Short Run Book Printing

Written by Christopher Ransom
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For most authors or organizations looking to print or self-publish their own book, the number of books you will order will fall between 200 and 20,000 copies, and this is the realm of short run book printing. The opposite, if you want to call it long run printing, or just traditional publishing, is the realm of books that have been picked up by large publishers. This is because when a traditional publishing house decides to publish a book, they're making a decision to invest a lot of time and dollars on editing, printing, marketing and distributing said book. It doesn't make sense for one of these companies to do all the work, print a thousand or so copies, then wait and see if the book will earn its audience. Because you, as the publisher of your own book, will be making the decision about how many copies of your book will be printed, it helps to understand your options for short run book printing.

While the stated range of 200-20,000 copies covers most short run book printings, that is not to say you can't order more or less for your book. There are of course book printers abound that would be happy to print just a single copy of your book, or as many of 100,000. But is that practical? Probably not. The reason is, even printing one book, a small run book printing requires a minimum investment of your time and the printer's. The book still has to be submitted, formatted, and discussed. The printer invests time and materials getting the printing press set, using paper, and the same amount of manpower is logged whether you choose to print 1 or 200 copies. For this reason, book printers may have a minimum requirement for your short run book printing, usually around 200 copies.

Price Expectations for Your Short Run Book Printing

But even the extremely budget-constrained publishers among you need not fret. The good news is that short run book printings of 200 will likely cost about the same as runs of 100 copies. And as we mentioned earlier, as with any bulk purchase, the greater the number of copies ordered, the lower you cost-per-unit price will be. This is why we suggest that when placing an order for your book printing, you should order the highest number of copies you believe you can sell, as long as it is within your budget. Remember too, you're publishing a book you believe in, so it makes sense to be optimistic and retain faith that you are going to sell as many copies of your book as possible.

Here are some examples of approximate pricing structures for short run book printings. But please keep in mind, these are only examples-not price quotes from any particular book printer. You should also speak directly with any book printer before you agree on a price quote so that you understand exactly what you are getting for your money in terms of quality, time of delivery, and other factors that will impact the cost of your print run.

With that in mind, let's say you want to order 500 copies for your first printing at a price of $10.00, for a total investment of $5,000. But if you were to request only 100 copies, the cost-per-unit could be as much as 400% higher, meaning you might pay as much as $4,000 for 100 books. Conversely, if you were to order 1000 copies, the cost-per-unit to you might be as much as 70% less than the 500-copy unit price. This means you would be paying around $5,000 for the first 500 and only $1500 for the additional 500 copies, bringing your total investment to $6,500. Now which is a better deal-- $5,000 for 500 books, or $6,500 for 1000 books? Again, these are only random numbers to give you a feel for how quantity pricing may affect your short run book printing. As we've said many times before, it's important to talk directly with your book printer before agreeing on a price quote. In fact, many reputable book printers prefer not to offer you a price quote until you have discussed all the details of your order. Just like you, a good book printer wants your short run book printing to be a rewarding experience that builds a lasting business relationship.


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