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What's POD? Printing & Distributing Your Books 📚

KWE Publishing Newsletter - 08/17/23

When many authors think about creating their books, they tend to think of the actual writing process—brainstorming, writing, editing, and revising. But once your manuscript is complete, you still have some important decisions to make!

There are several methods authors can use to print and distribute their books depending on their needs. Print-on-demand (POD) and custom printing services are the two most popular options to print your book; if you choose to print on demand, most  POD companies will distribute your book. If you choose custom printing, however, you'll likely have to employ someone else to distribute your books—or distribute them yourself.

Let's back up a little bit, though. What do these terms mean? Print-on-demand services print the book when it's ordered. This means there's not a large warehouse with piles of books. Most POD services will distribute your book to readers, too. Custom printing usually requires you to print a large number of books at once—normally a minimum of 250—and you are responsible for distributing the books or finding a company that will distribute your books for you.

Now that you know what POD and custom shipping are, let's take a look at the pros and cons of both!

Print-on-demand services are quick and require less hands-on work from authors.

Many authors choose print-on-demand when they want outside companies and organizations to handle the logistics of producing and delivering their books to readers.

Unlike custom printing, you have a somewhat limited range of options to choose from with print-on-demand; your book has to be one of the approved sizes, have either a matte or glossy cover, and the pages must be one of several standard colors. This makes choosing elements of your book easier since you don't have to scrutinize every little detail.

A major plus with print-on-demand services is that they'll distribute your book for you. These services also keep up with how many books you've sold automatically, so you don't have to worry about keeping tabs on everything manually.  And since the larger POD services are well-known by popular retailers (such as Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, etc.), larger retailers can easily put your books on their sites or, in some cases, in their stores.

Custom printing gives you lots the opportunity to create something totally unique. You also have the freedom to distribute your books yourself.

Several of our authors have benefitted from custom printing, and they've been able to create some really unique books as a result! Custom printing means you can choose from options like making your book spiral-bound or using heavier papers with special finishes. You can print your book in just about any size, too.

While authors in any genre can use custom printers, we've found that children's book authors seem to benefit from this option the most. If you want to create a book that's interactive (with pages for children to draw in, for example), custom printing allows you to do that.

Another element that comes with custom printing is that distribution is the author's responsibility. For some authors, distributing books themselves is a plus; if you have the space to store all of your books, you also have a chance to create custom packaging. This makes the process of sharing your books with readers more personal. For other authors, though, having to keep track of sales and ensuring books get to the right people in a timely manner is stressful—not to mention that you need a lot of space for your inventory of books!

Which printing option is most cost-effective?

Cost is understandably a big factor for many authors. The short answer is that print-on-demand services cost less money upfront, but they can cost more over time, whereas you'd invest more money upfront to purchase a large number of books from a custom printer, but the cost per book is often less if you can sell all of your books.

Depending on how many books you want to print and what features you want your book to have, custom printing can be a more affordable long-term option—but only if you're sure that you can sell the books you print. If you print 500 books, for example, and most of them sit in your garage or basement, then you're not really saving any money! Plus, books with lots of non-standard features can be costly. If you want to print a standard book, however, and you don't have the space or ability to distribute your books, then a print-on-demand service can probably save you time and money.

So, how should you print and distribute your book? Well, it really depends on what's important to you! If you want to print a standard-sized book and don't want to keep up with inventory and sales yourself, print-on-demand services will best serve you. But if you want to be involved in every step of the process, custom printing and distribution could be a good option.

Ultimately, there's no right or wrong way to print and distribute your book—you just have to figure out what works for you!

Did you know about these printing and distribution options? What questions do you have about other elements of the publishing industry? Reach out and let us know; we appreciate hearing from you!

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