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Print on Demand Publishing Economics

Printing Cheap

A standard 288 page 5.5"x 8.5" paperback book [100,000 words] with a single color laminated cover printed by your local offset shop will cost around the following:

Quantity 100 300 500 1000 5000 10,000
Price Per Book $5.00 $4.50 $4.00 $3.00 $1.25 $1.00

The economies of scale do not kick in until you reach the 5000 copies mark. The higher per copy price at lower quantities factors in the fixed set up cost.

NOTE: printers reserve the right to force you to buy overruns, [ 5% to 10% of the quantity ordered]. This can add significantly to your cost.

Most first time printers do a short run of 500 books. These are not printed large presses with metal plates prepared from film, rather they use the same pricess as print on demand, using a large photocopy machine.

This means you can create proof copies on any good laser printer to sell directly.
An ISBN number from Bowker costs $225 for ten numbers.

Official copyright registration [optional] costs $30 (http://www.loc.gov/copyright)


Top Quality

One color cover - really gives you two colors to work with, the color of the paper and the color of the ink.

Four color – required if you use a color photograph on your cover

Use a professional designer available on elance $50 or your local printer at around $200

Professional page compositor - will pick a suitable font, balance the pages, and make sure that the headers and footers are attractive and not crowded. Find somebody experienced in working with printers preparing the camera ready pages, although most presses have entirely eliminated the optical camera step using "output to disk" as the only input to the printing press. Expect to pay $40 $50/hr. After the initial book design is created, the text entry will only take a minute or two a page.

Minimum order 500 or more to recover your investment


Comparing Costs

There are key drivers of costs:

Trim size - the width x height dimensions of the book in inches. Books are printed in standard sizes, only a couple of which are economical in print runs under several thousand copies.

Size 4.25" x 6.75" 5.5" x 8.5" 6.0" x 9.0" 7.0" x 10.0" 8.5" x 11.0"
Name Mass Market Trade Paperback Trade Paperback Textbook Large Format

Mass market format
- standard size for fiction novels, cost effective over 1000 books.

Trade paperback format - 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", is the only size that can be printed in quantities under 1000 books without a huge premium.

In both cases, the printed book will actually be a little smaller, up to 1/8", due to the limitations of the short run binding process.

The other sizes are only cost effective for large runs using larger presses.


Small Presses

Small presses are sheet fed, like copying machines or laser printers, with relatively small sheets of paper. This allows four 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" pages to be printed at a time (4 up) on each side of a single 11" x 17" sheet of paper.

Printing on non-standard sheet sizes requires an extra cutting step, plus a lot of wastage.


Offset Presses

Larger offset presses handle larger sheet sizes, but the plate preparation is expensive.


Web Presses

Web presses are the largest and fastest presses; used by newspapers and large printers. They use large continual rolls of paper, rather than sheets, including cutting and folding operations. Limited to large runs from commercial publishers.

Paper weight, type and color a- use standard 50# white offset paper.

Cover thickness of paperback covers is measured in points [thousandths of an inch]. The standard paperback cover is 10 points (1/100 of an inch) laminated on one side.

Standard book pricing includes a paperback cover with one color of ink.

Hard cover books may be highly desirable, but are too expensive for most self publishers at small print runs. To self publish a hardcover for a 100 or 200 book run costs and additional $5 to $10 per book, depending on the process. At 1000 copies, $2 per book. This includes a four color the dust cover.

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