Short-run digital printing is a gratifying was to get your book in your hands quickly without a lot of effort. Simply design your book using a template from CreateSpace or from bookdesigntemplates.com, and order up one book, 25 books, or a whole bunch from one of these companies. CreateSpace: Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) branch, will send you 1 copy or 1000 (or probably more if you ask). You don’t have to distribute with them, just publish the book “privately” to review it with your editor, to play with your cover, or just to keep for yourself. They do a pretty good job of color printing, too. They have templates to download so you can design the cover and interior of your book, and they’re cheap. When you’re ready to sell on Amazon, they are too! 48 Hour Books just prints. They specialize in newbie self-publishers, and have videos, great customer support – I have even have the president of the company answer the phone – and they’re very fast. They have templates, they’re cost-effective, and super friendly. BookBaby offers high-quality short-run printing. They’re more expensive but if you have a full-color book you’re going to want to go with them. Formerly just an ebook formatting and distribution service, they added printing to their menu a couple of years ago. For a plain trade paperback, I’d go with one of the above vendors just because of cost, but if you want heavy paper and colors that pop, they’re the answer. Lightning Source (LSI) is a “publisher services” company as opposed to an “author services” company. UPDATE! LSI have been replaced by IngramSpark for self-publishers, so unless you already have an LSI account, use Spark instead. Indie authors have generally found LSI a little hard to work with. IngramSpark uses the LSI engine, and so you get the same printing and do a great job of printing both black & white trade paperback and color books, and are competitively priced. If you really want your book to be available to the brick-and-mortar bookstore market (sadly not your best sales channel), you’ll need to use IngramSpark. If you want print book distribution to all the online retailers, you can get it with CreateSpace or IngramSpark but not the other two. You’re not locked in, so print with whomever you like, and change vendors at will. You can if you own your book’s data – that is, you haven’t printed and distributed your book with an author services company or anyone else who has bought your ISBN number for you. Key is to buy your own ISBNs so you control how and where your book is created and distributed.
Are you ready to self-publish? Just thinking about it? I’ve been self-publishing since 1995 – before that, if you count all the custom books I’ve written and published for high-tech companies since 1985. I keep up with the industry and in touch with authors by organizing Meetup groups, teaching workshops, helping a select group of writers get their books finished, and attending conferences. My Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors distills what I know in a step-by-step process that makes it easy for you to get your book off of your desktop and into the marketplace, now. Buy it in ebook or print formats from the online retailer of your choice.