Choosing a print on demand service

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Having written your book and perhaps already published it as an eBook, you may be pondering the best way to get it into print. With a range of POD (print-on-demand) services available, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Let us help you narrow down your options.

Firstly, familiarise yourself with how POD works, then use the list below to help you identify the most suitable service for your needs.

Things to Consider When Choosing a POD Service

Trim Size and Length

In the UK, the standard paperback size used to be 130 mm × 198 mm (or 5.12 in × 7.8 in). However, the limitations of early POD demand services have led many authors to favour a slightly larger size, 127mm x 203mm (or 5 in x 8 in). Most POD services now offer a range of trim sizes, so the choice is yours.

If you have a particularly long book, it is worth noting that increasing the trim size of a book may add little or nothing to the printing costs, whilst increasing the page length usually does.

Available trim sizes
Service Variety Notes
IngramSpark 30+
FeedARead 2 5 x 8, 6 x 9 in
CreateSpace 12 industry-standard trim sizes customisable options available but these can limit distribution options

Colour Printing

Most, if not all POD services include full colour covers by default, but colour interiors have to be specified separately. Colour books are much more expensive to print. Some services (e.g. FeedARead) do not offer colour interiors at all, whereas others offer limited options.

POD services can be used to print rich colours on matt paper, but it's difficult to find a service that offers affordable, glossy laminate pages.

Colour Printing Options
Service Quality Paper thickness
IngramSpark Standard Color 50lb
Standard Color 70lb
Premium Color 70lb
FeedARead n/a
CreateSpace Four-color printing process 60lb

Setup Fees

Latest Fees
Service Fee Note
IngramSpark £29 refundable with initial order of 50+ copies
FeedARead Free
CreateSpace Free

Selling Your Own Copies

If you plan to sell paperbacks yourself, for example at book fairs, then choose a service where author copies are relatively cheap. Do not forget to calculate postage, especially if using CreateSpace where author copies come from the US.

Here are some sample costs for perfect bound, 5x7 inch, 300-page paperbacks with black and white interior and colour covers.

The figures are based on an order of 10 books. Typically unit cost decreases, the more you order.

Last updated: 12.07.2016

Sample Costs
Service Production cost per unit Postage to the UK Total price per unit
IngramSpark £3.80 £0.57 £4.36
FeedARead £5.67 £0.70 £6.37
CreateSpace $4.45* $1.80* $6.25*

*CreateSpace give their prices in US dollars. Most recent exchange rates can be found at XE. Books are import tax free.

Getting stocked online

Most modern POD services allow you to get your books listed on internet bookshops, but this often requires a distribution fee.

Distribution Fees
Service Fee Note
IngramSpark £7 Global distribution
FeedARead £88 Global distribution
CreateSpace Included Limited UK support

Getting stocked in physical bookshops

It is very difficult to get large numbers of print-on-demand books stocked in physical bookshops. The reason for this is that many stores prefer a 55% margin and the ability to return books. Because of the high costs involved in producing print-on-demand books, it can be difficult to get bookshops the discounts and terms they require.

At present, CreateSpace and FeedARead set retailers' margins themselves, whilst IngramSpark allow authors to set their bookshop margins.

Note: Although the facility to set a greater margin may help you get your book stocked on the high street, it greatly reduces your royalties.

Returns

Ingram Spark also provides a feature for authors to allow returns. However, you should use this feature with extreme caution. The IngramSpark User Guide lists two types of return:

Return and deliver

Books a retailer does not sell are returned to the author at an enormous price.

"Returns to non-US/international addresses: If you select this option, you will be charged for the current wholesale cost of each book returned, plus a $20.00 per book shipping and handling charge."

Return and destroy

"If you select this option, you will be charged only for the current wholesale cost of each book returned. No shipping and handling fees will apply. IngramSpark will destroy any returned books that it receives if this option is selected."

There is no way to prevent bookshops from overstocking, meaning that a shop could order 100 copies and return all of them costing you, at the very least, 100 times your sale price, without even getting to keep the book. In a scenario where a book retails at £10 and your royalty is £1, you would need to sell 10 books to cover the cost of one return. It is a very risky strategy.

Royalties

When selling through retailers, your royalty is a percentage of the money remaining after costs have been subtracted.

Here are some sample costs for perfect bound, 5x7 inch, 300-page paperbacks with black and white interior and colour covers.

The figures are based on an order of 10 books. Typically unit cost decreases, the more you order.

Last updated: 12.07.2016

Sample Royalties
Service Store Royalty Store margin
IngramSpark Expanded distribution £1.93 40%
IngramSpark £0.43 Expanded distribution 55%
FeedARead FeedARead.com £2.47
FeedARead Expanded distribution £2.14
CreateSpace Amazon.co.uk £2.30
CreateSpace Expanded distribution (limited in UK) $0.75*

*CreateSpace give this figure in US dollars. Most recent exchange rates can be found at XE. Books are import tax free.

Note: Increasing a book's sale price by £1 does not increase your royalty by £1, as your royalty is a percentage of the available profit, which you have to share with the 'middle men'.

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References

Royalty calculators
Other

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