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  • Writer's picturePraise Saflor

The Difference between Offset Printing and Print on Demand

Self-publishing has given creators and authors freedom to publish their works the way they want it. That’s why many of them resort to it, and maybe you are reading this because you are one of them.

“How will I publish my book?” is the most common question every aspiring self-published author asks. Since they do not have a publisher to count on, they must print their works on their own. Good thing, they have two choices: print on demand or offset printing.

If you are a writer and this is your first time to self-publish, let me guide you.

Offset Printing

What is offset printing?

From the word offset, the inked image is being transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket and then to paper. Offset printing is the most common printing technique that uses machines to print and bind books. Printers usually use the CMYK color model during the printing process.

What are the benefits of offset printing?

  •   The printing is in bulk order so the cost per copy is lower.

  • The printing plates are easy to produce.

  • The quality of text and image is higher and sharper which is best to use for children’s books.

  • All print books have the same print quality.

  • The color depth is easier to adjust.

  • Special effects on book covers and book interiors are possible to make.

  • The profit will all go to the self-published author once all books are sold.

  • There is a big possibility that the author will learn to market, sell, and ship his books since it will be a one-man team at first.


What are the things to consider in offset printing?

  • You must sell and deliver your books. Unless you have a distributor, you will market, sell, and ship copies to your clients.

  • There is a need for storage. The minimum order quantity for offset printing is 500 copies. So, you need to store them carefully until they are all sold.  

  • You must pay for the printing cost, and it must be paid even before the books are delivered. Payment is made upon ordering the books.

Printing Cost

The printing cost varies from one’s preference to another. There are various factors that determine the printing cost, such as plate size, paper, number of pages, and cover and layout design. Assuming you are printing a children’s book, it may cost higher depending on the size of the book, illustrations, thickness of the book cover (is the cover paperback or hardback?), and the quality of paper.

 Tips to Save

1.      Print in bulk

Five hundred copies may already cost you a lot, but that’s only the minimum order quantity. Aiming for the much higher quantity like 2,000 to 5,000 copies may help you save a lot. It may cost you a fortune at first but if you break it down per copy, you will see that you save a lot and will earn higher once you have sold all the copies.


2.      Print two or more books

Printers may offer discount when you print multiple books with the same trim size. If you only have one book to print, partner with other authors whom you can share the cost with. Maybe you have an author friend who is in need to print or reprint his book with the same trim size as yours.  


3.      Print bookmarks for free

Ask the printer if there is still free space in the plate where you can print bookmarks. Some printers may print these for free since they will not need another plate for these.


4.      Be a regular client

Like in any businesses, it is a plus to be a regular client so you will be prioritized and be given discounts. Along with that, building rapport with your partners may benefit you bigtime in the future.

Information needed to get a quotation

As you get a quotation from your printer choice, you may consider preparing the book printing specifications below to help you get familiarize and negotiate with them easier.

Book trim size

What is the ideal size for your book? Most books today are handy, something that will fit in your pockets or bags. These may be 5” x 7” or 5.5” x 8.5” or 4” x 6”. However, according to MasterClass1, the standard book sizes are the following in inches:


Mass market paperback: 4.25 x 6.87

Trade Paperbacks: 5.5 x 8.5 to 6 x 9

Hardcover books: 6 x 9 to 8.5 x 11

Fiction books: 4.25 x 6.87, 5.25 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9

Nonfiction books: 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x 9, 7 x 10

Novellas: 5 x 8

Children’s books: 7.5 x 7.5, 7 x 10, 10 x 8

Textbooks: 6 x 9, 7 x 10, 8.5 x 11


You may also visit for my preferred sizes for children’s books. You may even ask for suggestion from your printer which book size will work best for your book.

Page count

How many pages does your book have? Remember that every book may be divisible by 8, 16, or 32 (depending on the printer). So, your book must meet the number of pages required. Otherwise, you will have blank pages on your book. 

Paper stock

What kind of paper do you prefer for your book? Do you want the cheaper one or some expensive one? Do you want white paper or the cream one? Do you want it coated or not? Do you want it matte or glossy? Children’s books are often printed in glossy white matte paper to meet their design quality.


However, for novels or other inspirational books, you may choose white or cream matte paper. But most prefer the cream matte, especially if the book only has pure text. Reading through cream paper is way easier on the eyes that hardly causes eye strain. 

