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How Much Does It Cost To Print A Book? Doing My Self-Publishing Homework

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

People aren’t going to like this. Especially some blogs on self-publishing, print-on-demand, and etc. And while what I am about to relate is based on preliminary research only, it does beg a couple of important questions about cost vs. convenience. Do I have the answers to those questions yet? No.

As some readers here already know, I run Turntabling.net, a blog about vinyl records, record collecting, the “vinyl lifestyle” and related topics. Recently I started a book project about strange, obscure and really weird LPs and found myself facing a dilemma. Self-publish or find a publisher?

Self-publishing these days implies an e-book. But I need hard copies to sell at conventions, record fairs and the like. In my case, knowing my potential audience well enough to know hard copies are the bigger draw, I can’t avoid the printed page.

I’m halfway finished with the book project at the time of this writing, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should look into starting an imprint for this project rather than approach a print-on-demand service. I started researching printing press companies rather than P.O.D. companies or “publish your book” websites. I looked up “printing services” on Google, and “printing presses”.

It’s true that submitting a book to a printing press requires more technical know-how and care than submitting to a middleman who you pay to help you with your book project. But I know I can handle that technical stuff–it’s about margins, PDF files and images formatted correctly. It does not seem THAT difficult with a bit of persistence and stubbornness.

My initial research results weren’t promising. I need full color pages for 101 album covers, so my costs are considerably higher than a non-graphics intensive black & white book. The stateside companies I contacted quoted me a whopping $7000 for TWO HUNDRED LOUSY COPIES! Doing the math…well, I didn’t bother. I can’t afford 7K. Print-on-demand sites weren’t much better. In some cases my full color needs were THE stumbling block.

Then I started researching offshore printing presses, and guess what? I got a $3000 quote for full color inside and out…for TWO THOUSAND COPIES. That’s 250 pages, full color, quality paper.

Imagine, fiction writers and non-fiction counterparts, how much your smaller, non-color book would cost if you had it PRINTED overseas rather than going through a stateside POD publisher. The economics of a black-n-white paperback book with standard paper? Potentially astounding.

I can’t vouch for the quality, reliability or safety of doing an overseas print order. But what I DID do was to take a few of my favorite books and see who/where they were printed. I found that books similar in format or audience to mine, done independently and in small runs, were all printed in China.

Again, I cannot vouch for any of these companies I’ve examined. Yet. But I am SERIOUSLY looking into offshoring my book to China. It’s a simple case of economic survival and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. But I have a book project that needs printing, and I know two printers who will give me two thousand books for roughly three to four thousand dollars.

What would YOU do?