It has to be said that print on demand (POD) has changed the way the publishing industry does business. But before we talk about the wonders of POD, let’s define what it is. In a nutshell, it's the process by which a book is printed when an order for that book is received. With POD there’s no inventory being stored or anticipated demand being measured—get a book order, print a book, one at a time.
Before print on demand technology, publishers would deem titles out-of-stock if sales didn’t warrant a trip back to the printer for the minimum requirement of print copies via offset printing. This caused sporadic demand from retailers and libraries to go unfulfilled. Ingram sought a better way for publishers to fulfill requests for backlist or lesser-demand titles without publishers being forced to meet the minimum requirements of offset printing to produce copies beyond what they knew they would sell. Enter POD technology.
Thanks to print on demand technology, the costs associated with maintaining inventory for independent publishers have all but vanished. POD is one of the most affordable and efficient ways to distribute your book. Because POD allows you to print anywhere from 1 to 10,000 copies of a particular title, depending on demand, independent publishers are off the hook when it comes to determining how much to invest in an initial print run. In fact, there are numerous benefits for indie publishers who incorporate POD into their publishing plans.
Print on Demand Keeps Titles Perpetually in Stock
Have you ever searched for a book in a bookstore or online only to discover the book is out of print? With POD, there's no such thing. Print on demand publishing keeps your book in an online database and only prints copies of your book as needed, so that your books are available as long as you allow them.Any books you want to publish will remain available as long as you make them as a publisher utilizing print on demand. Whether you are publishing romance novels or political nonfiction, there may come a time when your titles become more sought out or particularly relevant. POD allows your children's children's children—and everyone they know—to have access to your titles long after you have stopped writing and/or publishing.
Print on Demand Allows for Quality and Variety
The print quality of print on demand has improved to the point that it is virtually indistinguishable from an offset-printed book, allowing self-published books to look just as professional as James Patterson’s latest bestseller.
POD has come a long way since it was first created, adding a variety of color options, binding types, the ability to have jacketed or unjacketed hardcovers, crisp text and graphics, a wide array of trim sizes, and different options for color interiors. You can opt for standard color books, which are less expensive to produce, or choose a premium-color option that includes saddle stitching. With POD, the choice is yours. And when you use IngramSpark to tie POD in directly with book distribution, you get POD service bundled with ebook distribution to 39,000 retail and librariesworldwide. Ingram has continued to invest in POD technology and is considered the global leader, with print facilities around the globe working to print and ship your books where they need to go when they need to get there.
Not all books lend themselves to POD because of special design elements or nonstandard trim sizes. Additionally, when a book really starts selling well, POD might not be the most economical way to go. But, for most independent publishers, IngramSpark offers an ideal solution to test the demand of your book through POD and ebook distribution. Update content whenever you want, remove the burden of shipping your book to your readers, and perpetually make a title “available.”
Print on Demand Book Order Management
As noted above, print on demand technology enables independent publishers to print any number of books, at any given time. Whether one person in Australia wants one copy of your book or a distributor in the UK needs 1,000 copies, POD can make it happen so that order fulfillment is manageable.
Before POD, authors would pick a book out of their at-home stack when an order was placed, purchase envelopes or boxes, apply shipping labels, and take to UPS or the post office to send the book out to its end destination. This could get incredibly expensive when you factor the cost of shipping and supplies. With POD, your book is printed and shipped directly to its end destination from the print facility when ordered.
When a customer orders your book through a brick-and-mortar store, as the book distributor, IngramSpark will print it and send it to the store where the reader ordered it, saving time and money. When a customer buys your book through an online store, the distributor ships it directly to them, giving a percentage of profit to the reseller (and to you).
When you use a POD service, your book is formatted across multiple platforms, so you can easily sell it on your own website, through other online retailers, and on physical shelves in local bookstores. Whether you want to sell print copies to bookstores, or you simply want an e-book with the possibility of making a print version in the future, POD services offer you the most flexibility in your book distribution.
Print on Demand Prints Books as They're Ordered
In the past, indie publishers were typically forced to order a required number of copies as a first printing, and figure out how to sell and distribute them later. Have you ever wondered how many independent publishers have stacks of unsold books in their basements? Plenty! And even one is too many. Some indie publishers even had to rent warehouse space to store titles. Still others ended up with so many copies stored in the attic, they couldn't give them away. POD eliminates the need to store your own titles—unless, of course, you want to.
You may decide you want to have copies available to share or sell. Print on demand allows you to print any number of copies that fit with your overall book marketing strategy and/or personal choice. However, one of the greatest benefits of POD is that you don't have to store any unsold print copies, and that's good for your bottom line.
Print on Demand Reduces Your Financial Risk
Print on demand reduces the publisher’s financial risk to print a book and bring it to market. Before POD, a publisher had to predict the demand over time, print, warehouse and ship the number of copies they predicted could be sold with the result being that they often predicted incorrectly.
Traditional publishers are much better at predicting what they can sell of a given title since they've been in the book publishing business for quite some time now, but self-publishing authors frequently have no idea how many copies they'll realistically sell, especially if it's their first book, which ended up costing them greatly before POD. A surprise bestseller created almost as many headaches as a title that was a sales disappointment. Not having enough copies to meet demand is just as bad as having too many taking up space. With POD, predictive ordering and the cost of warehousing is removed from the book publishing equation.
POD combines a pay-as-you-go strategy, which limits your financial commitment, with the ability to test the demand for specific titles. Publishers large and small use POD today as part of their overall business plan to test demand of a new author or genre, allowing them to anticipate demand.You can even market test a book's format by making it available in hardcover and paperback, or offering two cover options.
By allowing you to pay as you go and test the demand for your books, POD makes you a better business owner who can make informed decisions about your content, book marketing plan, and financial outlay.
Print on Demand Allows You to Easily Make Updates to Existing Titles
Another thing about print on demand is that a title can be easily updated or corrected simply by making changes to the file and re-uploading those files into your IngramSpark account. Imagine that you get a great endorsement or book review or spot an embarrassing typo on the first page (it happens). If you had boxes of printed books stacked in your garage, you wouldn’t be able to make those changes until you sold through that inventory, or even worse, threw all of your unsold inventory out to start fresh. With POD, it’s as easy as editing the files so that all of your books printed from that point forward will reflect the updates you've made.
There are several common misconceptions when it comes to print on demand, but POD books are widely accepted in the publishing industry today with how far the technological advancements have come and the variety and economy it offers to independent and traditional publishers alike.
If you think POD sounds too good to be true, think again. While the success of both traditionally-printed and POD books depends on the appearance of the book and the ability to reach the desired reading audience, print-on-demand technology offers many additional benefits.
For more information about the wonders of print on demand, be sure to:
Listen to our 15-minute print on demand episode of Go Publish Yourself, IngramSpark's self-publishing podcast or download our free book distribution guide, Indie Publishing: Beyond Industry Standards.