Picking an offset printer

While POD is the best way to produce small quantities of a book, offset printing yields by far the greatest economy of scale and can produce a more professional-looking product.

For example, in his article on printing and printers, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter points out that the same book that costs $6 to $10 per copy using POD costs only $1.55 using offset printing for a print run of 3,000. However, with these cost savings come greater investment up front, more preparation and the need for greater care in design and production.

First do your homework by reading Pete Masterson's book Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers. Also read the relevant chapters in Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual and Tom and Marilyn Ross's The Complete Guide to Self Publishing. Learn as much as you can about the specification process, book sizes, paper, ink, illustrations, etc. Even if you hire a consultant to help you, it is important to be equipped to make informed decisions.

Also, here are other useful articles on book printing:

Among the key points the authors of these books and articles make:

  • Hire professionals to design and lay out both the book and its cover. Your book is too important to leave to an amateur — you. Importantly, these professionals should be specifically experienced in book and cover design and layout. For example, there are trends in cover design that affect sales, and a designer not immersed in the world of book cover design would not know those trends. See the article Basics of book design for more details.
  • Use a printer that specializes in book production. Local print shops or print chains will likely not do a good job.
  • Use a professional to guide you through the RFQ (request-for-quotation) process if you do not feel comfortable with it after reading the resources in this article. Designers and other consultants are the best source of help.
  • However, do not work with a "print broker," who acts as a go-between. They generally cause more headaches than the money they might save.
  • Realistically estimate the number of copies you can sell, and do not overprint. The economy of scale for offset printing begins to level off at around 2,000 copies, so printing more does not produce a major cost saving. And, you have to ship and store them. A print run of about 3,000 copies for most books is adequate, and it takes only a few weeks for a reprint more books.
  • Stick to standard trim sizes, paper and ink. Unless your book is an art book or demands a special format, the usual specifications should suffice. Also, they will save you money and fit better with other commercially published books.
  • Submit the most perfect manuscript possible to your designer, and the most perfect layout possible to the printer. Changes late in the game cost money and threaten quality.
  • Pay attention to the physical details of packaging and shipping your book. For example, you may want to shrink-wrap groups of books and specify sturdy cartons to protect them.

Here are lists of printers from the leading experts: