Publishing and Printing Your Books Just Got Easier

Publishing and Printing Books Digitally
by Dan Poynter

In self-publishing, you are both the book creator and book producer; you are the author and the publisher. You will need creative writing talent to become a published author and money to become a publisher. Of course, that is an over simplification but the point is that writing is a creative act and publishing is a business. You are in charge of both activities when it comes to your books.

Anyone can be a publisher. The right to publish is guaranteed to you by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. You do not have to get a license or register with anyone to publish a book. But it does cost money. In fact, one definition of “publisher” is the person or company that makes the book happen; the one who puts up the money. Until recently, publishing and printing a book was expensive.

You may sell out to a publisher or publish yourself. Getting your book published is what is important. How you break into print is not.

A publisher will edit, design, typeset, layout, proofread, print and distribute your book. You may also perform these functions yourself or hire a book designer, deal with a book printer and use a booktrade distributor.


Go to a bookstore and look on that shelf where your book will be. You will notice that each genre or category as a different design. The publishing and printing process is the same, but you wan't the "look" to be different.

For example, business books are usually in hardcover with a dust jacket and go for $29.95 or $34.95. Professional books—for doctors, lawyers and accountants are often in hard cover without a dust jacket and sell for much more.

Children’s books are over size, are in full color, have exactly 32 pages and if you put a dust jacket on them, they sell for five dollars more.

And travel books are low-priced, on light-weight paper and are tall and narrow so they will slip into a pocket or pack. Your book must look like the rest on the shelf. Respect your category; This is not a time to be creative.

Select a design you like. Check the color of the paper, the size of the type, the design of the book and so on. Buy that book. Use it as a model for your book. Someone else has invested a good deal of time and money to design a book that you like. Adapt that design.


You can typeset your book yourself with MS-Word but your pages will look even better if you learn a page-layout program such as PageMaker, In-Design or Quark.

Once you are done with the typesetting, you can convert the text file into a graphic file with Adobe Acrobat. Most of the files received by book printers today are in Adobe Acrobat PDF.


Traditionally, the printing of the book has been most expensive part of the publishing procedure. Due to the setup costs, printing is a numbers game. It used to be necessary to print at least 3,000 copies to achieve a reasonable per-unit cost. That meant a large printing bill.

For example, if you were printing a 144-page softcover book measuring 5¼ x 8¼, your 3,000 copies might produce a print bill of $4,800. And, you could not print less without the unit price going up—way up. It was a big expense for publishing and printing a book.

Types of printing

POD, Print On Demand: Digital printing of one book at a time—after it is ordered by a customer. POD is more expensive per-unit because all the overhead must be charged to a single book.

PQN, Print Quantity Needed: Digital printing of a small number of books for stock and promotion.

Press: Traditional ink-based printing requiring a minimum of 3,000 books to be economical.

Now we have digital (Print Quantity Needed) printing: high-speed, computer controlled, toner-based production. These machines print both sides of the paper at the same time and do not require a period for the ink to dry. Press setup time is virtually eliminated. Excellent color covers are usually done with the same toner process. Great for publishing and printing books.

The same 144-page book might cost out to 400 books for $1,200. The per-unit price is higher but the invoice you have to write a check for is much lower.

The quality of the toner-based printing is actually better. There are no light and dark pages as in ink printing. The softcover or hardcover books look better than traditionally-printed books.

Delivery time for digitally-printed books is normally five days from press proofs and reprints take three to four days.

Writers have benefited from offset printing, computers and the Internet. The next technological revolution is digital PQN printing. Digital book printing is faster, easier and cheaper.

Putting a lot of ink on paper is now just an option; a good one if there is large prepublication demand such as advanced sales to bookstores and/or a sale to a book club.

There is no longer an automatic requirement to print 3,000 or more copies of your book on spec. Price is no longer an excuse for procrastinating on your book.

More From Dan Poynter

Writing periodicals:

Dan Poynter does not want you to die with a book still inside you. You have the ingredients and he has your recipe. Dan has written more than 100 books since 1969 including Writing Nonfiction and The Self-Publishing Manual. For more help on book writing, see © 2003

Book Publishing periodicals:

Dan Poynter, the Voice of Self-Publishing, has written more than 100 books since 1969 including Writing Nonfiction and The Self-Publishing Manual. Dan is a past vice-president of the Publishers Marketing Association. For more help on book publishing and promoting, see © 2003

A personal note: If you want to know about publishing, you have to read Dan poynter's books. He is the man!

Maria Pease

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