Book Printing Just Got Cheaper

Dan Poynter shares how to get into print more cheaply and produce books only after they are sold with the new PQN (Print Quantity Needed) digital printing technology.

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to bring this article from Dan Poynter, one of the best resources in the independent publishing movement. Of course, the prices quoted in this article are subject to change–but they give you an approximation. Run your own numbers before committing to any book.]

Book publishing is changing-for the better. There is a New Model for book writing, producing, selling and promoting. Now you can break into print faster, easier and cheaper. One part of this revolutionary change is in printing.

PQN (Print Quantity Needed) digital printing machines produce 8 to 12 books at a time from a PDF file on a disk. This short run printing uses a higher speed direct-to-image (disk to drum) electrostatic process with a toner blend that reproduces photographs well. There is no film or plate. The process is cost effective for quantities from 100 to 1,500 copies. It is no longer necessary to print 3,000+ books; 100 or 500 can be produced at a reasonable per-unit cost. Color covers are usually done with the same digital process.

Putting a lot of ink on paper is now just an option; a good one if there is large prepublication demand such as advanced sales to bookstores and/or a sale to a book club. There is no longer any reason to print 3,000 or more copies of your book on spec. In the future, most books will not be manufactured until after they are sold.

Costs. Let’s compare prices for traditional ink-press printing, PQN and POD (print-on-demand, one book at a time such as DocuTech). We will compare a softcover (perfect bound) 144 page 5.5 x 8.5 book with black text and a four-color cover. (Note, costs will fluctuate with the price of paper).

1. Press (ink on paper): $1.55 each but you have to print 3,000 to get a price this low. So, your print bill will be $4,650.

2. PQN printer (short run): 500 copies for $2.60 each or a print bill of $1,300, or
100 copies for $5.17 each for a print bill of $517.

3. POD (single copies): May run $6 to $10 each and are often bundled with other services. Print-On-Demand is a good option when a book has run its course, your inventory is exhausted and you still receive orders for a couple of copies a month. Rather than invest in inventory, you can have books made as needed.

Hardcover. Most books are manufactured with soft covers, called “perfect binding.” In traditional printing, hard or “case” binding runs about $1.00 extra per book. For PQN production, hard covers cost about $3.00 more. Those prices include the hard covers and the dust jackets. So, you have to run the numbers on quantity and price.

The quality of the toner-based PQN and POD digital printing is actually better. The softcover or hardcover books look just like traditional books. There are no light and dark pages as in ink-on-paper printing. The density is maintained electronically unlike offset printing where a variation of 5% to 10% is a regular occurrence.

Time. Delivery for PQN books is normally five days from proofs and reprints take two to three days. One reason is that the printer does not have to wait for the ink to dry before folding the pages. With your disk on file, reprints can be initiated with a telephone call and the books may be shipped directly to your buyer.

The signatures of PQN short-run printing are just two pages because the print engines print two pages (both sides) at a time instead of 32 or 48. Now you do not have to design your book’s page count in large signature increments.

Mass customization. Because your books can be printed in short runs and since the new print engines print two pages at a time, you may customize your book for your customer. If you make a premium sale to a company, it will cost just pennies to bind in a letter from the CEO or to add the company logo to the cover.

Multipurposing. Once your manuscript is written and converted to a PDF file, it may be re-purposed: put on your Web site for download, uploaded to ebooksellers such as, B&, and, read on ebook readers, put on a CD and you can send the disk to any of the three types of book manufacturers. Now you can provide your book in any version your customer wants and wring maximum value out of your work. Today, we are no longer sure what a “book” is.

Coming soon. Color PQN printing is nearly here. Soon four-color children’s and coffee table books will be manufactured in quantities as low as 100 copies. PQN technology eliminates the color separations and long print runs.

Now you can have just 100 to 500 books produced and used for promotional purposes. Authors may send copies to agents and publishers. Publishers may send copies to major reviewers, distributors, catalogs, specialty stores, associations, book clubs, premium prospects, foreign publishers suggesting translations and various opinion molders.

Historically, a book had to be published in hard cover to be taken seriously by the media. In a few years, a book will have to be in paper form, as well as digital, to be considered a commercial success. A printed-paper edition will signify that the book is selling well enough to justify the ink printing.

PQN digital production offers lower investment costs, reduction in inventory, custom publishing, quicker reprints and elimination of obsolescent inventory. Now you can get into print more cheaply and produce books only after they are sold.

Digital printers.

DeHarts Printing Services
Tatiana Promessi
3265 Scott Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95954
Tel: 408-982-9118

One2One Digital Printing & Mailing
Bill Frank, Ken Hoffmann
27460 Avenue Scott
Valencia, CA 91355
Tel: 661-702-9000

Tri-State Litho
Kumar Persad
71-81 TenBroeck Avenue
Kingston, NY 12401
Tel: 914-331-7581
Ron Pramschufer
51 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 800-621-2556

TPC Graphics
Len Metz
518 Coles Mill Road
Haddonfield, NJ 08033
Tel: 856-429-2858
Fax: 856-429-0644
Small run digital and conventional book manufacturing. Case, soft binding.

Fidlar Doubleday
Steve Rozewicz
6255 Technology Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Tel: 800-632-2258
Tel: 248-761-9435, cell
Fax: 888-999-0655

Alexander’s Digital Printing
Doyle Mortimer, Barry Merrell
245 South 1060 West
Lindon, UT 84042
Tel: 801-224-8666
Fax: 801-224-0446

Infinity Publishing
John Harnish
519 W. Lancaster Ave.
Haverford, PA 19041-1413
Tel: 610-520-2500
Fax: 610-519-0261

Morgan Printing and Publish­ing
Terry Sherrell
900 Old Koenig Lane #135
Austin, TX 78756
Tel: 512-459-5194
Fax: 512-451-0755

Dan Poynter has written 114 books since 1969 including “The Self-Publishing Manual.” Digital printing is just part of the New Publishing Model he describes in the new 13th edition published by Para Publishing. See