Working Directly with a Printer

All About Volume

When you are self publishing with print on demand, such as with CreateSpace or Lulu, the system is geared toward one-by-one books. It's worth mentioning that there is another option. You can work directly with a printer and have that printer create 50 or 100 books for you which you then distribute and sell.

What are the pros and cons of working directly with a printer?

First, you have to pay the $125 for the required ISBN for your book. The printer won't be providing that to you for free.

Next, you have to personally pay for all the books up front in hopes of getting a slightly cheaper price per-book. It means of course you have to have the funds available to pay for all those books up front, which many people can't afford to do. Then you have to have a place to store all those books, and you have to handle shipping and transportation yourself for those sales.

Let's take an example. My Badge of Honor book is 368 pages. If I order copies of this at "author price" from CreateSpace I get it for $5.24 per copy, plus shipping. If I order 10 copies it ends up being just about $60 total, or $6 each. Compare this with Gorham Printing, a random book printer I found on the web. Their online calculator says that if I bought 50 copies of their book to get a volume discount they'd charge me $7.99 per book - plus shipping. So I'm already being charged more. Note that these are small size pocket romance novels - so it's not like I can inflate the price high to recoup costs easily :). They're already over twice as much as a book on a typical store shelf would cost.

Sure, if I order 2,000 copies of the book (the most they allow in their quote system), the price gets down to $5.31, which is about what CreateSpace charges - but that doesn't include shipping. Just imagine what they charge to ship 2,000 books. So if I paid $10,621 up front, I could get my books for more than what CreateSpace charges to send whatever I need, whenever I want it.

I used to have prices up for several other book printing companies as well. It appears they've all gone out of business or changed over to print other things like signs. I think book printers just can't keep up with the prices of Amazon / CreateSpace and Lulu.

In many cases it's challenging just finding someone to support your size option. Lulu and the others have a wealth of sizes and shapes for you. I find that many of the printing-oriented self publishers don't handle the nice, small paperback size. I had to skip over several during my investigations because they wouldn't go that small.

You can say that you get better quality from these other options - but all of the cheaper companies will take returns if something doesn't come out right. So it might be a bit more hassle to send back the few books that aren't quite right - but if you're saving $10 a book, for many of us it's worth it. Plus, can I really convince someone to pay $20 or more (building in some sort of a profit to that $15 base price) for a high quality printed typical romance novel?

So, to summarize, I would not recommend trying to find your own printer and printing out thousands of books to save money. In our modern world it just isn't worth it. Use a print on demand house and then order books as you need them.

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