How Print-on-Demand Works: Reach Worldwide Readers with Your Printed Books

Today’s printing technologies make print-on-demand a viable and sustainable publishing strategy by eliminating the hassle, high cost of advanced printing, and need for catalog storage. 

This is the perfect solution for self-published authors.

Let’s see your print-on-demand options and how to get your books in physical bookstores.

In this article, you'll find:

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) is a printing technology and process that prints a book only when an order is made. This allows prints of single or small quantities and online stores to list a product catalog to sell without actually having them in stock.

See this short video to better understand the process:

The emerging print-on-demand companies and models are an excellent opportunity for indies who want to sell print books. You do not need to print books in advance (only if you want to pitch them to a bookstore, as we'll see later), and you get rid of the logistics hassle. Still, if someone wants the print format of your book, they can have it. It's like a request to print a book online.

The advantages of print-on-demand:

  • It’s sustainable and profitable at the same time;
  • Helps every publisher scale their business and print locally;
  • Reduces the carbon footprint;

How to Enable Global Distribution in PublishDrive

So, now that you know why print-on-demand is the best choice for self-publishing, we can get to the part on how to do it.

About Ingram 

PublishDrive has distribution partners that allow print-on-demand: Amazon, Ingram, and China Print. Ingram printing is one of the largest companies providing print-on-demand products. Ingram POD sells to over 39,000 partners like Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Costco, etc. 

See all the details on distributing to Ingram with PublishDrive.

How to create a print-on-demand file

While PublishDrive handles the distribution, print-on-demand publishers will offer the actual paperback or hardback books. 

At the simplest level, you can do all your manuscript formatting in Word and export your print-ready PDF file. Professional page layouts can be done with InDesign or other programs alike. You can also check out other ebook software like Vellum for formatting your book.

To submit your book for Ingram print-on-demand, you'll need two print-ready (PDF) files:

  • The book cover design that includes the back cover, spine, and bleed area.
  • The manuscript with all the pages of your book.

If your PDF files fit under general POD requirements, PublishDrive takes care of the rest to provide specific guidelines for Ingram's print-on-demand stores. 

Then you'll need to choose the size of your book first as it governs how much text you have on each page. 

For more details regarding the printing requirements, check out our support article that covers everything you need to know on the topic.

Print-on-demand costs

Printing costs are based on page count.

Profit margins differ based on the number of pages and color types you chose. In addition to store commission, the printing costs are deducted from the price of your book. The rest is your royalty earnings.

Here’s an example of how the costs are calculated (see more about printing costs). 

Sell price: $20

Distribution cost: 45%

Manufacturing cost: $6 (based on how many pages, color or black and white, trim sizes)

Author’s compensation: 20 * 45% - $6 = $3

But you can calculate your costs and royalties anytime if you go to Business tools > Printing Costs under your PublishDrive dashboard.

Note: You can also order author copies to send print review copies or fulfill orders for your direct contacts. If you order author copies or you’d like to send print books via direct distribution services, you’ll have to take care of the shipping and taxation costs (more about this in a minute).

How to Publish and Sell Print-on-Demand Books

Once you have your print-ready content file, the next step is to sell it worldwide to all eCommerce platforms and all print-on-demand sites. This will help your investments get a return as soon as possible. 

There are several ways you can do that, but since you're here and we offer one of the simplest ways for your book to go wide, we'll talk about print-on-demand with PublishDrive.

You can reach 160 million potential readers with PublishDrive's network, including 30K physical stores and thousands of digital libraries online in the US, Europe, and China.

When it comes to print-on-demand, authors can simply upload a manuscript and a cover, then select their desired stores for distribution. Just make sure to have a nicely designed cover, edited manuscripts, and content files (which we also help with) to publish with PublishDrive.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Sign up / sign in to PublishDrive

Step 2: Go to My Books > Upload Book.

Step 3: Select the Print format.

 Step 4: Set up all the book manufacturing details.

Step 5: Upload your PDFs: the manuscript (content file) and book cover (cover file).

Step 6: (Optional) Upload a store-specific cover (Amazon, Ingram, China Print) for a better quality image.

Step 7: Add the book’s creators.

Step 8: Set up the book metadata and description. 

Step 9: Choose the book categories (up to 3).

Step 10: Set up the price.

Step 11: Choose the rights and publication date (here, you can set up your book for pre-orders).

