Ep. 03: Print On Demand for Indie Authors

Print on demand has revolutionized the publishing industry by making publishing more affordable for indie authors without sacrificing variety or quality. Learn more about print on demand here after listening.

Join us as we discuss the ways print-on-demand publishing is the perfect solution for self-publishing authors in regards to availability and efficiency. Print on demand offers a variety of options in terms of trim sizes, color printing, format, and binding options. It makes it so that authors only pay to print copies that have already been purchased, eliminating the need for a full garage or rented warehouse space of unsold inventory. It also makes it so that if you have a change to your book's cover or interior, you don't have to recycle a bunch of already printed copies you can no longer sell; you can simply update your file and every copy sold and printed thereafter will reflect the change. We cover these topics and more on this episode of Go Publish Yourself!


Robin Cutler [00:00:08] Hello everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. I'm Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:16] And I'm Justine Bylo, the Manager of Author Acquisitions Program.

Robin Cutler [00:00:20] What are we going to talk about today, Justine?

Justine Bylo [00:00:22] We're talking about print-on-demand.

Robin Cutler [00:00:24] Print-on-demand, also known as POD in some circles, right?

Justine Bylo [00:00:28] Yes, not pod, don't get it confused.

Robin Cutler [00:00:31] I know I see sometimes people calling it pod and I don't even know what they're talking about.

Justine Bylo [00:00:36] I know, yeah.

Robin Cutler [00:00:37] Because I always say print on demand.

Justine Bylo [00:00:39] Yep, print on demand.

Robin Cutler [00:00:40] And not even POD a whole lot.

Justine Bylo [00:00:42] Mm-hm.

Robin Cutler [00:00:42] Yeah.

Justine Bylo [00:00:43] Yeah, but that's our topic for today.

Robin Cutler [00:00:46] So print on demand is a really fantastic thing to talk about if you're an indie author, if you're a new author, if you're a new author, a publisher. To me, print on demand is one of those new, I'd say in the last five years, a new technology that has so improved just every part of the publishing industry.

Justine Bylo [00:01:12] Yeah, and it makes the lives of many authors and publishers much easier to get their books into the world.

Robin Cutler [00:01:17] Yeah, and also more affordable.

Justine Bylo [00:01:20] It does.

Robin Cutler [00:01:20] So that's what we want to talk about here today. We're lucky to have joining us today one of colleagues here at IngramSpark, Pam Dover. Pam, you want to talk about yourself and what you do with IngramSpark?

Pam Dover [00:01:35] Sure, thanks for having me here. What I mainly do with IngramSpark is I talk with authors and small publishers who want to get into print on demand. They're not sure how to get started, and so what I do is kind of help them through the process of getting their books into IngramSpark and explaining how to use the services we offer to their benefit.

Robin Cutler [00:02:02] Let's just talk for a minute about print on demand and what it is. First of all, I just want to kind of lay the groundwork. Print on demand is a technology that started about 20 years ago and it actually started when the Ingram book company actually created a company called Lightning Source. And some of you listening might have heard of Lightning Source. And this is a print-on-demand company that actually John Ingram started now, can you believe it, 20 years ago.

Justine Bylo [00:02:36] That's crazy.

Robin Cutler [00:02:37] I know, I know.

Justine Bylo [00:02:39] And think about how far it's come, too.

Robin Cutler [00:02:40] I know. So today, our Lightning Source technology is what's offered through IngramSpark and our print-on-demand program. And really, Lightning Source I consider to be kind of state of the art in terms of how far print on demand has evolved.

Justine Bylo [00:03:00] Yeah, the great thing about print on demand is that you cannot tell the difference between a print-on-demand book and an offset book anymore. An offset book is just a book that's been printed by a traditional printer. But yeah, the quality has become so amazing.

Robin Cutler [00:03:17] I've been around, and nobody can see me, thank goodness, I've been in the publishing industry for gosh, about 35, 40 years now, believe it or not. I'm like 100 years old. I know it doesn't sound like it, but I am. I remember when I was a publisher in my days, and I had to guess how many copies I would sell. I used to have a warehouse. I would have to pay for those books in advance. It would cost probably $15,000 - $20,000 to bring a book to market in those days.

