The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving
November 2017 by V. R. Duin


Once the Browns had left the field,
Towing home their tasty yield,
A sad and lonely goopy ghost
Went in search of a friendly host.
(“The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving”)

It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, but the holiday book jam created by self-publishing houses' efforts to fill holiday book sales with POD books is not a good thing for ghost seeking child readers.

Independent readers in search of unique print-on-demand books through self-publishing houses are likely to find a holiday book jam interfering with holiday book purchases. Nobody benefits from this undesirable obstruction. Some books become “ghosts” of themselves. Self-publishing houses cannot keep up with the holiday demand for individual POD books printed one book at a time. This is not a priority for them. Avant-garde readers, in search of unique and innovative ideas in the arts, may have to dig to find these hidden authors. It would be helpful to these authors if readers would help to promote holiday book sales by word-of-mouth and written reviews.

Self-publishing houses make money from book packages: type formatting, composition and layout. Their job is to get books to the writer. They are not at all concerned about the retail holiday book jam. They do not operate as retailers. They do not want to market, advertise, promote or sell books. Selling books is a ghastly, not ghostly task for printers. Self-publishing houses do not make money printing individual POD books for sale on the open market. They do not anticipate self-published books will require much of this activity. Less than one percent of POD books from self-publishing houses achieve significant market engagement. Readers are not particularly experimental, adventurous or forward-thinking with respect to the arts and literature. They buy what is celebrated by others around them.

Selling books is not in self-publishing houses' job descriptions. Once a title is self-published, these houses become mere printers for the writers and their customers. Monopolies are established in the collective mentality. Many generations of readers have exposure to these books. Readers must possess great spirit to find original books. Self-published writers struggle to gain traction. They must promote their own book sales from inventories on hold for this purpose, be these in-house, online or at retail locations. An inability to fill holiday book sales with POD books that are printed one book at a time may create a holiday book jam for readers and for retailers. Self-publishing houses cannot or will not keep up with the demand for holiday book sales.

Independently published POD books, without a stellar history of sales, generally will not be shelved or warehoused by retailers. This creates a horrific barrier for rebellious readers in search of something new. Shelf space is claustrophobic. Attention creates value in books that are plentiful and known. Holiday book sales are critical to these businesses. Retailers make money selling books, not storing them. The last thing retailers want is a holiday book jam. The slotting fee charged per item for entry to bricks-and-mortar retail shelves can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost varies by region and market demand. This cost is comfortable for the impenetrable top sellers.

Retailers also charge promotional, advertising and stocking fees. Payment rises for a highly visible position on shelves. Readers are unlikely to find books from new writers. They cannot pay for shelf space. Retailers do not want a holiday book jam of unsold books. Visibility matters to ghosts, readers and book sellers. A friendly merchant may provide free space, for a while, but is unlikely to promote or sell unknown POD books. If customers buy enough books, these titles from self-publishing houses may find a permanent home at a traditional publishing house. Ghosts also try to settle into a permanent, physical home. Holiday book sales benefit when a spirited individual has the intelligence to pioneer with the new and unusual.

Readers, who will take a chance on self-published POD books, have a greater potential of finding these books online. This also is where most product and reader reviews are found. As retail moves online, products and services often find greater company beyond bricks and mortar. The virtual world is unlike the supernatural world. Virtual can become physical. Ghosts have no mass. Chains may fill special orders for their customers with print-on-demand books from self-publishing houses. In the process, independent titles may be added to the online catalog listings of these stores. Rarely are these books promoted during holiday book sales. Readers must be trailblazers to find books that are unorthodox.

The difficulty for readers transcends the complications of discovery. Readers may have to plan in advance of their buying need. When a product is not supplied, the retailer may cancel the order and refund the purchaser's money. This is particularly true for holiday book sales. POD is incompatible with bulk holiday printing. As with ghosts, there is nothing tangible about an unprinted book. Customers are likely to cancel special orders, printed one book at a time at self-publishing houses. POD book orders rarely can be filled in time for a peak book selling occasion. To keep sales in-house and prevent a holiday book jam of back orders, retailers may encourage the purchase of something available, usually a best seller that was printed and stocked in advance.

Holidays also may not be a good time for independent writers to launch new POD books. Self-publishing houses are overwhelmed with anxious writers who want to release books in time for peak seasons. The emphasis on new books may interfere with buyers of existing books. The holiday book sales rush can be scarier than a ghost. Readership may be best when release is postponed. Printing and proofing errors are more likely to happen during the resulting holiday book jam. Holiday shopping is often planned and completed ahead of the occasion. Mainstream's bestselling authors may be on shopping lists, leaving no room for new print-on-demand books.

Traditional publishing houses print books in bulk, then stock and distribute this inventory to retailers in anticipation of an expected demand for popular titles. A holiday book jam is avoided for books that are sure to sell. Influencers make holiday book sales. Accommodations are made, because publishers profit even more than the writers. The Rise of the Machines: eBooks & POD has changed the retail business as well as the publishing industry. Readers are challenged to move outside the block of influence. An army of publishers, distributors and book sellers protects books that have proven successful.

Readers often find books that reached the market first. Independent authors, with no history of purchases, cannot anticipate pending demand. They fall victim to the holiday book jam. During peak holiday seasons, self-published POD books are unlikely to be timely printed and supplied. It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, whether by command or on demand. However, this is not a good thing for holiday book sales of print-on-demand titles that are made unavailable by self-publishing houses during the holidays. Readers are discouraged from finding new and unusual books during peak selling seasons.

POD Book Jams

  • POD books admin says:

    Self-publishing houses focus on profitable packages for new writers rather than on the unprofitable fulfillment of individual POD books.

  • Holiday Book Sales admin says:

    Holiday book sales of bulk orders for bestsellers with profitable sales volumes take priority over infrequent sellers.

    • Holiday Book Jamadmin says:

      During a holiday book jam, there is still hope: e-books may be available and scarcity may prompt readers to plan early purchases of books in print.