I am at a loss for a frame of reference regarding the costs associated with printing/publishing a photo book (like a coffeetable book)

I'm sure it depends, but is there any kind of scatter chart where I could at least form my own variables and make a calculated risk?

3 Answers 3


When I was publishing my first book, I found that the best pricing I could find to self-publish a hard-cover book was from Lulu. I wasn't doing a picture book, but if they were good on other types of books, they're probably good on other types of books, too.

So here's their pricing page for picture books:


You might also look at their "regular" pricing page:


Short story: self-publishing a photo book is expensive.


I'd recommend going to PODW and walking through their instant quote wizard. It will give you an excellent appreciation of the sorts of decisions that you have to make, and an idea of the costs.

If you went for some traditional book printer you'd probably get a better price, but the effort of dealing with them would make you wish for an early and painless death.

(I have a publisher sitting next to me, and boy the stories I hear ...)

Anyway, PODW seem like an efficient bunch of people.

(I just looked at picture.com prices and nearly fell off my chair).


I must protest! While my response, elsewhere on this page, may have been a tad anecdotal, I think there was some useful information there.

So to be more explicit: since you're going to print/publish this yourself, and you need to know what the cost variables are, your choices are limited -- which is good.

  1. Find "a kind of scatter chart", or spreadsheet or application, that somebody else has put together and posted online (for whatever reason, most likely to make money for themselves down the line) which is honest and knowledgeable and accurate and into which you can plug some numbers. Out of that will come a range of book-production costs, with very little effort on your part. This is very close to looking for a magical solution, simply because you cannot know the source or accuracy or intentions behind the application. The chances of its accuracy are very dim.

  2. Go to one of the many online vanity publishers (like lulu.com, as mentioned above), look through their little catalog of design and formatting choices, and be knocked flat on your back at the costs. They are far, far more than a normal production house charges, and the quality will probably be abysmal (based on a number of such little books I've seen sitting hopefully on tables in art galleries in Los Angeles and Brussels, my two towns).

  3. The best choice: make an appointment with the largest printing house that does color work on coated paper in your vicinity. It will be an impressive operation, color work always is. You will be taken around the presses and warehouse and shown examples of their work. They will be prepared to set text in any of thousands of fonts and layouts.

And you will almost surely find someone there who knows exactly what kind of operation would be most reasonable for you. They probably will not have an inhouse bindery, but they will have local connections. They will also assume that you are going around to several other printers, to compare costs and quality of work. Thus the chances are they will give you their best prices over a range of quantities and quality. (And you should, in fact go to at least two other large color printers, assuming there are that many around your town.)

You don't want to do it by long distance -- you have to do it in person or there will be disappointments. And needless to say, you have to be able to describe the book you want to produce. If it's a book of photos, have an envelope of the photos with you, and an idea of the amount and layout of text.

It's an eye-opening experience and well worth the effort.

  • 1
    The OP was asking for any inputs about where he could find the mentioned scatter charts. Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 18:22
  • Who did @user2532531 offend to get all the down votes on two useful answers?
    – hildred
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 23:13
  • I think that the OP is asking for the resource described in point 1. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 19:07

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