Print-on-demand is a method of printing where you supply the contents and your printer makes books (or other products) as customers order them. Using print-on-demand (POD for short) is cost effective and gives authors and artists extensive control over their products.
With print-on-demand, there is no entry cost to print your content. You can use Lulu to upload your files completely free and order exactly as many copies as you need.
How Does Print-On-Demand Work?
Print-on-demand companies of all sorts, from Lulu for books to Printful for t-shirts, provide a way to print custom designs. The POD business model also incorporates or works closely with drop shipping fulfillment services. For example, Lulu not only provides POD books, we also ship those print orders to your customers!
In almost all scenarios, print-on-demand will work with PDF files to print your book. POD slashes the upfront cost to print and enables authors to publish without maintaining a stock of books on hand. The technology now exists to produce books at the same quality as offset printing. Now any published author has the opportunity to create their books.
Uploading your designs to Lulu simply means preparing your PDF to meet our specifications and providing some basic details about the book (like title and copyright info).
It has never been easier to create custom products. Print-on-demand services like Lulu have created an entirely fresh market for creators. You have the means to write, design, and publish all from your home. And with freelance professionals and a burgeoning service industry around book creation, you can easily find help to create and sell your books like a pro.
This creator-friendly environment comes with a change in how people buy online. Yes, Amazon is still massive and useful for buying tons of things. When you need a lamp or a computer monitor or a bag of dog food, Amazon is there. But what about when you need something unique? Personalized gifts. Indie music. Books.
Print-on-demand is the natural adaptation for book creators. This needn’t be limited to authors—businesses use books and manuals, or look-books and photo books. Non-profits might sell calendars to raise money. Educators at all levels create workbooks or custom curriculum.
Print-On-Demand And Ecommerce
While print-on-demand has revolutionized publishing, it’s in combination with ecommerce tools that we’ve seen the landscape of online retail change. If you have a product to sell (like a book), you need more than an efficient means to create that product. You have to be able to sell it where the buyers are.
That’s what ecommerce is all about. You use affordable companies (usually at a monthly fee) to handle payment processing for you. That gives your readers assurances that checkout is secure and simplifies selling online for you.
Just look at these companies revolutionizing online commerce:
- Etsy for creators of all sorts
- Shopify for ecommerce
- WooCommerce as a WordPress store plugin
- Patreon to allow for subscriptions
Shipping Your Print-On-Demand Book
Selling your custom book online is a three-part process. The publisher allows you to create the print-on-demand product, ecommerce tools provide checkout, and finally you need to connect to shipping networks to fulfill the order. Most ecommerce services like Shopify include shipping connections or host drop shipping applications to make this simple. Lulu’s platform, like many self-publishing services, offers all three in one.
If you use an ecommerce platform to sell your book and a POD service like Lulu xPress for printing, you’ll have a variety of shipping options. Our Shopify App pairs the built in shipping options Shopify offers with our own drop shipping service to keep shipping rates comparable. And best of all, it’s all white label so you can sell directly with your own branding!
Finally, because on-demand products are not waiting in a warehouse to be purchased, there is a production time you must allow for. While next-day shipping is an expectation, for print-on-demand products, it’s unrealistic. Most companies make this very clear when users are buying, but you should be sure your readers know that we create your books on-demand and may take a few extra days to arrive.
Making Books Better For Everyone
While print-on-demand might mean an extra day or two for your readers to get your book, there are a plethora of benefits to offset that delay. For you, it means no upfront print costs or storage for boxes of unsold books. And you can forget about out-of-print because that’s a thing of the past.
There are environmental benefits too. Lulu is a certified B Corp, adhering to the highest standards for environmental and social good—something we couldn’t do if we had to print and store books. Printing books on-demand means they’re only transported once; from printer to reader. And there is no waste because there are no extra books printed.
The benefits of print-on-demand make it easy to see why this is such a popular option for creators from authors to graphic designers. Everyone with an idea can create something unique and make it available easily through online shopping tools and global shipping networks.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.