What's the difference between self-publishing and print-on-demand (POD)?

Author:
Publish date:

Q: What’s the difference between self-publishing and print on demand (POD)? Is one better than the other? —Rachele LaBello

A: With self-publishing, a company generally charges you an upfront fee (roughly between $500 and $1,000) and then does print-runs, or large orders, just like a traditional publishing house. You pay the cost of your book’s publication and control almost every aspect of the production process. Your name will be listed as publisher of the book. The upside is that you have many copies and control everything, which makes it easier to market and sell. But if you haven’t done research on how to market your book, you could end up with so many leftover copies that you’ll have to start building furniture out of them.

POD publishing uses printing technology to produce books one at a time through a company at a cost-effective price. The books are printed individually as orders come in. Therefore, if you have an order of 200 books, you can print 200 books. If the only person who wants a copy is your mother, you can print just one book. POD cuts back on costs and eliminates the need for space to store unsold copies—that way you’re not stuck with 10 tomes stuffed in every corner of your bedroom. I hear spouses don’t like sleeping on piles of books.

Both are great options if you’re looking to get your book in print, and if you research companies that dabble in each, you’ll find benefits to both. If you’re writing a family history, memoir or book of poetry that has a limited audience, using POD is probably to your advantage. POD books are rarely stocked at bookstores, however, because they’re often nonreturnable and not sold at a discount. If you know how to market and promote your book and want to try to make a splash in local bookstores, printing in bulk via self-publishing may be a better bet.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

Does your manuscript need a little more definition, but you’re not sure where to begin? Try these 100 tips to give your words more power.

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson discusses how she never gave up on her story, how she worked through internal doubts, and how research lead her out of romance and into historical fiction.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Seven New Courses, Writing Prompts, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new courses, our Editorial Calendar, and more!

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson discusses how each project has its own process and the difference between writing fiction and her new memoir, Perfect Black.

From Script

Approaching Comedy from a Personal Perspective and Tapping into Your Unique Writer’s Voice (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, interviews with masters of comedy, screenwriter Tim Long ('The Simpsons') and writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat Subsequent Movie) about their collaboration on their film 'The Exchange', and filmmaker Trent O’Donnell on his new film 'Ride the Eagle' co-written with actor Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Plus, tips on how to tap into your unique voice and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not accepting feedback on your writing.

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Here are the top creativity websites as identified in the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Proest Dalgron: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn proest dalgron, a Welsh quatrain form.

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a palindrome is when it comes to writing, including several examples of palindromes.