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Background On The Inventor And The Invention Of PODd Publishing For Self-Publishing Authors
I’m Bruce Batchelor, the guy credited with inventing book publishing on demand, also called print-on-demand or POD publishing. This is the business process behind the services offered by AuthorHouse, BookSurge, Lulu, Xlibris, Spire, Agio Publishing House, Trafford and other “author services” companies. “Invent” is a strange term, as I didn’t design any particular machine or gadget, but rather took existing devices and processes and recognized how they could be combined into a viable business. This part of the book industry now generates about $200 million a year in sales volume and has enabled about 100,000 authors to be published since its inception in the mid-1990s.
Here’s some background on this invention…
Like you, I’ve probably had a lifelong love of books. From following along as my mother read to me as a child, to my pre-teen years enthralled by Biggles and Hardy Boys books, I was very impressed with the printed word. Then, while working on my high school yearbook, I discovered that you could create books simply by being bold enough to write the words and pay a printer to make bound copies! After that, there was no stopping me.
In the 1970s, I wrote, self-published and successfully marketed two best-selling books, doing so independently of any mainstream publisher, somewhat oblivious to how selling books was supposed to be so terribly difficult. The marketing for these two titles was so obvious and simple that I thought the marketing for all the books would be so simple. I don’t believe that anymore!
For the past 30 years, I’ve worked in publishing, ghostwriting, publishing, and marketing, sometimes with mainstream publishers and more often helping self-publishing authors who bravely live on the fringes of the book industry. .
During those three decades, my wife Marsha and I also operated a communications consultancy. We’ve built marketing programs for corporate, non-profit and government clients. We have designed, formatted and pasted literally thousands of books, magazine issues, brochures, technical manuals, reports, newsletters and advertising campaigns. I was generally involved in the writing and editing of each paper to some extent and Marsha was the graphic designer. We won numerous awards; the most rewarding were for the effectiveness of the campaigns, rather than for the beauty. I have taught marketing at the university level, and also worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. When writing work was scarce, I worked as a surveyor, fisherman, and park ranger. Going back, I was a computer programmer/analyst and got an honors degree in pure mathematical problem solving. In the mid-1970s, he lived in a log cabin in the Yukon, sometimes going on long winter camping trips with a team of sled dogs, and often just sitting and thinking.
That eclectic background provided me in 1994 with a unique vantage point to foresee an incredible opportunity arising from the convergence of certain technologies and trends. Print-on-demand (POD) equipment + the Internet information superhighway + Internet search engines + credit cards + e-commerce + self-publishing + email + Adobe PostScript(tm) + authors eager to be published. .. I envisioned a book publishing service that would help independent (or “indie”) authors everywhere. It would conform to the mainstream publishing industry in having ISBNs and copyright registration and library cataloging, but it would be different in one very important way. He would take most of his business through the new Internet and use print-on-demand manufacturing to produce only as many books as needed. To keep costs to an absolute minimum, we would move beyond “just-in-time” inventory to be fully “on-demand,” printing books only after an order is received. Most people thought he was crazy.
Within a year, Trafford Publishing had formed in Victoria, BC and we had our first paying customers. These were pioneering authors who were moving away from the old book industry distribution model (having pre-printed books sitting in warehouses and on consignment bookstore shelves) for the new concept of promoting and selling books in bulk part through the Internet.
By 1996, Amazon.com had begun to popularize the notion of buying books over the Internet. In addition, Baker & Taylor, one of the largest book distributors in the US, had installed POD equipment to print titles from the above list for publishers, calling their service Replica Books. Then Ingram Book, the largest distributor in the US, built a monstrous POD printing factory in Tennessee next to its largest warehouse so that POD books could flow into Ingram’s distribution system and out to the bookstores and online retailers. Initially called Lightning Print, this printing service later became Lightning Source Inc. (LSI). Soon, other companies opened up and adopted Trafford’s POD business model to serve independent authors: Xlibris, iUniverse, AuthorHouse, and dozens of others. Now, some newer publishing services, such as Lulu.com and Blurb.com, offer book printing on demand without commercial book distribution.
During my 11 years as founding editor and managing director of Trafford, it grew to become one of the most prolific publishers in the world with over 10,000 active titles from independent authors living in over 100 countries. Today, thanks to Trafford and similar POD publishing services, more than 30,000 new authors are published each year.
We authors are now entering a wonderful new chapter in independent publishing, highlighted by ever-expanding distribution through e-book editions, audiobooks and truly global POD production. I call this next phase the era of long multiple queues, and I predict that greater awareness and availability of indie books will significantly increase the average number of copies authors sell and quadruple the number of new indie titles by 2010.
Helping authors make their dreams come true is magic to me. In July 2006, I left my leadership position at Trafford to return to personally working with authors, their manuscripts and those dreams. Once again, as we did before we launched the POD Revolution, my wife and I are running a small publishing company: Agio Publishing House (www.agiopublishing.com). I feel very lucky and privileged to edit and mentor creative people. I recently interviewed the top executives of the major POD author service companies and dozens of independent authors. The result is my new book, Book Marketing DeMystified [Agio, ISBN 978-1-897435-00-7].
A big thank you to all the authors who embrace print-on-demand publishing and who continually amaze the world with your writing and thoughts.
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