One of the challenges of self-publishing a book as a small-time author is coming up with enough money to order your initial stock of copies.
The last thing you want to do is to order 10,000 copies of your book and only sell a quarter of them.
Although publishing an ebook is one way to avoid this problem, you may want to sell print copies of your book as well. To do this, you can work with a print-on-demand book publisher.
How Does Print On Demand Book Publishing Work?
Print on demand book publishing allows you to publish books without printing copies upfront. Here’s how it works:
- You upload your files to the publisher’s website
- When a customer places an order for your book, the publisher prints one copy
- The publisher sends this copy to your customer for you
There are a number of reasons why you might choose print-on-demand publishing instead of regular publishing. Besides not having to invest upfront, print-on-demand also lets you correct mistakes in real-time or add things to the book whenever you want.
If you printed 10,000 copies upfront and later found a mistake, you will be stuck with those copies.
Unfortunately, there are not many print-on-demand book publishing companies, unlike print-on-demand t-shirt companies, of which there are plenty.
For this reason, we have compiled a list of the top 10 print-on-demand book publishers so you don’t have to go looking for them yourself.
Let’s get into it.
1. Amazon KDP
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is perhaps the most well-known print-on-demand publisher. One of the top reasons to use Amazon KDP is that you can publish a digital version of your book on Kindle and send paperback copies to customers at the same time.
(If you have previously used CreateSpace, it has now integrated with Amazon KDP and no longer exists as its own, independent print-on-demand publisher.)
It only takes two days for your book to be available on Amazon and Kindle, and you don’t need to convert your book into a complicated format to publish it. Instead, just upload your Word, text, HTML, or PDF file to Amazon; only one file is needed for both paperback and Kindle versions.
Another top benefit of publishing on Amazon KDP is that you can reach a lot of people. To start with, you can sell your book on Amazon’s different marketplaces, including in Europe and Japan.
However, you can also sell your book on Amazon KDP’s Expanded Distribution Network. Basically, this allows libraries, bookstores, and distributors around the world to order as many copies of your book as they want.
You’ll need an ISBN to join the Expanded Distribution network, but you will get one for free when you sell a paperback version of your book.
Even though the book will be paperback, it will have a high-quality, well-designed, laminated cover. Since we’re talking about Amazon here, you can be sure that they will only be using the highest-quality print materials.
You can have a colored version of your book if you want, or you can stick to a black-and-white version.
Of course, one of the top things you will probably want to know right away is how much money you can make. Amazon KDP has a three-tier system for how much they pay you:
- When you sell a paperback version, you will earn 60 percent of each sale.
- When you sell a Kindle version, you will earn 70 percent of each sale.
- When you sell a book through the Expanded Distribution Network, you will only earn 40 percent of each sale.
Let’s break this down a little. If you sell your Kindle eBook for $20, you will earn $14 in royalties. If you charge a little extra for the paperback version and sell it for $25, you will earn $15 per sale.
If your $25 book gets sold through the Expanded Distribution Network, you will only earn $10 per sale.
You can go to the KDP University to learn more about how to publish and sell books with Kindle Direct Publishing.
One drawback of Amazon KDP is that there is no hardcover option available. However, the benefit of KDP is that it is really easy to get started, with only a few simple steps needed to be taken.
After Amazon KDP, Lulu is perhaps the second most well-known print-on-demand and ebook self-publishing platform.
There are a number of book formats you can use, from regular print books to comic books to yearbooks. Altogether, there are over 3,000 different formats, sizes, and color combinations to choose from — much more than Amazon KDP.
The good part about Lulu is that you aren’t limited to a paperback version. If you want, you can choose a hardcover version, a regular paperback, a paperback with coil binding, and various other variations.
You can choose between different color styles, a glossy or matte finish, and different colors of hardcover wraps. For ebooks, you can choose between PDF and ePUB versions.
Even if you decide to use Lulu instead of Kindle Direct Publishing, you will still be able to sell your book on Amazon.
In fact, you will be able to sell on Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Kindle, Kobo, and to over 40,000 bookshops, libraries, distributors, and schools around the world.
In addition to all that, you can sell both on the online Lulu bookstore and on your own Shopify website, with shipping to 150 countries.
The downside is that the process of publishing your book will take a bit longer than with Amazon.
With Lulu, you will need to wait up to eight weeks before your book is ready for distribution, and this is after you have already finished the process of designing your book, uploading it, pricing it, and ordering a copy for yourself to proofread.
So, how much money will you make with Lulu? The answer depends on what kind of book you will sell.
