Print on Demand Services
One of the most common questions I've received since starting to teach my self-publishing and e-publishing seminars is how to choose a print on demand service.
What is POD?
First, print on demand or POD is a computerized system whereby a customer places and order for one or more books electronically, and a computerized system prints them on an as-needed basis.
Many of the firms also offer direct fulfillment which means that you never see or touch the book that was ordered – it’s all done for you, for a price of course, and you get to keep whatever is left over. J
POD is an excellent place for new authors to offer their books to clients, agents, publishers, and reviewers, without having to inventory a large quantity of books and bear the costs of that inventory.
POD is now done mostly high quality laser printing, but it was originally done with high speed ink-jet printers with a pretty marginal quality.
To make sure you’re going to get a quality print job, ASK if they’re using a laser or dry ink toner process, if they’re not, do NOT use them – your books will look horrible!
POD’s sole advantage is that you can print in lower quantities, which is the where the name "print on demand" comes from because you can basically print as many or as few as you need at any time.
Traditional printing is either electronic or offset printing and while these types of printing are far cheaper per unit and generally look more professional, you have to print at least 100 or more books to even consider using the processes.
The general rule of thumb I've found when asking around for prices is that if you can sell around 100-150 books, then you can probably at least break even by doing offset or electronic printing. Otherwise, consider POD.
As mentioned above, POD services are usually a satellite service that you’re going to offer so that your customers can order the book and have it shipped by a another company for you.
I want to emphasize that if you plan to get your orders fulfilled through another company and what I mean by this is that you plan to send your customers to another site for orders instead of having a stock at home, take the time to try ordering through that company yourself.
The reason is that you should know what kind of experience your readers will have when they buy a book from you. If you're putting your readers through a bad experience, it will reflect poorly on YOU.
Buying one book from a POD you're seriously considering will only cost you $10-20, and will save you a lot of possible headaches in the future.
Before I get into specific POD services, here is an intimidating list of POD services I found: www.bookmarket.com/ondemand.htm
It's such a long list, that it's difficult to know where to start. But by quickly looking at each company's specs and comparing them to your needs, many of these companies can be quickly eliminated.
Here is a couple that I researched in my role as book shepherding expert for my clients.
Ka-Blam is a POD service that specifically caters to comics. In principle, this has the nice advantage that you don't have to order a big stock of books, because you can send your customers directly to them instead (more on this in a minute).
Another advantage with Ka-Blam is that they have no setup fee. You just pay a flat fee per book, and their price was reasonable at $13.60 for a 92 page, full-color book.
Lulu is probably the biggest and best known of all the POD services and they do a lot of business with a lot of different types of products, from traditional books to calendars to CDs.
My main turnoff for Lulu was the price which is $18.33 for a full-color book, making too expensive for a $19 book, and that's not even taking into account shipping fees.
The reviews all state that users were happy with their experience, the quality of the product, and the speed of delivery.
360 Digital Books http://360digitalbooks.com/index.html
360 Digital Books has great personal service. They have regional service representatives that you can talk to over the phone.
They offer a WIDE variety of paper choices for both interior and cover and well as different cover finishes (plain, matte or gloss, with professional materials that don't warp).
This way you can find the perfect price range as well as a paper stock that best compliments your artwork. They also offer order fulfillment.
The drawback is that you must order at least 25 books and they also have a $30 minimum setup fee for the first order. For an additional price, they offer printed proofs, which is a nice service that many POD services don't offer.
The bottom line
The bottom line with POD is that it was NOT intended for the mass market but was created as a quick and relatively inexpensive way for the world to get single copies of hard to find or out of print books.
If you plan on using it, be prepared for the cost and quality tradeoffs associated with the process.
This is not a negative comment, simply a reality about what POD is, how it works, and what it’ll cost you.