at my email address: [email protected] If there's enough interest (or any interest really!) we can work together to proceed with this. No guarantees it will work but one thing that might come out of it, if successfully implemented, besides helping all of us to up our game and maybe improve book sales is the creation of a web-based platform on which authors from all POD houses can join and gain access to the premium designation and then, who knows, maybe this can morph into the kind of online operation that some larger outfit will see as a nice potential acquisition for their own business and, if we've done this right and incorporated as we would need to, we can make some money that way, too.

So that's it folks. If anyone here is interested, please let me know. (If no one responds I will assume this is a dead issue and not mention it again in these forums.)       


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Well, much of the problem you mention---how to deal with rejecting an author---might be alleviated by following the example of the various Book of the Month clubs, where books are suggested by a panel of readers, members of the club's reviewing committee and sometimes the reading public, rather than submitted directly by the authors (or publishers) themselves. For instance, if someone reads a book they like very much they can suggest it as a potential candidate. 

    There would be no reason to explain why a submitted book didn't make the list.
    There would also be no need to "offer guidance." To usefully critique every submitted book would be hopelessly time-consuming for one thing. There are professional services that provide that sort of help.

    It might be worth considering limiting the number of books that receive the "stamp of approval" each month (or whatever interval is most convenient). That will, if nothing else, add some value to the certification.

    Black Cat Studios
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    It seems there are no takers for this idea, just as you, Ron (and Kevin) foresaw. Well I tried!
  • oncewasoncewas Librarian
    swmirsky - ten years from now you will still be writing this stuff.

    The reality is that very few authors sell. Period. Just have a look through the Amazon website and you will see loads of books with beautifully designed covers, perfectly formatted grammar, etc. etc, that have not sold even a single copy.

    All my time and effort goes into my own writing. I don't sell as much as I'd like, but the numbers are slowly increasing. This is all we can do. If I felt that I was a voice that the world could not live without then I would go looking for a publisher.

  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    Yes, I see that there is no interest here. Well, as I wrote above, I floated the idea and tried to advance it. But I can't do more than that so, like you, I will redirect my energies to my own writing and leave it at that. Thanks.
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