Printing
Book printing for beginners
June 19, 2021

Book printing can feel a little overwhelming unless you understand all the terms and plethora of options available, so we thought we'd take a closer look.

To begin with you need to decide on what size of book you would like yours to be. There are any number of popular sizes many rooted in the past and newer more cost efficient sizes make the best use of the paper sheets. We usually recommend that authors find out the size of book they like/feel comfortable with and we will advise on the cost implications. If it is a hardback you are looking to always measure the bookblock itself, not the case! Once you have established the size of your book and will now be thinking about whether to print it as a hardback (casebound), a paperback or both.

The first point to think about here is the genre of your book and it is simple enough to look up cover prices of books of a similar genre, as yours must be competitively priced. This might rule out a hardback book initially, unless you are an established author, in which case your new title(s) may be launched as a hardback prior to bringing out a paperback version. Remember, a hardback is more expensive to manufacture than a paperback, and if you are publishing your book, controlling your costs is vital.

Another key point here is to have already considered how exactly you are going to sell your book, as this will determine how many copies you will need to print initially and which print process to be used.

There are two main print processes today, the traditional litho method  and the more modern digital process. Litho printing is traditionally used for longer print runs as typically the unit cost of a book will reduce markedly when you print 1000 copies or more. Digital printing enables you to print very short runs of your book. Whilst the unit cost is higher than that of litho it means that you can print just a few copies (usually from around 30 copies) in order to launch the book. Moreover, the turnaround time for a digitally printed book is much less (at around seven working days) than a litho printed book which takes about fifteen working days for a paperback. Short run hardbacks in black & white, typically from 10 to 200 copies can take fifteen working days or so, depending upon how busy the printer is. The breakpoint between digital and litho does depend upon the book specifications the number of pages and the copies required. A general rule of thumb would put this at around 500 copies where digital and litho prices may be similar. Above 1000 copies the litho unit costs are much keener than digital. We always advise authors and publishers to print only as many copies as they believe they can sell, after all you can always reprint. We know of authors who have, against our advice, insisted on printing thousands of copies of their book and years later they are still filling their loft or garage!

Authors may also wish to consider the traditional print on demand (PoD) service which utilises virtual distribution. In effect your book will be available to be bought from all major online outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others around the world, as well as being orderable from most book shops. When an order is made, a single copy is printed and dispatched and this requires no input from you. The entire order is managed online and involves the author in no additional work. Sales and the ensuing royalties are calculated on a quarterly basis and paid to you three months in arrears. For self-publishing authors, it is the lowest cost route to market. The larger online retailers like Amazon may actually stock the item so that the printed book can be dispatched within 24 hours or less.

But, please remember that whilst your book will be visible to anybody looking for it, they first must be made aware of it, so planning your marketing and promotion early is essential! DolmanScott can assist you with marketing and promotions using social media.

You do the writing, we'll take care of the rest.
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