I would like to publish my book. I would like to publish it as print on demand. I don't like the idea of giving my book away to a publisher. I want to have control and remain responsible for marketing and for my book in general. I don't want waste; the idea of first printing a book when there is a buyer is amazing.

But is POD cheaper than publishers? I think it should be: you don't have waste while you traditionally have a lot of unsold books. It's only printed while traditional publishers have a huge team working on the book for an entire year. And making a lot of PR for the book as well.

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    Cheaper for whom? What costs are being discussed? Are you making an apples-to-apples comparison of getting your single book into nationwide book chains, Amazon and B&N, on shelves in front of shoppers, as well as all the various kinds of e-book formats, plus PR, plus marketing, plus reviews from major outlets like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, et cetera? Are you including getting your work professionally edited and laid out, plus cover design? There's more to publishing companies than "printing books." Commented May 11, 2016 at 20:25
  • @LaurenIpsum yes, I am comparing apples with apple :-) ... I would like to know if print-on-demand books (only printing and sending) is cheaper than publish it in a traditional format. PR etc. is not calculated in printing the book. I want to sell my book on Amazon and every time it is purchased, the book will be printed and send to the address. Commented May 11, 2016 at 20:49
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    "Is POD cheaper than publishers". That doesn't make any sense to me. Publishing works so that you submit your MS to a publisher (directly or through an agent), then the publisher - if they agree to publish it - will sign a contract with you indicating the rules of the agreement (e.g. how you will be paid, etc). But in no case does the author have to pay anything for any of this. POD, on the other hand, leaves all the expenses (including marketing) to you. Besides, consider another aspect: If you go to a tour, will you have no copies printed with you for any clients?
    – user16555
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 5:59

3 Answers 3


Having worked in the Print industry for over 20 years, in different shops that print traditionally (offset) and digitially (POD), it usually comes down to quantity if you are asking for an apples to apples cost per book.

If you want one book printed, it's much cheaper to send finalized artwork to a printing company and they could process your file for a digital printing machine, bind it and send it to you for a fee, let's call it X Dollars.

On the contrary, if you want 100,000 books printed and did it digitally (POD style) it would cost 100,000 times X dollars. But if you did it traditionally using offset printing, it would cost a small fraction of that price.

If you contact a local printer who has the capability to print and bind both digitally and traditionally, you could ask for a quotation, which may look something like this:


1 book $50----------------------1 book $1,200

10 books $500-------------------10 books $1,200

1000 books $50,000--------------1000 books $1,350

10000 books $500,000------------10000 books $2,000

You would have to work with the sales team and find out where the "cutoff" is based on the number of books you are going to print.

  • Absolutely agree, though I'd nitpick that one copy of a digit book does not cost anywhere near $50, unless it's full color and 500 pages long. At least, not on the POD services I've talked to. A more realistic number would be around $5, depending on number of pages, whether it has color, etc. Doesn't change the basic point, just where the breakeven is.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 18:49

You'd have to give more information for a true apples-to-apples comparison. As @chowzen says, a key factor is how many copies you are printing.

To offset print a book requires a certain amount of "setup" work to create the master plates. I've never paid someone to offset print a book, but I've had one-page flyers and the like printed, and the printer has charged me $25 to $100 to create the plate. I'm sure that includes some administrative overhead so a 200 page book probably isn't 200 times that, but that's the ballpark. So several thousand dollars anyway to make all the plates for a book. (If anyone on here has more precise number, please jump in. I tried Googling but the on-line printers I found all want me to fill out a form with my phone number and they'll call back with a quote. Didn't want to get into that.) If you then printed one copy and threw the plates away, it would cost you thousands of dollars for that one copy. If you printed a million copies, the cost of the plates divided by 1 million comes to a fraction of a penny per copy, practically nothing.

With print-on-demand, there is essentially zero setup cost. It's like printing a file on your computer printer: you send the file and it's done.

But offset printers are much faster than computer printers, technically simpler, and easier to maintain. So the cost per copy is small.

The end result of all this is that if you're printing a small number of copies, POD is cheaper. If you're printing a lot of copies, offset printing is cheaper. The exact breakpoint depends on a lot of factors, but it's on the order of several hundred copies.

But printing isn't the only cost. You also have to consider storing and shipping. With POD, you print copies as customers buy them. Storage cost is zero. With offset printing, you print thousands of copies. When they are all sold, you print thousands more. In the meantime you have to store them somewhere. You have to ship them to the warehouse, pay people to unload them from the truck and put them on shelves, and then when they're sold retrieve them from these shelves. And of course the warehouse costs something to build, and you have to heat it in the winter and cool it in the summer and keep the rain out and so on so the books aren't damaged. You have to keep track of how many copies are in the warehouse and where they are. Sometimes there are accidents or mistakes and copies are lost or damaged. All this costs money.

With POD, if you only sell 5 copies, you don't make much money but you don't lose anything. With offset printing, if you print 10,000 copies and only sell 5, you're out all the money you spent to print those 10,000 copies.

So in practice, the per copy cost of a POD book is usually higher than an offset printed book. But it's usually preferred by self-published authors because it requires little or no up-front investment and no risk of being stuck with unsold copies.


This seems pretty simple to me. Our book is a POD book. I wish I had known when I started what I know now. Traditional children's books can be bought for $7-15 easily. Our book is $24. They set the price and we had no say in it. It is much harder to sell at that price, and don't think you have much control. We have a 2-year contract with them.

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