Book Printing Services: Author’s Guide to the Best Book Printing Services

P.J McNulty
November 18, 2020 | 10 mins

Looking for book printing services?

If you're at the stage in your self-publishing journey when you're ready to release your book into the world, it's time to think about book printing services.

These are specialist companies that take your manuscript and turn it into softcover or hardcover print books.

There’s something special about the moment where your book stops being digital words and images on a computer screen and is instead something you can hold in your hand. 

However, not all book printing services have been created equal! There are good and bad options out there. It's worth taking the time to do your homework and consider your options, as you don't want to put off your readers by offering a low-quality print book!

We’ve gathered everything you need to know about using a book printer as well as some suggestions of companies to consider.

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This guide to book printing services covers:

  1. What are book printing services?
  2. How to choose between different book printers
  3. A quick guide to BookBaby
  4. A quick guide to IngramSpark
  5. A quick guide to KDP Print
  6. What type of books can I get printed
  7. How much does it cost to get a book printed?

Let’s get started!

What are book printing services?

A book printing service is simply a company that can take the digital manuscript file for your book and turn it into a print copy.

Most companies that print books work in one of two ways. 

  1. Print-on-Demand Book Printing. This model of book printing involves only printing a physical copy when an order is made. 
  2. Offset Book Printing. Offset printing involves producing a large batch of print books in one go, with order quantities typically in the 100s. 

The pros and cons of Print-on-Demand

Many self-publishers will find that the print-on-demand model of book printing is the most suitable for their needs.

Print-on-demand has the advantage of only printing the needed quantity of books. There is no buildup of inventory just sitting around. Also, many print-on-demand services are integrated with sales and distribution channels. This means that it is seamless for a book to be ordered, printed, and shipped. There is no need for extra work or effort on the part of the self-published author.

The disadvantages of print-on-demand are that it often ends up being slightly more expensive per copy than with offset printing. This is due to not being able to take advantage of the economies of scale that a large offset printing order represents.

The pros and cons of offset printing

Offset printing is an option typically used less often by self-publishers, but it is still offered by most large printing services, so we’ll take a look at its pros and cons here.

The major advantage of offset printing is it often ends up being cheaper to print a large number of books in one go. Quantity discounts can end up being significant.

Offset printing also has its disadvantages. One of the major downsides is it doesn’t allow for fluctuations in demand. If you order a large number of print copies of your book, but then it doesn’t end up selling, you end up stuck with piles of books just sitting around. Also, there is the possibility of your inventory of printed books being damaged before they are ready to be sold.

For most self-publishers, we recommend the print-on-demand model. However, you might wish to make print-on-demand your major means of book printing, but also order some print books to have on hand. These can be used for sending to fans or giving out to people at writing events

Now that you know the basic idea behind a book printing service and the two major ways it operates, let's consider how to choose between different companies. Because the truth is, the best publishing company is not the same as the best printing company.

How to choose between different book printers

It can be overwhelming to know which company to choose to print your book.

And it’s a decision that really shouldn’t be rushed into! Choosing the wrong printer does your book a disservice. All of the time and energy you put into writing it should be rewarded with a high-quality end product. But how can you go about making sure that’s what you get?

Before you reach out to different book printers and risk getting taken in by their sales pitch, it's worth taking the time to ponder your answers to the following points.

  1. Am I looking for print-on-demand, offset printing, or both?
  2. Do I have requirements for paper quality?
  3. Do I want the option to print both hardcover and paperback books?
  4. Does my book have images that need to be printed at a certain resolution?
  5. What genre is my book? Do I want a printer with experience in this genre?
  6. Am I willing to pay more to get a higher quality book?
  7. Do I want a printer that has integrated sales and distribution capabilities?
  8. What kind of customer service channels do I want for my book printer?
  9. What is my budget for book printing?

It's worth not only thinking through the answers to each of the nine questions but also taking the time to write them down.

When you do this, you have a clear set of guidelines to assess different book printers on. It can also help you make a clear, rational comparison if you feel torn between two or more different options.

After you have your answers, read on to discover a few specific companies that print books.

A quick guide to BookBaby Printing

BookBaby is one of the biggest names out there when it comes to book printing services for self-published authors.

We’ve gathered together some key information about BookBaby so you can decide if they are worth exploring further.

Does BookBaby offer print-on-demand?

Yes, BookBaby is one of the main specialists when it comes to print-on-demand book printing for self-published authors. 

BookBaby has retail partnerships with some major names in the bookselling world such as Barnes and Noble. When a customer orders a print copy of your book through one of those stores, BookBaby prints it and handles the logistics for you. 

Does BookBaby offer offset printing?

Yes, BookBaby recommends authors start with a minimum of 500 copies when using their offset printing services, but state that the best value comes from ordering 1000 copies or more at a time. 

What kind of books does BookBaby print?

If you want to make sure your specific type of book is something BookBaby can handle, the company specializes in:

  • Paperback books
  • Hardcover books
  • Children’s books
  • Christian books
  • Photography books
  • Poetry books
  • Cookbooks
  • Coloring books 

There are many more specific genres and book styles handled by BookBaby, so take a closer look if you want to see if they have examples of your type of book. 

