If you dream of writing a book, you might imagine sending your manuscript to one of the behemoth publishing houses, like Penguin Random House or Simon & Schuster. The problem is, these publishers only accept a tiny fraction of the manuscripts they receive.
You might still be in luck, though, because self-publishing has emerged as a viable, even preferable, option for getting stories to readers. Self-published books such as The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey both became bestsellers and inspired blockbuster movie adaptations. Here’s how to skip the gatekeepers and print your own book.
Can you print your own book?
Yes—and printing your book is quite easy. Many book printing companies are user-friendly and offer high-quality printing with custom design options. Some can also help you distribute your work on sites such as Amazon. According to Wordsrated, the number of self-published books has increased 264% over the past five years, with $1.25 billion worth of self-published books sold yearly.
What are the costs of printing your own book?
The cost of printing your book depends on several factors, including the number of pages, trim size, binding style, cover type, paper weight, and ink color and quality.
For example, a black and white paperback book of fewer than 108 pages can cost as little as $2.30 per book, whereas a standard 300-page paperback novel runs closer to $5 or $6 per book. Larger trim sizes, hardcovers, and the colored ink can set you back further. For instance, an 8.5-by-11-inch 100-page photo book with a hardcover, premium color, and the highest quality paper costs $29.69 on Lulu, an online self-publishing and distribution platform.
Some book printing companies, such as IngramSpark, charge a fee to upload your manuscript to their site, while others, like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, let you upload for free. Buying in bulk often comes with a discount, while others hold down costs by only offering print-on-demand to avoid stocking inventory.
9 steps to print your book
- Edit your text
- Select a trim size
- Choose between hardcover or paperback
- Pick your binding style
- Consider paper types and ink options
- Choose your typeset
- Design your book cover
- Prepare your files
- Review your proof
You’ve finished writing your book—congratulations! The hardest part may be out of the way, but there are still a few steps left to bring your book to life. Most book printing companies offer numerous customizations that affect the quality and cost of the final product. Here’s how to print your book in nine steps.
1. Edit your text
While it can be daunting to open your work to criticism, it’s essential to get fresh eyes on your writing—as many as possible before locking down a final draft. Whether you need high-level feedback or a proofread for grammar, spelling, and clarity, others can pick up on parts you’ve overlooked, catch mistakes, and help improve your manuscript. You can hire a professional editor or ask someone with experience or interest in your genre.
2. Select a trim size
Most custom book printing companies offer a variety of book sizes. The type of book you publish likely informs the dimensions you choose. For instance, novels, trade books, comic books, and children’s books tend to take on different shapes; novels are smaller and thicker, whereas children’s books are usually large and flat. For guidance, consider the sizes of similar books already in print.
3. Choose between hardcover or paperback
Paperback books are cheaper to produce but less durable than their hardcover counterparts, which are considered the highest quality and can add a degree of professionalism. You may also have to choose between glossy and matte cover finishes and decide whether to include a book jacket.
4. Pick your binding style
Your binding style affects your book’s look, durability, and cost. A saddle stitch binding can be a reasonable option for short books and pamphlets. Wire-O binding is another cost-effective style commonly seen on notebooks. However, most authors opt for a higher quality binding style, like perfect binding for paperback books or case wrap binding for hardcover books, both of which allow for a flat spine where the title and author’s name can be printed.
5. Consider paper types and ink options
Choose your ink—most printers charge a premium for internal color printing—and paper, which usually comes in various weights and finishes. If unsure, use industry standards as guidelines. Standard black-and-white pages are reader-friendly and cost-effective for novels and books. If you’re publishing a photo book or comic book, you may want to opt for heavier paper and color printing to do your images justice.
6. Choose your typeset
If you can’t remember the font of the last book you read, it’s probably because the graphic designer made a good choice. Like grammar and punctuation, typesetting is usually only noticed if it’s poorly done because it becomes a distraction. Try a few options to ensure your fonts and margins are unobtrusive and match your book’s tone and style. For ideas, look to similar books or guides, like this one from IngramSpark. Once you’ve typeset your manuscript and decided on your book size, you’ll have your page count.
7. Design your book cover
The old saying might be wrong: you can, in fact, judge a book by its cover—and your potential readers will. Your cover says a lot about your publication’s content and quality. Make your design eye-catching and convey the book’s purpose and tone. If you have the budget, consider hiring a professional graphic designer to create a high-quality book cover.
8. Prepare your files
Ensure your files are in the correct format before printing your book with your chosen printing service. Read and follow upload guidelines carefully. You typically submit two files: the book cover and the manuscript. Unless otherwise specified, upload your files in PDF format, with your images set for a minimum resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch).
9. Review your proof
Before buying bulk copies of your book and distributing them, request proof copies—i.e., trial impressions to review and make corrections before final printing. When everything looks good, you can put your book on the market with the help of your book printing company.
3 websites that provide print-on-demand services
- Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
Here are three popular book-printing companies that can help you self-publish a high-quality book:
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
Launched with the Kindle in 2007, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a well-known self-publishing platform geared toward ebooks. However, it also offers options for printing paperback and hardcover books. KDP is simple for beginners and provides a cover creator tool, which can be helpful if you don’t have the expertise or budget to hire a professional to design your book cover.
Self-publishing with KDP gives you instant access to Amazon and Kindle’s marketplace. KDP also offers print-on-demand services, so you don’t have to buy in bulk or worry about stocking inventory. Publishing is free, and printing fees are subtracted from your royalties when you make a sale.
The downsides of self-publishing with KDP are that you must abide by its exclusivity clauses—Amazon owns your ISBN (your book’s numeric commercial identifier), meaning you’re limited to selling through Kindle and Amazon—and its relatively limited customization options compared to other book printing companies.
IngramSpark offers custom book printing starting at $49 per title. Use its price calculator to determine how much you might pay to print and ship orders directly to you and your customers. IngramSpark promises its high-quality books are indistinguishable from traditionally published books. You can choose your binding style, colors, laminate type, trim sizes, and book cover style, giving you full control over the final product.
You can then distribute your professional quality books through IngramSpark, which can make your title available to libraries, schools, and stores, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Because IngramSpark uses a print-on-demand model, it only prints the exact quantity you sell.
Lulu is a self-publishing company that offers a wide variety of printing options. You can work off a template or build your book with custom sizes, binding options, interior cover options, paper type, and cover finishes. Lulu offers on-demand printing, but you can save money with bulk order discounts. Use its price calculator to figure out your cost per book.
Once you have a finished product, Lulu can also help you distribute it through the Lulu Bookstore, your websites, or online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Print your own book FAQ
Can I print my book myself?
Yes. With the right resources and book printing companies, self-publishing can be straightforward and affordable.
How much does it cost to self-publish a book?
Printing your book can cost as little as $2 per copy or as much as $30 per copy, depending on factors such as size, length, and print quality. For a 300-page paperback novel, you’ll likely spend $5 or $6 per copy.
Where can I sell a self-published book?
You can sell self-published books just about anywhere. Many book printing companies can help you distribute your publication to libraries and on websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.