Saturday, January 23, 2010

Options for Printing My Own Book

Wow! It's really bustling in the coffee shop, today. Everyone pull your chairs closer to the table so people can get past it a little easier. Now that we're having a break in the frigid weather, we all want to get out of the house while we can enjoy it.

Speaking of enjoying, I brought Michael Marcus with me, again. Michael is breaking our trail through the confusing jungle of rumors, facts, deceptive practices and unknown pitfalls for those of us considering self-publishing. Sit back, sip your café au lait and enjoy Michael's words of experience.

Electronic "eBooks" and the compact readers that store and display them are efficient, exciting and "green." A hundred years from now, paper books ("pBooks") may be as obsolete as parchment scrolls are now. But for the foreseeable future, traditional printed-on-paper books will continue to be the dominant format. Any writer who publishes only with electronic media will miss many potential readers, and substantial potential income.

In self-publishing paper books, there are two printing methods to consider. First, I'll discuss the one that's least important to self-publishers. Most books produced by "traditional" publishers are produced on offset printing presses. These huge machines can rapidly print many thousands of books at low cost.

Offset printing is the right choice if you think you can sell at least 500 books in a year. Price-per-book decreases as printing quantity increases, and it can be tempting to order a large print run to boost the potential profit on each book you sell. Keep in mind, however, that you will have to pay "up-front" to print books that may not generate revenue for a year or longer, you'll pay to ship them and store them, conditions may change that will make your stored books obsolete or inaccurate,  and if you don't sell as many books as you plan, the entire venture may be a money-loser. It's much safer to use print-on-demand (POD).

As the term implies, POD books are printed after demand has been demonstrated. They don't exist until the publisher (maybe you) or a bookseller or bookseller's customer places an order. Unless the publisher specifically chooses to do so, there is no inventory of obsolete unsold books that can deteriorate into moldy mouse food because nobody wants to buy them and read them.

A POD printing press is like a giant photocopier. It uses digital technology, and toner rather than ink, to produce a printed book from a digital file at the rate of hundreds of pages per minute.

The vast majority of POD books are printed by Lightning Source, even if you use a pay-to-publish company such as Outskirts Press.

Lightning Source is part of Ingram Books. Ingram is the largest book wholesaler in the United States, and the connection between Lightning and Ingram means that all books printed by Lightning Source are available to bricks-and-mortar booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and the shrinking number of small, independent stores.

More important for self-publishers, however, is that books produced though Lightning Source are AUTOMATICALLY listed on the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and dozens of other online booksellers worldwide.  A self-publisher using Lightning Source doesn't have to do any work to have her book available to millions of potential readers."

Next time, Michael will go into detail on using Lightning Source to print your book.

(Michael N. Marcus is now completing his fifth and sixth self-published books. His Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't Be a Victim of a Vanity Press has been on two Amazon bestseller lists for business books. Check it out at He recently founded the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance. He blogs about writing, editing and publishing at Book Making Blog and his publishing company is Silver Sands Books.)   

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