How much does it cost to print a book with BookBaby?

BookBaby has a calculator you can access here to get a custom price for your type of book and size of order.

Bookbaby: Book Printing Services

To give you an example, BookBaby states they can print 100 US Trade size softcover books with a gloss cover finish for $570. 

A quick guide to IngramSpark Book Printing

Ingramspark Logo: Book Printing Services

IngramSpark offers a wide range of services to self-published authors, and book printing is one of them.

You can check out our full exploration of IngramSpark here, or read on to discover the most important information about their book printing capabilities. 

Does IngramSpark offer print-on-demand?

Yes, IngramSpark offers a print-on-demand option.

The way it works is that you upload everything needed for a print book into the IngramSpark dashboard. This involves your interior formatting, book cover, etc. Then, when someone places an order, IngramSpark prints a copy of your book and ensures it is distributed correctly. 

Does IngramSpark offer offset printing?

Yes, you can order a large quantity of books on an offset printing basis from IngramSpark.

What kind of books does IngramSpark print?

IngramSpark publishes books of all different genres and types.

Ingramspark: Book Printing Services

Instead of genre, the customization available with IngramSpark comes down to:

  • Ink quality. A choice of black and white, standard color, or premium color ink. 
  • Paper color and weight. Creme, white, or groundwood paper available in different weights.
  • Book cover options. Paperback or hardcover book covers.
  • Book textures. You can opt for matte, gloss, or digital cloth for your IngramSpark book cover. 
  • Book binding. Perfect bound, saddle stitch, or case laminate bindings available.

How much does it cost to print a book with IngramSpark?

IngramSpark also offers a calculator tool so you can get a custom quote on how much your book printing needs will cost. 

However, as an example, we calculated the costs of 100 copies of a black and white paperback with a gloss color cover, which came in at $477.50 with shipping and handling costs factored in. 

A quick guide to KDP Printing

Kindle Direct Publishing: Book Printing Services

KDP Print is the book printing service associated with Amazon and its Kindle Direct Publishing service.

You might have heard of a service called Createspace that was associated with Amazon and offered book printing. This has now been absorbed into KDP Print. There is no separate Createspace service in operation anymore.

So what do you need to know about Amazon’s book printing service?

Does KDP Print offer print-on-demand?

Yes, KDP print allows you to sell books on a print-on-demand basis. This is flawlessly integrated with the Amazon sales environment, so is convenient for authors and readers alike. 

Does KDP Print offer offset printing?

Yes, as a KDP Print author you can order wholesale quantities of your book on an author copy basis. 

What kind of books does KDP Print print?

Unlike the other book printers featured in this guide, KDP Print only offers paperback printing for your book. If you are looking to get hardcover copies, you should consider another service. 

How much does it cost to print a book with KDP Print?

KDP Print offers authors a 60% royalty on paperbacks sold on Amazon and its distribution channels, less the cost of printing.

Kdp Book Printing Services: Printing Cost

There is an option to sell your KDP Print books more widely. To take advantage of this, you need to select expanded distribution when you set up your book. However, if you sell KDP Print books through channels other than Amazon, you only receive a 40% royalty as opposed to the 60% received for selling through Amazon. 

You now have a quick insight into three of the biggest and most popular book printing services in business today. Be sure to check them out directly and reach out to the companies with your requirements before you make your final choice. 

What type of books can I get printed?

A lot of indie authors focus their author career on selling eBooks. After all, with eBooks there are no printing costs, no need to factor in the cost of postage, and no need for inventory.

However, although you should make eBooks a part of your author strategy, you're missing out on a valuable opportunity if you overlook print books.

For starters, some people simply don't like to read eBooks. They might have been the perfect reader for your book and left it a fantastic review, but never got the chance as it wasn't available in print!

Aside from readers who have a strong preference for print books, some book types are much more suited to hardcopy than eBook.

If you are interested in writing any of the following, you really can’t afford to focus on eBooks alone:

  • Study guides
  • Coloring books
  • Photography books
  • Cookbooks
  • Puzzle books

At the very least, we recommend that authors offer their books in paperback through KDP Print and Amazon. Seeing as most of your sales will probably come from Amazon anyway, taking the extra time to set this up is almost always worth it. 

How much does it cost to get a book printed?

The cost of getting your book printed can vary greatly. It depends upon if you opt for a print-on-demand or offset service, whether you want paperback or hardcover, and the quality of ink and paper you want to use. 

To give you a few examples from the major printers featured in our guide:

  • BookBaby can print 100 softcover books for $570
  • IngramSpark can print 100 softcover books for $477.50
  • KDP Print charges 40% of revenue plus printing costs for its print-on-demand service

Because there are so many variables impacting the cost of printing, it’s worth reaching out to book printing companies directly to get a quote. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and shop around for the best deal!

Choose the best book printing company for you

Hopefully, you now feel ready to choose the right printer for your book.

We would love to know your experience and how you get on.

Which company are you thinking of using? What attracted you to them?

Have you had any good experiences in the past? Or what about things you wish you did differently?

Feel free to drop a comment and share your thoughts on book printing and which service to go for!

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