Image: Matthew Loffhagen
The question I’m most often asked by authors intending to self-publish is, ‘How do I print my book?’
Enter PoD: print on demand. It’s the preferred option for self-publishing authors for many reasons, but the one you probably care about most is cost. The PoD model doesn’t require retailers to stock inventory, which means you don’t pay for a thousand copies of your book to be printed and stored in a warehouse until they sell. Instead, a book order comes in and that book is printed and shipped.Someone orders a book and a single copy is printed and shipped. That’s print on demand.Click To Tweet
But how does print on demand work when you get down to the nitty-gritty? Are there other options you should consider? What benefits beside cost make PoD the better option? And what should authors do to get their books set up for PoD? Read on to find out!
So print on demand might be sounding pretty good right now, but how can you know if it’s the right fit for your project? It’s a good idea to consider the alternative – offset printing – before you move ahead with PoD.
Unlike PoD, which is printed directly from a digital file, offset printing transfers ink onto a rubber or metal plate, which is rolled onto paper and fed through a press. The process requires a completely custom plate to be created for each project. Logistically, there are some situations in which offset printing is a better option:
- If you need or want a large number of your books printed. Offset printing requires that you order a minimum of 1000 copies of your book. If you already know you need a large order, offset printing could work to your advantage because the cost per copy is so low.
- If your project is highly customized. Art books with high-quality images, custom-size gift books, projects printed on specialty paper, longer texts with a large and detailed section of inserts. These are just some of the many scenarios in which offset printing may be the stronger choice because it is completely customizable.
That thousand-copy minimum can be quite a hurdle for self-published authors, but it’s the right call in a lot of situations. Of course, print on demand has its own positives.
The benefits of print on demand
While cost is a big factor, I don’t want to neglect the other benefits of PoD. This model boasts a few other advantages you might want to know about:
- Revising is a cinch. If you want to make changes to your book for some reason, all you need is an updated print file, unlike with offset printing, which would require a new plate to be created.
- Quick turnaround. Again, because printing happens from a digital file, the process is incredibly streamlined and speedy.
- No wasted inventory. Piles of unsold books aren’t ending up in a landfill somewhere.
- Catastrophe-proof. Printing from a digital file is a service offered by lots of different providers. If your printer closes down, changes their pricing, or loses your trust, it’s easy to go elsewhere without creating any practical problems.
Being able to take pride in your finished product is the icing on the cake for a published author, and PoD is now at a stage where the finished product looks fantastic. That hasn’t always been the case, but if you’ve seen PoD books in the past and ruled it out as a possibility, technology has now advanced to the point where you should rethink your conclusions.
I hope I’ve given you plenty of reasons to feel great about the process of printing your book. Are you sold on the PoD model? Well, let’s get down to the details of how to set up your book for print.
How do I get set up with PoD?
Good news! The process of setting up your project for print on demand isn’t all that complicated. You need to do three main things in order to get your project printed.
- Have your formatted file handy. If you’re a pro at formatting your manuscript for publication, you’re way ahead of the curve! If you don’t have the first idea how to format your book, pay a professional to do this work for you. You won’t regret it, especially because this is the first step to getting set up for print on demand. You need a formatted PDF of your manuscript and book cover.
- Get your ISBN ready to go. You’ll need an ISBN in order to upload the book to online stores. You can sometimes use a PoD-provided ISBN, but other avenues are possible.
- Choose a distributor. Research and decide on a print on demand distributor. Some of the biggest names out there are KDP Print, IngramSpark, BookBaby, and Blurb. There are others too, so shop around and see which is the best fit for your project.
Of course, there are small-scale tasks within each of these main items, but the process is pretty straightforward. The best part? The retailer will take it from there, and you collect the royalties!You’ll need a finalized, formatted digital file in order to print on demand. If you can’t format it yourself (and most authors can’t) find an editor.Click To Tweet
I hope this primer on print on demand gives you a lift. I love pointing indie authors to PoD. It’s such a relief to discover a refined and streamlined printing option waiting for you after all the hard work you’ve put into your book.
What tips and tricks would you add about the PoD experience? What distributor did you go with and why? Did you encounter any trial-and-error issues in the process of print on demand you think others should know about? Leave me a note in the comments, and check out What You Need To Know About Formatting Your Own E-Book and Writing For Digital Publication: The 3 Things You Need To Know for more great advice on this topic.