The Basics of Book Printing

Jeff Montgomery -

What is Print on Demand (POD)?

Print on Demand (POD) is a term for digital print technology that allows for very small quantities of books to be printed at one time, even down to a single copy at a time. POD allows books to be printed as needed, per sale, rather than printed in a large quantity or “run” and stored in a warehouse to be sold from inventory.

Who does your book printing?

We have integrated our servers with Lightning Source, a premier print-on-demand company. When customers order print titles on site, we transmit the order electronically to Lightning Source’s print facility either in Tennessee, USA, or in the United Kingdom (depending on where the customer is located). Lightning Source then prints, packs, and ships the order.

How does the print program work?

The print program is purely optional. You can choose to participate on a title-by-title basis. Once you join the program, you decide which of your titles you would like to offer in print. You can activate or deactivate individual print options at any time.

Uploading Files

From your Publisher Hub, you can search for a title and add other formats or use the “Upload and manage printed book files” tool (under Book Printing). There, you can set up and edit a print option for any of your titles or for multiple print formats, such as softcover and hardcover, for example. You must upload files prepared specifically for print use (and they are not formatted or prepared in the same way as their digital counterparts; for information on print preparation, see this page). You can also set the price customers will pay to purchase your title in print.

Once you upload your print files and complete the set-up, we run a few additional processes on your files before transmitting them to Lightning Source. Your files then run through premedia processing at Lightning Source to verify that the files can be printed. If there are any problems, you will receive premedia error messages via email, notifying you of the file errors that need correction. The status of your print files and any premedia error messages also show up under your title listing via your Publisher Hub and on the “Upload and Manage print products” page.

If your files encounter errors in premedia, you must fix the errors and re-upload corrected files before your books can once again be processed for printing.

When a file successfully passes through premedia (typically 3-5 business days after you upload it), you will receive an email notifying you that the product is ready for proofing.


Ordering Proofs

After you receive the notification that your title is ready for proofing, you must order a proof copy; it will take some time to arrive, typically up to three weeks, depending on your location and the time of year. Once you receive and inspect your proof copy, you can then decide if the product is acceptable for customer purchase, or if you need to make further changes to your print files. 

Activating Your Title

Only once you have approved a physical proof should you finalize the customer price for the print option and then activate the title for customer purchase in print.

Once the print version of your title is live for customer purchases, customers who visit your product page will see options such as the following:

Watermarked PDF: $7.50
Softcover B&W: $14.99
Watermarked PDF + Softcover B&W: $19.99

Customers can select the option they prefer before adding the item to their shopping cart. When a customer places an order for a print title, we have the copy printed, packaged, and shipped to the customer on your behalf.

How long does it take to print my proof copy?

As the Print Preparation Flow Diagram above shows, it can take some time for a title to be approved, especially your first time through the process. A title can take up to 12 business days to clear premedia and another 7-12 days to be delivered to you.

You should give yourself as much time as possible for the release of any new title: To be safe, one full month (30 days) is a good estimate for a new product, but ONLY if no corrections are needed. Especially for beginners, you therefore should give yourself even more than a month to accommodate any corrections that may be needed. 

How long does it take to print a customer copy?

Once a book has been through premedia and proofing, the span from customer order to delivery is roughly two to three weeks. This turnaround time is the same whether it's for a single book or a high-volume bulk order.  

During busy times, such as immediately prior to major industry events like Gen Con, or as Christmas approaches, these times can be longer. Near Christmas, for instance, we advise roughly a month for new print books to arrive. 

How are books printed?

Black-and-White books are printed on 50# white paper and uses inkjet technology.

Standard 70 Color and Premium Color both use a thicker 70# white paper, which has higher page opacity.

The primary difference between Standard 70 Color and Premium Color books is the process with which the ink is printed.

  • Standard Color 70 – Printed with an inkjet printer on 70 lb/104 gsm white paper
  • Premium Color – Highest color quality with more vivid color. Printed with an inkjet printer on 70 lb/104 gsm white paper

Here’s a visual comparison of Standard 70 Color (left) and Premium Color (right):




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