Not Your Mother’s Print on Demand

When I decided to publish Oscar’s Gift in paperback form as well as an ebook, I was more than a little wary, both of what the final product would look like and of the cost. I admit that, not too long ago, the first image that came to my mind when I thought of a self-published book was the collection of spiral-bound church fund-raising cookbooks on my mother’s kitchen shelf, complete with laminated covers and a hand-drawn cover. Any writer over the age of 40 remembers the days when self-publishing and print on demand (POD) publishing (using a service that prints copies of a work on an as-ordered basis) were stigmatized, and “serious writers” were cautioned to avoid them like the plague, the only worse option being vanity presses. Today, however, those terms are becoming blurred, and even publishing professionals are having a hard time keeping up with the changes and what they really mean.

Some of the biggest surprises I found with publishing Oscar were 1) how easy it is to use a reputable POD service, 2) how inexpensive it can be, and 3) how professional it can look.

Oscar's Gift First pagesIn terms of cost, I pay under $3 per copy for author copies (not including shipping, which, for an order of 40, puts the cost right at $3/copy), and I can order as few or as many as I want. Literally the only other cost I would have needed to incur was ordering one or more proofs along the way to check for formatting and other errors (and CreateSpace provided a coupon that made the first proof order free).

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn asks us, in this video, to imagine the possibilities of using POD for purposes other than professional writing, empowering young and old alike to see their words in print:


Like Joanna, I am someone who has always loved “projects” (as I child, I was constantly making my own books using construction paper bound together with yarn) and am excited by the POD possibilities, especially when ISBNs and distribution and royalties are no longer part of the consideration:

  • Children can publish their own stories or poetry as holiday gifts for relatives.
  • Homeschoolers can put together spiffy-looking year-end portfolios to remind themselves (and reassure others) of what they’ve learned.
  • The elderly can dictate their life stories and memories to children and grandchildren and later see their own memoirs bound between beautiful covers.
  • Even those recipe collections suddenly take on a whole new shine and flavor, whether for fund-raising or just as a way to preserve family favorites.

And all for no more (and often less) than the cost of going to Kinko’s.

What projects can you imagine?

1 thought on “Not Your Mother’s Print on Demand

  1. Thank you Lisa …. a few years ago, on our 10th anniversary, my husband surprised me with a book that he had printed with photos, momentoes and stories of our first years together. It was by far the sweetest and most thoughtful give anyone ever gave me! For that one copy I think he paid around $25, for a hard-bound book. I treasure it. These days, anyone can print anything, and for merely a few dollars family treasures and stories can be shared in a way that no one really thought about just a few years ago. The world is rapidly changing, and I am one of the folks that plans to self-publish my own fiction soon. And whether or not it “sells”, whatever I ‘publish’ will be available for my family members ….. my question is, for how long …… hmmm. Things will certainly change again, sooner rather than later. I hope there is some type of cyber archive that will make e-published books available a hundred years from now. But by then the data will probably be inhaled like a nasal spray.

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