To Print (on demand) or Not Print (on demand); That is the Question

quinnzoo4I’ve been doing a lot of print-on-demand editions here of late. The majority of my clients are using CreateSpace, and a few use Lightning Source/Ingrams. I haven’t had anybody reporting huge print sales or widespread placement in bookstores (yet). I think bottom line for most (right now) is they like having the option, but moreso, there is immense satisfaction in having a tangible copy of their creation. Quite a few, I think, are looking toward the future. As indie publishers increase both their physical and financial presence, brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries will have no choice except to look to indie publishers to find the stock their customers demand. As demand increases, the technology is going to get better and it will get cheaper. (On a personal note, I’d love a future where EVERY book is print-on-demand, because I hate waste and I hate the idea of books being pulped.)

On the practical side, is it a good idea for YOU to issue a print-on-demand version of YOUR book?

  1. Is it difficult?
    Not at all. You give two pdf files to your printer. (Two most popular right now: CreateSpace, an Amazon company; and Lightning Source/Ingrams.). One pdf is for the interior; the other is for the cover flat. Spend an hour reading the FAQs and specs at your printer’s website, and you’ll have all the information you need for your project. Both CS and LS offer templates for cover creation. They’re easy to use. Once you have your files, you upload them, go through the review process, take care of any little issues that might arise, order a proof copy, make sure it’s just right, then publish. It takes a little longer than does digital publishing, but it’s no more difficult.
  2. Is it expensive?
    It can be. You could spend thousands if you choose. You can also do it yourself and spend nothing at all, except time. If you use CreateSpace, you can layout your interior file in Word and generate your pdf from that. (Lightning Source will not accept those). There are book design templates available. Joel Friedlander ( offers a wide range of templates specifically for Word. They are inexpensive yet beautiful. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself, you can hire a professional. For most fiction projects the price will range from around $.25 to $1.00 per finished page.
  3. Do I need an ISBN?
    If you use CreateSpace they will give you an ISBN at no cost or low cost (but it’s not free, so read the terms and conditions). Lightning Source requires you purchase your own. In the US ISBNs are provided by Bowkers. They are expensive. (My biggest gripe with Bowkers is that they’ve recognized that the more clueless an author is, the bigger a cash cow he/she becomes–DO YOUR RESEARCH!)
  4. Can I use my ebook cover?
    A well-done ebook cover can be modified for a print cover. Your cover designer is probably adept at that type of work. If you did your own cover or want to do it yourself, as I mentioned above, both CS and LS offer templates.

    Ebook Cover

    Ebook Cover

    Same cover modified for print.

    Same cover modified for print.

  5. What about distribution?
    This ranges from no muss/no fuss to pounding the pavement one bookstore at a time. Being an Amazon company, Createspace will automatically list your POD edition on Amazon. They also have expanded distribution. Lightning Source uses Ingrams and there are some costs involved. You are free to order copies in any quantity you desire and sell direct. Unlike vanity presses, the books belong to you. You set the price, you control the distribution channels.

The thing to remember is that print-on-demand is in its infancy–in technology, in acceptance, and in price. Even if it’s not a huge revenue stream for most writers right now, that could easily change in the very near future. With production costs as low as they are–especially if you are a Do-It-Yourselfer–there is no real reason to NOT create print-on-demand editions of your books.

What about you, readers? Do you have POD editions? Do you think the effort and added expense is worth it?


Buh-Bye, 2013–Howdy to the New Year

2013 was a helluva year. Lots of personal drama. Evacuated because of a fire, followed by months of malaise from the smoke because the entire state of Colorado was on fire. Massive rains and subsequent flooding that destroyed my basement. Far too many days spent at the hospital with my children and grandbaby. One thing after another and wondering, oh god, what’s next?

QuinnSeatBut 2013 was an amazing year, too. The Amazing Poop Machine is happy, healthy and growing fast. Everyone is healthy now. I got a promotion–Larry Block has dubbed me The Production Goddess. (I’m practicing how to work that into casual conversation.) I worked with some incredible writers this year: Thomas Pluck, Randall Wood, Jerrold Mundis, Julia R. Barrett, Robert Silverberg, Katherine O’Neal, William Arnold, Sharon Reamer, Carole Nomarhas, Chuck Dixon, Steven Ramirez, Penny Watson, Marina Bridges, and far too many others to list. (Heh. I always wanted a job where I am paid to read, and now I have it and it’s the best job ever!)

