Traditional Printing vs Print on Demand… What is the Difference?

One of the biggest decisions for self-published authors is whether to choose traditional printing or print on demand (POD). As a publishing consultant, I am constanly asked questions about the differences and benefits of traditional printing versus print on demand. Below I have answered three of the most common questions I’m asked about POD . Hopefully, the answers will give you a better understanding of the two types of services and help you determine if print on demand is right for you.

Why should I choose POD rather than traditional printing?

Most authors who select POD want their self-publisher to handle distribution and fulfillment as well as the actual printing of the books. This allows the author to focus on what they do best – writing, and hopefully marketing, their books – instead of managing inventory, packaging orders, and shipping books to the buyer.

Why is the per book cost higher for a POD title compared to a traditionally printed title?

The more you buy (of anything, from books to business cards) from a traditional printer the lower your unit cost. Whether you print 100 copies of an item or 1000 copies, your set up costs are the same, and they are amortized over the entire print run. Typically, buyers  order more than they actually need  to achieve a lower unit price.  In POD, the cost of your book is the same for book number 1 and book 2000 because each book is printed one at a time and the set up is included in every individual copy.

So why would I accept a higher unit price?

Authors that select POD are doing it for two specific reasons. The first is they want their self-publisher to print the book and deliver it to the purchaser without them having to be personally involved. The second is cash-flow. Inventory costs money. Buying 2000 books, for example, at $3.50 per book will require an investment of $7,000.00. In a nutshell, POD authors are trading a higher per book cost for the luxury of not having 1000’s of dollars worth of inventory sitting in their home office.

POD is a great option for authors who are concerned about time management and inventory cost. After all, authors should be writing and marketing not storing, packaging, and shipping books.

I’d love to hear your questions, advice, and experiences with traditional printing and print on demand.

Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.


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