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Silver Spring, MD
United States


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.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Self-Publish a Book: How We Choose a Printer

Nan Barnes

We deal with printers all the time. Every book we make has a destination: perhaps into the hands of a consumer, or perhaps to a darling grandchild. Our goal is to match our authors with the right printer for their needs. There are many printers offering an array of features, and we’ll examine the options here.

Linen wrapped, hinged boards with dust jacket. Photo courtesy of delgaudm on Flickr under Creative Commons

As an author, you are concerned about how to get your book into print, within your budget. For commercial books, the goal is to keep costs down. However, if you are printing a book for family and friends, you may want to pay more for higher quality, longer lasting book.

How can I print the cheapest book?

You know the features of a cheap book: softcover, black and white, like the paperbacks in the grocery store. Commercial authors have few choices, as they are based on economies of scale. Buy in bulk to receive discounts. A lighter weight paper reduces shipping costs, and books are heavy! Know this: it is cheaper to buy in bulk from a bricks-and-mortar printer than through the online POD giants CreateSpace and Lulu. They are great for distribution, but not the only game in town for printing. If you will sell to bookstores or sell at events, use a large printing house to buy boxes of books, and net a greater profit.

Cover is embossed and foil stamped. Photo courtesy of snigl3t on Flickr under Creative Common

Better Books

Better books cost more.  Here are the add-ons that will most effect your costs: 1) A hard cover. 2) A color interior. If you want either, then the cost-per-book will rule out any profit in the commercial market (unless you find a big publisher.) Generally, a hardcover book may start at about $40 each, and may range up to $200 or more with color printing and/or specialty cover treatments.

The cost depends on:

The cover – hardbound covers can be basic, or custom crafted. As a rule of thumb, assume they will add at least $20 to the cost of each book for a basic linen cover, and begin at $40-50 for additional special features.

The ink – for longer books, interior color is increasingly pricy. Black printing is about 5 to 10 cents per page, so a 200 page book’s interior might be just $10. For color ink, the same book’s interior might be $100. Here’s where it pays to shop around – or give up on color if it isn’t in your budget.

The paper – less expensive digital printers don’t give you a choice of paper weight. If you want specialty paper, these higher-end printers will charge an additional fee.


The binding – Cheaper books are glued together, and better books are stitched. If you want a book to last, you’ll need a sewn binding. You can save on binding if you’re not concerned with durability.

The Quantity – Many printers require an order of 25 books or more. If you want fewer, there are fewer printers to meet your needs. Ordering more books can pay in the long run, as you can often get discounted pricing for 25, 100, 500, etc.

Digital art cover (designed by Nancy). I create the cover image to be wrapped around a hard bound casewrap.

Digital Art Covers

The most affordable solution is to use digital artwork to illustrate your cover. We create the cover as one file, a PDF that includes the front, spine, and back cover. The printer wraps the cover with this custom design, either a dust jacket or as a “case wrap” where it is sealed to the hard boards of the cover.

Custom Upgrades

We work with specialty bookbinders for authors who want custom features. These cover modifications are often priced as an upgrade, in addition to the cost of the cover and the interior printing. Expect these printers to charge a setup fee for the project in addition to the added cost per book.

Some custom features:

  • Foil stamping
  • Embossing
  • Leather/ “leatherette”
  • Inset image
  • Dust jacket

Fill out our Publishing Questionnaire to focus your goals for printing and publishing.

Learn more about making books at