April 2018: Info on this page at least ten years old, and likely quite outdated, though perhaps interesting if you care about the history of print on demand publishing.
This page provides some basic info on a few companies that offer print-on-demand self-publishing services to authors, letting you sell your book from their web site or other sites like Amazon and receive a royalty you select.
I also list some companies that won't sell your book to consumers for you, but will print books for you in very small runs (10 copies or less) at an economical rate. If you're willing to print hundreds or thousands of copies at once, there are many more options, but I don't list them here.
I don't list most companies that charge a substantial upfront fee to authors (vanity publishing), or those that won't even tell you their charges unless you provide them with your contact information, unless they've very well known. And I don't cover the many optional services some of these companies offer: cover design, editing, and so forth.
Let me know about other companies that should be listed here, or any inaccuracies.
Companies covered: Lulu, CreateSpace, Booksurge, Lightning Source, Cafepress, Guild of Blades, Cinnamon Teal, Digital Print Australia, Diggory Press, Authors Online UK and others.
You can provide a PDF or various other formats like Word files for your book interior. You can provide a one-piece PDF for your cover, or construct it using a wizard from images you supply, or pick a standard cover design, or other variations.
They use 60# paper mostly, but 55# or 50# for some formats. Some book formats get white paper and some can get either cream or white depending on the shipping address. They have many book sizes, and can do full-color books and hardcover books. Pricing is too complicated to list here, but a 250 page 6"x9" B&W perfect bound book with $1 royalty would sell on their site (only) for $10.75, or $15.50 if you wanted it on Amazon and other sites too, with an author price of $9.50. They pay by check (every $20) or by PayPal (every $5).
Standard shipping for the US (taking about 5-10 business days from order date) is about $7 for a typical book, somewhat more for multiple books. International shipping for a typical book sent to Europe is $12 for about 18 business days, $20 for about 8 business days, but varies a lot by destination and book format. Books can currently get a free ISBN and a free listing on Amazon.com. Wider distribution is available for a fee.
They provide an individual page for each product, plus a free storefront to show all your products together.
See www.lulu.com for details. Info updated 9 November 2008.
You must provide a PDF for your book interior, and a one-piece PDF for your cover. No cover wizard is available, just a template. (As of 17 December 2008, they accepted Word files too, but Tony Loton reports that the current converter doesn't work well.)
They use 60# paper. You can choose white or cream for B&W books (always white paper for color books). They have many book sizes, and can do full-color books but not hardcovers. Pricing is too complicated to list here, but is generally low. See my Lulu vs. CreateSpace price comparison for specifics. A 250 page 6"x9" B&W perfect bound book with $1 royalty would sell on their site only for $9.38 (or $6.06 if the author pays a small annual fee), or on Amazon for $12.50 (or $8.08), with an author price of $6.50 (or $3.85). For US residents, they pay by direct deposit every $20. For international authors, they mail a check. No payment via Paypal.
Standard shipping for the US (right now, taking 14 business days from order date) is about $7 for a typical book, slightly more for multiple books. International shipping for a typical book is $40 for 14 business days, $25 for 19 business days, somewhat more for multiple books. All books get free ISBNs and a free listing on Amazon.com. As of December 2009, distribution via retail channels is also available.
They provide an individual page for each product, but no storefront to show all your products together. But you can create a web site elsewhere to serve as a storefront and link to your individual CreateSpace pages, or just send customers to Amazon. (CreateSpace is owned by Amazon.)
See www.createspace.com for details. Info updated 8 December 2009.
Booksurge is also owned by Amazon. They require the author to pay an up-front fee of $299 if you submit PDF files, or more if you submit in some other format. The fee includes an ISBN.
Authors receive 10-35% of the list price of each book, depending on the channel. Booksurge appears to enforce a minimum list price based on the page count. A 250 page 6"x9" B&W book may not sell for less than $16.99, with the author receiving either $1.70 or $5.95 for each sale depending on where it sells.
In Fall 2009, Amazon announced that Booksurge would be merged into CreateSpace. It appears pricing information shown in this section won't apply to new accounts.
See www.booksurge.com for details. Info updated 8 December 2009.
You can provide a PDF, PostScript, InDesign or Quark file for your book interior and for your cover, but not a Word document. PDF is recommended. No cover wizard is available, just a template.
They don't sell directly to the public. Instead, they make your book available on various retail sites like Amazon.com.
You can select 50# white paper or 55# cream. They have many book sizes, and can do full-color books and hardcover books.
Orders placed by wholesalers for B&W paperbacks use a base price of $0.90/book (USD) plus $0.013/page (minimum $2.30), or for larger book formats $1.30/book plus $0.018/page (min $3.24). Wholesalers pay this price plus the desired author royalty. An author can set his book's retail discount from 20% to 55% (meaning the retailer keeps that portion of the book's list price). So a 6"x9" 250 page book with a $1 royalty would have a base price of $0.90 + 0.013 x 250, or $4.15, plus $1. Wholesale price would be $5.15. List price could be set from $6.44 to $11.44.