Unlike with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, where you don’t get more than 70 percent of the sale, Lulu lets you take a whopping 80 percent of each sale — but you will first have to pay a set price for every book you publish.
This will depend on whether it is hardcover or paper, black-and-white or colored, a large book or a small book, how many pages your book has, and so on. It can be just a few dollars or $10+.
You can go to Lulu’s pricing calculator to see for yourself what you will end up paying for each book you sell. You can also use the retail calculator on that page to calculate your future profits.
IngramSpark is a top alternative to Amazon KDP, and it offers a number of benefits over it.
The first benefit is that you can actually sell hardcover books on IngramSpark like you can on Lulu. However, you can’t do so on Amazon KDP, where you can only sell ebooks and paperbacks.
In addition, the problem with using the Amazon Expanded Distribution Network is that a lot of bookstores don’t want to order from Amazon because they see it as a competitor and don’t want to support it or give it any business.
After all, Amazon is taking away a lot of business from brick-and-mortar stores.
On the other hand, although IngramSpark does connect you to over 39,000 bookstores, it isn’t as easy to use as Amazon KDP, and it also has additional fees.
Getting started is not that expensive, as you will only need $49 if you want to publish a print book or a print book and an ebook. If you only want to publish an ebook, it will cost you $25.
However, many users report that IngramSpark is very difficult to use, and it does not have great reviews on Trustpilot.
Blurb is another solid option if you dislike Amazon and don’t want to use Lulu. It’s pretty simple — you can sell either print or ebook versions of your book, and you can access a distribution network that reaches over 39,000 bookstores.
You can also sell your book on the online Blurb bookstore, for which there are no listing fees. If you decide to sell your Blurb book on Amazon, Apple iBooks, or Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, you will have to pay certain fees.
As with Lulu, you can also sell your physical or digital book on your own website.
The great part about Blurb is that you can control your profits by adding your own margin to the base price of the book. There will also be a set printing fee for each book, depending on the type of book you will be printing.
You can go to the pricing page to see an easy-to-understand chart that tells you exactly how much you will have to pay.
For example, an economy black-and-white 5×8 inch uncoated white or cream paperback book has a fee of $2.99. For economy color printing, it is $3.99.
Although Blurb lets you print one book at a time whenever an order comes in, if you do want to print in bulk, you will get additional discounts and lower fees.
It’s worth mentioning that with Blurb, you are not limited to actual books. You can also publish magazines, wall art, photo books, and notebooks; as such, Blurb is great if you are an artist who wants to sell printed wall prints and canvases.
BookBaby offers a number of services for authors and writers, including professional book editing, ebook publishing, and print-on-demand publishing.
The problem with BookBaby, which is the reason it is not really recommended for those who have small budgets, is that their print-on-demand service is only really available as an add-on to an order of at least 25 books.
There are two print-on-demand plans. One is $99, which only lets you sell on BookShop, with a 50 percent royalty (in addition to the publishing fees).
The second plan is $399, which gives you access to a global network of distributors and publishers, including Ingram, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Baker and Taylor.
However, as mentioned, print-on-demand is only available as part of an add-on to an order of at least 25 copies. Those types of packages start at $890 (check out the pricing page for updated information).
What about ebooks? If you just want to convert your manuscript into an ebook, it will only cost you $99. If you want to sell it on Apple iBooks, it will cost you $199, and if you want it distributed to 60+ online ebook stores, it will cost you $299.
All in all, BookBaby isn’t the best option if you only want to focus on print-on-demand. There are just too many fees.
6. 48hr Books
48hr Books, like their name implies, promises super quick production times. They claim to proof PDF manuscripts in less than 24 hours and to produce paperback versions of your book in just 48 hours or less, with 24-hour and same-day rush deliveries available as well for an added price.
48hr Books even has book templates that you can download and use if you are in a rush or on a strict budget.
The good part about 48hr Books is that they offer hardcover and coil-bound book options, as well as various sizes. In addition, prices are very low and start at just $2.50 a book.
You can calculate your price per book with the pricing calculator.
However, there are a number of downsides as well. First of all, there is a minimum order of 10. While that isn’t much, considering the super low prices, it’s not print-on-demand in the strict sense of the word.
In addition, it doesn’t actually have a distribution network, although it does make an “Upload Ready” file version so you can upload your file to the largest online booksellers.
Because it doesn’t have a distribution network, however, you won’t automatically be able to reach tens of thousands of bookstores and websites, like you can with other publishers.
The Book Patch is yet another low-cost print-on-demand publisher that promises quick turnaround times. They’ve actually been in business for over a decade.
