Managing Your Own Print-On-Demand

1106 Design

March 06, 2015

Updated April 17, 2020

If words such as “managing” and “print-on-demand” seem a little confusing, please force yourself to keep reading because, bottom line, I’m going to show you how to earn more per book.

Print-On-Demand: Who Does the Printing?

Here is the important bit: there are only two companies that do print-on-demand. Any other “self-publishing company” that offers you a print-on-demand service is only going to run your project through either Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or IngramSpark, something that you can do yourself quite easily. These “self-publishing companies” earn money by sleight-of-hand—hiding the actual cost of printing and what your royalties would be if you accessed the POD services of KDP or IngramSpark directly. Sometimes they report that the cost to print the book is higher; other times they quote a “royalty” without revealing how they got to the bottom line. Either way, you, the author earn less than you should.

Save Money with Print-On-Demand

As with any other product, the greater the number of middlemen between the manufacturer and the consumer, the greater the price paid by the consumer. Cut out the people in the middle, and you will save money.

To prove my theory, I tested print-on-demand pricing on KDP, IngramSpark and BookBaby. BookBaby is a self-publishing company that has recently supplemented its eBook distribution services by offering print-on-demand to its author clients.

I selected a trim size of 6” x 9”, black ink on crème paper, paperback with perfect bound binding (glued spine with color laminated cover), 200 pages, with a cover price of $10.99. My goal was to determine the “publisher compensation” offered by each print-on-demand company. Remember: the publisher is YOU!

IngramSpark offers two wholesale discounts: 55% and 40%. (Bookstores require 55% to accept an order.)

The publisher compensation estimates for my book from each of the companies is as follows:

  • IngramSpark (40% wholesale discount): $3.09
  • IngramSpark (55% wholesale discount): $1.45
  • KDP (40% wholesale discount): $3.34
  • BookBaby: $1.23 (11% of the retail price)

Yes, you read that correctly: assuming a 40% wholesale discount, you would be paid over $2.00 less by BookBaby than you would by going directly to the Ingram Spark or KDP website. As of April 2020, BookBaby also charges authors a fee of $399 to set up print-on-demand.

Other “self-publishing companies” include Lulu.com and Outskirts Press. On their website, Lulu.com gives an example of publisher compensation for a similar book as above, but with a cover price of $14.95. When the book is sold on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, authors receive a whopping $1.58 per book. Outskirts Press provides a royalty calculator on their website, and the royalties dropped into negative territory when I reduced the cover price below $10.95.

Perhaps you will save some time and anxiety by going through BookBaby or other self-publishing companies. The mystical world of printing and distribution induces anxiety in many authors, who would rather just get rid of that headache when given the option. But, assuming you sell 500 books, you would keep an additional $1,000! Aren’t you worth it? (Note that there may be account set-up fees – sometimes refunded. Be sure to clarify all costs upfront.)

Working with KDP and IngramSpark

A few tips about working with KDP and Ingram Spark:

  • IngramSpark provides easy-to-use forms on their website to calculate options and costs.
  • You will need to set up an account and upload cover and interior files that meet their exacting specs. You can create these files, or you can avoid a lot of frustration in this area by hiring an experienced book designer. 1106 Design helps authors with this step.
  • KDP books generally are listed on Amazon a day after the proof is reviewed by them and accepted by the author. IngramSpark takes a little longer, for reasons that are unclear, but may be due to the retailers themselves or Amazon giving priority to KDP books.
  • Skip Extended Distribution at KDP and choose IngramSpark for that instead. Thus, the wholesale discount at KDP will automatically be 40% and the wholesale discount at IngramSpark for Extended Distribution will be 55%, ensuring that bookstores will place a special order (which is why you’re using IngramSpark in the first place!).

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration to move forward with your book project. When the time is right, send us a message and ask how we can help you self-publish your book.

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