POD SECRETS REVEALED: Upselling Authors on Photos/Images, Tables of Contents, Endnotes, and Much More!

This week, we’re going to look at how some POD publishers upsell authors on products and services that should already be included in their outrageous setup fees.

When authors are researching POD publishers, they often just look at the setup fees, and assume those include everything. And, honestly, they should! If you’re going to charge an author hundreds to thousands of dollars, offering an additional, long list of fee-based “options” that any normal person assumes would be included in their book isn’t really fair, or ethical, in my opinion.


For example, let’s talk about publication time. Basically, this is how it works. The author signs up for the publishing service, submits their manuscript, and then discusses the book text formatting and cover design with the POD service. The process isn’t that hard. I format books for authors every day. I often format a manuscript within two business days of it arriving on our server. And, when an author orders a cover from us, he/she starts talking to our designer about their cover within one to two business days. If an author submits their own cover, I check it and place a barcode on it, again, usually within two business days of receipt.

After I do the initial formatting work on the manuscript, I send it back to the author for any final changes. After they’re finished, they then send it back to me so I can finalize the formatting, convert it to pdf, and send it to the author for final approval. In the meantime, I send the final spine width and barcode information to the cover designer. Once the interior formatting and cover design are approved by the author, I upload the files to the printer. About a week later, the print galley is en route to the author. This entire process usually takes less than a month. Why it would take anyone else any longer than that I have no idea. Perhaps they’re understaffed? Maybe their staff is in a third world country? (Yes, some of the large POD publishers outsource overseas!) Maybe they’re just in over their heads?

Would it surprise you to know that you can pay a POD publisher way more money than you should to get your book into print…and then have to pay them even more just to get your book on the market within a couple of months instead of four to six months? If you can get a book to market faster than anybody else (say two weeks instead of two months – which is something we offer at BookLocker.com), that would be a valuable service. However, upselling authors on something they can get for no extra charge elsewhere (a two-month publication timeframe) is ridiculous. (While we do have a two-week expedited publishing program at Booklocker.com, we get most books to market within a month anyway, without charging any expedite fees.)

Why charge an author for a two-month expedite fee when they can obtain faster turnaround elsewhere for no extra charge?


Here are the published turn-around times (timelines) of the major POD publishers:

Booklocker.com (owned by the author of this article): 1 month

Xlibris: 3-4 months

iUniverse: 4 months (It’s amusing that their site says, “The fastest turnaround in the supported self-publishing industry!” Ridiculous!)

AuthorHouse: 4-6 months

Lulu: No timeframe quoted on their site. There are many complaints about Lulu’s customer service posted to their own forums.

CreateSpace: No timeframe quoted on their site. Also has numerous complaints posted to their own forum, like this one: “When I paid my $758 the first of September, I was told 3-5 business days between proofs. Six proofs later and several weeks down the line I am still waiting for my book of less than 60 pages. I have missed sales at several speaking engagements.” Read more complaints HERE.


How much EXTRA are they charging for turnaround times that are the norm at other POD publishers?

AuthorHouse: $500 extra for 30-day turnaround (instead of 4-6 months)

Xlibris: $349 extra for 2-month turnaround (instead of 4-6 months)

iUniverse: Zero. Publishes book in approx. 3-4 months with no expedite service offered.

Lulu: See above.

CreateSpace: See above.


Some authors offer only text in their books but many others include photos and other artwork as well. How much do some POD publishers charge authors to include photos and graphics in their books?

Booklocker.com – Zero – no limit on the number of photos, graphics, footnotes, charts, etc.

AuthorHouse – $5 per image after the first 10

Xlibris – $10 per image; $20 per table

iUniverse – $100 for 1-25; $200 for 26-50, etc.

Lulu – If you have more than 15 images, it appears you must sign up for their more expensive package…for an ADDITIONAL $400!

CreateSpace – $15 per image after the first 10; $25 each for charts, tables and graphs


Many POD publishers take nickel and diming authors to an entirely new level. If an author submits a manuscript with an existing table, or predesigned tables and charts, or even automated footnotes, why in the world would any POD publisher charge them to include such items? At BookLocker.com, I automate tables of contents every day when formatting books and I work with charts, tables and even endnotes and footnotes on a regular basis as well. Since most manuscripts contain one, if not many, of these items, why would a POD publisher charge authors extra for these? Why not include them in the original, basic setup fees?

It is unfortunate that many authors don’t even think to ask how many weeks or months it will take for their book to be published, or if they’ll be charged extra for photos, graphics, tables of contents, endnotes, and more. The list of items you can be nickel and dimed for seems endless!

It is imperative that authors read their contract and the publisher’s price list (some call these “add-on services”, “extras”, or similar terms) thoroughly before sending in their money. You’ll never know what you’re getting, OR WHAT YOU’RE NOT, unless you do!

Next week, we’ll talk about the “hard sell” tactics of some of the POD publishers. Think you can just send them a question by email and walk away without getting hounded? Think again!

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, featuring new paying markets and freelance job listings for writers every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”