Step 12: Select the distribution stores and hit the publish button.

After you submit the book for distribution, it goes through an automatic and a manual review, where we check for possible issues, and if the book is already available in the stores you're trying to publish.

After the review, we will ask for your approval of the generated cover files with the barcode placements. 

Once you click the Approve button, the book will automatically be sent to stores.

Pitch Your Book to Local Bookstores & Wholesalers

With today’s printing technologies, you can eliminate the hassle, high cost of advanced printing, and the need for catalog storage.

However, if you still want your book to be displayed in physical bookstores or wholesalers like Costco, you can still do that even if you’re a self-published author.

Here’s how.

1. Access online bookstore catalogs

This step refers to everything we talked about until now. Before anything else, you need to publish and distribute your book online, but you should also enable the stores that allow print-on-demand. This will help you in the following steps. 

2. Advertise your book

A bookstore won't accept a book just to take up space on their shelves. Neither will Costco. They need to know people are interested in it.

So, you need to make a plan that creates demand for your book before even thinking about pitching it to physical bookstores.

Even if readers go to bookstores to buy their next read, they still do their research online. That’s why you need to increase your book's visibility and your audience’s interest in it.

As a self-published author, you need a solid book marketing timeline that, among other tactics, includes: 

3. Pitch your book to local bookstores & wholesalers

Once you’ve generated buzz around your book, you can easily contact a few local bookstores and wholesalers. Ask them if you can send them a few copies of your book to be displayed on their shelves. 

Since this means you have to print copies of your book in advance, you should opt for risk-free methods such as:

  • Ask the bookstores if they can sell your book on consignment.
  • Go local – in case your book isn’t sold as you’ve hoped, the bookstores will choose to return the copies to you. And if they don’t agree to sell it on consignment, you’ll have to pay them back the money they spend buying your books
  • If we talk about stores like Costco, print only a few copies to see if they sell.

If you need to read everything about the risks of physical bookstores for self-published authors, check out this in-depth article on the subject.

Before sending out your pitch, you need to know a few things:

Know the market for your book

Do a quick research and see:

  • The average retail price that readers would pay for a book like yours.
  • Cover designs that spark interest.
  • If the bookstores you’re planning to send your book to are selling books like yours.

Know how bookstores buy books

Most chain and independent bookstores buy from wholesalers. Independent bookstores can agree with your book on consignment, or they can even buy it directly from you or from publishers.

Know how to write your email

Once you have all the details regarding your book being displayed in stores, write your pitch in an email. Include all the information, such as your book genre, book categories, the types of promotion you're doing for your book, your author website, etc.

If the bookstore or the wholesaler accepts your book, you can also ask them if they agree on a book event or a signing. In this way, your book can get the exposure it needs.

4. Ask for author copies in PublishDrive

With our direct distribution feature (in beta version at the moment, but you can make a request to try it), you can order copies to be printed from your print-on-demand (POD) titles uploaded to PublishDrive. You can use these copies for commercial resells, signings, promotions, gifts, and more.

At the end of the ordering process, you will need to pay for the following items:

  • Printing (manufacturing costs): This depends on the trim size, interior color, and length of your book. 
  • Shipping cost: The actual cost of shipping your printed books to the address of your choice.
  • Handling fee: The cost of handling your order. This depends on the number and price of your books.

Currently, the following print-on-demand stores can be used for print copy orders:

  • Amazon Print
  • Ingram Global Distribution

You can order print copies of a particular title from one (or both) of the available distribution stores when the title is shown as Available in the My books section in your account. 

To receive a print copy, you need to submit an order where you provide:

  • The printer/store you want to order from
  • The books and the volumes you want to order
  • The address you wish to ship to
  • Payment to cover the costs of the order

All features related to print copies can be found in your PublishDrive dashboard under Print copy order.

For a detailed how-to process on this feature, check out our support article.

Why Ingram via PublishDrive?

Besides Ingram’s print-on-demand, you can select more stores that accept this format. Moreover, since PublishDrive is an aggregator, you can distribute the same book as an ebook to thousands of other stores and tap into marketing tools to promote it.

Readers can have your book in a physical format by placing an order (it’s like asking to print books online). 

If you want to go one step further and get your self-published book into a brick-and-mortar store, remember to advertise it online first, then make your pitch and get your book on those shelves.

Publish your book