Orders you place for your own B&W paperback books use a base price of $0.90/book plus $0.015/page (minimum $2.52), or for larger book formats $1.30/book plus $0.020/page (min $3.46). Authors pay those rates, plus the published rates of whatever shipping option they select (they have a list of options), plus $1.50 handling. So author or drop-shipped copies of a 250 page 6"x9" book are $4.65.
Full-color books use a base price that varies from $1/book plus $0.05/page up to $1.50/book plus $0.10/page, with a minimum from $2.00 to $2.50, depending on the book size.
You will have to obtain an ISBN on your own. There is a setup charge for each book ($105 and up), a revision charge ($40 and up), and a $12 annual fee for each book. The company discourages authors looking for simple self-publishing options, and aims their services at professional publishing companies. They provide a list of such companies. These companies have Lightning Source do the printing, but offer various services to authors at a variety of prices.
See www.lightningsource.com for more details on Lightning Source itself. Note that you will need to create an account to see most details. Info updated 9 November 2008. (Thanks to B for assistance.)
You must provide a PDF for your book interior, plus PNG or JPEG covers. No cover wizard is available.
They use only 50# paper (like Lulu's new "publisher-grade" cheaper paper). They have just 5 book sizes, and don't offer full-color books or hardcovers. Base price for perfect bound books is $7 plus $0.03/page (B&W only). You get the difference between that and the sales price you pick. Every $25, $50, or $100 (you pick) they mail you a check. No payment via Paypal. A 250 page B&W perfect bound book with $1 royalty would sell on their site for $15.50.
Standard shipping for the US (4-6 business days from order date) is $7 for the first book plus $0.40 for each additional book. International shipping (11-15 business days) is $7 for the first book, $4 for each additional book. Books are returnable. They don't offer ISBNs or distribution at all. You can order books by phone.
Selling more than one book from the same storefront carries a monthly $5 charge. But I think you can create a separate free product page for each book, and link to them from a web site you create elsewhere (much like you can with CreateSpace).
See www.cafepress.com for details. Info updated 6 November 2008.
They don't sell individual books directly to consumers, but print books for authors in small runs. You'll have to sell them to your readers with your own online store or similar. You could buy your 250 page 6"x9" B&W perfect bound book from then for $6.45 each, minimum quantity 10.
See www.guildofblades.com/podbooks.php for details. Info updated 5 November 2008.
This is a POD company in Goa, India.
You can provide a PDF or Word file for your book interior, and a one-piece PDF for your cover.
They normally use 80 gsm creme or white paper. Other paper may be available for an extra charge. They have five standard book sizes but can do custom sizes too. They can do full-color books and hardcover books.
Pricing is in Indian Rupees. Base pricing for B&W perfect-bound books varies from 60 Rps plus 0.60 Rps per page, for their smallest format, to 80 Rps plus 1.65 per page for their largest. (At the November 3 2008 exchange rate of about 48 Rps to the dollar, this means their rates vary from $1.25 plus $0.0125 per page, up to $1.67 plus $0.035 per page.) They take 20% of list price for books they sell on their web site. An author could buy his own 250 page 6"x9" B&W perfect bound book from them for 210 Rps ($4.38). If you want them to sell that book from their web site and receive a $1 royalty (48 Rupees), it would list for 322 Rupees (about $6.71) on their site. They pay royalties in Rupees monthly by check.
Books can get a free ISBN, but they don't currently offer any distribution plan outside India.
See www.cinnamonteal.in for details. Info updated 5 November 2008.
They don't have a standard price list, so you'll have to contact them for a quote. They have an online bookstore that can accept orders from readers.
See www.digitalprintaustralia.com for details. Info updated 6 November 2008.
This company is based in the UK, though they have some provision for US authors too. Lightning Source does their printing, so similar printing options are available. They have many book sizes, and can do full-color books and hardcover books.
However, the Preditors and Editors site says they are "strongly not recommended". There's an ongoing court case against them by a group of disgruntled authors.
This company is based in the UK. Lightning Source does their printing, so similar printing options are available. They have many book sizes, and can do full-color books and hardcover books.
You can provide a PDF file for your book interior, and a one-piece PDF for your cover. Distribution including ISBN, proof copy, and six copies sent for library deposit appears to be available for £85, plus £20/year. They also provide various formatting, cover, and other services, and their web site emphasizes those services. They say they only publish work that meets their standard, and require you to indicate which services you require before they accept your work, so it's possible they would reject authors who don't chose to purchase their additional services.
Base prices appear to be the same as Lightning Source uses. Retail sales require a 40% trade discount. For comparison, a 6"x9" 250 page B&W perfect bound book with £0.64 royalty (about $1) would have a list price on retail sites of about £7.12 and an author price of £4.98. Using their prices for US sales, the list price would be $9.67 and the author price would be $6.57. Direct purchases in small quantities may have to pay some additional fee they don't specify on their web site.
They pay royalties quarterly.
See authorsonline.co.uk for details. Info updated 11 November 2008.
Some non-English sites, about which I have no more information:
Lulu forum discussion about German printers (in German)
South African (English language): Red Path PublicationsThis section updated: 25 December 2008