Do you fantasize about bringing your writing to life? It might seem like a huge, complicated undertaking, but you might be surprised how viable it is. Many authors have found success with self-publishing using print-on-demand services.
When you use this strategy, you’re able to avoid two of the biggest hassles of publishing: finding a publisher, and dealing with managing tons of inventory that may not ever be sold.
So how can you tap into the self-publishing process and create your own print-on-demand books? In this article, we’ll cover the basics you need to start your journey.
Why choose print-on-demand book publishing?
One of the biggest challenges authors face is dealing with their own inventory. You may not have anywhere to store hundreds or even thousands of copies of your book. Shipping is another consideration: do you have the time and resources to ship books out once they’re ordered, without eating too far into your profit margins?
Some authors even face nightmarish scenarios, like encountering damage, poor print quality, or misprints that render your books unsellable after you’ve gone through all the time, energy, and costs of printing.
When you self-publish through print-on-demand, you’re able to print copies as needed, completely circumventing the storage of large inventories.
The self-publishing process also allows you to avoid needing to work with a publisher. It’s up to you when and how to create your books, and how you go about marketing and selling them.
Print-on-demand services for self-publishing books
There are plenty of print-on-demand services out there, so how do you choose? Here are some of the top services used by authors around the world. Take some notes, compare and contrast, and see which ones may be best suited for your needs and preferences.
1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon’s print-on-demand book service lets you publish and distribute paperbacks and digital books to customers worldwide. You can list your books on Amazon’s Kindle store for free, though you’ll pay a commission on each sale.
With Amazon’s KDP service, you also get the option to order proof copies. These let you minimize the risk of improper printing—you can check for errors before the production run. You’ll pay the print cost, plus shipping.
You’ll need to use another POD service to print magazines or spiral-bound notebooks. But if digital and paperback books are what you require, Amazon’s print service should work fine while offering visibility on its marketplaces.
BookBaby is one of the top names in print-on-demand books. If you’re a new author, you can get started selling on the BookBaby network for $149. If you’re a successful independent author, you can tap into robust networks like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, and thousands more global stores, libraries, and catalogs. This plan starts at $399.
Here’s how it works: your book is available for purchase online on these popular book marketplaces. When a customer places an order, BookBaby will print on demand and ship it out, even if it’s just one copy.
BookBaby also offers other services, like ebooks, audiobooks, editing services, book design, and templates. Once you place your order, your book is typically up for sale within a few days.
IngramSpark is a self-publishing company that touts print quality similar to traditionally published books via a large publisher. You can use this self-publishing service to create print books, ebooks or packages with both. Pricing starts at $49 per title for a print book, $25 for an ebook, or $49 for both.
Similarly to BookBaby, IngramSpark offers global distribution to thousands of libraries and retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo. Inside the platform, you’ll be able to track and manage your sales and get reporting all in one place.
The company’s website even offers a free calculator to help predict your profit per book sold. This calculator looks at details like:
- Trim size
- Binding type
- Laminate type
- Page count
- List price
Acutrack prides itself on being one of the quickest on-demand print services out there. It’s a slightly different model than printing on demand one book at a time. Instead, Acutrack will print and store your books in its own warehouse. Then when you receive orders, Acutrack will fulfill them instantly.
There’s one caveat: this service is best for self-published authors (and other entities, like businesses and schools) that have a consistent and reliable sales volume. If you’re just starting out, you may want to shift to a classic print-on-demand model that prints books as needed.
Acutrack integrates with several platforms, including Shopify, Amazon, Salesforce, Clickfunnel, and many other ecommerce platforms. You can also use the Acutrack API to create a smooth process between your storefront and the software.
Because books are pre-printed, orders are shipped within 72 hours.
Blurb specializes in printing art and books for creatives. You can choose from a variety of paper types, as well as leverage Blurb’s design tools to lay out your product. Blurb syncs with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Lightroom to make it convenient for you to transfer your designs.
You can publish and sell digital copies of your books through the Blurb bookstore, as well as through Apple Books and Amazon Kindle. The books feature a branded Blurb watermark, which you can remove by paying a “custom logo fee.”
The starting price is $14.99 for a small square softcover book.
While Contrado doesn’t offer traditionally published books of full size, the company still deserves an honorable mention. It may be a great choice if you’re looking to publish smaller types of books, like scrapbooks, notebooks, guest books, portfolios, and look books.
For example, Contrado may be right for you if you’re designing these types of books to sell to customers (or even just looking to make some personal items). The company also offers print on demand for hundreds of other products, from clothing items to custom fabrics to wallpaper to accessories like purses and coasters.
Most products are printed in one to two business days and delivered in three to five business days. This even goes for international orders. Contrado’s team is speedy!
7. Lulu xPress
Lulu’s book publishing services include simple book printing, which it refers to as Lulu xPress. It offers many options and formats for self-publishers, including color and black-and-white, paperback and hardcover, and a variety of paper types. Books usually cost $2 to $3 to print and $6 to $9 to ship.
Lulu xPress syncs with Shopify, making it ideal for anyone building a print-on-demand brand with different products. Plus, it offers distribution tools to help you promote your titles.
The service takes three to five business days to produce a batch. Shipping takes up to 28 days.
Printify is another POD service with a large catalog of products, including custom journals and notebooks.
You can connect it with Shopify to sell books directly to your customers. Also, consider tagging photos of their pages in Instagram shoppable posts to expand the books’ reach further.
Printify usually takes two to seven business days to ship book orders.
Gelato is a print-on-demand company with a network of over 100 printers in more than 30 countries. Although it doesn’t offer traditional book printing, you can order notebooks, softcover and hardcover photo books, and calendars.
The company offers 72-hour delivery for most orders. Plus, it has other print-on-demand products, like t-shirts, apparel, and mugs if you want to expand your brand in the future.
Get started with your own print-on-demand book business
Some authors spend years locating the resources to get their traditionally published books out to the world. But you don’t need to be one of those authors.
You have the power to use digital printing services to get your work out there quicker and with fewer headaches. Self-publishing and print-on-demand give you back your autonomy in the process, meaning you can move forward as quickly as you like.
Just make sure to do your research and have a solid plan when it comes to choosing the right self-publishing services and getting started with the printing process.
Print-on-demand books FAQ
How much does it cost to print books on demand?
Printed book prices vary depending on the provider, as well as quantity and quality. You can list digital print-on-demand books for as little as $0, though you’ll need to pay associated fees each time you make a sale.
Does Amazon print books on demand?
Yes, Amazon offers paperback printing services along with digital Kindle books.
What is the best print-on-demand site for books?
Shopify is the best print-on-demand site for books. It lets you choose from various print-on-demand services to generate sales and serve customers.