“How much does it cost to print a book?” and “How much does it cost to publish a book” are questions frequently asked by our clients. There are no simple or straightforward answers, though, as a book’s price depends on a variety of factors. This article focuses on the costs involved in producing a book.
Number of copies
The key issue here is the size of the book run. When going large-scale and printing, for instance, 8 000 copies of a book, it will be more economically viable to split the order into smaller batches. Digital printing is particularly cost-effective for short and medium runs, i.e. up to approx. 2 000 copies. Digital printing makes cost optimization possible as there is the option to print smaller runs, market them and, depending on demand, have additional batches printed later on. A sensible solution all in all. On top of that, no money is spent, or lost, on storing the printed books as there is no storage involved. In conclusion, when looking for the cost of production, first identify the number of copies to be printed.
It is not possible to quote a price without having some basic information about the planned publication. We already have the size of the run. The next issue to establish is the book’s format and number of pages. Sometimes it would make sense to talk to one of our staff as even the slightest of changes in the width or height of the book can lead to a considerable reduction of the price (which is due to the specific capabilities of the machines used for printing and/or binding). It is equally important to identify the number of pages in the book to be printed. Logically, the more pages there are, the more paper will be needed to print the publication. This obviously affects the final cost of one copy of the book.
Paper prices vary very much. Our paper will be cheaper or more expensive depending on what grammage (the higher the grammage, the “heavier”, thicker and more solid the paper), bulk, and shade of white we choose. Additionally, a lot will also depend on whether we opt for popular offset paper or one of the select clay coated substrates. Sometimes, the type of publication will force our hand when making the decision, e.g. sophisticated and arty publications make for a harmonious combination with unique and unusual substrates (not necessarily clay coated).
The final price of a book will also depend on whether the inside is printed in colour (4+4) or in black only (1+1). Obviously, black and white books are cheaper. Moreover, applying colours on the book’s cover will also be of significance here and affect the final price. And when talking of colours, let’s not forget about the different technologies: we print using the toner printing technology (sheet printing for mainly different types of albums) and the inkjet technology (sheet and roll-to-roll printing).
A little bit more about covers…
Here, in addition to deciding whether our cover is to be printed in full colour or in one colour only, or, where softcovers are involved, whether we want the inside pages of the cover (i.e. pages 2 and 3) to be printed on too, we have to specify what substrate it is to be made from. Furthermore, when printing on paper, there is the question of whether foil is to be applied over the entire surface (glossy or matte? or maybe soft touch?). Another thing to be decided on is the application of enhancements: varnishes, metallic foil, or maybe dry embossing (using a dry die).
Type of cover, which is where we should have started, really
Is our book to be sewn or perfect bound, is it to be a hardcover, or maybe a softcover with flaps, will we maybe go for a metal spiral to bind the book instead? This is a key parameter taken into account in the price estimate. The more sophisticated the cover, the more production processes will be involved. This affects the price. Hardcover thread sewn is the most advanced type of binding. The simplest covers are spiral bound and saddle stitched (as in a school exercise book). Take notice, though, as there is a limit that applies in the latter case. The optimal volume for saddle stitched publications is 60 pages.
And last but not least
Before we can get the final price quote for a book, a decision has to be made as to whether each individual copy is to be wrapped in foil, whether we are to deliver it in cardboard boxes or on a pallet, and whether it is to be delivered to one or more locations. Is the approval to be done electronically, or will a proof print be required before going ahead with the entire print run?
All this affects the final price of the book, sometimes it will also affect the time required to produce it (e.g. proof prints are sent by courier and the production process is commenced only after receiving the client’s approval).
The above analysis shows that there is no straightforward or, above all, simple answer to the “how much does it cost to print a book” question. It will depend on a number of factors, and a quote for the price of the print run can be given only when all the parameters are set.