2022 is the year when we are seeing a steep rise in self-published authors. In many ways, the shift in the mindset can be attributed to the multitude of options available for an author to get published. Ranging from self and vanity the authors can now choose from print on demand publishing and DIY publishing also.
One could also blame the pandemic which impacted the publishing industry severely increasing the waiting period to get published by traditional publishing houses. From a usual 6 months to 1 year waiting period for acceptance to publishing, it has now become 1-2 years. The wait might be worth it. But will your project be relevant after 2 years? This question haunts a lot of writers which makes them opt for other ways to get published.
This is where self-publishing options including print on demand and DIY publishing come to the rescue.
What is Print on Demand publishing?
In layman’s terms, Print on Demand allows you to print as many copies as needed by you or as per the purchase orders received at that moment.
DIY publishing is a type of Print on Demand publishing where the publisher provides little or no support except printing your book as and when requested for. That is why the name Do-It-Yourself. You can opt for this type of publishing on leading self-publishers portals like Notion Press, Pothi, and Ingram Spark.
In DIY publishing the author has to do everything on their own including formatting, cover designing, and editing before uploading the book on their portal to be printed. In this case, a very nominal fee is charged to the author which can be as low as INR 2000/-.
How does Print on Demand publishing work?
Say you were to opt for normal publishing in which 500 copies of your book were to be published. Let’s assume the publisher bears a cost of INR 200 for printing each copy.
In simple calculation, that is 500 X 200 = INR 1,00,000/- of investment. (Simple because we are not adding the overheads or any other expenses to this at the moment only for the ease of understanding) The money is blocked till the publisher and/ or you (the author) are able to sell them.
We all know the truth. Selling books is not easy. It is a slow process and takes its own sweet time. ( Read our observations on How to sell your book in India) This means an investment of INR 1 lakh is held up till an undisclosed period. Not all publishers or authors can afford this type of investment.
In the image above, you see the cycle of Print on Demand Publishing. Looks very simple, isn’t it? But there are many other complexities involved in this simple-looking process.
Let’s decode some of it for you here.
Amazon KDP offers paperbacks to authors in India through CreateSpace. KDP already has a lot of inbuilt services for authors in its system like cover design, formatting, and typesetting. Moreover, with the global distribution through Amazon’s platform, it becomes easier for an author to opt for this. Not to forget the complete transparency when it comes to royalty calculation. This definitely makes Amazon KDP the number 1 choice for any self-published author wanting to release their books in paperback. But they shouldn’t. Why?
Did you know that at the moment Amazon’s printer is based in the US? Because of this, when you opt for the paperback option, the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) of your book tends to be extremely higher as it also includes shipping to India and all the charges are in dollars. This will impact your book sales negatively.
The suggested cost-effective alternative is to have your ebook released through Amazon KDP and opt for another local publisher for your paperback. This still does not guarantee sales, but at least it guarantees a buyable price tag to your book.
(Note: Amazon is in plans to work out an alternative to this and have a printer in India to decrease the cost involved in getting your paperback printed through them. Till this happens, Amazon KDP continues to remain a costly option for authors at least for paperbacks.)
Like self-publishing, most of the Print on Demand publishers also do not offer marketing and distribution, which includes placing your books in bookstores and lit fests apart from online and offline marketing like book launches, book sign-ups, media coverage, etc. The author needs to take care of the marketing on their own.
Quality continues to be a debatable thing when opting for self-publishing in any form. The quality of the paper and the cover, the formatting, the font size, and a lot of other finer aspects of printing are sometimes not up to the mark. This leaves a reader dejected on receiving the book.
Despite having written a brilliant book, you stand the chance of losing out on a reader here. The font size might not be reader-friendly, or the print quality is poor. The reasons could be many but the loss is only of the author in more than one way.
Things to know about Print on Demand publishing in India
- The printing of the book has no separate charges if you opt for print on demand publishing.
- You can publish any genre in Print on Demand publishing.
- There is no minimum word count requirement when you choose Print on Demand publishing.
- If you take add-on services like editing, cover design, typesetting etc from any of these houses, you will be charged separately.
- Online Distribution which includes making your book available on Amazon and Flipkart is usually a part of the package with most of these print on demand publishing houses in India. Some like Notion Press and Pothi even offer listing and sales through their own website where they offer higher royalty to the author.
- If you want to have your book placed in bookstores or made available in other platforms online / offline, the cost can vary starting with INR 5000- INR 1,00,000/- depending on the service sought.
Is Print on Demand available for languages apart from English?
Yes, many publishers like Notion Press and 24 by 7 Publishing House offer Print on Demand publishing services in many other Indian languages apart from English.
Why should you opt for Print on Demand?
The reasons for a writer to opt for Print on Demand publishing are many:
Zero Upfront Investment
Compared to any other self-publishing options, Print on Demand publishing requires zero investment upfront. This makes it an extremely cost-effective option for all writers. You do not need big amounts to be invested in printing your book. All you need to spend on is editing and cover design.
No Storage requirements
Because of no spare copies printed as stock, there is no requirement for storage as well. This is a huge expense incurred by publishers and/or authors otherwise as storage also means proper protection of the books in all types of weather changes, natural calamities, and also in case of any man-made disaster as well. Of course, there are insurance companies to take care of this. However, all this increases the expenditure of a publisher or an author.
Scope of Rectification
Most of the print on demand publishing houses allow authors to make any corrections or changes to their manuscripts any number of times before ordering a copy.
Now imagine that you notice a typo after having printed 1000 copies of your book. Scary isn’t it? That is like the worst nightmare of any writer come true.
With print on demand publishing, you can completely avoid these recurring nightmares.
If you are about to start your publishing journey with our debut book this can be a great option. For it allows you to experiment slowly as you navigate your way into the literary market.
