Understanding Print Quantities

A question that authors often ask us is ‘How many books should I print?’. The answer to this depends on where you are as a self-publisher. Below is a simple guide to help you choose the most appropriate print solution.

To get the lowest unit cost, a traditional lithographic (litho) print run of around 5,000 or more will always be the best option, but then there are the issues of storage and selling the books in a timely fashion. This is usually the choice for middleweight to career authors who have an established distribution strategy and readership.

Secondly, there is the digital printing option; a relatively new method allowing a better unit cost for short runs than litho print. Perfect, for instance, for printing 250 copies of a title for your own personal distribution, and a viable option for any author in need of books quickly, in small quantities, or with an available but smaller budget for print.

Work on a ‘sell one, print one’ basis with no print overheads or storage concerns

If you’re totally new to independent publishing and want to test the market you should consider printing no books at all until you’ve sold them, and this is where Print on Demand (POD) comes in. Upload your files to an online POD facility such as Amazon’s CreateSpace and work on a ‘sell one, print one’ basis with no print overheads or storage concerns.

This is a general guide and by no means a rule. As you develop your readership, combine the above for maximum efficiency. Start with POD so you can get reader feedback, reviews etc., and then move up to the other methods as demand requires.

Importantly, your cover and book layout files should be prepared so that you can use them for all of the above. POD, digital and litho print specifications are slightly different and file formats can vary a little from printer to printer but essentially, if your files are created nicely, they should work across all formats with minimal fuss.

“They made the whole process simple and enjoyable”

D J Terry, author of Adopted

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