Deciding to self-publish your book and get it into print is just the first step in a long journey. You’ll spend time writing and editing your manuscript, and when you’re done, you’ll get it typeset or designed so it looks great for your readers. Then comes the process of actually getting your book printed. In theory, it should be relatively easy, but it can be really hard to choose where you want to print your book with so many options available.
When I got my first book, Yoga for Runners, into print back in 2015, I was totally confused by the process. Self-publishing was still picking up steam and there wasn’t a ton of information out there to help me through the process. I had heard about a few book printing options on the podcasts I listened to, so I tried out those places first. I wound up paying a lot more to get my book printed than I needed to, and the whole process felt overly complicated. Plus, I didn’t have a great idea of what all of my options were, and what questions I should ask to find the right printer for me.
If the process of printing your self-published book has you feeling confused and overwhelmed, I’m here to help. And, I’m pulling in my friend and colleague LeAnna Weller Smith of Weller-Smith Design for her perspective, too. LeAnna has worked in the publishing industry for many years, and she knows a lot of the ins and outs of self-publishing. In this episode, LeAnna and I talk about the printing services we recommend for most of our clients. We also run through the big print-on-demand options and talk about the pros and cons of each service to help you pick the right one. And, we touch on offset printing, in case your book has unique features that print-on-demand services can’t fill.
If you need help finding the right printer for your self-published book, you’ve come to the right place!
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PRINTING OPTIONS FOR SELF-PUBLISHERS
KDP Print has become the most popular print-on-demand option in the circles I run in, and it’s the first place I recommend my clients look into. (LeAnna recommends it to a lot of her clients, too.) Since CreateSpace stopped taking new submissions in late 2018, KDP Print has become the go-to for self-publishers who want to work with Amazon’s service.
Pros of KDP Print:
- It’s very user friendly; in fact, it’s probably the easiest print-on-demand service to use right now. Authors can download free templates for creating the interior of the book and the cover, too. These templates make it really easy for DIY-ers to format their own books.
- KDP Print also offers free book cover designs if you don’t want to make your own or hire a designer to create one for you. They’re not the flashiest designs (and I strongly recommend getting a cover that’s been created specifically for your book), but they’ll do if you’re really in a crunch.
- The process of uploading files to KDP is pretty easy. And, they have an automated print check process to help you find places that may potentially cause your files to get rejected (which you would have to fix and resubmit).
- It’s free to use! Amazon doesn’t charge any fees to submit your book, or to upload a revised version of your book either. (That makes fixing typos easy and inexpensive!)
- Your book will be Prime-eligible if it’s purchased through Amazon. That can be a big perk to your readers.
Cons of KDP Print:
- You can only print paperback books with KDP Print. If you want a hardcover book or other type of binding, you’ll need to find another printer.
- Distribution channels can be more limited than with some other printers, although KDP Print does offer expanded distribution.
IngramSpark is becoming an increasingly popular option with many self-published authors. IngramSpark prints both paperback and hardcover books, making it a popular choice for authors who really want that hardcover book. Its distribution channels are better than KDP Print’s, making it easier for bookstores to order copies of your book. (Actually getting your book into bookstores can be a little more difficult, though.)
Pros of IngramSpark:
- Offers more formats, like hardcover (with or without a jacket). You also get more paper and ink options with IngramSpark.
- Great distribution channel options make it easy for bookstores, libraries, and other places to order your book.
Cons of IngramSpark:
- It’s not a free service. You do have to pay a fee to set up your book with IngramSpark, and you have to pay to upload any changes to your book, too.
- Their interface isn’t the easiest to use. IngramSpark can be a little confusing for DIYers to use, and for DIYers to meet the proper formatting specifications, too. (They do offer a free File Creation Guide, but many of the people I’ve spoken to who have used IngramSpark said they didn’t feel like their system was as easy to use as Amazon’s.)
Lulu is another print-on-demand service that I see self-publishers turn to when they want to publish a hardcover book. Lulu doesn’t offer as many trim sizes as KDP Print or IngramSpark, but the people I know who have used Lulu have been satisfied with the quality of the books they received.
I actually started out by publishing my first book in print using Blurb, which is also a print-on-demand service. I ultimately switched over to CreateSpace (and now KDP Print) because it was pretty pricey to order books through Blurb. Amazon’s prices were much lower, which meant that I could sell my book for a lower price. Blurb does have some software to help you design your book, which can come in handy if you’re not the most proficient with Microsoft Word, Canva, or other design software.
Sometimes the print-on-demand options just can fill the needs for your book. Whether you want unique finishes for your book (like foil added to the cover), you need a unique binding (like a spiral binding), or you’re just not finding what you want in print-on-demand services, you can always turn to a more traditional offset printer.
Pros of offset printing:
- You can get exactly what you want. There are many printers out there, so you just have to find one that can offer the details you want for your budget.
- Offset printers can often accommodate a larger range of sizes, paper qualities, print qualities, and more. In general, you get more options with an offset printer than a print-on-demand service.
- You can print more than books! If you dream of printing a deck of cards or a specialized calendar or some other non-standard product, an offset printer can help make that happen.
Cons of offset printing:
- You have to pay for everything ahead of time. With print-on-demand services, most of the time, the book is printed to fulfill an order. That means you don’t have to buy a bunch of books ahead of time; the cost of the book is wrapped into the price the customer pays when they buy the book. With offset printing, you need to be able to pay for the cost of printing hundreds (or thousands) of books at once.
- You have to house the books when they’re printed. Or, you have to make sure that they’re delivered to the place that will be fulfilling your book orders (like Amazon). The logistics can add an extra layer of stuff that you have to deal with.
- It can take time to find the right printer, but that time spent can be well worth it!
LeAnna is the owner and Executive Creative Director of Weller Smith Design LLC, a boutique design studio. She started her design career in advertising and book publishing and over time, as her clients needs shifted, she moved into the digital realm. She has 20+ years experience and has worked with clients ranging from corporate to cultural. Her and her team specialize in creating thoughtful design solution for print, branding, and web that reflect the client’s vision and mission.
Where you can find LeAnna:
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