Submitted Date 10/17/2019

Colors, binding, quantity, size, paper weight… there 's so much to consider in having your book printing. Nowadays, many authors are self-publishing and having to learn (sometimes the hard way), the ins and outs of the printing process. I recently had my first picture alphabet book, "A is for Allah-u-Abha", printed, and I would like to share my top tips. I generally like to support local businesses, and my print run was small, so these tips are from my experience working with a local printing house. Larger companies could perhaps be more experienced and dependable, but they often require higher quantities (500 copies and up).

Before beginning the printing process, I created an estimated budget. I calculated my budget for printing based on the number of books I thought I could sell at a reasonable price. In my case, I didn't want to have a lot of extra inventory, so I offered customers the opportunity to pre-order the book a month before printing. This was the best route for me. I had a concrete indication of how many books I would need and how much income I'd be working with. Before considering printing, I calculated other expenses, such as costs for purchasing an ISBN, packaging and shipping, selling fees (I used the Etsy platform), and illustrations. Even when I didn't know exact prices, making the budget was really helpful in determining what printing service and what kind of paper I could afford.

When my husband and I started calling local printers (I needed his help because we live in Poland and I'm still learning the language), I was utterly surprised by how many companies did not call us back or said they would follow up by email and didn't. "Don't they want my money?" I asked. There was even one company that asked my husband, multiple times, to call them if they hadn't gotten back to us before the close of the business day. Shouldn't they be calling us? This is their business! Anywho and anyway, we seemed to have the best experiences when we would visit the company in person. We could get an idea of the types of publications they have printed (I preferred a printer that already had experience with children's books), and we could assess the customer service experience. Of course, you shouldn't pick a company that takes a long time to get back to you or doesn't seem confident with your requirements. As an author, you are most likely looking for a long-term relationship, a company you can trust to do another print run or help with projects in the future. In the end, I ended up picking a company in a bigger, nearby city. We didn't get to visit in person before printing, but they answered my emails within the same day, had many examples of their work on their website, and sent me pictures of the sample of my book before doing the full run.

We did visit to pick the books up. I would definitely recommend picking them up instead of having them shipped to you (saves costs and time). In our case, I'm pregnant and we have a one-year-old, so we planned to drive 2 hours to the city, pick up the books, have dinner by the sea, and then pack and ship the books from that city. Waiting to pack the books was definitely a mistake! Although we had received a great sample at the office, we opened the package to find that many of the books had been cut slightly off. Although this might have been okay for a black and white book, for a full color book, it was unacceptable. We had to go through over 100 books one by one to take out the incorrect ones (thanks hubby). The printing house was already closed, but fortunately the building had an all-night security guard. We returned the botched books to him and let my contact know about the issue. She apologized and ensured that they'd be recut first thing in the morning and returned to us. Even though this issue was disappointing, I was comforted by her professionalism and sincere desire to support the project. Imagine if we hadn't picked them up in person. We would have lost time in waiting for them to delivered, having to mail them back to the company, and then waiting for the corrected books to be delivered again. Of course, in terms of costs, the company would be responsible for any additional shipping back and forth.

First of all, I recommend setting a deadline even if you don't really need to have one. If your analytical like me, or a perfectionist, it helps you to not overthink things and increases your motivation to get your book out there. It probably goes without saying that your deadline should be at least a few weeks before you actually want to send your books, but I overlooked this obvious detail. Most of the printing houses told me it would just take a few days to print the books, so I planned my deadline the Friday before I wanted to mail the books. Two major issues came up. First, the company that I had originally picked changed their prices. They told us one price in person but when my husband requested an invoice, the price was much higher. I believe part of the issue was including VAT (value-added tax), which in our case was 23% and made the overall total increase by more than a hundred dollars. The other issue was that they hadn't done a picture book before. At this point, I started looking for companies in the closest city. Because of my tight deadline, they had to send me pictures of the sample by email instead of having it mailed to me, in which case I could thoroughly inspect it in person. As mentioned above, when the books were printed, many of them had to be returned, causing me to miss my shipping deadline by a few days.

Still, all in all, the experience of seeing my book in print is priceless and definitely worth all the stress. I'll carry these learning with me for the next print and future projects, and I'm glad I get to share them with you. Have you used a local or major printing house for your books? What are your tips?


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