So now you know what Print on Demand (POD) is, now you need to know whether it’s for you! What better way to do this, than with a pros and cons list! I will be focusing on Amazon’s Print on Demand service here as it is the one I predominately use.
What’s so good about POD?
In my opinion, there are loads of positives to using a POD service!
For starters, you don’t need pay for and store a load of books from a big print run. You’ll have no shipping and packaging costs, and you don’t have to manage any complicated packaging and shipping processes - orr any customer queries. Maybe it’s just me, but when I sign, wrap and ship orders myself it takes me aaaages. All this means you can focus on what you love to do, writing your books.
With Amazon, you’re selling your books in the biggest bookstore in the world. You can reach a large audience of motivated buyers, giving you the opportunity to sell a much bigger volume. You’ll struggle to find this anywhere else.
Via KDP, you also have access to Amazon’s advertising platform. This platform is a very powerful tool for driving traffic to your book listing. Once you start to get traffic to your listing, Amazon will likely start to put your books in their banner ads – ‘also boughts’, and ‘customers also liked’, where they will show your book to people who should be your target market.
Sales are of course great, but sales data will really allow you to push your business forwards. The reporting platforms for Print on Demand – especially Amazon’s – are really good for this. Amazon can break down your orders by book, format, and country and your estimate of royalties. The ads platform will also show you customer search terms, and data on what keywords are successfully selling your books.
Amazon are continually investing and developing in their systems. We can only expect their systems to continue to develop and get better and better.
There’s also the environmental benefit. You aren’t printing 1000’s of books at once and then having to ship them across the globe. The customer’s book will be printed near to them, and there will be much less wastage.
Finally, you get to enrol your eBook into Amazon’s KDP Select. If you opt-in to this service, you get paid per page read, and you have the opportunity to win KDP All Stars Bonuses. If your book is enrolled in KDP Select, you can also run free eBook promo days – which helps generate interest and potentially some reviews for your books.
Now, if those are the benefits… What are the downsides?
While you do get access to some data, you don’t get access to all customer data when you go through the Print on Demand services. The customers, while they are buying your books, are not your customers. You don’t know who they are and you can’t contact them – so that’s people potentially missing out on your newsletter and future advertising.
In terms of fulfilment, which with Amazon 99.9% of the time is great - it is always on Amazon’s terms. Even if it is perfect most of the time, they can change their operating terms at any time (during the pandemic they went from 2-3 days shipping to 7 days, and some orders just disappeared) and your book sales could get caught in the middle of that, and you’re powerless to resolve it.
Now onto my biggest bugbear… The quality.
To be blunt, the print quality isn’t always great. I’ve had the odd negative review because of white lines along the edges of the pages. It stings every time because I literally have zero control over this. I can only hope that Amazon KDP (and Ingram Spark) continue to improve their print quality – particularly for picture books.
You can’t have things like spot lamination or foil effects on your books. This makes traditionally published books stand out from the crowd, but unfortunately, it's not currently possible to have it via POD. You can still have a great-looking book without these, BUT if it’s something you want, POD won’t be for you.
Finally, Amazon and Ingram Spark do need paying for their services, which means ultimately you will most likely have lower profit margins per book (than if you bulk ordered them from China).
You can counter this by pricing accordingly and selling lots of books. Always make sure you are earning enough per book, after paying for printing etc.
So, what do I think?
Well, all in all, it isn’t perfect – but nothing is! I find POD works really well for me. I can keep up with my writing, and running my business, safe in the knowledge that I’m reaching many more customers that I otherwise would without POD.
I do also print books in short print runs for my own stock of books that I sell from my website or at events etc - because why wouldn’t I want copies of my own books stored all around my house! It’s a good job it’s only a few hundred and not thousands!
Are you using a POD service yet? What are your experiences?