Once you’ve written and finalized your book, there’s a big question to answer…
How are you going to deliver your book to your audience?
I’ll admit this part isn’t typically as fun as writing your book, but it’s just as important because there’s no book if it can’t find its way into the hands of your readers.
The short answer is yes, but I’ll go into more detail in this article.
A good place for us to start is to understand that there are two main book printing options for self publishers. You can either work with a print on demand service or a third-party printer.
Why choose print on demand books for your self-publishing
While third-party printers allow you to customize your book’s packaging experience, the partnership also comes with a lot of extra work, higher costs, and more limitations.
For entrepreneurs who want to easily self publish their book so they can get back to other projects they love (like another book!), partnering with services for print on demand books will be a no brainer. Here are a few reasons why you may want to choose a print on demand service for your book.
Self published authors are usually more excited about seeing their book in their readers’ hands than actually delivering the book directly to them through a complicated shipping process.
Without a print on demand service, you are responsible for packaging and shipping the book on your own.
This will also take you away from effectively marketing and selling your book because you have to spend time fulfilling orders.
The time you do get to spend on marketing will only result in more orders to fulfill, which puts you in a perpetual cycle of stressful product delivery.
When I self published my poetry collection, I chose print on demand simply because I couldn’t see myself packing envelopes, getting stamps, running to the post office, and doing it over and over again.
I was in college at the time and didn’t have extra time between exams and internships to spend on shipping out my new book. You might feel the same way about your own schedule.
So when I said I didn’t have time to waste, I really didn’t have money to waste! The idea of paying upfront for books that may or may not sell didn’t make sense, especially on my tight budget.
When I learned about the flexibility of print on demand books, I was all in. I liked that I wouldn’t have any additional overhead and everything could be completely hands-off. I also didn’t feel pressure to sell a specific number of copies to make back my initial investment, which allowed me to enjoy more of the process.
It’s important to note that print on demand services typically take a larger portion of your overall profits because you are getting the benefits of only paying for what they print. But if you do the math, there’s not usually a huge difference and there’s less risk!
Let’s say you order one thousand copies of your first book from a third-party printing company. Everything goes well until you realize there was an error in your book… oh no!
Because these books have already been printed, you can’t make an edit to your manuscript, cover art, or book design immediately. You would have to wait until you sell all of your copies from the past print run and then edit what you need to.
With print on demand books, you can easily make an edit within the self publishing platform of your choice that will be reflected the next time someone orders your book online. That’s a huge benefit of print on demand books!
I shared a small apartment with three other people when I self published my poetry collection, so the idea of storing books was out of the question.
Print on demand book services cover the printing, storing, shipping, and delivering in-house so you don’t need to touch any part of the process.
If you are a location independent creator or business owner, this print on demand book option will be especially appealing to you. Most people don’t have space to store book inventory in their house or apartment. Instead, print on demand services have large warehouses that already do this. They’ve got it covered!
A self publisher’s guide on how to print a book
Before you choose a service for your print on demand books, let’s talk about what the process looks like from publishing your book online to receiving your royalties.
With print on demand services, they handle all of the steps in fulfilling the order so it’s an easy process for you as the book creator.
Step 1: Your book is purchased
After you’ve effectively marketed your book, orders will start to pour in. Most self publishing platforms give customers the opportunity to shop for your book on top online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
When they add the book to their cart and checkout, the order will be sent to the print on demand service.
Step 2: Book order goes to print on demand service
Once the print on demand service receives the order, it will print however many copies of the book have been ordered through each online retailer. They will follow your guidelines to seamlessly create the cover art and book design in professional quality.
From there, your book is ready to be shipped.
Step 3: Book is shipped to your customer
Aren’t you glad this doesn’t fall on your to-do list?
Since print on demand services ship thousands of books every day, it’s no surprise that their streamlined process cuts down on shipment time so customers get your book fast.
They will take care of printing your shipping labels, packaging your book, and sending it to your customer no matter where in the world they are.
Step 4: You earn royalties from your book
Now that the printing and shipping process is done with your book delivered to your customers, you can successfully collect payment from the self publisher.
I remember when I received my first payment from the self publisher. It made the whole process feel so much more real!
