If you’ve decided to print your book as a self-publisher, there are a few options to consider. While a publisher (traditional or hybrid) will already have their own options, this section can help you make an informed decision when selecting the publishers you’ll submit to.
There are generally two types of printing that you can choose between: short-run printing and print on demand (POD).
Short run is basically a term for printing in batches of less than 1000. Generally, the printers you’d be using for short-run printing are very efficient at printing larger batches of books, so the more you print, the lower the cost per book (also known as the “unit price”). Because of the printing method, there is also more flexibility around things like paper type, book size, binding, and the quality of image-heavy publications (like photography or children’s books).
The downside to short-run printing is the difficulty and time required in distributing the books themselves. There are online options, like Amazon Advantage, where you can set yourself up as a vendor, and many bookstores will agree to sell your book if you agree to their return policy and provide the books. The challenge in those types of arrangements comes from taking on the shipping fees and investing the time to set up the partnerships.
Print on demand (POD)
POD printing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Books are printed one at a time once they’ve been bought and paid for. The result is that the per book (or per unit) cost using POD is more expensive than short-run printing. However, the overall price tends to be lower for self-publishers because there are none of the associated costs of short-run printing (namely, paying to print and warehouse a bunch of books up front that you’re not sure will sell).
A major upside to POD is the ease of distributing your book online. There are many distributors to choose from, and the printing and shipping is entirely automated, meaning you won’t acquire expenses or have to lift a finger beyond pushing the “Publish” button.
The downside to POD is that there is less flexibility in the final product (i.e. fewer types of paper, fewer book size options, and printing book interiors in color can become quite expensive). However, POD printing has improved significantly, and if your book is designed professionally, the end result is often very competitive with a book using short-run printing.