There are lots of snakes in the Print on Demand (POD) industry. And, while most companies charge too much, way too much, there are a few that offer good services at reasonable prices. And, some of those even offer reasonable customer service! I thought it would be fun to start compiling a list of “Best Practices” for the POD industry.

Last week in Part I, we discussed things POD publisher should and should not do. Here’s a breakdown:


1. charge a fair price for publishing a POD book, including cover design (not to exceed $750)

2. publish a book within 6 weeks without charging extra to do so

3. have a homepage that sells their authors’ BOOKS, not publishing services

4. credit authors 100% when a book order has an error (not force authors to keep books that aren’t acceptable)

5. charge reasonable shipping/handling fees (not double the actual charges!)

6. pay print book royalties of at least 30%, ebook royalties of at least 50% and wholesale/distributor royalties of at least 15%


1. take any rights from authors (If the author paid you to publish their book, you don’t deserve to own any rights!)

2. lie to authors or use deceptive language on their website

3. lock authors into a long-term contract (since they paid YOU, authors should be able to terminate same-day, not weeks/months later)

4. nickel and dime authors with hidden fees

5. stun authors with outrageous and surprise list price increases

6. upsell authors on items that are imperative for publication success (like an ISBN and distribution)

7. upsell authors on products/services they can get themselves for less or for free

8. let authors make embarrassing mistakes so they can charge them more later to fix them

9. pull the old bait and switch – offer something for “free” and then upsell authors on expensive services after they realize how difficult the specs are

10. spam author or book buyers

11. claim to pay “100% royalties” which can mislead authors

12. claim their service is “free” when imperative items (like an ISBN and distribution) cost money

THIS WEEK, we’re adding more to the list, with the help of readers.

Sharon Campbell said:

“Don’t accept unmitigated garbage to publish. It make both of you look bad.”

Cheryl Pickett said:

POD publishers should clarify any potentially confusing terminology (a.k.a. KISS): A big example is distribution. Most POD publishers state books are available to bookstores. Unfortunately, many authors do not understand that available to bookstores and in bookstores are not the same thing. In order to get a book in bookstores, it generally needs to be brought to the attention of buyers/managers through personal contact of some sort. Few if any POD publishers provide this service. If by chance they do, requiring the author to pay for it makes little sense. As you mentioned in other parts of your list, if they really want to sell books, not services to authors, they’d already be doing this because they’d make money.

What they should say instead: Your book will generally not be in bookstores unless you make arrangements to contact buyers and managers. However, customers will be able to special order it and it will be available through many online retailers.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


POD publishers should not:

* offer “free” copies of a book as part of a package. Those “free” books are anything but free and, in fact, are sometimes priced higher than the usual author discount price.

* charge extra for interior photos, graphics, charts, etc.

* charge authors hundreds of dollars to make their book returnable. (If accepting returns really resulted in significant sales, POD publishers would offer this service for free.)

* Claim ownership and hold hostage cover and interior files authors paid them to produce. If an author pays you to create something, they should own it, free and clear.

* List books at prices that are beyond what the market will bear. (Many POD publishers are in the business of selling services and then books to authors, not selling books to the public.)

* Refuse to provide authors with their production files so they can choose where to have their bookmarks, posters, etc. printed.

* Charge an author extra to produce an ebook version of their book (it costs nothing to sell the final pdf file of a POD book as the ebook!)

We’ll add more to the growing list next week. Again, we’d love it if you’d send us items you’d like us to consider adding to the list! Email me at: angela – at – writersweekly.com


The FINE PRINT of Self-Publishing – Third Edition by attorney Mark Levine.
The Fine Print of Self-Publishing analyzes and critiques the contracts and services of the top forth-eight self-publishing companies. This book has been lauded by many experts as the Consumer Reports of the self-publishing industry, and has helped thousands of authors choose the right self-publishing company and avoid the ones with unfair contracts or low-quality services.