Downfalls of Print on Demand

Guest post by George Simmons

Many authors have started using print on demand technology in order to become a published author. With print on demand, you simply have an item printed when it is needed. For example, instead of paying to have 1,000 copies of your book published and then trying to sell those copies, print on demand allows you to have a book printed when it’s purchased. If someone orders your book online, the information will be sent to the printer, and a copy of your book will be printed within seconds.

While it sounds the best thing since sliced bread, print on demand is not chock-full of advantages. Like most things, it also has plenty of disadvantages.

1. Pricing

Pricing with print on demand is not the same as it is with traditional printing. Some print on demand companies will charge you a startup fee as well as a monthly or yearly fee to keep your book stored on their computers. When printers do this, it is hard to determine how much money you should charge for your book. You obviously want to make a profit, but without knowing how many books you’re going to sell, you could easily end up in the hole.

Other print on demand companies will charge you a certain price per book printed, which is slightly higher than what they would charge per book if printed traditionally. In order for you to make a profit, you will need to charge more than what the printer is charging you, and if your book is priced too high, it may deter some customers from purchasing your book.

2. Quality

Not all, but many books printed through print on demand have poor print quality, including faded ink, poor coloring and even blurring or misalignment. Some even have issues with the quality of the cover, and since most people are attracted to the cover first, it could have an impact on your sales. (EDITOR’S NOTE: All of these things are up to the author. If you hire a professional to edit your book and design your cover, and use the same back-end printer that the “big guys” use (like Lightning Source), you won’t have these issues.) 

3. Marketing

If you opt to go with a print on demand company, you will be on your own for the marketing. This includes advertisements, book signings and any other tactic needed to generate interest in your book.

Traditional publishers do all of this work for you. They have the marketing collateral created, they schedule (and pay for) the book signings and launch events, and they have plenty of contacts in the industry to help generate interest in the book.


4. Readers

Some readers may see that your book was printed by a print on demand company and not purchase your book. Some people believe that if you have to go the print on demand route, your writing must not be good enough to attract a traditional publisher.

While this belief isn’t always true, it is mostly true. With print on demand, there is no requirement to meet in order to have your book published—you simply need to write a book. Some people have dreams of becoming a published author, but if they don’t have writing talent, their book is not going to contain quality content.

Traditional publishers help alleviate this problem with agents. The responsibility of an agent is to read the manuscript and determine if the work is above par. The publishing company then sends the manuscript on to an editing team that will make the necessary changes in order to make the work better. This includes changing character names or plot lines in order to give readers what they want.


5. Bookstores

If you opt to use print on demand, some bookstores will not sell your work. Since print on demand services create a large sum of books every year, it is nearly impossible for bookstores to fill their shelves with every one ever created. Instead, your book will be mentioned in a catalog of books that the store could order. If a customer wants your book, the bookstore will be able to order it for them.

Bookstores also don’t purchase print on demand books because there is no guarantee they will sell. When a bookstore orders copies of books from a publisher, they are allowed to send back the copies that don’t sell for a full refund of their money. This doesn’t happen with print on demand books, so if a bookstore orders 20 copies of your book and only one sells, they will have lost money. Since no company wants to risk losing money, most bookstores won’t stock their shelves with print on demand books.

Before you decide to use print on demand, make sure to research and weigh your options beforehand. You may decide that the disadvantages of print on demand services far outweighs the reward.

George Simmons lives in Miami.  He likes to write in his spare time and has recently been telling others about the best Florida printing companies.


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1 Comment on "Downfalls of Print on Demand"

  1. Alas, even if you do get a publisher, as I have done, they may use POD to save on shipping costs.

    MX Publishing is a publishing house in the UK that specializes in Sherlock Holmes pastiches and Holmesian books of all sorts. To save on shipping costs it uses Lightning Source POD services in the US. The same drawbacks mentioned in this article are true in my case also. I’m grateful to MX for selecting my book for publication, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a bit disappointed I won’t be seeing it on my local bookstore’s shelves.


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