10. Choosing a Print-On-Demand (POD) Company

At one point, choosing a POD company to print my book was a source of much concern,research, and confusion for me. It was difficult to compare and contrast different POD companies because their websites don’t give the same information. Most (if not all) POD Companies utilize Digital Printing technology (not Offset Printing). It is because of this technology, they are able to offer cost-effective services to us as niche-market book authors. For a long time, I wasn’t sure that I could ‘afford’ to have my book printed in a cost-effective way.Somehow I stumbled upon CreateSpace and realized that all the independent work I had done in creating/laying out my book interior was appropriate for using CreateSpace services to have my book/cover ‘printed’ and completed into a physical book (aka ‘p-book’).POD companies are divided into two types based upon the style of services they offer:

  • Fee-Based/Author Services-Based
  • Independant-Based/True Self-Publishing
Fee-Based/Author Services-Based POD Companies

These companies require you to buy certain services—usually in the form of a minimum package. This package includes services in which you submit to them a word-processing file of your text via a physical storage unit (eg. CD, DVD, flash drive, etc.), individual photos and illustrations. They then work to layout your book for you. You are charged per picture/illustration that you submit. I will say again—They layout your book for you. You have little control over what it looks like. If you do input preferences, it may cost you. I personally believe this may be viable for a word-only book such a novel, or maybe even a children’s book where every page has one picture along with text….but it would be difficult to get a technical book such as a lacemaking book just the way you want it/it needs to be with this approach. A technical/lacemaking book requires the right photo or illustration to be in proximity to the appropriate text and it needs to be the right size to convey the point intended. I can’t imagine communicating this type of information to a POD company representative via internet, mail, or phone! The package price also usually includes a custom cover for your book. If you have any preferences of style, it costs you more. These POD companies set the retail/list price of your book for you based on the number of pages—which is quite high. They do offer the author the ability/right to buy their own books at an author-discount price–usually 30% off retail. Thus there is not much margin for profit for you to buy you own books and market them yourself. They do have distribution channels for selling your book, but traditionally self-published books published through POD companies are not popular with bookstores and distributors so don’t expect many sales this way. POD companies will sell your book and give you royalties (10-20% of the retail cost), but they are unwilling to market it for you.

Eg. One popular fee-based POD company that I surveyed had publishing packages starting at $499 and going up to $15,249.

For the basic package ($499) you were allowed to submit_____x of images

Another popular fee-based POD company had a ‘set-up fee’ of $317.

Then you pay: –

  • interior design fees of $5.50/page ($100 minimum)
  • $6.50/image
  • cover design of $200 (paperback) or $300 (hardback)

List prices they set were based on number of pages:

  • up to 24 pages: $11.95
  • 25-48 pages: $14.95
  • 49-100 pages: $22.95

Author-discounts to buy your own books was $3.00/book + $0.125/page + $2.00 handling.

If you purchase 100+ copies, you get a 10% discount.

Spending more money on a bigger/more costly package gets you services like:

  • more photos/images per book
  • Image enhancement and manipulation @ $20/image
  • retouching/repairs
  • silhouette, cut-outs, and masking
  • vector image repairs and adjustments
  • image colorization
  • text effects
  • artistic effects
  • background effects
  • Custom text & layout formatting @ $20/page
  • placement of text, graphics, rotations, colore pallettes, lines, text boxes, borders, special flows of text across pages or around graphic elements
  • adjustment of text size, font, color, line-spacing
  • Non-traditional placement of text
  • Flow of text along a path, shape or line
  • Author alterations service (aka corrections)
  • Set your own retail price
  • Marketing services
  • Press releases
  • website design
  • bookmarks, business cards, post cards, posters
  • Newswire service
  • Book trailers with voice overs
  • social media marketing
  • Copyediting service
  • Photography
  • Ghostwriting
  • Translation
  • Content editing
  • Library of Congress registration
  • U.S. Copyright registration
  • Bookstore returnability.

This type of POD company is the most common form of POD company and includes (but is not limited to) the following companies: ( bold denotes the more commonly known/used companies)

  • 1st World Publishing
  • Author-Services
  • Aventine Press
  • Black Forest Press
  • Booklocker.com, Inc.
  • Dog Ear Publishing
  • Elderberry Press, Inc.
  • Infinity Publishing
  • iUniverse
  • Llumina Press
  • LuLu
  • Morgan James Publishing, Inc.
  • Nightengale Press
  • Outskirts Press
  • Self-Publishing.com
  • Trafford Publishing
  • Universal Publishers
  • Virtualbookworm.com
  • Westview Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Wheatmark, Inc.
  • WinePress Publishing
  • WingSpan Publishing
  • Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
  • Xlibris
  • Xulon Press
Independant-Based POD Companies

This is the category that fits my needs for “Cost-effective” printing options that Cost-Effective Desk-Top (Self) Publishing for a Niche-Market Book is based upon.

Only two True Self-Publishing Independent-Based POD Companies (that I know of/about):

  • CreateSpace (an affiliate company of Amazon)
  • Lightning Source (an affiliate company of Ingram)
  • Ingram Spark

All these POD companies offer ‘true self-publishing’ options for the ‘do-it-yourself’ author/publisher.

Both companies offer fee-based services like the other group of POD companies…but ignore this option and utilize them for their independent publishing format.

I am particularly fond of CreateSpace (simple to use, no upfront costs, pay for only what you produce, no maintenance fee, cheapest). But if it went out of business I would use Lightning Source as my POD company.

Lightning Source charges a minimal amount for independent publishing services that CreateSpace does not. There is a set-up fee (but it is marginal compared to fee-based POD companies packages), proofs are more expensive, revisions to interior and cover files cost. In addition you have to pay $12/year/book title maintenance fees to keep your book files in their system for POD service.

With both these POD company options you must be set-up in their systems as a ‘publisher’ to utilize their services.

Both these POD companies offer minimal help in your submission process….so you have to be computer savvy and graphic-art savvy to utilize their service (though I think they may be getting better in this respect).

With both these POD companies, you set the retail price, wholesale discount and return policy for your books/product.

I understand that Lightning Source has a more extensive distribution network than CreateSpace and your profit margin is the same no matter which distribution channel your book sells through.

CreateSpace.com & Lightning Source Comparison   At the time of writing this, IngramSpark was either not in existence or not known to me.  I will need to do further research to compare their services/prices to what I do know.

Create Space Lightning Source

Set you own retail price Yes Yes

Set your own wholesale discount NoYes

Set your own ‘returns’ policy No Yes

Set up Fees None $37.50 each for cover

and interior files

Corrections/Revisions Fees None, except you buy $40 each for cover

another ‘proof-copy’&/or interior files

+ cost of proof-copy

Proof-copy Prices Author Cost of book $15.00 + $0.09/page

plus shipping (cheaper!)

Distribution Channels Amazon.com Amazon.com,

(Standard Service) Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, NASCORP, Expresso Book machine

Optional: $25/year/book

for Expanded Distribution


Print Volume Discounts None 50-99 – 5%

100-249 – 10%

250-499 – 20%

500+ – 25%

Shipping/Volume Discounts $3.00/orderplus250-499 pounds – 30% discount

1-9 copies: $0.59 ea 500+ pounds – 50% discount

10-49 copies: $0.50 ea

50+ copies: $.040 ea

Estimated price for a 50 page, $4.35 $6.50

8.5×11” book—color-interior

Estimated price for a 50 page,

8.5×11” book—B&W-interior $2.15