Justine Bylo [00:03:58] That's a lot of money even in these days!

Robin Cutler [00:04:00] I know. So today, with print on demand, let's just talk about what now that technology has enabled authors. Today, it's like pay-as-you-go model, so maybe Pam, you're the best person really to talk about how this kind of works for an author.

Pam Dover [00:04:20] Sure, well with our print-on-demand services, you need a print-ready digital file for the interior of the book and one for the cover. Once you have that, you can go ahead and activate an account through IngramSpark. You'll set up the title in our system, where you give us all the information for your book, the cover image, the book description, an annotation, who the author is and even the pricing, what you want to sell the book for. Then once you have completed that, you'll upload the digital files to us. It takes us about three business days to process those files. If the files work great in our system, then you'll receive an email notifying you that an eproof is ready for you to approve. Once you've done that, you can enable distribution. What we do is we send out all the information for your book to all of our distribution partners. They'll pick it up and post it on their website and make your book available for sale.

Robin Cutler [00:05:18] When you say distribution partners, we're talking about that there's a data feed. It actually goes out to an Amazon, a Barnes & Noble, other retailer websites, right?

Pam Dover [00:05:31] Right, that's right.

Robin Cutler [00:05:32] Then that information gets posted on their site, right, Justine?

Justine Bylo [00:05:36] That's correct. How many distribution partners does Ingram have now, Pam?

Pam Dover [00:05:42] Oh my goodness.

Robin Cutler [00:05:43] About 39,000.

Pam Dover [00:05:46] Yes, our distribution network reaches over 39,000 bookstores, libraries and retail outlets.

Robin Cutler [00:05:52] And around the world.

Pam Dover [00:05:53] Oh yes, in over 200 countries around the world.

Justine Bylo [00:05:55] That's a lot of distribution.

Pam Dover [00:05:58] Yes it is.

Robin Cutler [00:05:59] And the great thing is there's no inventory that we're stocking. We're actually printing when we get an order, say, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or even directly from the publisher, right, Justine? That's when we're actually printing.

Justine Bylo [00:06:15] Yeah, absolutely. We call it a zero inventory solution. Unless that book is purchased by someone, we don't print that book. We print it and ship it to them as the orders come in. When you were talking about, Robin, how back in the day you used to have to print a ton of books and have a warehouse for them and ship them. POD solves all of that. It takes all of that away for you so that you can just print what you need.

Robin Cutler [00:06:44] Pam, talk a little bit about what's available through print on demand. What type of trim sizes and what options are available through print on demand?

Pam Dover [00:06:56] We have over 25 different trim sizes. We offer paperback, hardcover, in case laminate hardcover where the image is printed directly on the book. Also, cloth-bound hardcovers with dust jackets. We offer black-and-white interiors printed on cream or white paper. We have several different color interior options so that you can pick exactly what you need for your book.

Robin Cutler [00:07:22] I'm astounded when I see the hardcovers that we can do as print on demand.

Justine Bylo [00:07:28] Yeah.

Robin Cutler [00:07:29] They just amaze me.

Justine Bylo [00:07:30] Yeah, and it's amazing to see them making them, too. It's wild.

Robin Cutler [00:07:34] Yeah, and talk a little bit, because this has been we're always adding new trim sizes and new technology. We just announced recently a partnership with Hewlett Packard where we're going to be uploading and changing out our printers, so that we have that very latest in print-on-demand technology. One of the things we keep adding are different trim sizes that we offer. I know that we just, within the last couple of weeks, now have a landscape.

Pam Dover [00:08:08] That's right.

Robin Cutler [00:08:09] Trim size.

Pam Dover [00:08:10] We do.

Robin Cutler [00:08:11] Talk a little bit about that for children's books.

Pam Dover [00:08:14] That's a really great option for children's books. For years, we've had people requesting the landscape trim size. It's available with our premium color print option. It's 11x8.5 in paperback and hardcover.

