Understanding Print Runs, Book Formats, and Costs

Pick the right print runs for you
How many books should you print? Thanks to new technology, the answer is—as many as you need to as many as you want.

Print-on-Demand (P.O.D.) technology allows printers to produce books as people order them. This is both the most expensive and least expensive option—the cost is higher per book, but since you don’t have to pay for printing a stock of books, your investment up front in the printing process is much, much lower.

Digital press printing is best for lower quantities of books—50 to 500 books. The cost is lower than it is for P.O.D. printing, and your investment is lower than it is for traditional offset printing.

Offset printing is your best choice for printing of 500 books or more. Offset remains the highest quality printing (although the other digital methods are quickly catching up) and the lowest cost per book with quantities over 500.

E-books are another option, which can be combined with print or used alone. E-books require the creation of a book file (even if you don’t intend to print a book, you still have to make the electronic file look like a book) as well as formatting for the different devices, such as Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

Determining the best book format and print run for you
1. Assess your budget. Producing a professional book is your key concern, so make sure that you are putting appropriate resources toward the creation of your book. Keep your eye on the bottom line with these helpful tips:

  • Remember that color is more expensive than black and white printing.
  • Consider the size of your book carefully. Typical book sizes include 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9, 7 x 10, and 8.5 x 11 inches. The price increases with size, making 5.5 x 8.5 your most economical book.
  • Paperback binding is far less expensive than hard cover.

2. Assess your promotional drive. The sales of a book depend largely on its author’s desire to meet people and tell them why they need this book. For how long will you be committed to this task?

3. Assess your audience. Have you already received word that an organization would like to buy your books? Do you already have a following? If you have a guaranteed buying market, you can assess your print need rather easily. If you’re not sure who will buy and how you’ll reach this group, it’s always wise (particularly for your pocketbook) to err on the side of caution.

4. Remember, you can always reprint your book if you run out.