The Possible Benefits of Print on Demand, and Resources to Use
A week or two ago, the #Comicbookhour discussion subject was Kickstarters and other crowdfunding sources for indie comics. Crowdfunding through popular websites such as Kickstarter is a great way to get your comic project into print. There are many pros and cons to using Kickstarter. However, it may not be right for every project and creator.
For the purpose of easier explanation, consider this scenario: a comic creator needs funding to create anywhere from a dozen to maybe 100 comic books. The cost of these books combined would be too large to pay out of pocket for most people, yet the stress of creating a several month crowdfunding campaign might not be the best source of funding.
This leads to another, often overlooked, solution in self publishing: Print on Demand services.
What is Print on Demand?
Print on demand or POD is a newer type of service offered by printing companies, often online. A company usually specializes in printing book orders from independent authors and companies. In order to use such a service, you give the company information on your product: what size the book is to be, how many pages, and what materials you want the book to be made of, for example. The buyer would then get some sort of quote for the estimated cost per book, either calculated immediately upon inserting the information, or from a representative who contacts you to discuss the quote and further options.
The comic creator then has the option of outright buying as many books as they need from the POD service, minimum quantity being as few as one book. A discount in the cost per book tends to decrease as more books are added to a particular purchase order. Another option POD allows is to sell directly from the printer’s website with an option to be part of their marketplace. The comic creator would sell through the print service provided storefront, and the service would take the customer’s order, print the copy, and mail it to the customer. (The comic creator often has the opportunity to send branding materials such as business cards, coupons and flyers to the POD service to be included in each order. There would be some small fee for this service as it is extra.) Since the printer is doing much of the work, the creator would get a small percentage, likely getting 10-50% of the profit from each copy sold.
Pros to using a POD service
- If you use the POD’s marketplace, there are usually few to no upfront costs to creating the book.
- The Printers have services available such as formatting or editing help, for some fee.
- There are lots of services to choose from. They are listed at the end of this guide.
- Handy file formats! You can insert the pages of your comic as images using their online/downloaded software, or you can upload finished pdfs (or other formats) to their website, and then have your comic in ebook formats such as .mobi (amazon’s ebook format), .epub (Apple and Kobo services), .
- A built in online marketplace to sell your comic: that’s cool, right? Createspace, which is Amazon’s POD service, allows you to list on the amazon marketplace. You will need an ISBN number, however. Other services like Lulu and Cafepress also have creator storefronts and their own built in marketplaces.
Cons to using a POD service
- The printing service may charge a percentage commission fee or a flat rate on each book sold.
- A service might have you sign an agreement saying you won’t hold them responsible for minor errors if you don’t buy their additional services, like formatting help.
- Not all print on demand services are benign. I did some research and authors have reviewed the companies. Some companies have turned out to be predatory, in that they have a creator sign away the rights to their work. Some services may require you to buy many of your own books upfront. I have taken these reviews into consideration when listing which ones to avoid. However, I encourage the comic creator to do their own research.
- The software used to create the book may be inflexible for your needs, and will not inform the comic creator of comic standards of printing such as bleed allowance, trim allowance, and live area of a page. Be sure to get a ‘print preview’ of your book, or even request a test printed book. In addition, when you create your book on their site and want to get a copy of the files for whatever reason, the print company may refuse to give them to you. Again, do research on whether that is important to you, and which print companies do this.
- The built in marketplace may not have your target audience. Comics are a very niche medium. Your comic will likely get lost in the myriads of other self published books from the service. It also may be best to sell your comic through your own website and using drop shipping with the printing service.
These are some print on demand companies for books in general:
- She Writes Press
- Lightning Source LSI
- Authorhouse – avoid
- Kindle Direct Publishing
- Trafford Publishing – avoid
Print on demand companies specifically for comics:
There are a variety of options to print your comic project. Saving money, getting a good quality print, and having flexibility in number of books printed are all things to be considered.
©Justin Phillips/MNR 2017