The Book Patch promises not only low fees but zero setup or listing fees.
It’s pretty simple to use. All you have to do is upload your PDF, upload your cover, and start printing books!
The cost of each book will depend on how many copies you are ordering at once. If you are doing print-on-demand and only ordering one at a time, prices generally start at $3 a book.
However, if you order more than 49 books at once, prices are reduced, and further discounts continue to be applied if you order larger quantities.
You can calculate the cost per copy on their homepage. It depends on the type of book you are printing, how many pages it has, and so on.
One of the best parts about selling with The Book Patch is that you actually earn 100 percent of the profits (after paying the set fee per book for printing, of course). Your readers will be charged for shipping.
You can sell on The Book Patch’s bookstore for no additional fees, whether you are selling an ebook or a print book. Although they don’t give you an ISBN for free, you can get one for just $25.
For print books, you only really have two options: Paperback and spiral-bound books. However, you can choose between different sizes and between black-and-white and colored print options.
For ebooks, you have three format options: PDF, ePub, and Mo-bi. You can sell your book in all three formats at once.
The good part about The Book Patch is the low fees and quick turnaround time (only 3-5 days). However, the downside is that they don’t seem to give you access to a distribution network.
Another downside is that they offer a limited amount of book formats (no hardcover option).
However, unlike many of the larger print-on-demand publishers, which have many negative reviews on Trustpilot, The Book Patch has fairly positive reviews.
Gelato seems like an interesting name for a publisher as it refers to a type of Italian ice cream, but Gelato is a large print-on-demand company that lets you print all kinds of materials, not only books, in over 30 countries with shipping to over 170 countries.
If you’re trying to sell an actual novel or large book, Gelato isn’t for you. They focus more on small booklets, leaflets, company handbooks, event guides, magazines, product catalogs, flyers, business cards, invitation cards, and posters.
They’re perfect for businesses that need to print manuals, guides, magazines, and handbooks for their events, team members, customers, and business meetings.
Although Gelato can be considered a print-on-demand company, some products have a minimum order that is higher than one. For example, brochures, booklets, magazines, flyers, leaflets, and invitation cards all have a minimum order of 10.
Business cards have a minimum order of 100, while posters can indeed be ordered one at a time.
Once your order has been delivered, which usually takes only three business days once you have placed the order, you can give your booklets out to your employees, business associates, etc. You can even sell them at a business event.
You can also use Gelato to create calendars, wall posters, photo books, and more.
Espresso Book Machine, by On Demand Books, is another print-on-demand publishing company that isn’t very well known. Its self-publishing tool, Self Espress, allows you to create ebooks or paperbacks quickly and easily.
Self Espress lets you collaborate with family and friends while working on your book. They even provide professional editing and design services.
Once you create your book, you can order it for yourself, list it on the Self Espress marketplace, sell in on Amazon, and even have it printed at local print locations.
What makes On Demand Books so unique is that Espresso Book Machines allow you to print books on demand in physical locations around the world.
According to Wikipedia, Espresso Book Machines allows for the distribution of books directly to consumers through special printers at libraries and other locations while cutting out the need for retail distribution.
This not only lets consumers access and print new and rare books but even books that have been blacklisted by major distributors.
For a list of Espresso Book Machine printing locations, which includes universities, libraries, book centers, and book stores, go to the EBM locations page.
10. Luminare Press
Luminare Press is yet another lesser-known publisher that offers print-on-demand services. Although there aren’t that many reviews online, the reviews that I did see on Facebook and Yelp were very positive.
However, you must be aware that they only offer print-on-demand services as part of their core packages, which start at $1,999 for non-children books.
They do offer a free 30-minute consultation if you are interested in learning more about the process.
Wrapping It Up — What Is The Best Print On Demand Book Publisher?
Without a doubt, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is the easiest and best way to start selling books.
Not only is there no real learning curve, but you can be selling your book and earning money in just a few days.
Another benefit of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is that there are very few startup fees.
If you are interested in print-on-demand, you probably don’t want to pay exorbitant fees for full printing packages; after all, one of the top reasons to use the POD model is so you won’t have to pay any money upfront to invest in bulk orders.
This automatically excludes publishers like Luminare Press.
Unfortunately, the downside of Amazon KDP is that hardcover books are not available.
However, if you do decide to later offer a hardcover version of your book, you can always create an additional account with Lulu, Blurb, or IngramSpark.
Nothing is stopping you from using two publishers at once. However, both Lulu and IngramSpark are more difficult for beginners and don’t have the quick turnaround and great service that Amazon does, so don’t rely on them as a first option.