Becoming a writer/publisher – part 2

I am only going to hit the high spots in this account and will only cover the facts I couldn’t find elsewhere. This post is about the printers that are available to you as a self-publisher.

The best decision I made was to follow a friend’s advice and buy Dan Poynter’s book, The Self-Publishing Manual. It is an invaluable resource. I recommend it highly. His Para Publishing web site has hundreds of pages of information and free documents. Dan does a great job of preparing you to publish your own book, but there are things you must discover on your own.

I formed my own publishing company, Bent Crow Press, so I would have the credentials needed to negotiate with book printers. Many are reluctant to deal with you as an author. Read Dan Poynter’s book for more information.

The printing business has been evolving rapidly for the last few years and I found new technologies which offer competitive prices at low book volumes. Each technology has a special niche in which it excels.

Print on Demand (POD) was very big a few years ago, as POD companies
will deal directly with an author. They provide a lot of the services a
beginning author may need. Each book is printed when it is ordered and
is shipped to the customer placing the order.  This is ideal for
authors who do not want to carry inventory and do not want to be
involved in fulfillment (packing and shipping books).

The downside of POD is that the author may have to pay full selling
price for books which he needs to provide as samples and there is
significant setup charge for getting your book into their system. Some
of these POD firms also hold the rights to your book, so you can end up
as a captive author. That can kill your chances of a film deal or
publishing abroad. If your work is destined for a wider market, be very
careful what you sign up for in a POD deal.

Short run digital printing is done on machines using toner to
provide economical and good-looking books, both paperback and hardback,
from 250 to 2500 copies at prices lower than you will get from a
traditional printer. Prices variy greatly, so you need to get several
quotes.  In my initial round of quotes, I saw unit prices ranging from
a little over $3 to almost $5 for a 208 page paperback in quantities of
500. One deals with these printers as with any other printer. You get
quotes, sign a contract, pay part up front and the rest on delivery.

Print quality is said to be higher than ink printing. Printing is
done on sheet-fed machines with 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, two pages on a
side. You get four pages on one sheet of paper and these printers can
handle a wide variety of paper stocks. In some cases, they will handle
paper stocks that larger printers can’t.

One unexpected benefit of using digital printers is that your
typesetting can be done with word processing software like Open Office
or MS Word. You can supply these printers with PDF files, one for your
text and another PDF file for your cover.

Once you get over 3000 copies, traditional presses rule. Their
individual paperback prices are close to $1.30 each and they are
printing on large sheet-fed or web presses. You will need typesetting
software like Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress to produce files for these

My next post will cover the challenging process of selecting a printer that suits your needs.


The free download version of the book is still available and so is the free PDA version
of the book. Download them and feel free to pass them on to your
friends. You will be able to pre-order the paperback soon for delivery
in March. Check back next week for exact availability.

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0 Responses to Becoming a writer/publisher – part 2

  1. As an author of self-published books as well as POD and small presses, I agree with what you’re saying, but I have discovered a POD company in North Carolina that I may try to work with. offers prices on short runs that are almost as low as conventional runs and far lower than other POD companies. Like I said, I’ve not yet done business with them but they seem to have great promise. If anyone knows different I’d like to hear it.

  2. john winsor says:

    David, thanks for sharing this. Every writer would do well to explore their self publishing options.

  3. Andreas says:

    Hey – this is great – came over here from the Slacker Manager and found this online book. Finally, I have to read a great workrelated book on myn PDA when I go down to my local coffeeshop to have a break!!

  4. Tom Collins says:

    Hi again, David,

    Just wanted to urge people who may find your intrepid spirit and available time to devote to learning the publishing industry a bit intimidating: don’t write off the POD route too quickly. As you point out, there are many things to watch out for and some of the “leading” POD companies are little more than widget factories, providing cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all options. Ask for customization of your book and the price goes up quickly.

    That’s not really a criticism of POD, however; it’s a criticism of the way some companies use the POD model.

    For authors with something to say and the ability to write, but who may not have the time or inclination to learn and practice

    – the crafts of page layout and graphic design,

    – the unique specialty of book cover design,

    – the intricacies of digital vs. offset press and the text and graphic file specs required for each,

    – requesting, comparing, negotiating, and selecting among quotes from printers, and after all that

    – the byzantine system for book distribution, sales, and marketing,

    there is an alternative: Authors helping authors. My fiance’s (Yvonne DiVita, of the Lip-Sticking blog) experience in publishing her book through one of those “leading” POD companies led her to start a new division of her own content writing and web marketing company with the goal of helping others avoid the pitfalls you’re pointing out again.

    Like you, we’re blogging about our experiences as authors ourselves and as “authors helping authors” through our new company. Our blog is called “A-ha!” We call it “a blog where ideas come to grow” (the A-ha! name comes from the acronym of our core philosophy: Authors – helping authors).

    Come by for a visit:
    TITLE: Publishing in the digital and internet age
    BLOG NAME: Colors and Prints
    DATE: 10/04/2005 06:30:35 PM
    Are their publishing needs taken to another level or is it slowly being
    pushed down the drain?
    TITLE: Bloggers as book publishers
    BLOG NAME: Blog Business World
    DATE: 02/21/2005 08:09:08 PM
    Bloggers are naturals when it comes to the book publishing industry.

    It makes sense when you think about it.

    Blogging is micro-publishing, done by yourself, on your own timetable.

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