Seeing that I could make money online from sharing my work led me to start a blog, which then inspired me to start pursuing online entrepreneurship full-time. And it all started with the payout from self publishing my poetry collection!
I know it has the power to inspire you to think outside-the-box in making a living online, too.
Selecting the right self published book printer
Not all self publishing printers are created equal. While there are dozens of services for print on demand books, we want to take a deeper dive into three of the most popular options to help you confidently make your decision.
Since CreateSpace is an Amazon company, it has become a go-to choice for many self-published authors. You can get started with zero upfront costs while still earning a high royalty. (Keep in mind that you still need to factor in manufacturing costs!)
When you work with CreateSpace, you also can easily convert your book into an eBook through Kindle Direct Publishing. Since readers want to access stories on all devices, it’s smart to sell your book in print and digital formats.
Pros of CreateSpace:
- Great customer service through Amazon
- Regularly checks for printing consistency between each copy
- Quick delivery times, especially for those in the US
Considers itself the printer, not the publisher, so you keep your copyright
- Higher paper quality than Lulu
Cons of CreateSpace:
- 40-60% royalties on CreateSpace vs. 80% royalties on Lulu
- If you have multiple book contributors in different countries, splitting royalties is difficult
- Their cover creator tool is basic and not highly reviewed
Find out about the cost here.
Lulu is another big player in the self-publishing world, but is it the right fit for you? It’s well-known for its wide support of indie authors and the great content on their blog that is created to equip the next generation of self published authors.
They also participate in the NaNoWriMo, a book writing movement that inspires authors to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which takes place in November every year for National Novel Writing Month (hence the abbreviation).
They’ve become a crowd favorite among new authors, but they also have some significant drawbacks. Our pros and cons list will help you determine if it’s a fit for you or not.
Pros of Lulu:
- You can choose between seven different sizes to find your best fit
- Worldwide distribution for easy access to your book
- Easy to get started with a simple PDF file
- They are based in the UK so it’s a great option if most of your sales will come from there
- Sometimes offer deals for free proof copies for new authors
- Automatically converts paperback books into eBooks for no added cost
Cons of Lulu:
- Doesn’t have a user-friendly dashboard and user interface (UI)
- Not as great paper quality as CreateSpace (yellowish tint to pages vs. crisp white on CreateSpace)
- You can’t create spine artwork on your Lulu book (only text)
- Customer service requests take longer to be answered than BookBaby and CreateSpace
- If you don’t format your book correctly, you’ll need to pay for Lulu’s formatting assistance with their experts to get your book ready to print
- Hardcover books have a glossy plastic look and show dents or imperfections
- If you have an ISBN, Lulu becomes your publisher, meaning they have exclusive rights to distribute your book
Find out about the cost here.
By now, you have probably noticed that no self publishing printer is perfect. They each come with different services and benefits, but BookBaby is even more of an outlier in the way they have structured and positioned their company.
Out of the three choices here, it is the one option that isn’t free to get started but comes with a wide array of additional services and support you may be interested in.
BookBaby is less of a self publishing printer and more of a full-service provider for all of your publishing needs. It can be a great fit for authors who want to make an impact with their first book launch, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny to get started ($1499 for their full experience package, in fact!).
If you visit their homepage, you’ll see that they offer additional services beyond print on demand books. Some of them include professional book editing, eBook conversion, wholesale book printing, and book marketing.
If you want all of these services under one roof, it may be a good option for you. Just know that it comes with drawbacks beyond the upfront cost investment.
Pros of BookBaby:
- Access to an experienced marketing team to help you sell more of your books
- Great tutorials and blog posts with advice on how to market your books
- BookBaby stores your book inventory for you (starts with orders of 25+)
- Top-rated services for creating book cover art, designs, formatting, and other offerings
- One-stop-shop resource for new self publishers
Cons of BookBaby:
- You have to pay upfront for services that are free on other platforms (Example: paying $299 for distribution on all online retailers on BookBaby vs. it being free on CreateSpace and Lulu)
- It takes weeks to fulfill your orders rather than days
- Print on demand services are only available if you print 25 books or more at a time
Find out about the cost here.
Are you ready to choose a provider for your print on demand books?
Here’s a graph to help you do a quick comparison of all the print on demand services we just talked about. If you’ve got the “how to print a book” step down, one of these providers could be the perfect next step for you.