If you dream of writing a book, you could imagine sending your manuscript to one of the big publishing houses, such as Gallimard or Flammarion. The problem is that these publishers accept only a tiny fraction of the manuscripts they receive, and as far as you know, your chances are slim, if not non-existent.

However, don’t despair, because self-publishing has become a viable, even preferable, option for getting stories to readers. For example, self-published books such as Alone on Mars and Fifty Shades of Grey have both become bestsellers and inspired successful film adaptations. So here’s how to ignore the powerful publishing houses and print your own book.

Can you print your own book?
Yes, and printing your own book is pretty 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 like Amazon. According to US statistics, the number of self-published books has increased by 264% in the last five years, with a staggering $1.25 billion worth of self-published books sold each year. In Europe, we’re also seeing dazzling growth.

How much does it cost to print your own book?
The cost of book printing depends on a number of factors, including the number of pages, the trim size, the binding style, the type of cover, the weight of the paper, and the colour and quality of the ink.

For example, a black and white paperback of less than 108 pages can cost as little as €2 per book, while a standard paperback novel of 300 pages costs between €5 and €6 per book. Larger trim sizes, hard covers and coloured ink can increase prices. For example, an 8.5 x 11 inch, 100-page photo book with a hard cover, premium colours and the highest quality paper costs just over €28 on Lulu, a well-known online self-publishing and distribution platform.

Some book printing companies, such as IngramSpark, charge a fee to add your manuscript to their site, while others, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, allow you to download for free. Bulk purchases often come with a discount, while others cut costs by offering print-on-demand only to avoid stockpiling.

How to print your own book
Select a trim size
Choose between a hard or paperback cover
Choose your binding style
Consider paper types and ink options
Design your book cover
Prepare your files
Revise your proof
Congratulations on finishing your book! The hardest part may be behind you, but there are still a few steps you need to take to bring your book to life. Most book printing companies offer numerous customisations that affect the quality and cost of the final product. Here’s how to print your book in nine steps.

  1. Edit
    While it can be daunting to overview your work for review, it’s essential to get a fresh look at your writing as much as possible before you lock the book down for good. Whether you need high-level feedback or proofreading for grammar, spelling and clarity, you may also need critics to pick up on areas you’ve overlooked, spot errors and help you improve your manuscript. To do this, you can hire a professional editor or ask someone who has experience or an interest in your literary genre.
  2. Select a trim size
    Most custom book printing companies offer a variety of book sizes. The type of book you are publishing will probably help you make your choice. For example, novels, trade books, comics and children’s books tend to take different shapes; novels are smaller and thicker, while children’s books tend to be large and flat. As a guide, consider the sizes of books similar to yours already in print and on the market. Avoid doing the opposite of what people do.
  3. Choose between a hardcover or a paperback
    Paperback books are cheaper to produce but less durable than their hardcover counterparts, which are considered to be of the highest quality and can add a degree of professionalism. You may also need to choose between glossy and matt cover finishes and decide whether or not to include a book cover.
  4. Choose your binding style
    Your binding style affects the appearance, durability and cost of your book. Saddle-stitch binding can be a reasonable option for short books and brochures. Spiral or wire ‘O’ binding is another economical style commonly used on signatures. However, most authors opt for a higher quality binding style, such as perfect binding for paperbacks or hardback binding for hardcover books, both of which allow a flat edge where the title and author’s name can be printed.
  5. Consider paper types and ink options
    Choose your ink (most printers charge more for in-house colour printing) and paper, which is generally available in different weights and finishes. When in doubt, use industry standards as a guideline. Standard black and white pages are easy to read and economical for novels and books. If you’re publishing a photo book or comic book, you may want to opt for thicker paper and colour printing to do your images justice.
  6. Layout
    If you can’t remember the font of the last book you read, it’s probably because the designer made a good choice. Like grammar and punctuation, typesetting is usually only noticed if it’s done badly, as it becomes a distraction. Try a few options to make sure your fonts and margins are unobtrusive and match the tone and style of your book. For ideas, check out similar books or guides. Once you’ve composed your manuscript and decided on the size of your book, you’ll finally have your final page count.
  7. Design your book cover
    The old adage may be wrong: you can, in fact, judge a book by its cover, and your potential readers will. Your cover says a lot about the content and quality of your publication. Make your design eye-catching and convey the purpose and tone of the book. If you have the budget, consider hiring a professional graphic designer to create a high-quality book cover.
  8. Prepare your files
    Make sure your files are in the right format before printing your book with your chosen printing service. Read and follow the upload instructions carefully. You generally 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 you buy bulk copies of your book and distribute them, ask for proof copies, i.e. test prints to revise and make corrections before the final printing (especially if you plan to print a large number of books). When everything looks good, you can put your book on the market with the help of your book printer.

3 websites that provide print-on-demand services
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Here are three popular book printing companies that can help you self-publish a high-quality book:

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Launched with the Kindle in 2007, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a well-known self-publishing platform focused on e-books. However, it also offers options for printing paperbacks and hardcover books. KDP is simple for beginners and provides a cover design tool, which can be useful 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 the Amazon and Kindle marketplace. KDP also offers print-on-demand services, so you don’t have to buy in bulk or worry about inventory. Publishing is free and printing costs are deducted from your royalties when you make a sale.

The downsides of self-publishing with KDP are that you have to abide by its exclusivity clauses – Amazon owns your ISBN (your book’s digital trade identifier), which means you’re limited to selling via Kindle and Amazon – and its relatively limited customisation options compared to other book printing companies.

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