Skip to main content

POD vs. Offset -- what's the deal?



Lately I’ve read a few forum posts surrounding small presses and the issue of POD printing—or print-on-demand. As I work in both, I thought I would explain some of the differences, addressing the concerns mentioned in these posts.

  • First, it is important to note that a typical POD press is not a tiny machine (aka laser printer) spitting out poor quality images. Most color machines can span the size of a room. See photo below:

  • Second, technology on digital presses has advanced tremendously making black and white printing (the actual pages of your book) virtually identical to offset printing. We publish many books offset and digitally, utilizing whatever method will keep costs down for our customers. To the naked eye, there is no difference between the two, assuming the same paper stock is utilized.

  • Third, offset printing is expensive for two reasons: the first (and biggest cost) is plates. The reason offset printing is called “offset” is because each color in your cover design (for example) has its own plate (usually 4-8 plates for any full color job) which during the printing process offsets onto paper. Each color station lays down a color until the full image has offset onto the sheet. Plates are expensive. Re-plating because an editor found a typo at the last moment can cause the cost of your book to skyrocket. The second major cost is the make-ready. This is all the set-up to get your cover registered properly—meaning the colors lying where they should on the sheet. None of those two costs are involved in POD printing. Which is why I tell all of my clients unless the impression count (number of times a plate hits the sheet) is in the several thousands, they are better off printing digitally (POD).

  • Fourth, once a publisher (small press or one of the big six) agrees to take on your book, you become something of an employee for that publisher. And like any good employee our job should be to pay for ourselves and make money for our employer. I would MUCH rather have my publisher print 1,000 POD of my books and they all sell, than print 5,000 offset and only sell 1,000. The first means I made money for my publisher, the second I cost my publisher money. And yeah, I can tell you the mark up on books is tremendous. Of course it is, publishing is a business. But the printing of a book is only ONE piece of the total cost of that book, and it is likely the least expensive if you include manpower, which is the highest cost in any business.

Now, there are other variables here to consider. Foil stamping (that shiny stuff you see on a cover), die-cutting (cut outs or shapes), and embossing (raised lettering) are fancy extras not likely offered on POD books. But MOST book covers can be printed POD without an issue. In fact, I just pulled ten from my shelf and only one couldn’t have printed POD.

So to sum up this super long post, POD is not something to fear. The technology is there to produce beautiful quality images that you would never guess weren’t offset printed. If anyone has any questions feel free to post. :)



  1. Thanks for the informative post!

  2. This is perfect timing!!! I have to 'publish' my thesis here in Netherlands (like, 300 copies) and I spent the whole day trying to figure out the difference between offset and digital printing on the quotes the printer sent me! Now It's going to be digital all the way :-)

  3. Huh...interesting! I had no idea they were so big and used plates! Wowza!

  4. Laura -- Do I need to start calling you "Dr. Laura." :)

    Colene -- Yeah and offset presses are about four times as big as the Indigo (digital press) I posted. Most have steps to get into each ink station.

  5. haha not defense isn't til May 19th :-)

  6. Thnaks, that was very eye-opening.

  7. I've been thinking about this lately because with the state of the economy, POD sort of sounds like the better way to go. Why not cost costs where we can?

  8. Mood -- Thanks for stopping by and the follow. I work in printing and publish loads of books (albeit training manuals, not fiction, but the process is the same).

    Kelly - POD is definitely more economical for shorter runs (and more environmentally friendly in a lot of ways). I'm considering small presses more and more.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Pitch Wars 2017 Wishlist!

Hi! How are you? Excited? Nervous? Hating your MS? Loving your MS? Yep, I get it. Been there, have the wrinkles to prove it. But that's what retinoids are for, and besides--

Wait, let me back up and do this introduction thing properly. And, you know, by "properly" I mean Hart of Dixie style.

So, you're probably wondering who I am and why I think I'm a rockstar, when I'm just a brand new little newbie mentor. Well, here's the thing--I'm not really one of those "I think I'm a rockstar" kind of people, so we won't be going there. Sorry. BUT I can tell you who I am. Here goes.


USA TODAY bestselling author Melissa West is the author of more than fifteen novels, each set in the South and ready to steal a reader’s heart with Southern charm, sweet tea, and a whole mess of gossip. Her novels have received high praise and recognition from RT Book Reviews, Seventeen Magazine, Fresh Fiction, and Harlequin Junkie, among others…

Outlining -- a.k.a pulling your hair out

Outlining...yes, that organizational craziness that forces you to look like the poor cat above. Yep, that's what I'm talking about today. After reading a fellow blogger’s post regarding plotters vs. pansters, I began to research various outlining methods. The snowflake method is a very common approach that involves starting with a summary sentence (a.k.a pitch) then expanding out.
Some claim this hinders creativity, while supporters feel it keeps them on track. I've decided to use elements of the approach (click here). I like the pitch sentence to begin with. This took me quite awhile, but in developing my pitch sentence for Twisted Root I found that it helps to think in broad terms. A+B=C But the more interesting element of this model is the disaster moments in the story. You know, those moments where you become the evilest writer on the planet and your characters are tortured.
The Snowflake method suggests that you have 3 disasters (more with sub-plots) and an ending, ea…

Make your readers uncomfortable

I have this one scene in TWISTED ROOT that is…intense. It is so intense that I’ve had reactions all over the place from my CP’s and betas.

Let me start by saying I have a ton of people read my work. An 8 person crit group, 2 crit partners, and 2 that I would say are alpha readers—friends who read tons and have strong editing backgrounds.

So I receive crits all over the place, and this scene has created some interesting responses. One critter went crazy for it, loved it. Another referred to it as slightly icky. I loved that response. :) Another blushed when we discussed it in person. And all of the male critters I have thought it was awesome—go figure. Men have a much higher threshold for uncomfortable-ness, than most women. (JMHO!!!)

Now I’m not saying I don’t adore all my readers. I do. I couldn’t write without them. Each one makes my work stronger. But here’s the thing, I’m keeping the scene, as it is (for now). Wanna know why?

I think as a writer you should make your reader uncomfortab…