Thursday, May 06, 2004

On-Demand Printing: An Option for Some

It's Magic, Almost: If you are thinking about self-publishing your book, you may hear something about "on-demand" printing. New technology has made it possible for suppliers to load a digital file of your book into a computer and print out a single copy "on demand." Moreover, the output can be good enough to put into a bookstore (depending more on the preparation than the on-demand technology). Sound too good to be true? It's not. The books look good, and the technology means you don't need to invest an arm and a leg on a load of books that you might not be able to sell. The technology is almost magic. That's the good news. The bad news, if you can call it that, is that the business of book-selling is not magic. On-demand printers, if they're smart, structure their deal so that they make out whether your book sells or not. Thus, they charge you a variety of set-up fees, essentially preparation fees for creating the digital file of your book, and then they keep a large portion of any sales (80% is typical), returning the remainder to you. In this respect, on-demand printers act like publishers, although their return to you is a little larger than the standard royalty. Still, if your book takes off, the small return means that you won't make back your set-up fee for a long time. Fortunately, on-demand printers part company with classic publishers in that they buy only limited rights from you. Thus, if your book takes off, you can take back control of the process, get your books conventionally printed at a much lower unit cost, and make your bundle. Another thing to watch: on-demand printers often promise to get you into various distribution channels:, wholesalers, and the like. This is a useful service that novice publishers often confuse with marketing. It isn't. More about that another time. Please email any comments. See Graphics West for more info.

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