Your book is finally ready for the world. For the past several months (or possibly years), you labored over your content, survived the editing process mostly in one piece, and chose the perfect design flairs that say, “this is MY book.” Now it’s time for one of the more exciting parts – the part where your book because an actual, physical thing that you can hold in your hands. You have a product that you can hold up to someone and say, “I made this.” Let’s make that happen.
Throughout the publishing process, there are a slew of decisions to be made. When it comes to printing your book, you will be faced with another. In terms of volume, there are three types of printing processes to choose from: print-on-demand (POD), short-run, or long-run. Each has their own pros and cons, and each will fit different marketing and sales strategies you will employ. With these plans in mind, consider each of the following options.
When to Use Long-Run Printing
Long-run printing is when you send your files to a printing business (known as an “offset printer”) and they print your book in a large quantity. The accepted benchmark for long-run printing is about 1,000 books and above. This is rarely recommended for self-published authors who are just starting out. Only use this option if you already have a large following and are confident that they will all sell at some point. Authors who might consider this option are those who have published more than one book previously and have a large, established audience. Another author who could benefit from a long-run print might be someone who is a well-known public speaker or local celebrity – someone who’s name or brand does half of the marketing for them already.
Pros to Long-Run and Offset Printers
The biggest benefit of a long-run print is the cost. The more books you print, the bigger discount you receive. Think of it as if you were buying your own book in bulk. But just like those bulk-oriented retail warehouses, this is only profitable if you can move your product quickly.
The quality of your book is also easier to control with an off-set printer. There will be a professional keeping an eye on the end result to ensure accuracy. There is less room for variance in color, positioning.
Cons to Long-Run Printing
One thing that you will want to keep in mind about using a printing company is the cost of shipping. Some printers will not ship your books for free, so you will want to either factor this into your budget or pick the books up yourself. Here’s to hoping you have some cargo space in your car. And if, after having them shipped to you, you sell your books online, you will have to ship them to your reader yourself. You just paid twice for shipping your book.
You don’t want a garage full of books that you may or may not sell. That discount might look nice in the beginning, but if you end up only selling a couple hundred copies or worse, you might be operating at a loss. Then you must decide what to do with all those books in your house. Those are some expensive coasters.
What happens if you find a mistake? Perhaps there is an errant semicolon that is intruding on a sentence it wasn’t invited to. If you are using pre-printed books (either short or long-run), you will either have to forgo selling the copies with the error and eat the cost or hope no one notices before you can order another run. This is significantly worse for a long-run, because you will have more volume of books that include the mistake.
When to Use Short-Run Printing
Short-run printing is similar to a long-run except it is the term used for books printed in a quantity less than 1,000. Though, of course, if you’re printing 999 books, you’re not kidding anyone. Some printers will produce a short-run as small as 10 books. If you decide to do a short-run, My Word Publishing typically recommends printing 100 to 200 books.
Pros to Short-Run Printing
Short-runs work well for authors who want to begin in person hand-sales of their book as soon as possible. If you are working with a My Word Publishing consultant, they advise that you host a book launch party. At this event, you will invite their family, friends, associates, pets, etc. to not only celebrate your success, but to possibly get your first sales under your belt. You will want to have books on hand – which short-run printing is perfect for. Similarly, short-run printing can be used if you have an upcoming speaking event and would like to have some copies available for purchase.
You will get the same quality with a short-run as you would with a long-run. This means you will have a consistent, high quality product.
Cons to Short-Run Printing
One downfall of a short-run is that you do not get to enjoy the same discount that you would get with a long-run. Additionally, you may have to pick up the book yourself and ship the book yourself if you make an online sale just like a long-run.
If you want to know more about short-run printing, here’s an excellent article from our friends at Steuben Press.
When To Use Print-On-Demand
The question “When should I use print-on-demand” is pretty easy to answer. If you have any plans to put your book into distribution, it is a smart path to take. Print-on-demand is the term used when a book is automatically printed when purchased online. The POD service provider (such as Amazon’s KDP Print) will print the book according to your specifications and ship the book to the purchaser directly from the printer. Simple, right?
Pros to Print-On-Demand
POD is fast becoming the preferred method of printing books for self-publishers. You do not have to store pre-printed books in some musty corner of your house and you do not have to worry about overstocking.
Mistakes are also easier to correct if you are using POD. With POD, you can fix the error right away and all future copies will have the correct text.
Cons to Print-On-Demand
Why wouldn’t you use POD? The answer may depend on whether you want your book in distribution. If this is something that you only want to sell by hand at events, or if it’s a book that you intend to give as a gift to your family (a “legacy” book), you might not want to use POD.
There isn’t quite the same level of quality control with POD either. This ranges from color quality (which can be determined by ink vs toner) to the “positioning” of the design elements of your book. You should expect a 2% variance in these elements – practically unnoticeable, but a headache for designers to account for.
With all these benefits to weigh, which is the best option? Ultimately, it depends on your individual book’s needs. However, My Word Publishing will often use a combination of short-run printing and print-on-demand. The short-run will ensure that you have copies available before your book is fully live on POD and for your launch party. The print-on-demand will take care of most of your online sales afterward, but the short-run will always be available for restocking for your next event. If you have any reservations or questions about what type of printing is best for you, your My Word Publishing consultant has answers.
Kerry Roepke is a genre fiction writer and a publishing consultant at My Word Publishing. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Metropolitan State University of Denver and has a background in editorial journalism.