ON-DEMAND PHOTO BOOKS: Lulu.com and blurb.com
produce beautiful color books on demand (above).
A large book of photos taken by the author on several
trips to Asia (upper right). A mini book of Burning
Man photos taken by the author (lower right).
Luckily there’s an accessible technology for this. Xerox’s Docu Tech system,
This system is really only an option for standard
black ink on white paper, in standard trade paperback sizes, and you need to start with a completely
designed book, preferably in PDF format.
For a print run of, say, a minimum of 250 copies
of a 200-page 6"× 9" book (with color cover), you
can probably find someone to print it for around
$3.50 per book. The quality will be very close to, if
not indistinguishable from, a store-bought softcover
book. The disadvantages of this process are that
you’ll have to invest the cost of printing all the books
upfront (in this case $875), pay the shipping if the
printing is not local, and then store boxes of books.
This is a fast-moving field, with new technology
all the time, so the best printers for a particular job
change very quickly. A few short-run printers that
I’ve used with satisfaction in the past are DeHart’s
( deharts.com) and Commercial Communications
Inc. ( comcom.com).
If you print your own book, you’ll want to offer it
for sale on Amazon, even if you’ll be selling it directly
54 Make: Volume 12
from your website. You need 2 copies of the book to
send to Amazon, and you need to include a barcode
on the book’s back cover before you print it. The
steps to getting your book listed on Amazon are
not obvious, so I’ve written up a separate tutorial at
Having a book listed on Amazon does not preclude
any other options you might want to use, but the
costs of keeping it there reduce its profitability, so it
should not be your only option.
PRINT ON DEMAND
The most exciting frontier of self-publishing books today is print on
demand, usually employing toner-based or inkjet-like technology to print
single copies. You send a digital file to the printer,
who runs off individual copies of the book. You can
store a digital file of your book at the printer, and
then your customer simply orders the book at a
price you set, using a credit card or PayPal. It’s then
shipped to them, and you keep whatever profit you
have assigned yourself.
Three web-based companies provide comprehensive on-demand services for self-publishers:
iUniverse, Virtualbookworm, and WingSpan Press.
Each of them offers package deals for $300 to
$500. For this you get basic editorial help and get
your book designed and proofed, with a nice custom
Photography by Kevin Kelly