We have all heard the famous story of how JK Rowling was rejected 12 times before she could get her first novel published and printed. And how Stephen King’s first story was rejected 30 times before it was picked up by a hesitant publisher. It was not easy being a writer back in the day.
Thankfully, these struggles no longer exist. The world of self-publishing has given free access to worldwide markets for any writer who can write a complete book and has access to the internet. Add to this the advent of ‘print-on-demand’, and now you have a publishing landscape that Agatha Christie could only have dreamed of.
You no longer need to worry about printing the minimum of 1000 copies, maintaining inventory, managing the shipping, and dealing with all the hassle that comes along with it. Now, you can get companies to print single copies and deliver them to single buyers.
In this post I am going to answer all of the questions you might have, such as 'where can I get my book printed?', 'How much will it cost me?', 'What is the minimum number of copies I need to order?', etc.
So read on because I’ve listed the best print-on-demand (POD) services around town, along with all the necessary details you need to know!
1) Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Print
No matter who you ask, this is the first answer you will get. Kindle, under Amazon, has been a trailblazer in bringing about the self-publishing revolution on the back of its KDP service through which you can upload your books to Amazon’s massive online store and sell eBooks and paperbacks, extremely easily, too!
You may have already heard of Create Space, which used to be a giant in this market... well that was Amazon, too. It has since merged ebook publishing and print, into one.
Here are a few details of KDP’s printing services:
Minimum requirements: To set up the paperback service (which will make Amazon print and send a paperback to whoever buys your book from its online store), you need to upload a properly formatted PDF manuscript and your book’s cover to KDP through your dashboard. You can get a solid idea of the formatting requirements by heading over to this resource on the KDP website.
Along with uploading the manuscript, you will also need to select a few print options including the ink and paper type, trim size, bleed setting, and cover finish. For the ink and paper type, you will get 3 options:
- Black ink and 90 GSM cream paper
- Black ink and 90 GSM white paper
- Color ink and 100 GSM white paper
(In case you’re wondering what GSM is, it’s the measure of the weight of the paper. So a 100 GSM paper would be heavier/thicker than a 90 GSM paper).
You can choose a trim size from the table in this link, but the default option is a 6” x 9” paper. Similarly, you will have the option to choose whether you want there to be a bleed in the interior of your book or not (the cover will have bleed by default). As for the cover, you can choose between glossy (shiny) and a matte finish.
Lastly, you don’t need to worry about getting an ISBN (which is usually required for a paperback) because KDP will do that for you. KDP supply you a free ISBN for each paperback you upload.
KDP’s printing costs depend on the page count and the type of ink and paper you select, and not on the remaining options (trim size, bleed, cover finish). Once you’re done selecting your options, KDP will automatically calculate the printing cost and show it to you before you can confirm the settings. This is the formula they use to calculate the printing cost:
- Fixed cost + (page count * per page cost) = printing cost
To give you a rough benchmark, a 300-page paperback in black ink will have a printing cost of $4.45. KDP will subtract this cost from the total listed price of the book, and send you the remaining amount as royalties.
- Downsides of Amazon KDPs free ISBN you should know about
Accepting the free ISBN provided by KDP has two conditions. One is that you cannot use these ISBNs elsewhere and if you wish to stock your books in any other large retailer apart from your own site or local book stores and libraries, you will need to buy a new barcode.
The other, is that your book listing will display "Independent Publisher". I can understand why one would opt to just buy a batch of ISBNs at a disocunted rate, especially if they intend to publish more books. Having your own ISBN to apply to your books means you can act as a publishing company or house in your own right and therefor that company name would be listed instead of "independent publisher", which looks a lot better.
You also would not have the limitation of where you can distribute your books.
US ISBN provider - Bowker
UK ISBN provider - Nielsens (One ISBN costs £89 whilst a batch of 10 costs £164 and a batch of 100 costs £369)
CANADA ISBN provider - Canadian ISBN Agency (ISBNs in Canada are free! See here for more information.)
IngramSpark is the second most popular option when it comes to print-on-demand services. Through its use of advanced POD technology, it offers a wide range of features for self-publishers including the option to print both hardcovers and paperbacks, and easily update files as you make changes to your book.
Once you self-publish your book through IngramSpark, it is made available in over 40,000 retail stores (both online and physical) through a massive distribution network. Along with printing, IngramSpark offers a nice service package that includes 24/7 customer support and online sales reporting, so if you’re not a fan of KDP, you should definitely check out IngramSpark!
Let’ take a detailed look at its printing service:
Minimum requirements: As was the case with KDP, the first thing you’ll need to be ready with is a formatted manuscript and a book cover design that you love. When you’re uploading this to IngramSpark’s platform, you will get the option to select a custom trim size, binding type, laminate, paper size, interior color, and page count.
The following table, compiled from this useful resource from IngramSpark’s website shows the typical settings for 4 kinds of books: novels & poetry books, children’s & cookbooks, business & health books, and graphic novels.
|Trim size||6” x 9”||8.5” x 8.5”||5.5” x 8.25”||6.625” x 10.25”|
|Paper||50lb Crème||70lb White||50lb White||70lb White|
|Interior Color||Black & white||Standard color||Black & white||Standard color|
Of course, the settings I’ve presented in the table above are just typical settings – you can select whatever suits your book. However, if you find yourself confused due to so many options, you can go ahead with those from the table.
Cost: IngramSpark, unlike KDP, considers all the settings you select to calculate the total printing cost for your book. You can visit their printing cost calculator to find out how much your book will cost you. Note that you can also include a default ‘wholesale discount’ in the price which will reduce the amount you earn from each book, but may end up boosting your sales significantly.
To get an idea of the printing cost for various types of books, go back to the table above and read the last row to see what each type of book will cost you for that combination of print settings.
Blurb is a self-publishing company that has a particular knack for producing books that involve a lot of pictures and graphics. They offer designing tools including Adobe Photoshop and InDesign straight on their website, making the formatting part incredibly convenient and simplified.
Let’s get a quick overview of their printing services:
Minimum requirements: The first step in self-publishing a book through Blurb is to select a format. Blurb offers a range of formats including photo books, trade books, magazines, and eBooks that can be printed in a variety of paper sizes.
You can visit this incredibly detailed page on Blurb’s official website to find a full list of options and a comprehensive comparison of the book formats offered by Blurb.
Once you’ve selected your desired format, you will be given access to a design tool that you can use to manually position all of your pictures, add elements to increase the elegance of your book, and get it ready for printing. That’s it, you’re done!
Cost: Several factors determine the cost of printing your books through Blurb. These include the chosen format, type and thickness of the paper used, whether you’re printing a hardback or a paperback, the page count, number of copies, and whether you want Blurb’s logo on your book or not.
To get a full-fledged breakdown of the cost for each possible selection, head over to this pricing page on Blurb’s website.
Imagine what it would be like if you were born just a decade earlier – you’d have to go down the same routes that authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King went down. You’d have to face a lot of rejections and struggle just to get your book printed.
That is why it is nothing short of a miracle that today we have services like the ones I’ve detailed above that make this process simple, cheap, and hassle-free. What a time to be alive!