How Do I Find The Right Printer for Me?

The important factor in this question is, for me. You have to find the right fit for your needs and requirements, beyond who fits your print run needs. For instance, CreateSpace and Lightening Source essentially meet the same function, printing one or two books at a time. However, CreateSpace doesn’t have anyone that you can talk to. Literally. All that you can do is send an email, and wait for a response. There is no way to just pick up a phone, give a ring, and get someone to chat with if you have a question. Lightening Source, however, has great folks who will answer your call, or give you a ring back at least, and talk with you one on one. That being said, they don’t want to hear your story, they want to hear what they can help you with. They are used to dealing with distributors, and the likes, so they expect the professionalism level to be up there. With that being said, they will be more than happy to answer your questions and clear up any confusion or concern that you may be having. CreateSpace may be just what you are wanting though! Not having to talk with someone isn’t a bad thing for everyone! Chances are though, one of the two is going to be a better fit for your needs.

When it comes to short run POD or offset, though, you will more than likely get human contact. Make an appointment if you can, sit down with them and see what they have to offer. Ask them all of your questions, ask to see the samples that you want to see. If you can’t make it there in person, ask them if you can make an appointment with them for a phone call. Ask the questions, and get to know who you are dealing with. I say make an appointment for this, because it allows us to set away time to talk to you, where nothing else is pressing in on that time. If you just call up, we may not be able to give you all of the time that you need at that moment, because we may be in the midst of dealing with something for another client. I know that for myself, personally, I always try to give my clients as much time and attention as they need, but that’s not always completely possible. An appointment for that initial call definitely allows me the time to really settle in and focus on your needs. With that being said, if you are having a code red scenario, or need an answer to a question right away, then call in!  After these discussions, you will know who is the right fit for you. Gauge your comfort level, your confidence in them, and if they made you feel like your questions were answered. If not, it doesn’t mean that they are a bad company, it may just mean that they aren’t the right fit for you!

In the end, get quotes, ask questions, and really educate yourself. You’ll be thankful for it when all is said and done. If you want to see samples, make an appointment and come in. If you can’t, then you can ask for samples to be sent to you. Don’t be surprised though, if they say that they can’t send samples of the books. Many of us out there retain no rights or ownership to your book (make sure that you find a printer with that policy!!) so we can’t really send you a sample, because we don’t have the right to. With that being said, if that is the case, ask the printer if you can send them in a page or two for them to print up a sample for you. There may or may not be a cost associated with this, depending on the printer your are working with, and the number of pages that you want in your sample. Ask, and ye shall receive!

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I’ve decided on my quantities. Who should I print with?

Blitzprint of course! No, I am just kidding. We may be the right fit for you, we may not be. It all depends on what your needs are. If you want to be able to print one book at a time, then you need to go with that kind of POD (print on demand) printer. For these scenarios, I would suggest checking out Lightening Source or CreateSpace. With both of them, you register your book through them, send them VERY specific files, and then they list you online with their various sources. Really make sure that you research this to be sure that it is right for you. For instance, CreateSpace lists you on Amazon.com once you are working with them. That being said, you can achieve the same thing with Amazon Advantage. Figure out what is right for you. Also, as fair warning, with these kinds of book printers, there is no guarantee on the colors on and in your book. Every time that you print, you can almost guarantee a 5% variance on your colors. It is hardly noticeable at 5% and under, but it is there. At places where someone is printing larger runs of your books, they should be watching to ensure that your color doesn’t vary more than that 5%. There really isn’t someone there doing that for you in these scenarios. Basically, you have strict file restrictions when you submit to them, because the book essentially has to fit a certain criteria. The reason for this is that, when they get in 700 orders that day, all of these books need to fit together into categories, so that they can all be printed together, at once. This is what keeps their cost down, it now cost them per unit the cost to print 700 books, which is way lower than the cost per unit to print 1 book. With all of those books going through, there isn’t really a person holding up the last copy of your book and saying, hmmm, I don’t think that this color is going to be acceptable to the author. These books would also be printed digitally, just as an FYI. Also, these books would be being turned around in a day or two, typically. Last, but not least, your cost per unit with these types of companies doesn’t go up or down much with quantity changes. The price will usually be pretty close to the same the whole way through.

If you are printing between, I would say 25 and 1,000 books, your best fit really is a company like Blitzprint. We are called short run POD printers. At this range, we are still printing books digitally. Don’t let that scare you. I can’t speak for other companies, but I can for ours, and we have some pretty amazing machines that produce some of the most beautiful colors and printing that I have ever seen. This is definitely the sweet spot for most self published authors, because they can get usable quantities at reasonable prices, and in a reasonable timeline. I know that for us, our standard timeline is 12-20 business days after proof approval, plus any shipping time. The sweet spot for printing with a short run POD printer is usually between 100 and 500 quantity. This is where you will notice your cost per unit going down the most when you add books. There are no price break points in this type of printing. Every time you add a book to the quantity of your order, your price per unit will go down. Depending on how many books you add to your order, the price could be a couple of cents (deciding you want 101 books, not 100) to a dollar or more (deciding that you want 500 books, not 100). Also, in this type of printing, we typically don’t need, or want, for that matter, your book to come to us in signatures. What that means is, in most perfect bound book scenarios, as long as you have an even number of pages, then we will be able to print it.

