WHAT ARE MY PRINTING OPTIONS?
Once the layout of your book has been done and approved, digital files are sent to a printing house, a Print on Demand (POD) service, an e-book website, or all three. These days self-publishers often choose more than one outlet for their books.
service(s) you choose will provide you with a proof of the book (including the cover) which should be checked carefully. If any corrections need to be made they will probably need to be done in the original layout program, after which a new file needs to be sent to the service. At this point you can request a new proof or just trust that everything will go well and tell them to print the books.
PRINTING OR DIGITAL PRINTING?
printing (on a printing press) is the most economical method for
quantities of 400 books or more. For fewer than 400 books,
digital printing may be less expensive. Your layout people or
printing house can advise you.
The quality of the type in a digitally-printed book is not noticeably different from the type in an offset-printed book, but the quality of the images will be different.
At this time,
black and white photographs printed on a digital printer are
grainy and do not display the subtle tones that the same
photographs would display if they are printed on a printing press. However, greyscale images reproduce much better when printed on a colour digital press. This is a more expensive option but the cost can be minimized if colour images are grouped together (see Getting an Estimate).
At this time colour images printed on a digital printer will look slightly different from those printed on an offset printer. This need not be a deterent to digital printing but it's a good idea to look at sample digital output if colour quality is a concern.
PRINT ON DEMAND (POD)
Print on Demand services will hold your book files in their system until they receive an order, at which time they will accept payment, print enough books to fulfill the order, and ship the order out. The self-publisher receives a portion of the sale price.
POD offers the self-publisher the advantages of not having to finance a full print run and not having to store the print run somewhere. The quality of POD books is the same as those printed digitally (see above) since they use the same technology. An added advantage to POD is that some POD services will promote your book on their site and/or get your book listed on the major bookselling websites.
Each e-book reader requires slightly different formats for the files that it will read. The most popular reader at the moment is Kindle (by Amazon) and, since the Kindle reader does not display any type of page design and has no capacity for colour, files for the Kindle are easy to prepare. In fact, if you don't want printed books at all and just want to go with Kindle, you can provide Amazon with a Word file and forgo layout and design entirely.
Many self-publishers restrict themselves to the Kindle version but to widen your audience, increase your design options and get a better pricing agreement, it's important to check out the other options such as Nook (Barnes and Noble).