The proof copy of my first Print on Demand (POD) book has arrived. It looks like a book produced by a traditional publishing house and I am delighted with how St Viper’s School for Super Villains has turned out. It feels miraculous, like holding my baby for the first time. I can’t stop gazing at Demon and his friends on the cover. I have even placed the book on the shelf to see how it looks. My brain seems to have erased all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing and producing St Viper’s. I have shifted from thinking I am never going to do this ever again, to let’s have another ten book babies!
But not everyone is as in love with POD books as I am. Despite the success of indie authors such as Amanda Hocking, POD books have a reputation for lacking the quality of their mainstream counterparts. In The Guardian this week, Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider spy stories, asked the question: how good are self-published books? As part of his research he read a section of a novel by a leading self-published writer and found that the text could have been improved with professional editing. ‘Publishers do, I think, provide an imprimatur, a sort of quality control,’ he said. The main criticism of POD books is there is no quality control of the content. ‘Companies like AuthorHouse and iUniverse say they will accept pretty much anything for publication,’ The New York Times reported. Horowitz quoted Sam Jordison, Guardian journalist, saying, ‘What do they do if the writer delivers a damp squib? . . . On the evidence, they’ll publish it anyway.’
Our challenge is to set the standard for self-publishing in the children’s market. My book has been professionally edited and is being published because Electrik Inc members believe it is good. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and the story will shortly be reviewed by several respected and well-known children’s writers.
The other quality issues raised about POD books is that the design can look amateurish (a professional illustrator and a designer have produced the cover for St Viper’s School for Super Villains); the cover may curl and the glue that is used for the spine is not as good as the glue used in a traditional book. So, I put my POD proof copy to The Top Bunk Test. To explain, my eight-year-old son sleeps on the top bunk bed. To save him the trouble of going up and down the ladder to get books, he keeps a pile of them by his feet, under the duvet. He pores over them during the night and I often hear a thump as they fall over the side onto the carpet. Only the toughest of books can survive the top bunk. After two weeks of being tested, I can report that the cover has curled a little, but no more than the Puffin book with it, and the pages remain firmly in place. We are good to go!