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Silver Spring, MD
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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

4 Ways to Save Money Publishing Your Short-Run Book

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

4 Ways to Save Money Publishing Your Short-Run Book

Biff Barnes

Not so long ago publishing a book intended for a limited audience of family members and friends was an expensive proposition. Today, technological changes in the world of printing and the evolution of the publishing industry have given authors an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of publishing books like family histories and memoirs. Here are four ways to save money when publishing your book.

Mixed-Color Printing

Most family histories and memoirs are illustrated with photos. If any of your photographs are color, they can substantially increase printing costs, because when you want to include even a very few color photographs many printers charge you a color rate for all pages, even those which have only black and white text or images.

There are, however, some printers who offer mixed-color printing. A mixed-color printer charges a color rate only for pages that actually contain color. Other pages are charged at a lower black and white rate. The cost savings can be significant.

When we work with authors, we recommend taking advantage of mixed-color rates whenever possible.

Print on Demand

Until recently printing a small quantity of books required a substantial up front cost for an author. Printers required you to purchase at least a minimum number of copies. In some cases, that was a greater number of books than you would need.  The cost might run into the hundreds of dollars or more.

If you gifted the books to people, you absorbed the cost of printing and shipping yourself. The other alternative was to ask people to reimburse you for the cost of their book, which could often turn into a hassle.

Digital printing has changed the process and almost completely eliminate author printing cost. If you are not familiar with print-on-demand (POD), here’s how it works:

  • The author (or your book designer) uploads a digital file of your book interior and another of your cover to the on-demand printer as a specialized type of PDF.
  • You tell your intended readers that your book is available for purchase through,, or other online bookstore.
  • When a reader orders your book, the POD provider prints and ships it. The cost of printing and shipping is paid by the reader as part of the price charged by the online bookstore.
  • You, as an author, pay a nominal amount (sometimes free, usually less than $50) to set up a print-on-demand title. You save hundreds of dollars or more in printing costs. You also earn a royalty on each book sold.

Print Two Editions

Many authors want their book to be a beautiful color hardcover which they will gift to immediate family members and close friends. There are many excellent printers that will help you produce an heirloom quality book.

What about more distant relatives or acquaintances? You don’t feel a need to gift them an expensive hardback. Instead, create a print-on-demand edition; maybe a black and white paperback which they can purchase online. We have worked with a number of authors who have used the profits earned from the POD edition to offset costs of their heirloom edition.

Be a Smart Shopper

Not all printers are the same. If you are willing to do some printer research you will see the differences. Most of the information you will need is available online. Know what you want your book to look like? Hard cover, softback, trim size, black and white, color, premium or standard paper, etc. Then do some comparison shopping. Prices can vary significantly. Does a printer offer mixed color printing? What is the charge to set up a title for print-on-demand? What are shipping costs and who pays them? Does the printer offer samples to let you see what a book they have printed looks like?

A couple of hours of comparison shopping can save you money and help you make sure your book ultimately looks like you want it to.

If you don’t want to do your own printer research, ask us about it. We are always happy to help you find the best deal.

Image courtesy of on Flickr.