Publishing consultant Ally E. Peltier continues her series on repurposing and promoting previously published content. She began by explaining how to properly choose and assemble content for a successful, cohesive book. This was followed by a post identifying the three main sales venues for your book. Now she explores choosing the right print format.
How to Choose the Right Print Format for Your Book
POD vs. Offset
“POD” stands for print-on-demand and refers to a digital printing process by which books can be produced one at a time for a minimal cost. POD technology is available to any publisher but is most often used by so-called “vanity presses” (more appropriately called “POD publishers” and “POD publishing services”) and self-publishers.*
The offset printing process takes files and turns them into metal plates, which are then inked, stamped onto rubber, and pressed onto paper. The cost of producing small numbers of books with offset can be prohibitive, so you’re usually looking at initial orders of a couple hundred to a few thousand copies. This is a “print run,” a term increasingly irrelevant in the world of digital printing. Traditional publishers most often use offset.
If you own and register your book’s ISBN, you are the publisher; you will work directly with a printer using your choice of offset or POD printing. Conversely, most POD publishing services own the ISBN they assign to your book, which makes them the publisher.
So how do I choose?
Here are some considerations regarding offset:
- The quality of offset print is superior to POD. If your book uses full color or a lot of grayscale illustrations, offset may be a better choice.
- You can lay out thousands of dollars for a first print run. However, the larger the print run, the smaller the cost per book. If you know you can sell a large print run, say 1,000 or more books, offset can be more cost-effective (though you’ll have to store your books or pay to warehouse them).
- If a brick-and-mortar retail presence is essential to your publishing plan, go with offset. Most stores won’t stock POD books, though you’ll have marginally better luck self-publishing with a POD printer rather than using a POD publishing service.
Some considerations regarding POD:
- If you’re primarily selling online or at events, POD may be for you. You can order small quantities to hand-sell as needed and books will be printed and shipped as online orders are placed. There’s nothing to store.
- POD typically requires set-up fees minimal in comparison to the cost of offset print runs. Because you order and ship POD books as they’re sold, you only pay when you sell (or when you order for yourself). However, the per-book cost can be higher than offset depending on the number ordered.
- To get a bookstore to stock your POD titles, you’ll have to set up the right wholesale discounts and return policies. POD publishers typically won’t offer these options (or will charge heavily for them); you’ll have more control over these aspects with a POD printer.
- POD is so easy and affordable anyone can do it, which means it’s taken less seriously by industry pros. The most respected book reviewers won’t review POD titles, and your access to other sales and marketing channels is likewise affected (see my previous post).
*If you’re coordinating the production of your book from editing to design and book printing to distributing, then you are self-publishing, whether you use a POD publishing service or not. But for the sake of discussing choices in process, the distinction between “self-publishing” and “vanity” publishing or using a publishing service is important to understand.
Check out this series of articles on the Writer Beware blog by Victoria Strauss for a really comprehensive look at POD and electronic self-publishing, plus lots of resources for further reading.
Ally E. Peltier is an editor, writer, and publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge of the publishing industry and more than a decade of experience to help others reach their publishing goals, whether it’s showing a writer how to improve his manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish, or ghostwriting a book to help an entrepreneur skyrocket her business platform to new levels. Grab Ally’s free white papers and learn more about her services at www.ambitiousenterprises.com and www.allypeltier.com.