Jane Smith contact me about doing a guest post on POD companies a few days ago and since it fit in with our Writing as a Business series, I agreed.
5 Reputable Print-on-Demand Services
First, some deep background: in the 1450s, Johannes Gutenberg printed the first movable-type Bible, kicking off a technological and cultural explosion that helped create the modern world. Printed works no longer had to be copied by hand. Doubtless some scribes were apoplectic over this, fearing for the future of humanity and, not incidentally, their livelihoods.
Half a millennium later, we find ourselves in the midst of a comparable revolution. It is estimated that in 2008, the number of self-published books eclipsed the number of traditionally-published ones for the first time. Or, to put it another way, 2007 will be remembered as the last year most books were published by publishers. One of the key drivers of this massive change is print-on-demand technology, or POD.
It’s important that we distinguish here between the concepts of “self-publishing” and “print-on-demand.” Print-on-demand specifically refers to the ability to print off each copy as it is ordered. Self-publishing just means the lack of a traditional publisher as middleman. You can easily have one of these things without the other. Just as it is possible to self-publish the old-fashioned way, printing one large batch of books upfront (to sit in your garage forever…just kidding), traditional publishers can and do take advantage of POD capability.
But obviously, POD has enabled self-publishing to explode the way it has. If you’re considering bypassing the long hard road of rejection letters known as traditional publishing…well, first of all, find yourself a good editor anyway. Then make sure you do a background check on the printing service before you sign on with them. Start by taking a look at these five:
This young, booming industry has been seeing much consolidation. Author Solutions is now the umbrella company that owns a few of the main POD companies you might have been familiar with a few years ago: iUniverse, Xlibris, Trafford Publishing, Wordclay, and AuthorHouse (formerly 1stBooks). Confusingly, these still operate independently, but most offer a starting package that includes a small initial print run for $599 and POD services thereafter.
Lulu advertises itself with the slogan “publish for free,” only taking money when a book is ordered. The great advantage of Lulu is its great flexibility; you have total control over the finished product and can print it in just about any format, the whole gamut of sizes and bindings. The flip-side is that everything possible is done digitally; they do not assign you a human contact unless something goes wrong.
This is Amazon’s own POD brand, which is in the process of absorbing BookSurge (I told you there were a lot of mergers going on here). As you might expect, they’re very well-run, but brick-and-mortar retailers tend to have it in for Amazon and will be reluctant to shelve their titles. If you plan to use Amazon as your main means of distribution anyway, this would be a good way to go.
4. Infinity Publishing
Infinity offers an Author Concierge service that puts a rep in touch with you immediately. They claim to be the only publisher that stocks a micro-inventory of your title at all times to keep shipping times extra fast. Packages start at $599 for paperback and $849 for hardcover.
5. Lightning Source
This is the official POD service of Ingram Book Group, the country’s main book distributor. As such, it only works with publishing companies. So if you decide to go the small-press route rather than self-publishing, this is the POD arrangement they’ll probably go with. The fee (to the publisher) is only $12 per year per title. Using the infinite reach of Ingram’s distribution channels, Lightning Source can probably get your book placed more widely than the other services, but again, is not for self-publishing.
Hope this helps give you an idea of the fast-changing landscape. Make sure to check the websites for up-to-date pricing information, and ask lots of questions before you sign on for anything. You’ll be glad you did once your book is out there being ordered!
Familiar with personal information screenings and online background checks, Jane Smith regularly writes about these topics in her blogs. Feel free to send her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.