Offset Printing or Print-on-Demand: Which is the Right Choice for You?

The journey to self-publishing a book is full of big decisions. Among the most contested of these is the offset printing vs. print-on-demand debate. When it comes to making the right choice for your book, there is no easy answer, but it’s helpful to know more about the decision you’re making. Let’s find out what offset printing and print-on-demand really are and which might be the best fit for you.


Stay tuned for our pros and cons lists!


What is offset printing?

Offset printing is a commercial printing process and is usually the preferred option for large print runs.


Offset printing involves transferring ink from a metal plate to a rubber sheet, which is rolled onto a large sheet of paper through a printing press. The paper is then cut and bound to create copies of your book.


The offset printing process is designed to allow for high-quality and cost-effective bulk production of books.


The pros, the cons, and everything in between


Cost

Rather than printing straight from a digital file, offset printing requires the creation of plates, which means that initial costs can be a little steep, making some authors shy away from the process. But offset printing is the choice of most big publishing houses for good reason.


When large quantities of books need to be printed, offset printing can, in the long run, be the cheaper option, as it usually incurs a lower per-book cost.


If you’re planning for a BIG print run and have the funds to allow for a higher initial outlay, offset printing might be a good choice for you.


Risk

One of the biggest concerns of authors thinking about pursuing offset printing is risk. If you choose offset printing for your book, you’ll have to decide how many copies to produce before sales start rolling in, and usually, there are minimum requirements for print run quantities.


In order to minimize the risk of waste or excess unsold copies, it’s important to carefully consider how many books you’re likely to need in your first print run. You want enough copies to fulfill demand but not so many that you’re left with hundreds to spare.


It’s also a good idea to focus a good amount of your marketing attention on generating preorders for your book.


Retail and distribution

Offset printing can provide authors with lots of great retail opportunities, including placement in brick-and-mortar stores. Many printing companies have relationships with particular sales outlets that might stock printed copies of your book.


Offset printing also allows authors to maintain a high degree of control over distribution. With physical copies readily accessible, you’re more likely to be able to offer signed books or sell your book independently at author events and community markets.


A downside of offset printing, though, is the author’s responsibility for storage and shipping. If you order a large print run of your book, you’ll need to store all those copies in your home or office until they sell, and when a buyer does request a copy (or 10!), you’ll be the person in charge of making sure their order is shipped quickly and safely.


Choices and changes

One of the highlights of offset printing is its scope for customization. Offset printing processes often allow for greater flexibility with things like trim size, color, and inserts, meaning that you’ll be able to create exactly the book you’re dreaming of.


While these additions can be expensive, offset printing is a great choice if you have the budget and the vision for unique book production extras.


Plus, it’s worth considering whether your book will need to be altered after it has gone to print. Making even subtle changes to a book that has been printed using an offset process just isn’t possible, as new plates must be created to accommodate every alteration. Before you print, you’ll need to be certain that everything is just as it should be.





What is print-on-demand?

Print-on-demand, or POD, is a popular printing method among self-publishing authors and small publishing houses. Drawing from a digital file, the print-on-demand process avoids the complications of a large print run by only printing books as they are purchased.


Print-on-demand is quick and easy, making it a great option for beginner authors.

The pros, the cons, and everything in between


Cost

Print-on-demand allows books to be produced on an as-needed basis, meaning that start-up costs are usually much lower. With print-on-demand, you’ll avoid overstocking issues, instead paying for and producing only the books that customers are buying.


However, without the perks of bulk production, print-on-demand usually incurs a higher per-book cost. This means that the cost benefits of the print-on-demand route typically only apply to low quantities of books.


If you’re processing large book orders, the per-book costs of print-on-demand are likely to start adding up. Keeping it small? Stick with print-on-demand! But if your book is selling big, you might like to reconsider your options.


Risk

One of the main reasons for print-on-demand’s popularity in self-publishing circles is the low risk associated with the process.


Print-on-demand doesn’t require you to anticipate sales before you make them, which means that you don’t run the risk of overstocking (and overpaying) before you know how many people are likely to buy your book.


This makes print-on-demand a helpful way of testing the publishing waters while you’re still building your author brand.


Retail and distribution

Print-on-demand pathways offer authors access to lots of great online distribution channels, including listings with Amazon, Book Depository, and other major book retailers.


However, because print-on-demand relies on sales being made before books are printed, it can be limiting when it comes to placing your book in brick-and-mortar stores. It’s not impossible, but it is more complicated, so this is something to consider if your dream is to see bulk copies of your book on the shelves of your local Target.


A plus of print-on-demand is that you, the author, don’t have to worry about storage or shipping! When you choose print-on-demand, whoever is printing your book is, in most cases, responsible for ensuring that it gets to buyers quickly and in good condition. You won’t have to worry about packaging, shipping, or storing unsold copies in your home.


Choices and changes

Some authors worry that print-on-demand might be limiting in terms of customization or quality. This isn’t necessarily true, but it depends on what you’re looking to get out of the production process.


Print-on-demand is designed for ease and efficiency, and this means that there are some restrictions to the choices you can make for your book’s trim size, color, and so on. You’re also unlikely to be able to add in complicated extras like inserts or cutouts.


One of the many benefits of print-on-demand is the scope for changes. Mistakes happen, and people change their minds; with print-on-demand, this is no big deal. To make changes, big or small, to your book when using print-on-demand, all you’ll need to do is update your digital file(s) with your printing provider.



Did this blog post teach you something about your printing options? Which route will you be using for your next book?



At Wildflower Books, we offer a range of editing and proofreading services. We specialize in children’s fiction, from picture books and YA novels, and have helped many authors create fantastic books. If you’d like to learn more about your editing options, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email today!

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