Print-on-Demand for Dummies

For weeks, I’ve been telling you all about the virtues of ebooks, why they are not to be feared but embraced. How they are the future of publishing.

Today, I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t abandon print yet, and detail three of my favorite print-on-demand services.

Schizophrenic? Maybe (but only because the publishing industry is these days). True? Absolutely!

eBooks Are the Future, But the Future Isn’t Here… Yet

eBooks are the new hotness. There’s no denying it. The turnaround time, writer compensation model, and the speed with which they can be bought and owned is unprecedented in the publishing world. Print books cannot possibly keep up with that kind of instant gratification.

But ebooks haven’t yet taken over the industry. More and more authors are seceding to the electronic world daily, but the overwhelming majority of successful authors are still the ones that are published in print. Having a printed volume in your readers’ hands with your name on the cover carries a level of prestige and tangibility that ebooks can’t yet match.

In a word, the book-buying public still considers print to be more real.

Print-on-Demand: The Solution for the Rest of Us

Self-publishing services are a dime a dozen, and most of them are perfectly legitimate. The traditional self-publishing model is the one where you’re essentially paying all of the printing costs yourself. You agree to purchase in bulk a huge number of copies of your books.

I’m not here to knock this business model. I know plenty of successful writers who have used it. I have a good friend who published a pint-sized guidebook using, and saw terrific success with it. Minibuk’s prices vary depending on how many copies you have printed, and how big they are. Even though this company sells tiny-sized books exclusively, their pricing structure reflects the industry standard.

How are those of us without a lot of extra coin supposed to make our work available for readers in print?

Print-on-demand, that’s how.

The Goods

Print-on-demand works exactly how it sounds, and I doubt you need me to explain it to you. The bottom line is that it requires no out-of-pocket expenses for the writer. Here are three of my favorite print-on-demand services.

Amazon’s CreateSpace offers a full-featured solution, with options for every kind of writer. Whether you’re ready to print immediately, or you need some help with copyediting, design work for your cover and/or interiors, and illustrations for your childrens’ book, they can do it all. They also offer a “pro” package that includes tons of extras like custom-made press releases, posters, bookmarks, postcards, and even a video trailer for your book. You also have placement within Amazon’s unparalleled online store.

CafePress is still one of the best and most frequently-used. They offer five different sizes and a nice variety of publishing options, including saddle-stitch, spiral-bound, and paperback/glued binding. They also simplify the process on your end, with easy templates you can download and customize to best fit their formats. You automatically get a CafePress store of your own to sell your book in (assuming you don’t already have one), and you can customize it and even embed it in your own website. Having used CafePress myself, I’ve found their work to be of good quality.

Lulu is probably one of the best known, offering all the same options of CafePress, along with the holy grail of self-publishing: cloth-bound/hard back books. They also offer probably the most size options of any self-publisher. On the downside, their publishing costs are on the higher end of the scale, which means your average reader will pay more for his or her copy of the book. Lulu users would probably argue that their prices are higher because their quality is better. Lulu also offers a nice slate of a la carte marketing services, but none of these are free, of course.

There are any number of other on-demand publishing services out there, but these are the ones I’ve had the most experience with. If you’ve found a good one, please let us know in the comments area.






3 responses
  1. Erica Avatar

    I just published my book through CreateSpace. So far, they are good to work with and you only pay about 7 bucks for a proof of your book. They have lots of cover templates to choose from and have available staff to call or email for help. I love it!

    Oh, the book is called the Prayer Monologues

  2. Kevin Dillon Avatar

    Great article by the way. In recent months, while writing the first draft of my first novel, I have done extensive research on the surging world of self-publishing, and it seems each time I have encountered Lulu and Createspace. So I thank you for one I haven’t heard of. If anyone is interested, here is an article I wrote on self publishing:

  3. Kat LaFrance Avatar

    I used CafePress in 2004 and have been very happy with their services, though I have not done much marketing. I like the idea of using Create Space in order to get my book listed on Amazon, but after downloading one of their templates and trying to format MSWord I am about to tear my hair out! I did the final copyedit, went in to make the corrections and found MSWord had done some weird format changes. I probably pushed a wrong button. *Sigh* Oh, for the old Word which wasn’t pretty, but was straight-forward!:-) I will finish fixing the errors, then will convert to pdf and finally send it in to hopefully print out correctly. I keep reminding myself it’s got to be easier than searching thousands of publishers, etc.:-)

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