What is Print-on-Demand and why should I do it?

Print-on-demand publishing is becoming more common especially in the self-publishing world.

Books are printed individually when there is an order placed for them instead of in bulk before promotion and sales. A print-on-demand publisher will have digital files of your manuscript and cover, and they will just print the book out when it is ordered and ship it to the customer. 

The benefits of this are:

  • No stock is held so there are no bulk up-front printing costs and no holding/storage costs

  • Your book can be ready for sale immediately anywhere in the world on completion and upload of the manuscript

  • There is the ability to change the text and publish changes more quickly

  • It is more environmentally friendly as there are only print and shipping costs for actual sales
  • It enables more power to self-publishers who want to get their books out there for little start up costs.

However, there are lower profits per book as printing costs are higher than bulk printing, but the benefits of not spending the money up front often outweigh this.

There are a number of options for Print-on-Demand publishing now.

Two of the biggest are Lulu.com and BookSurge (which is owned by Amazon). Here is an article from the founder of Lulu.com on the benefits of self-publishing and print-on-demand.

Here is my personal experience of Lulu

“I use Print-on-Demand for my Amazon.com sales of “How to Enjoy Your Job”. The files are held by a US publisher Lulu.com and when people order the book from Amazon, they are printed then and shipped direct to the customer. I get US$4.03 per book. However, as I am not a US resident, 40% of that goes in with-holding tax, so I receive about $2.90 per book. However, I do nothing for this. It all happens without me doing anything as they print and ship the books per order direct to the customer. Once sales increase, it is a brilliant business model! I don’t have to hold stock, I don’t do the shipping. I just promote my book and see it sold.”

You can see my Amazon page here, and this is my Lulu storefront so you can see it can be done. I will do another post on the exact process of submitting your book to these services. You don’t need to be an IT genius but you do need to be reasonably comfortable with uploading and formatting.


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  1. says

    I think print-on-demand technology is a great step forward in environmental terms, but there are a couple of things that haven’t been worked out yet and I wonder about your take on them. First, if you publish through Lulu, isn’t true that Lulu holds the ISBN number (i.e. a publishing ‘press’ shouldn’t use Lulu because the book wouldn’t be listed as their pulication)? Also, it’s easy for a self-published book to be lost in the shuffle (or even filtered out on some sites), so are marketing costs actually higher for self-publishing than with traditional publishers who likely already have marketing tools in place? I can see how marketing alone could take a great deal of writing time away from the writer.

  2. admin says

    Thanks for your comment Larina.
    Re Lulu and other self-pub companies, they all offer publishing by them i.e. they hold the ISBN, or published by yourself – you hold ISBN. I chose to publish with Lulu as it was easier for me being out of the US – it doesn’t affect my rights as copyright holder. I can also pull it anything should another publisher want it, or should I want to publish elsewhere.
    Re marketing for any books – authors HAVE to be able to market themselves now. Yes, it takes time and yes, it is necessary. I say this as a self-pub author, but check out comments from Rachelle Gardner, literary agent here

    and on the author platform

    All authors need to market whether they are traditional or self-pub. I hope that helps! Thanks, Joanna

  3. says

    Print on Demand is definitely the way to go these days. With the costs of printing thousands of publications with the hopes and expectations that they “may” sell, having a print on demand solution not only reduces this risk, but reduces storage and postage costs as well. Most consumers want the publication in a variety of formats, electronically for the instant satisfaction but in print as well for notes and future use. POD is the future. Printing companies can easily set up books in their library for users to order on demand in these formats.


  1. […] Print-on-demand (POD) technology is when you load a print-ready file to a POD publisher online. When an order comes in for your book, they print the book and send it to the customer directly. You get a smaller cut of the sale price but you have no stock to store, no postage hassle or costs and no up-front print costs. If you are a self-published author, you have the global rights to your book. You can have multiple POD publishers in order to lower costs from postage e.g. use Lulu.com in USA and Pothi.com in India.   […]

  2. […] Print-on-demand (POD) publishing is when you load your completed book files to a provider like Lulu, CreateSpace, Booksurge etc. A customer buys your book from an online bookstore e.g. Amazon.com. The order goes to this provider, they print one book and it is shipped to the customer. You have not paid anything for that book. You get revenue from the book e.g. I get US$2.50 for every book I sell on Amazon via POD. […]

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