As well as keeping in mind the type and quality of printing you want, here are some things you may not have considered when it comes to printing your book.

Unit cost is the print cost per book. Here is the golden rule of working out unit cost: calculate it on how many books you sell (or use), not how many you print.

Self-publishers often notice the lower unit cost that comes with printing higher quantities and decide they should print more. This is never a good idea if you’re doing so just to get the lower unit cost. Your print run should always be based on how many copies of the book you need, not on the unit cost. If you work out a plan for your book that suggests you need 300 copies but then print 500 to get the cheaper unit cost, how does that help you if it turns out your plan was spot on and you have 200 copies left in your garage? Remember, you can always reprint very quickly.

When the interior layout of your book is complete you will need to know the spine width of your book to allow your cover designer to finish your cover. This is dependent on a number of issues:

  • the page extent of your book
  • the thickness of the paper you’re using
  • the binding method of your book
  • whether your book is hardback or paperback.

You need to think about a number of things when choosing the paper (stock) for your book:

  • Colour: non-fiction books are usually printed on whiter stock, whereas fiction books are more often printed on a creamy-coloured stock.
  • Quality: if you have images in your book you might select slightly better paper to improve the quality of the image reproduction. You can use the higher quality paper throughout the book, or you can have an image section in the middle of your book (colour or black and white) printed on the better stock, and the text sections of your book printed on slightly lower quality stock.
  • Weight: most stock for books is around 80 GSM for the text (the ‘internals’) and 200 to 250 GSM for the cover.
  • Bulk: the weight of the stock doesn’t necessarily reflect its thickness. Some stocks are bulkier (that is, thicker) than others. The primary reason for using a bulkier stock is if your book is short and you want it to appear more substantial.

The two basic choices for cover lamination are gloss and matt. (It’s often thought that matt covers are actually not laminated, but this is incorrect. They’re laminated with a matt finish.)

Gloss lamination is the most common. It makes the colours on a cover look brighter, and is also more resistant to marking and scratching. However, matt looks great on the right cover.

If you are managing the process yourself, you will receive proofs of the text and cover of your book from the printer, usually PDFs via email these days.

Keep in mind that this is not a chance to make editorial corrections; you’re simply checking that the printer has reproduced your files correctly. You can make changes at this stage if you really must, but it will cost you and also hold up your printing. As such you should only make corrections if you find a major error.

When your book is printed, the printer may send a couple of copies to you for inspection before delivering the stock. These copies are known as advance copies or simply ‘advances’. This is your chance to inspect the books and approve them for delivery.

There are some important things to keep in mind when organising delivery of your printed book:

  • Quotes on unloading large quantity print runs may be based on unloading at a warehouse by forklift.
  • Printers need to know if books are to be delivered to more than one location.
  • If you don’t live in the city where the printer is located, make sure the quote includes delivery to your location.
  • Offshore printing quotes often only include delivery into port, not to your door.

Organising printing involves much more than just getting your book to the printer. Remember to keep in mind all of the things above to avoid extra costs later on.