The Basics of Book Printing

What is Print on Demand (POD)?

Print on Demand (POD) is a term for digital print technology that allows for very small quantities of books to be printed at one time, even down to a single copy at a time. POD allows books to be printed as needed, per sale, rather than printed in a large quantity or “run” and stored in a warehouse to be sold from inventory.

What should I use to lay out my books?

We recommend using Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher to layout books. In the past we had also recommended Scribus. Although Scribus is excellent free software, we do not recommend it to prepare books or cards for print-on-demand.

If you wish to continue to use Scribus to prepare digital files only, you can do so. For print, though, please be aware that it can complicate your files and render them unprintable. Even if you are creating digital files and eventually intend to move your title into print, we do not recommend using Scribus.

We also do not recommend or support using Word, Microsoft Publisher, Scribd, GIMP, or PDF Maker for similar reasons. Further, many tutorials mention using Photoshop and Illustrator; both are for image editing, and not suggested for layout.

Who does your book printing?

We have integrated our servers with Lightning Source, our printing partner and a premier print-on-demand company. When customers order print titles on site, we transmit the order electronically to Lightning Source’s print facility either in Tennessee, USA, or in the United Kingdom (depending on where the customer is located). Lightning Source then prints, packs, and ships the order.

How does the print program work?

The print program is purely optional. You can choose to participate on a title-by-title basis. Once you join the program, you decide which of your titles you would like to offer in print. You can activate or deactivate individual print options at any time.

Uploading Files

From your Publisher Hub, you can search for a title and add other formats or use the “Upload and manage printed book files” tool (under Book Printing). There, you can set up and edit a print option for any of your titles or for multiple print formats, such as softcover and hardcover, for example. You must upload files prepared specifically for print use (and they are not formatted for you or prepared in the same way as their digital counterparts; for information on print preparation, see this page). You can also set the price customers will pay to purchase your title in print.

Once you upload your print files and complete the set-up, we run a few additional processes on your files before transmitting them to Lightning Source. Your files then run through premedia processing at Lightning Source to verify that the files can be printed. If there are any problems, you will receive premedia error messages via email, notifying you of the file errors that need correction. The status of your print files and any premedia error messages also show up under your title listing via your Publisher Hub and on the “Upload and Manage print products” page.

If your files encounter errors in premedia, you must fix the errors and re-upload corrected files before your books can once again be processed for printing.

When a file successfully passes through premedia checks, you will receive an email notifying you that the product is ready for proofing. This typically takes 3-5 business days after you upload your files, although during very busy times, the premedia period can extend up to two weeks. 

Note as of September 26th, 2023: Due to delays with our print partner, the premedia process is taking closer to 5-7 business days. If your files were sent to the printer more than 7 business days ago and their status has not changed, please email us at with a link to the title and the format(s) affected.


Ordering Proofs

After you receive the notification that your title has passed premedia and is ready for proofing, you must order a proof copy; it will take some time to arrive, but typically 2-3 weeks, depending on your location and the time of year. During busy times such as the Christmas season, this period can extend by a week or more.

Once you receive and inspect your proof copy, you can then decide if the product is acceptable for customer purchase, or if you need to make further changes to your print files. 

Activating Your Title

Only once you have approved a physical proof should you finalize the customer price for the print option and then activate the title for customer purchase in print.

Once the print version of your title is live for customer purchases, customers who visit your product page will see options such as the following:

Watermarked PDF: $7.50
Softcover B&W: $14.99
Watermarked PDF + Softcover B&W: $19.99

Customers can select the option they prefer before adding the item to their shopping cart. When a customer places an order for a print title, we have the copy printed, packaged, and shipped to the customer on your behalf.

How long does it take to print my proof copy?

As the Print Preparation Flow Diagram above shows, it can take some time for a title to be approved, especially your first time through the process. A title usually takes 3-5 days in premedia, but can take can take up to 10 business days, and then another 2-3 weeks normally to be delivered to you (possibly shorter, and sometimes longer).

You should give yourself as much time as possible for the release of any new title: To be safe, one full month (30 days) is a good estimate for a new product, but ONLY if no corrections are needed. Especially for beginners, you therefore should give yourself a month or two, if not longer, to accommodate any corrections that may be needed. 

How long does it take to print a customer copy?

Once a book has been through premedia and proofing, the span from customer order to delivery is roughly 2-3 weeks. This turnaround time is the same whether it's for a single book or a high-volume bulk order.  

During busy times, such as immediately prior to major industry events like Gen Con, or as Christmas approaches, these times can be longer. Near Christmas, for instance, we advise roughly a month for new print books to arrive. 

How are books printed?

Black-and-White books are currently printed on 50# white paper but converting to 70# 9/30/22 and uses inkjet technology.

Standard 70 Color and Premium Color both use 70# white paper, which has high page opacity.

The primary difference between Standard 70 Color and Premium Color books is the process with which the ink is printed.

  • Standard Color 70 – Printed with an inkjet printer on 70 lb/104 gsm white paper
  • Premium Color – Highest color quality with more vivid color. Printed with an inkjet printer on 70 lb/104 gsm white paper

Here’s a visual comparison of Standard 70 Color (left) and Premium Color (right):



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