The Printing and Distribution of Books

The choices you make at the start of your self-publishing journey will have an impact not only on how your book looks and feels, but also on how it reaches your target readers. Should you opt for Print on Demand (POD) or bulk printing?

Printing and Distributing Your Book

There are two ways to get print copies of your book into readers’ hands - Print on Demand (POD) high speed digital printing, and Bulk Printing using either digital or lithographic printing processes.

Each method of printing has advantages and disadvantages.


POD is the recommended way of printing and distributing a print book for a worldwide readership. Bulk Printing is suitable for UK distribution when you need to offer higher trade discounts. In addition, Bulk Printing can offer a wider choice of paper finishes, such as a gloss plate section for images. (With POD the paper would be the same throughout the book.)

How Does Print on Demand Work?

Print on Demand with SilverWood Books is very flexible. It has built-in worldwide distribution via Ingram Books. As a process POD works behind the scenes, keeping your book in print and producing copies to meet the specific demands of readers - without you having to tie up a lot of money in print runs that you have to warehouse (sometimes at extra expense) and then hope to sell.

Most SilverWood authors order an initial print run of 100-200 books for a book launch and their own personal use (which includes six provided to SilverWood for the legal deposit libraries plus a small stock for our online bookshop). You can top up at any time with orders as small as one copy, ten copies, or as large as 500/1000 copies if required for a big event.

In the meantime, POD works away in the background so that if someone orders a copy of your print edition from Amazon or any other retailer (with POD, your book shows global listing with online retailers), the order quickly tracks through the book supply chain, the book is printed and sent out to the retailer, who then delivers it to the customer. You receive payment for all copies sold, subject to any trade discounts which vary according to the POD platforms used.

POD Key Points
  • POD books are printed to meet demand, so you don’t have to print a stock of books in advance. This means your budget isn’t tied up in inventory, and you avoid the warehousing and shipping charges associated with traditional printing and distribution.
  • You can top up your personal stock of books with orders of any size, even a single copy.
  • POD is widely used for books with black-and-white interiors, and colour books with a low page count. Colour books also come with a premium option which costs more due to the higher quality of paper and inks/toners used.
  • Rather than grouping your images in a plate section you can have them positioned throughout the book, which can work well if the images need to be with the text that refers to them.
  • Images reproduce well in the black-and-white option, although they can lack the crispness of images printed on gloss plates. However, this can work well with older photographs or illustrations.
  • Images containing a lot of black can seem darker or more dense when printed.
  • The POD printing process is high speed and ultra-streamlined with millions of titles being printed within a 24-hour period. In order to fulfil the high speed as promised, there is a limited choice of paper and cover finishes. Paper used for a POD book interior will be smooth cream, bookwove 'groundwood' cream (like mass market book paper), or smooth white.
  • The speed at which POD books are printed and the high temperature during cover lamination can occasionally result in a slight rippling of the cover. This is not a fault, and usually settles after a few days.
  • Due to the speed of the POD process, the printer has certain tolerances which the publishing industry deems to be commercially acceptable, such as small but rare variations in the positioning of spine text between one print batch and another. If or when it happens, this can be more obvious on books with narrower-than-average spines.
  • Where page counts are low, for instance with POD-printed children's picture books and other very slim books, there will not be enough width to physically accommodate spine text. Spine text can only be applied where there is enough space to do so.
  • Built-in worldwide distribution is largely managed by the world’s largest book distributor, Ingram, with supplementary POD for Amazon sites provided by Amazon KDP. If you opt to have SilverWood manage your printing and distribution then there is an annual digital archive and management fee for keeping each book live in the distribution system, managed by SilverWood via our trading accounts. We cover the first year as part of your publishing package, and thereafter the fee is invoiced annually for each print edition.


Bulk Printing

Bulk Printing allows you to print in larger volumes and engage the services of our UK distributor, thus ensuring that wholesalers and retailers can be offered the discounts they need to make the transaction commercially viable for them. This means they’re more likely to stock your book. However, before investing in a bulk print run, it is important to be confident that you will sell the number of books you are paying to have printed.

Bulk Printing Key Points
  • Bulk Printing is the traditional lithographic or digital alternative to POD.
  • There is a wider choice of paper and cover finishes, including traditional gloss plate sections if you wish to gather your photos together in one or two sections (and want crisp photographic reproduction). Embossed text and/or Spot UV can also be applied to the cover, usually the title and author name.
  • The position of spine text is more accurate than POD, even with narrow spine widths.
  • Unlike POD, Bulk Printing doesn’t come with built-in distribution, so it's harder for your book to reach readers. If required, SilverWood can arrange UK distribution but there are advantages and disadvantages, as well as additional costs.
  • You still need to actively promote your book, but achieving sales should be easier because higher discounts are in place, making the transaction commercially viable for UK bookshops (so they’re more likely to say yes to taking stock of the book).
  • There is no annual digital archive and management fee.
  • You can order reprints in volumes of 250+ (smaller orders are possible but are more expensive).
  • There is limited distribution outside the UK.


Can You Have Both...?

Some authors purchase a Bulk Print run of 250+ copies for UK distribution (which takes advantage of economy of scale and higher discounts for bookshops) and they have POD set up to fulfil non-UK worldwide orders, thus receiving the benefits of both methods of printing. This does depend on the book being appropriate and commercially viable for each method of printing.

Useful Notes

You probably do need POD, as it ensures worldwide availability for your book. However, if you are confident of selling into bricks-and-mortar stores, you’ll find UK retailers can be much happier to take your book with a Bulk Print run distributed by SilverWood via our UK distributer and a wholesaler such as Gardners. (However, please be aware that SilverWood is not able to control the decisions of individual retailers regarding stock levels of your book.)

If you wish to discuss the option of a POD and a Bulk edition of your book, please let us know when you submit your manuscript. Depending on the amount of work required to prepare additional print-ready files, there may be an extra cost if you opt for both editions.

Chat to SilverWood's publishing director Helen Hart about the best way to print and distribute your book by dropping her a line here.

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Traditional vs Self-Publishing
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Case Study of a Bestselling Self-Published Novelist

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“If you’re thinking of self-publishing, I hope you don't go at it alone. With a team like SilverWood behind you, you have the support you need to publish the best work you believe in.”

J A Higgins