I mean POD as in "print on demand." Basically, you set up your book in Lulu's computer server somewhere in the Gobi Desert and every time you, or a customer, wants one, one gets printed up and shoots out the door. Even with the advance in technology, it's still pretty amazing that it can be done at a reasonable price. The current price (at Lulu) for the trade paperback edition of Tainted Souls is $10.47, and the regular, non-Lulu price would be $14.95, which is more or less what you'd pay for a mass-marketed book.
And it cost me nothing to do all this. Except that you are required to buy at least one copy of the book so you can check it before it gets distributed. Lulu takes a cut of $2.00 from the book, but I still don't see how they make money. I don't understand how Google or Facebook make money, either, so I suppose it has more to do with my ignorance than anything else.
It will cost you money if you use their services like formatting, or cover design or marketing or if you want distribution beyond Amazon. If you do everything yourself, though, it's a free ride. You even get a free ISBN.
It was easy. I downloaded a template from Lulu and stuck in my manuscript. I had to adjust a few things here and there (the first lines of each chapter, for example, are in small caps -- something I couldn't figure out how to do on the Kindle, since Kindle owners can change the size of font and thus the number of characters in a line) but no real sweat. If I'd wanted to put in the time, I could have mucked around with the justification and widow control, since Microsoft Word doesn't know how to use hyphens for the former, and gets around the latter by adding or subtracting lines on a page. I didn't bother, though, since for me, setting up for POD was more an ego trip than a serious attempt at book publishing.
I couldn't quite get the cover exactly right -- the print on the spine is a little too far to the left. I tried to fix it but couldn't. I think it has everything to do with Paint.net, which I used to make the cover, rather than Lulu. But again, I don't really care that much. I just did this to have a few copies of my own and so I could give a few copies away to select friends and family. I'm not expecting any orders from Amazon. Especially since the ebook's so much cheaper (as in, free).
So count me in as a big fan of POD. As vanity publishing goes, it sure beats the likes of Publish America, bete noire of the folks at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. No ponying up for big upfront printing costs. No boxes and boxes of unsold books in the garage. And if I seriously wanted to go on a road trip and sell the book, I could order up say, 50 and hit the highway and see how it goes, ordering more as needed. No huge out-of-pocket expenses.
There are other POD printers -- CreateSpace is one. Most charge a fee, though not a huge one. I'm too cheap for that, but if you're interested, be sure to check around before settling on a POD partner.