Print-on-Demand, Macmillan style

Print-on-demand (POD) technology has been a positive thing for authors and has taken some of the "vanity" out of "vanity publishing," as noted here recently. (See The evolution of publishing technology.)

POD has given rise to mini-publishers like Xlibris who give an author a marque (or imprint); an ISBN; a short run of books; a path into Amazon, B&N and the distributors (Ingram and Baker & Taylor); and a tiny bit of marketing. The author retains all rights and can do whatever with the book without bothering over the publisher's rights.

In the United Kingdom, Macmillan is pioneering its own use of POD in the new novel arena, and the picture is not pretty. It's created an imprint for its POD novels, called, "Macmillan New Writing," and certainly if this is successful it will carry over to nonfiction and the USA.

According to this article in the New York Press freesheet, "With Macmillan, you pay them nothing. You also get paid nothing. And the rights aren't yours."

This is rife with bad potential for the author whose mini-edition has failed and who wants to shop the book around for a second chance. Some quotes from the Press article:

"This is a large publisher just trying to own as much content as they can," said Susan Driscoll, president and CEO of I-Universe, one of the internet's most respected POD publishing houses. "Authors need to see through this. It's criminal. Their rights [the rights to their work, including reprints, paperbacks, film rights, everything] would be tied up forever. And they'd never see any money."

"It seems strange that they would compete [with us]," said X-Libris' Athena Catedral. "It's an attempt to own the whole market, while treating writers like idiots."
For Macmillan to seek the whole roster of standard publishing contract rights for itself while delivering minimal commitment, is a frightening development. Here's hoping this project fails.