Do you ever wonder what you can do as an author to save the world?  Are you the sort to take recycling and environmentally-conscious living seriously?  As we get closer to Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd), these conversations rise to the surface and spark all kinds of innovative thinking.  And this year, I’d like to toss one more idea into the ring–one more way you, an author, can do your bit to better protect this beautiful planet of ours:

Convert to Print on Demand (POD) publishing

Remember 50 Shades of Grey?  (Of course you do.  Who could forget?)  In the most interesting anecdote I’ve read all week, the Swansea Oxfam used bookstore received so many donated copies of 50 Shades that they–quite literally!–built a FORT out of them.  Think I’m kidding?  They posted a picture to their Twitter feed:


The tweet has gone viral, generating a series of articles on the rise and fall of E.L. James’ once-rabidly-popular and now-slightly-less-popular steamy Twilight fanfiction-inspired novel.  More importantly, in my mind, is the fact that this media frenzy has prompted people to take a second glance at how publishing is done–in particular, how the traditional publishing model blankets the world in a flood of books that nobody buys, or that people buy and then dispose of almost immediately.

The second issue–the disposability of a book–is more or less a consequence of its content.  But the first issue–the excessive number of printed books that never find homes–is one that you can avoid simply by choosing the self-publishing model, and choosing to print your books on demand.  What is Print on Demand (POD)?  The clue is in the title: POD is any service that allows authors to print however many copies of their book that they want, as they gauge interest and on the go.  This saves everyone from repeating the dreaded Swansea book fort scenario, and helps mitigate a sad reality in the West: unsold books headed straight to landfill.  I was speaking to a local librarian the other day, and it turns out that despite their best efforts to redistribute all donated books to area Little Free Libraries, book nooks in local businesses, and sales through Amazon … they still sometimes have to send new books straight to the dump, because nobody wants them.  These are usually titles of which so many copies were printed, everyone has already read them, and all the people who want to own copies already have one at home.

So we return to the simple fact: POD is far more earth-friendly than a massive print run.

Instead of being locked into a massive initial print run that they then must recoup the cost of through sales, indie and self-publishing authors can print a smaller number of copies, recoup the cost faster, and go back for more whenever they like or need to.  POD services are included in the cost of many publishing packages, including several of those offered by my own employer, Outskirts Press.  At Outskirts and other hybrid publishing firms, the diversity of packages offered creates additional flexibility–authors only pay for what they need, and not for excesses that underscore a traditional publishing company’s bottom line.  And at least with Outskirts, books are printed mainly on recycled paper (another earth-friendly boon!) and we offer ebook options that require no paper or ink at all!  It’s well worth your time to explore all of the options available to you, and to tailor your publishing experience to suit your resources.


I didn’t use the word “convert” earlier lightly.  It has somewhat religious undertones (or overtones, depending on who you ask), and I find it fitting because nature at its best often inspires a kind of spiritual or religious experience.  I remember standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon overlooking the Colorado River hundreds of feet below–that was pretty miraculous!  And I remember how I felt walking among the ancient Redwoods in Northern California–a different kind of grandeur.  Greener, more peaceful.  These moments are among the many gifts that the world gives us, an earth that quite literally keeps us alive and breathing.  I think limiting our excesses, whether in respect to printing books or supporting sustainable water usage and so forth, is an important step to take–and in this case, it’s also a way to protect your pocketbook from a different kind of excess.  It’s rare that what’s good for making a profit and what’s good for the environment line up, but Print on Demand (POD) publishing is one of those rare cases!

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

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