Burglar_Limited-XmasI took part in a project that tops my Best Of list for all time. Lawrence Block’s new novel, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, which he decided to self publish. From the first read of the manuscript to receiving the gorgeous hardcover limited edition in the mail, it was The Dream Job. I ended up producing four editions, including a print-on-demand Large Print edition. (You can find the ebook and trade paperback here and the special limited edition here.)

The best part of the year was learning new skills. I’ve learned tons and tons about ebook covers. (And bless you brave folks who have allowed me to do my on-the-job-training with your books!)

Cover montageI’ve learned to format fiction for CreateSpace print-on-demand editions. It’s way different than ebooks and a lot trickier, but it’s well worth the effort. (Pay no heed to the bald spots where I ripped out my hair in frustration. Heh.) At the risk of annoying the Hubris Gods, my book designs are pretty darned good.

pod montageIn the coming year, I’ll be stretching way beyond ebooks. I want to do concierge publishing for writers who’ve reclaimed their back lists and need to bring them back to life. I’d like to offer troubleshooting and production consulting for do-it-yourselfers. I can even do graphics for ebooks–wouldn’t your ebook look delicious with something fun like this for your chapter heads and title page?

titleSo buh-bye and sweet dreams to you, 2013. 2014 is here and it’s going to be a good one. I can feel it! And as a very special treat for all you writers out there, here it is, hot off the production line, available at CreateSpace, and soon available at Amazon and LB’s Book Store, the brand new print edition of Write For Your Life: The Home Seminar for Writers.

wfyl blog

Print on Demand Books

I have to say, the Espresso Book Machine is cool!

When I win the Powerball lottery, after I remember to buy tickets, I’m getting one of those.

Having gone through the process of producing a POD book, I am very impressed by the quality of the finished product (I used CreateSpace). I am impressed with the cost. Especially the part about only paying for copies I needed right then, and not having to worry about warehousing. I think one of the things I like best about POD is the frugality of it. Waste hurts my heart. When a publisher does a print run of 10,000 copies, and only 6,000 sell, that means 4,000 copies end up pulped. What a waste.

And one must not discount the sheer pleasure, the wonderful thrill, of holding in your hands an object you’ve created.

Where does one manufacture a print on demand book? The three biggest companies are CreateSpace, Lulu, and Lightning Source. (I’ve used CreateSpace–user friendly, relatively painless process) Before you decide which one to go with, do your research and weigh the distribution options.

What do you need to make a print on demand book? A cover file and a book file and some time.

I’ve had several people query me about formatting a print book file, and I’ve had to say no. Print layout is a whole ‘nother animal from ebook formatting. Having screwed around with templates from CreateSpace, and thoroughly muffed them and made big messes, I realized that templates or no templates, there is a learning curve. So learning how to make professional looking print books would take some time. Time I haven’t had time for.

Now! I can stop stressing over it. Now I have Jayne.

pod batf sample

pod batf sample2Meet Jayne. A talented designer with an eye for typography and layout. She can do covers, too, including taking an existing ebook cover and turning it into a cover for print.

(If she gets annoyed by me standing over her shoulder, watching her work magic on the computer, repeating, “Oh geez, how do you do that?” well, she is much too nice to mention it.)

Random pages from a book, just to show them off because they look very nice, don't they?

Random pages from a book, just to show them off because they look very nice, don’t they?

pod sfa sample2Not only is Jayne wonderfully talented, she has the same philosophy about book production that I do. She loves books. She loves beautiful books. She’s proud of her creations and wants the authors to be proud of them, too.

It’s fun working with her. We’ve done some projects where she does the cover and I do the ebook. (In the above samples, she modified the existing Beauty and the Feast ebook cover for print, and did the original for the Spirituality For America ebook and print cover) It’s much easier to do a cohesive package when the two of us can consult on font choices and tone and images. (Added bonus, she’s a terrific proofreader–and that’s a chore I don’t mind sharing in the least!) Below is a sample of a cover she created and the graphics I made based on her work for the ebook interior.

pod dample3So, if you’re thinking about print on demand, and wish to discuss your project, give us a shout. I no longer have to say no.