Here’s another post inspired by a recent question in a Facebook group (and one I’ve answered a few times now). Every author looking to self-publish will eventually come to the question of where/how to print their books. The two main routes are offset printing (in bulk) and POD (print on demand). Before I go into this, it’s important to understand the types of printing – offset vs. digital:

Offset Printing

  • Only available in bulk because of the extensive, individual setup of the press per run (or per book)
  • Usually requires a minimum of 500 and usually the more you order, the less per book it costs
  • Offset printing provides more vibrant, bright and true colors
  • Offset printing provides an overall higher quality and sharper images
  • Press checks are possible (they set up the printer, you look at the first copy that’s run and confirm colors are looking correct)

Digital Printing

  • Your home or office printer is digital printer
  • Good quality industrial digital printers can still produce great quality, but it will never be as clear and sharp as an offset printer
  • You can print 1 copy, or hundreds (going over 500 is usually not as economical as shifting to offset printing)
  • Print on Demand (POD) is possible due to this ability to print one copy at a time
  • Colors can sometimes come out duller or darker
  • Colors are not as predictable and true

So, what are the pros and cons of each when talking about printing your book? Now we’re talking offset printing in bulk vs. POD printing (digital).

Offset Printing in Bulk


  • Superior quality
  • Brighter, more brilliant colors if printing a picture book
  • Option for press checks (checking/confirming colors which can also be done remotely although not as effective, but still good)
  • More choices for binding, format, stock, finishes, etc.
  • You can do things like spot gloss or foiling on your cover
  • If you’re selling yourself, you have the opportunity to quality check each of your books.


  • Lots of money upfront – there’s no turning back!
  • You will have to store (or pay for storage) of 500+ books AND keep factors in mind like proper storage that is climate controlled (you don’t want them to warp from things like humidity) and potential risks like fire/flooding
  • You’re working with the printer or a print management company, which can have a bit of a learning curve. If things go wrong (ie: damaged books arrive or such), you’ll have to know how best to address these issues and work with the printer to correct.
  • You will be selling/distributing yourself OR hiring someone to do so.
  • While you may get more money per book sold into your pocket – you’re either doing all the work yourself or paying others (ie: loosing some of that cash).
  • You’ll have to keep track of and submit sales tax (this is usually quarterly in the US).
  • You’ll need to set up a website and online store if you want to sell online.
  • You might need to do more in-person events if you want to get books sold quicker.
  • You can sell on Amazon, but it is NOT cheap and they will take a huge chunk of your sales, and if you do FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), it’s even more costly.
  • Selling internationally can be very difficult and costly for shipping.
  • Aside from in-person events, customers are almost always going to have to pay shipping fees (unless you do Amazon FBA).

Print on Demand


  • Little or no upfront costs in regards to printing
  • Opportunity for passive income
  • Opportunities to be placed on lists for larger distributers (like Barnes & Noble, although this doesn’t mean it’s easy)
  • If you publish and realize a few weeks later there is a mistake, you can update your files.
  • If using Amazon KDP, you’re automatically in a lot of their international marketplaces, so selling your book in other countries is not possible.
  • Typically POD results in your book being on Amazon (ie: if you use Amazon KDP, that’s exactly where they’re sold), meaning shipping is free for Prime members.


  • A less superior product – paper quality, print finish, etc.
  • You’re limited on options, sizes, etc.
  • You’re limited to soft cover (paperback) or hard cover, and those have limitations depending on the company you choose.
  • You don’t get to quality check your books and sometimes people receive the wrong cover, the wrong internal pages, missing pages, etc. You’re at the mercy of the printer. Customers sometimes realize it’s not on the author, but sometimes they are upset and can leave a bad review even though it’s nothing to do with you.
  • Your profit margin is less than if you sell yourself, but this is of course because you’re not doing the work (so to me, it’s not much of a con).
  • Depending on your book, you may not be able to get it into independent bookstores. For instance, if you have a paperback children’s picture book, you won’t have text on the spine and that is sometimes a requirement.
  • You can usually get author copies at a much cheaper rate, but sometimes the shipping time is unpredictable, so if ordering in bulk for an event, you’ll want to plan well in advance in-case of delays or handling damaged books or such.

Final Conclusion

So after all of that information, what is the best route? Well, it highly depends on a few factors like budget, desired book style, your audience and what kind of time/work you can or are willing to put in. With that said, my personal recommendation (for most people) is to start with POD (Amazon KDP and Ingram Sparks are the biggest companies for this). You can build up a following, get reviews, gain credibility and later down the road, you could invest some of your earnings into bulk printing. And is this a little hypocritical? Sure. If you know me or my journey, you know that I started with bulk, offset printing. I really wanted a board book, which is not doable via POD and so this is the route I chose. But after doing this myself, and then doing a paperback version via Amazon KDP, I see how I sort of did things backwards. I do NOT regret it – I’m so glad I have board books. But, I definitely can see how I took the more difficult route.

As I said, consider all your factors and make sure to do what works for YOU and YOUR book (the above is just my two cents). I just have seen so many people talk about offset printing and how they “need some additional income” or they “don’t have a lot of time” and therefore they clearly aren’t understanding that offset printing will take up a ton of time and/or money. I hope this post gives a little insight to the personal experience of an author who has done both routes.

Offset Bulk Printing

Passive Income
Stock, Binding, Finish Options Available
Ease of Selling Internationally
Ease of Changes Post Publishing/Printing

Print On Demand

Passive Income
Stock, Binding, Finish Options Available
Ease of Selling Internationally
Ease of Changes Post Publishing/Printing