Start with 50 copies only. Circulate among friends and family to see the reactions. Get another 25 to host a small high-tea event for a select group of book reviewers whom you can give free signed copies of your book. If the responses are extremely encouraging, you can then perhaps consider a book launch event where you might need 100 copies of your book.
The print of demand publishing allows you to spend on the go. It is a pocket-friendly option for all writers and poets to take the first step to becoming published authors.
Braveen Kumar is a well-known poet on Instagram as The Tumblr Poet. He published his debut poetry collection through Lulu because it was cost-effective and also he had complete control over the marketing activities of his book. He kept scaling the orders based on the responses he saw for his marketing campaign. His journey to being The Tumblr Poet and having sold his book successfully in itself is interesting. You can read it here to be inspired and also pick a lesson or two.
Cons of Print on Demand publishing
As we spoke to a few authors who had opted for print on demand publishing we realised there is a flip side to it too.
Print on demand publishing also means your book is not available instantly. It takes at least 5-7 days for your book to reach the buyer after they have placed a request for the book.
Anagha Bailur (Author of Turning Time Back, Notion Press, 2019) shares how this impacted book sales negatively. A lot of readers, today are used to getting the book in a day or two at the max. So when they had to wait for a book to arrive for long, it was something that turned them off, with many not wanting to wait that long.
Moreover, the other risk you carry is of the oft-repeated proverb, “Out of sight is out of mind!” Your reader sees your promo/ ad on the internet and goes to Amazon to click on buy instantly. When they receive the book the next day itself the chances of them actually reading it is higher compared to them receiving the book say a week or two later. By then the initial euphoria or excitement about the book might get lost in the other chaos of life.
Impact on the price of the book
As explained above, in print of demand publishing, the printing depends on the orders received. There are no print copies of your book available readily. The printed copies can be requested for as low as 1 copy to as many as you want. This impacts the price of the boon negatively.
This is also the reason why the books published through print on demand publishing tend to be costlier than other titles. Add to it the cost of shipping, the total cost of each copy to a buyer can be humongous. For a debut writer, this can be a challenge at times purely from the sales perspective.
Navigating the Technology
In Print on Demand publishing, if you have further opted for DIY publishing you are on your own. You need to figure out the back end of the publishing house’s author dashboard without any tech support. And you are also responsible for uploading your book, cover, and other details correctly. Any error in doing so by you can lead to bad reviews and bad publicity.
Writers across age groups are looking at self-publishing options to fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors. They all need not be tech-friendly and might need some sort of support to upload their book and release it. No tech support can often cause them a lot of undue stress.
List of the Print on Demand publishing houses in India
- Website: Pothi.com: Self Publishing and Print on Demand in India
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing, Typesetting, Design and Distribution
- Website: Print on Demand – CinnamonTeal Design & Publishing
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing, Cover Design, Distribution (Also available as Print-on-demand distribution) and Marketing.
- Services apart from publishing offered:
Amazon KDP (Create Space)
- Website: Self Publishing | Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
- Services apart from publishing offered: Cover Design and Global Online Distribution
- Website: IngramSpark: Self-Publishing Book Company
- Services apart from publishing offered: Design and Distribute
- Website: Online Self-Publishing Book & Ebook Company | Lulu
- Services apart from publishing offered: Formatting and Typesetting.
- Website: Print on Demand Book Publishers In India (bookrivers.com)
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing, Cover Designing, Online Distribution and Marketing.
- Website: Print on demand,
- Services apart from publishing offered: NIL
24 by 7 Publishing
- Website: Print on Demand Book Publisher
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing, Typesetting, Audio Book, Author Branding, Marketing, Publicity, Cover Design and Book Marketing.
- Website: Home | Partridge Publishing
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editorial, Designing, Formating and Marketing
- Website: Print On Demand
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing, Designing, Marketing and Online Distribution
- Website: Print on Demand (POD) India
- Services apart from publishing offered: Cover Design, Illustrations, Editing, Formatting and Book Marketing.
White Falcon Publishing
- Website: Plans | White Falcon Publishing
- Services apart from publishing offered: Cover Design and Interior Design.
- Website: Online eBook Publish Packages, eBooks publishing Packages (onlinegatha.com)
- Services apart from publishing offered: NIL
- Website: Print on Demand Company India
- Services apart from publishing offered: Editing and Online Marketing
How to decide which type of publishing to opt for?
(Here we are assuming you have decided to go ahead with self-publishing and are now further confused about which type of self-publishing should you opt for. If you are still confused about choosing between traditional publishing or self-publishing, read our in-depth analysis on Traditional or Self Publishing – in India, which is better for the first-time author? )
The type of publishing opted by you, depends on a lot of factors.
- Type of audience
- Author profile
- Marketing plan
Whatever way of self-publishing you choose for – be it , self, DIY, or print on demand publishing – it should be done taking into consideration all the above factors.
Questions you should look at answering before choosing the type of publishing you want to opt for:
- Who is my audience?
- What is their age group?
- Will they be comfortable with an ebook or a paperback?
- Will they prefer buying it online or would they like to walk into a bookstore?
- Is my audience within my circles to whom I can sell through my own site / social media handles?
- Can I manage the cover design at my end or do I need to seek help from the publishers?
- Can I hire an external editor myself or am I relying on the publisher to take care of this?
- Will an absolute stranger spend INR 500/- on a debut poetry book / fiction novel of someone whom they don’t know?
- What is the demand for your book (genre/ sub-genre/ author profile etc.)?
Print on Demand is a great option for writers looking to get published on a limited budget. Remember your choice of getting published does not define you, the quality of your work does. So make sure, you put the best foot forward with the best story/ short story/ poem/ writing you have to offer. Everything else automatically will follow.