I've talked about this before, but one of my clients who is getting started with a small press says people are telling her that she is self-published because the book is printed by print on demand. Not true.
Yes, there are a lot in the publishing world who confuse the terms POD and self publishing – it’s something I talk about and blog about all of the time. Print on demand is a method of printing a book and has nothing to do with what type publisher they are. We see a lot of larger presses using pod technology to extend the life of book runs after an initial large press run. We see small publishers who have the capability of getting web press runs if the book demand becomes enough that it is cost efficient to do so but starting with the POD until they can see what the demand is. Most small presses do have the capability of doing the larger runs through the same people that produce the POD books if it is appropriate. These are simply methods of producing a book.
In the business world warehousing product is rapidly being replaced by ‘just-in-time’ technology where parts and products are produced and shipped in a manner to keep up with production without having a big stock of parts sitting around. The big auto manufacturers among others do a lot of this. POD technology is the ‘just-in-time’ technology for the book industry. If a book is self published the author pays for putting the book out there, does the marketing, and in a lot of situations takes a press run of books and has to store them. They CAN be self published and be done print on demand as well but not necessarily.
To find out whether a book is self-published or a small press you don’t look to the printing process but to the publisher. If the publisher is acting as a printer, taking the book and putting it out at the author’s expense and then they are through, it is indeed a self published book. If the publisher is ACTING as a publisher, assuming the financial risk of putting the book out and offering what assistance and support that they can, they are a small publisher.
Larger presses don’t serve niche markets. Particularly for authors that have books aimed at small markets, that is what brought small presses into existence, to serve those niche markets the larger presses don’t want. A debut writer has a greater chance of getting started in a small press. They are very valuable to the industry, but the author has to be careful to insure that they are indeed with a small traditional press rather than simply having books printed by a printer. Unless they indeed desire to self publish, and there is nothing wrong with that either as long as they make a conscious decision to do it and not do it by accident.
That’s my 2 cents on it, I'm trying to talk about it enough that people will quit confusing the term POD with the term self-published. The two terms are NOT synonymous.