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Presses that Impress

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Book Printing Press Options for Self-Publishing Authors

By Michael Heath /

book printing press options

Poet Alexander Pope wrote, “a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” Anyone who has dealt with “that person” – the one who knows a little bit about something and thinks it makes him/her an expert – understands what the gentleman of verses was referring to. On the other hand, having no knowledge of a given subject can also be perilous. Learning what printing options are available before taking a book to press can protect an author from making a mistake.

Where You Print Your Books Can Impact Quality, Quantity, & Profits

Before a self-published author seeks a book printer, the specifications of the book will be known: trim size, page count, cover type (hardcover/softcover), maybe even the paper type. How the book is printed is often another story. The author will need to consider print needs by asking some important questions.

  • How many books are required?

  • How soon do the books need to be delivered?

  • What is the print budget?

  • Is print quality a leading factor?

  • What is the profit-per-book goal?

After asking these questions the author may then have to look at the overall circumstances. One may have to consider delivery times verses profitability. For example, an author may be willing to pay more per book if it means getting them in a short period of time for an upcoming event. Here are the kinds of printing that self-publishers can expect:

Offset printing: this method uses aluminum plates and rubber “blankets” where the ink is first applied. The printing is in a sense indirect, thus the word offset. Once the machinery is set up, the printing process is very efficient and results in printing that is known for clean, crisp imagery and color accuracy. Thanks to the inherent cost-effectiveness, larger job quantities enjoy greater discounts.

Digital printing: digital printing does not rely on plates but instead uses toner or ink jets. There is less set-up when using digital, so this type of printing allows for lower quantities. It is great for print runs of one thousand books or less.

Print on Demand: this type of printing allows for exceptionally low quantities (as low as one or two books) and quick turnarounds which are often the same day. Think of this machinery as a copier vending machine. The first book and the last book all cost the same. In other words, no quantity discounting here.

Pros and Cons of the Different Book Printing Options

Since color accuracy and clarity are so important in children’s books, it is recommended they be printed on offset or digital presses whenever possible. Not all print-on-demand machinery will print hardcover books, and none offer printing to books that use dust jackets. Each method of printing serves a specific purpose. offers all three book printing choices. However, we only allow print-on-demand printing after the book has been printed on one of the big book presses (offset or digital), since there is no print proof option with the print-on-demand system.

Before you print, have a good idea of how many you need. If this is your first book, be careful not to be easily attracted to the low per-book cost in offset printing. There are too many sad stories of authors ordering one thousand books, only to have nine hundred and fifty sit in the garage. We often recommend trying one hundred to start out. If your book becomes a hit (let’s hope it does!) then you can always satisfy the demand with a larger print order.

SelfPublishingUS offers both Offset, Digital and Print-On-Demand printing.

To speak to someone about getting your book printed go to:

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