Until mid-2006 Gloomwing was a conventional self-POD book review site with some fee-charging services tacked on. They had a certain approach... books that could not be given at least 3 out of 4 did not have a review posted. Then the main site was replaced with a Lulu-produced magazine (82c to download an e-copy). The magazine is targets an audience of self-publishers rather than a general readership, as do most of us. But it does make me wonder about the delicate balance of supporting the POD community and being supported by it. 82 cents isn't a great price by any means. Certainly lower than the costs of posting in a book to the blog review site. But the delivery method almost guarantees that a general readership will not stumble across your review in this format.
It does leave me wondering, yet again, whether any self-POD information site can address an audience beyond the insular circle of those who publish in that manner themselves. Because at this moment these are the only people listening and so the message tends to naturally adapt itself to the audience that is available--regardless of the one being sought.
And it is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a site or publication is themed as relating to self-publishing it can only attract people for whom that is a relevant category. Readers have no reasonable basis for caring about technology of production. They are interested only in subject or genre and the mainstream presses delivery a better funded and frankly normally a better quality product not only in terms books themselves but also book reviewing magazines. And these magazines, as we know, exclude the small players. I am acutely aware of this myself as a writer of gay romance, a category explicitly excluded from the major book review magazine Romantic Times.
So, what is the point of whinging, what is the way forward? The only option I see is this. There is certainly a place for 'trade' organs that serve self-publishers primarily, including their interests as readers. But beyond that attention needs to be divided between existing reader-oriented outlets that do accept self-published materials (suggestions, anyone?) and the creation of dual purpose sites that focus on self-published materials but in a way that might also attract reader interest. One nascent and now apparently dormant example is Fantasy POD. A genre specific site might actually attract genre readers with an interest in the lesser-served niches and original voices of their genre.
Maybe there are enough of us generalists out there trying to grapple with self-POD as a whole. Most sites, Gloomwing included, are closed to submissions or restricted to print submissions--another sure sign that the time for specialisation has arrived. There are readers out there ready and waiting for offerings in neglected genres. Gay fiction, westerns, horror and poetry spring readiliy to mind as viable options. But who is going to take the next step?