Sisters-in-Crime Wrestles with POD

Now that anybody with a credit card and the email address of a Print-on-Demand company thinks they can call themselves a publisher or a published author, professional writers organizations have been forced to carefully define what it means to them to be a "publisher" or a  "published author" to deal with the issue. Now even Sisters-in-Crime is acknowledging the problem.

It seems that the abundance of POD titles in the Sisters-in-Crime’s annual  "Books-in-Print" catalog has rendered the publication useless to the booksellers and librarians it was intended for. As a result, Sisters-in-Crime is changing their rules about which titles can be listed in the publication. 

According to a member mailing by Sisters-in-Crime president Roberta Isleib, from now on only books that meet "marketplace standards" will be included in the listing.

Following are the criteria for a book that meets marketplace standards:

Is returnable.

Is offered at standard industry discounts

Is available through national wholesaler, such as Ingram or Baker and Taylor

Is competitively priced

Has a minimum print run of 1,000 copies

(We believe that the minimum print run of 1,000 copies shows a publisher’s intent to place the book in the marketplace. It is the same number used by Authors Coalition to determine a ‘published book.’)

Any titles that do not meet one of the standards may be petitioned on a case-by-case basis, so long as all other requirements are met.

[…]POD reprints of titles that met industry standards when originally published will be included in the print BIP.

The Mystery Writers of America enacted guidelines this year that excludes print-on-demand "publishers" from their Approved Publishers list. There was, predictably, a lot of foot-stomping in the blogosphere among the POD crowd, who predicted a mass exodus of members from the MWA as a result of the changes. In fact, the exact opposite occurred — the change actually resulted in a surge in membership renewals and new memberships. We now have more members than ever before.

But unlike the MWA, Sisters-in-Crime has a much more flexible membership policy and includes among its active members many people who’ve had their manuscripts printed using a POD press and consider themselves "published authors." Expect an uproar.

7 thoughts on “Sisters-in-Crime Wrestles with POD”

  1. Is there verifiable proof of cause-and-effect that “the change [in how the Approved Publishers list is determined] actually resulted in a surge in membership renewals and new memberships,” or is it merely coincidence? MWA has made many changes during the past few years and the cumulative effect has altered the organization in a variety of ways. Surely some of those other changes, or perhaps a more aggressive effort to recruit and maintain members, have also played a role in the new and renewed membership surge.

  2. Michael,
    The only “verifiable proof” is anecdotal. Many of us on the Board have received emails and have heard directly from writers, who have re-upped or joined for the first time who say they have done so because of the aggressive effort the MWA has made in the last year to maintain the professional standards of the organization.
    I shouldn’t have said the change in standards was the reason we have seen a surge in renewals and new memberships. You are correct, a number of factors could be at work.
    My point was that the naysayers (all of whom were unpublished or POD-printed) were wrong when they said the new standards would cause a mass exodus of members from the MWA and negatively impact renewals. That hasn’t happened. But it could for Sisters-in-Crime.

  3. Western Writers of America published a handsome catalog of its members’ books recently. I took one look and knew it was worthless as a sales device, for the same reason the Sisters catalog is worthless. (WWA is now largely nonprofessional.) The catalog does, I suppose, massage a few egos. But I suspect it has not sold many books.

  4. Thank you for posting that list. I’ve been considering a POD project that likely won’t interest my publishers, and am delighted to know that it will, after all, meet marketplace standards!

  5. PN,
    If you want to make a few bucks without going through a POD publisher, you should look at as an alternative. We have cleared a few bucks since posting books there last year.
    They do weed out the self-publishers, but aside from that the standards for the free books are fairly loose.


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