Paper and cover weight

How heavy your book depends on its thickness and the paper quality you choose. There are lightweight kinds of paper that cost cheaper but will not affect the quality of your book. However, it still depends on the kind of book you want to print.

On the other hand, covers use another special board paper. You can print your covers in soft or hard board paper. Adding special effects on your covers may also affect its weight. You may consult your printer regarding this. You may ask for samples so you can check for yourself if what they recommend is something of your choice, too.

Print color

How many colors does your book have? For a children’s book, it may be a 4-color book or more since they have colored illustrations. One-color books usually suit novels or inspirational books—those that only have pure text. You may also consider 2-color books when you want only black and white with just a punch of another color in your text or images.


Do you want your book hardback or paperback? Paperback is a type of book with a paperboard cover that can be saddle stitched or held together by a glue. On the other hand, hardback is a kind of book with rigid protective covers like leathers or heavy paperboard covered with buckram or any other cloth. Hardback can be bound by a glue or have a sewn spine which is called perfect binding to make it more sturdy.

Book jacket

Hardcovers usually use a book jacket to protect its cover. But it is not necessary, especially if the paper quality you use for your cover is already durable. Others only use book jacket for added design.

For paperbacks, book jackets are not needed. However, you may consider getting French flaps. These are only extension of your front or back cover which can be folded like jacket flaps.

Book End sheets

End sheets are commonly found in hardcover books like children’s books. It may be separate-ended or self-ended, depending on your choice.


According to Words & Pictures2, “Separate-ended books have two separate sheets (usually in a coloured cheaper paper) as blank endpapers. That means all sides of the printed signatures are available to use, page 1 and page 32 of a 32-page book are the first and last pages. Commonly page 1 just carries a simple Half Title (i.e. A plain page with just the title), pages 2-3 are a more elaborate Title Page or frontispiece and p.32 can be used as the last page of the story (though often it just has a vignette motif or is left blank). If the text starts at p.4-5 that makes up a maximum 14 and a half spreads (29 pages) available for the story.


Self-ended books however are pasted directly onto the cover boards with no separate endpapers. So, in the case of a 32-page self-ended book, page 1 and page 32 are glued down and never seen, pages 2-3 and 30-31 are used as the endpapers, and pages 4-5 are the title pages. That leaves 12 spreads (24 pages) available for the actual story, or just 11 if a half-title page is included. Self-ended books often have illustrated endpapers because the pasted side is the same paper as the rest of the book.”

Special effects

Does your book cover or interiors have special effects? Is your cover matte or glossy? Do your interiors have flaps or not? Does it have any embossing on the cover? You should inform your printer about these things.


How many books would you like to print? If you have two or more books, you can ask for a few quantities of each book at the same time. Or you can even ask for another quotation with a bigger quantity so you may determine where you can save more.


Where will the printer ship your books? Shipping fees are handled by the clients unless your printer agrees to deliver it for free. You may to talk to them regarding deals and discounts where you may avail shipping for free.


If you need the books overseas, it is better to hire a forwarder who may negotiate pickup, delivery, and customs issues.



Print on Demand

What is print on demand?

Print on demand is a kind of printing business in which the company prints only copies of books upon receiving orders. Made possible by advance digital printing technologies today, print on demand has the fastest turnaround times. They print books as needed and only in low quantities. 

What are the benefits of print on demand?

Authors like you do not need to pay for the printing. Publishers give your royalties for your books.

You do not need a big storage for your books because you only give soft copies to publishers who are responsible to print copies of your books upon a client’s order.

The books are ready for selling five days after the approval of files.

Applying corrections on books are easy. You can just upload a new file.

Books never get out of stock.

What are the things to consider in print on demand?

There is an inconsistency in the quality of books once printed.

The book size and paper thickness choices are limited.

You do not have direct access to your clients.

The profit you may get may be very low.


What do I recommend?

Honestly, I recommend both but on different circumstances.

Offset printing is a better choice if you have the means to print bulk copies and if you have a big space where you can store your books. However, choose print on demand if you want to first explore the world of self-publishing without spending much so you may know the potentiality of your book in the market and what to consider on your next printing plan.


What publishers do I recommend?

For publishers, you may visit the following sites and see how they may cater your needs:







1 “How to Choose the Right Book Cover Size: A Guide to Book Dimensions,” MasterClass,

2 Picture Book Basics - Understanding Format, Words & Pictures,

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