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How to Decide How Many Books to Print

Jun 18, 2008
Making the right decision about how many books to print is a major factor in determining how profitable your venture will be. Even experienced publishers guess wrong at times. If you don't print enough books, you run into supply problems, possibly some angry customers, and the increased cost of reprints. If you print too many books well, that is an obvious problem as well. So how many books should you print?

While I can't definitively answer this question for you, I can give you some valuable input based on years of helping people just like you get their books printed. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people being overly confident as far as how many books they will sell.

Compare your worst-case and best-case scenarios. Do you have marketing channels in place that convince you that in your worst-case scenario you are sure to sell 100? 500? 5,000 books? What's your optimistic guess as to how many books you will sell? Now I'm not talking about the scenario where Hollywood options your book for a movie - let's stay realistic.

Now pick a quantity in-between those two numbers, but probably closer to the lower number. You'll find it's much less expensive to do reprints than it is to be stuck with a garage full of unsold books. Plus, you'll feel more successful having gone through your first print run.

Will you use a traditional offset printer or a digital printing press? The quantity you choose will make that part of the decision easy.

A digital press is usually most cost effective for print runs less than 1,000. If you decide to go with a digital printer, you definitely want to lean toward a smaller quantity. The cost savings per book for 100 copies vs. 500 copies on a digital press just aren't that great usually.

An offset press is better suited for quantities of at least 1,000. In this case, there can be some heavy quantity discounts. If you're still debating on your quantity, comparing the cost per book numbers between quantities may help make your decision easier. In any case, be sure to ask your printer for quotes for a number of different quantities. Hey, if Oprah does call, at least you'll be ready!

So to recap: Don't stretch your budget too thin by reaching for the stars with a huge print run to start. Stick with smaller quantities until you can definitively prove the market is there with your book sales. If you stick to your marketing plan and continually build on your sales, you'll be able to jump up to larger book printing quantities soon enough.
About the Author
Josh Prizer has been working in the book printing field for nearly 15 years and is a cheap book printing expert. For a Free 7-Part Mini-Course on how to publish your own book, visit his web site.
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