Robin Cutler [00:08:29] And the color, talk a little bit about just how good the color is these days with print on demand.

Pam Dover [00:08:36] It's very vibrant. With the premium color, that's our top quality color interior printing and it's beautiful. It's as good as offset.

Justine Bylo [00:08:48] Yeah, and for cookbooks and children's books and any type of photo book, it's just a fantastic option.

Robin Cutler [00:08:56] Let's talk a little bit, just a little broader, about the advantages of publishing your book as a print-on-demand book. I like to talk about this a lot with authors. To me, one of the advantages is if you say, win an award or you get a really good endorsement, all you have to do to add that to your book is just add it to your book file. From there on, every book is printed with that new information on it, right?

Justine Bylo [00:09:27] Yeah, it is. If you ever need to fix something with your book, you don't have to…

Robin Cutler [00:09:34] You have an error.

Justine Bylo [00:09:35] You have an error, you don't have to worry about chucking all that inventory and replacing it. You just make the revision to your file and upload it again and we'll start printing the right ones.

Robin Cutler [00:09:46] To me, that's like one of the huge advantages to using print on demand, especially for a new author that really doesn't even know the demand they're going to have on their book.

Justine Bylo [00:10:00] Yeah, and speaking about demand, you don't have to worry about the upfront costs either. For new publishers just starting out who don't know that demand and wouldn't know how many books to order, this completely solves that problem.

Robin Cutler [00:10:14] Pam, talk a little bit about, just to give our listeners an idea of what the unit cost is for a typical print-on-demand book. You've got 200 pages, 6x9 trim size. It's usually about $3.00 or $4.00.

Pam Dover [00:10:32] Right, well, actually the print costs for a black-and-white interior paperback would be a little over a penny per page and $1.12 for the cover, so it's very inexpensive.

Robin Cutler [00:10:44] They can just figure out the number of pages.

Pam Dover [00:10:47] Right, and the other thing that we offer too, are our pricing calculators. You can visit ingramspark.com and use our print and shipping calculator to find out how much it would cost to print and ship books to yourself or to someone else. There's also a publisher compensation calculator you can use to price your book so you can find out how much you'll earn in each of the markets that it's being sold in.

Justine Bylo [00:11:11] That's important. You want to know how much you're making per book.

Robin Cutler [00:11:14] Yeah, so talk a little bit about the global part of this. How we can set up your book and then it's available to be printed all over the world.

Pam Dover [00:11:25] True, so we have print facilities here in the U.S., the UK and Australia. You would be able to place orders for your books, if you needed them shipped to an address overseas, you can use one of those facilities to print from. We also have distribution partners in those countries where the books are printed in those print facilities and shipped to the distribution partners, and they fulfill the orders they receive. We also have what we call our Global Connect Partner Program. That's where we've partnered with printers in other areas of the world. For instance, China, Russia, Poland, and Germany.

Robin Cutler [00:12:05] India.

Pam Dover [00:12:05] India, Italy, and then we just keep adding printer partners as we vet them and make sure that they are a trustworthy source. And what they do is, they print the books for bookstores and retail outlets in their countries. So that saves them on the shipping costs. You still earn the same amount of publisher compensation that you would for U.S. sales, if that's what you want. It just makes it more convenient and gives your book more places to be sold.

Justine Bylo [00:12:36] It's easy as clicking a button, right?

Pam Dover [00:12:38] That's right.

Justine Bylo [00:12:39] That's crazy that your book can be available all over the world by just clicking a button.

Pam Dover [00:12:44] I know, that's right, it's amazing.

Robin Cutler [00:12:46] Justine, you work with all the top authors at IngramSpark. Do you think that print on demand that we offer is one of the reasons why you're able to bring these authors in?

Justine Bylo [00:12:59] Oh, absolutely. Our authors love the quality of our books, because they know that if they walk into a bookstore with a book that was printed through our program that the quality is going to be spot-on, and that bookseller or library or what have you, won't know the difference that it was print on demand. Not to mention it helps them save on print costs, which is great.