At around 1,000 books, typically, sometimes less, sometimes more, we will suggest that you go to see an offset printer. Offset is traditional printing, with a press and inks. These books take a little longer to get, need to be set up in specific ways with signatures, and have to be done in large quantities. With that being said, if you are looking for large quantities, or have a specific color need, there really is no other way to go. With offset you can print specific colors called Pantones, you can do metallics, foiling, embossing, debossing, etc! Realistically, when it comes to offset the sky (and your wallet!) is the limit. However, if you aren’t up there in the quantities, it probably isn’t worth it. It may look pretty to have all of those fore mentioned things on your cover, but I promise you that no one is going to look at your book and say, “No metallic on the cover? I’m moving on!”. If you don’t want to print over 1000 books, but do have specific color needs that may need to be met via offset, talk to your short run POD printer, and see what your options are for getting a few thousand of your cover preprinted, so that they can just be bound to the freshly printed interiors every time that you have an order. If you are going to go this route, though, you had better LOVE your cover, because you are going to be stuck with it, as it is, for a while. If you are going the large run offset route, I strongly recommend checking out both Friesen’s and Houghton Boston here in Canada. Not only are they local companies, so you are supporting your country’s economy, but they are really great to work with. I can say that confidently, because my clients have told me so! Also, with these types of printers they work with things call price breaks. What this means, essentially, is that between X number of books, and Y number of books,  you are going to be paying pretty much the same amount. Make sure to ask them about price breaks.

For more information on self publishing, please visit our website.


How do I know how many books I should print?

How-do-I-know-how-many-books-I-should-printFor your first run of books, I wouldn’t recommend printing a large run. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, everyone has mistakes in their first editions. Even the people who got it professionally edited and were published. Go grab any first edition and give it a read, you’ll see what I mean! For some it is a simple scenario where they just ask for a couple of changes to be made on their file for the next run. For others it becomes a situation where they have to replace paragraphs, pages, chapters, illustrations, diagrams etc. You don’t want 10,000 dust collectors in your garage that you can go and look at when you feel like shedding a tear!

The other large reason is that you need to figure out your market. You can make predictions, and do a ton of research, but until you are actually out there, in the selling game, it is really hard to determine how many books you are really going to sell. Also, like all things, when you start to sell, typically your momentum will start out a little slow, as you get into the groove of things, get your contacts set up, etc. If you have a large number of books, chances are, you are going to have to store them in your garage, basement etc. You don’t want to keep books for an extended amount of time in an area with large fluctuations in temperature, humidity, or barometric pressure. That is just a good way to ruin a good book.

A large run would be anything over 1000, typically. I would recommend between 50 and 250 for a first run.

For more information on self publishing, please visit our website.


Technology killed the printed star?

Technology-Killed-the-Printed-Star4-300x225The most common discussion that I see on a lot of forums is the one where people are battling back and forth on whether or not eBooks will be the death of the printed word. You tend to have the two sides, opposing each other with all of their might.

In the blue corner, carrying an e-reader, weighing in at an average of about 10 ounces, and a height of around 5”, the Electroninator. In the red corner, carrying a dusty tome, with an average weight of 12 ounces and a height of around 8.5”, we have the Old Schooler. It’s a heated battle in the blogosphere.

eBook fanatics argue that convenience, space saving and social awareness of the carbon footprint will make printed books obsolete. They argue that printed books have declined in popularity between 1.5% & 5% (depending on which source you read) this year, while eBooks have gained about a 14% to 20% (again, depending on your source) boost in popularity. To some, this clearly means that the death of the printed book is imminent.

Printed book fans argue that tradition will win over technology, and that the eBook reader is just a fad that will fade out in the way of the dodo or Beta player. The look, smell and feel of a book will trump convenience every time for these folks.

eBooks are here to stay. They are a great idea, and they really are convenient and compact. We are definitely moving into a more technical age, and this is an undoubted reality. However, there will always be a call for printed books as well. I can see the market becoming 50% or 60% eBooks, and 50% or 40% printed books in the next 5-10 years.

This doesn’t mean the death of the printed word. It means that it is time to adapt and change our way of thinking. Sure, you can pay $2 a book if you get a few thousand printed, but does that really help the bottom line at the end of the day? Not if you have a couple thousand sitting around the house for several years.

It’s time to be smart about how you promote and market your book. Get a good editor, have a quality manuscript, get it professionally formatted, produce a great eBook, and print yourself a couple hundred books at a time. Keep your overhead down, and cater to both markets in the smartest way possible. It’s not time to light the funeral pyre. It’s just time to take a different road on the path to success.


The Discontinuation of the Microsoft Reader

In an unexpected move, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of its eBook reader software, the Microsoft Reader. The full discontinuation will take place on 08/30/2012. Users who have purchased .lit eBooks will be able to download their books until that date, but all new sales will cease as of 10/7/2011. No explanation has been provided by Microsoft in regards to this decision.

It is likely that this discontinuation is related to the fact that the reader was built around the now antiquated .lit file format, and that it was time for a change. The Microsoft Reader download is the grandfather of all eBook reader programs, introduced in 2000 as a free service which allowed people to read eBooks on their PDAs instead of their computer screens for the first time. The Reader sparked initial production of dedicated eBook readers that are available on the market today.

There is some speculation that Microsoft is ending this era of eBook reading as they embark into the tablet age, but that has yet to be seen.