If you have a special kind of children's book in mind, like a board book or a book with pull tabs or pop-up art, a traditional printing press might be your only option. But if you are planning to make a regular hardcover or paperback book, Print on Demand (POD) services offer a great alternative, especially to an independent self-published author.
Advances in digital Print on Demand technology have now allowed books to be printed one at a time and as a self-published author, you don't have to commit to printing a large bulk order. POD service providers like Amazon's KDP or IngramSpark will print your book when it is ordered and deliver it directly to the customer. They will handle all the logistics and also give access to large distribution channels. And for each book sold, you will earn a royalty. This leaves you time and energy to market your book properly or to work on your next one, without having to worry about things like warehousing or shipping or order fulfilment.
But that was not what I did. I chose the traditional route and used Singapore based Tian Wan Press (TWP) to get my book printed.
There were three main reasons why I chose a traditional printing company for my book:
First, when I started researching my options, I did not personally know anyone who had used a POD service. The handful self-published authors I knew had all taken the traditional route for one reason or another. And when I searched for reviews about POD online, I came across several people who had found printing errors in their books - instances where pages had been placed wrong. This completely put me off POD at that point of time. I really did not like the thought of customers receiving wrongly printed copies of my book.
Second, I checked Amazon's KDP and they did not allow for a Hardcover version. Like I mentioned in My reasons for self-publishing, I was very clear that I wanted to create a hardcover version for my first (and possibly, only) children's picture book. Through subsequent research, I've now learnt that IngramSpark does offer Hardcover versions on POD and I could have used them. But my mind was almost made up and my gut was directing me towards a traditional press, which authors I knew had used and which had given them a positive experience.
Finally (and this was probably the most important reason), I was working completely on my own till then and the people at Tian Wan Press put me at ease. They were very experienced and established within the picture book space, having printed several big name children’s picture books. And they had also worked with many self-published authors before, which was very comforting for me. TWP also offered to scan my illustrations and do the basic book design for me. They guided me through the entire process and I felt like my book was in experienced hands. Since it was my first time doing this, I think I really appreciated being able to sit across a table and ask my seemingly stupid questions about the process to knowledgable individuals. I did not feel excited to do this over the internet or through the phone.
Working with TWP was a wonderful experience. I even got a chance to visit their printing press in Malaysia for the final color check. Seeing my book getting printed on a gigantic press was an experience unlike any other. I saw what the large printed sheets look like when they are straight off the press and before they are cut. I got a better understanding of what trim size and bleed meant and how they modify color to get it closer to my watercolor illustrations. Looking back, the POD route would not have given me this brick-and-mortar experience, which I consider truly significant.
Once the books got printed, they were delivered to my door step. I currently stock them at home (thankfully, they are now significantly lesser in number than they were at first) and I have to do the packing and shipping myself. While I have definitely enjoyed doing this for my first book (everything is really special the first time around), I don't see this as the best use of my time for the future.
Going forward, I will probably use a POD service for my books because they will give me a chance to focus on what I'm good at - creating and leave the logistics to the professionals. To stay updated on that journey, follow me on Instagram @kavita_rajput or on Facebook @kavitarajputart
Go back to reading about How I self-published my book.