Robin Cutler [00:13:24] Yeah.

Justine Bylo [00:13:26] They also just trust that we are getting those books out there for them. They're not missing any sales by missing a retail outlet, they're getting their books everywhere that their readers are.

Robin Cutler [00:13:39] The book is always available.

Justine Bylo [00:13:41] The book is always available.

Robin Cutler [00:13:42] Yeah.

Justine Bylo [00:13:44] They know that their readers can get their book and that peace of mind is huge.

Robin Cutler [00:13:49] And the other thing is, it's not just authors that are using print on demand, all the major publishers now are using print on demand as just part of their normal publishing business, right?

Justine Bylo [00:14:02] Exactly. So, say you have a really robust backlist, so those books that published a few years ago. You want to keep them in print; you don't want to retire them. You put them in print on demand and as there is demand for them, we'll print them and ship them. It's a great solution for something like that, as well as your new books.

Robin Cutler [00:14:21] Yeah, some publishers now have moved to print on demand as being the only way that they print now

Justine Bylo [00:14:29] They have, yeah. It's just more cost effective.

Robin Cutler [00:14:34] As you can see, we're really big fans of print on demand.

Justine Bylo [00:14:36] We love it!

Robin Cutler [00:14:38] To be honest with you, I wish that I had had this available to me when I was publishing the authors that I served, because I would have only used this. It would have saved a lot of headaches. Having a warehouse, having to pack orders, ugh, it's like one of the worst things you ever want to do.

Justine Bylo [00:15:00] Yeah, who wants to do that?

Robin Cutler [00:15:01] Nobody.

Justine Bylo [00:15:02] Trips to the post office, no.

Robin Cutler [00:15:04] It's just horrible.

Pam Dover [00:15:05] Another thing a lot of authors are using print on demand for is to get their book out into the marketplace, and they're being picked up by some of the larger trade publishing houses.

Robin Cutler [00:15:15] Oh, wow.

Justine Bylo [00:15:15] Opening some doors.

Pam Dover [00:15:16] That's right.

Robin Cutler [00:15:18] I think we're close to being out of time here, so what's the last, what do we see on the horizon that's where we're moving with this technology going forward?

Justine Bylo [00:15:31] More bells and whistles. I think that's the exciting thing. We've got landscape and more is coming. There's always room for improvement there.

Robin Cutler [00:15:42] I think so too, what about you, Pam?

Pam Dover [00:15:45] Definitely, our website is improving and it's going to be much easier to use. As Justine said, more bells and whistles, more tools to make it easier for authors and independent publishers to get their books printed and distributed.

Justine Bylo [00:15:59] What about you, Robin? What do you think?

Robin Cutler [00:16:03] I always want more, so I want better, the quality. I can remember when I first learned about print on demand 20 years ago. Pages would fall out and things like that. It's just like you said at the beginning of this show, you can barely, I don't think you can even tell the difference between a traditionally printed book and a print-on-demand book anymore.

Justine Bylo [00:16:30] Absolutely.

Robin Cutler [00:16:30] Yeah, the quality of the paper, everything about it. Just couple that with Ingram's distribution on top of that. It's just really the only way to go.

Justine Bylo [00:16:42] You can't beat it, yeah.

Robin Cutler [00:16:43] We're big, big fans and we're here to help with any kind of questions you have about not only print on demand, but anything related to indie publishing. Just as a sign off here, remind our listeners to visit us on ingramspark.com and please sign up for our blog. Our blog, I think, is one of the best we have and our marketing department does a great job in bringing content that authors are looking for.

Justine Bylo [00:17:15] They really do. There's some fantastic articles on there about Spark and how the industry works, so please go check them out.

Robin Cutler [00:17:23] A lot of information about how to market your book through the blog, which is invaluable. Anyway, that's kind of it for me today. Thank you, Justine. Thank you, Pam. And we will talk to you soon.

Justine Bylo [00:17:37] Talk to you soon, Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:17:38] Thank you.

Pam Dover [00:17:39] Bye.


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