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Printing Your Children’s Books: Print On-Demand vs. Offset Printing

Have you ever dreamt of publishing a children’s book? It is a journey that is exciting and overwhelming. If you are self-publishing, one of the biggest decisions you’ll face is how to print your book. This choice is so important for children’s books because vibrant illustrations and high-quality design are key to capturing young imaginations.

In this blog post, I look at both Print-on-Demand (POD) and offset printing options for independent authors. 

Offset printing in Thailand

The ease of Print-on-Demand (POD)

You have poured your heart into creating a children’s book. You cannot wait to hold the finished product in your hands. POD services like Amazon KDP, Lulu, and IngramSpark can make this dream a reality with little technical know-how and low upfront costs. 

How does it work? With POD, your book isn’t physically printed until someone orders it. All the author needs to do is upload their design to the platform, register an ISBN, and get a barcode for their book. Amazon KDP is popular for softcover books, whereas Lulu and IngramSpark are first choice for hardcover editions. 

POD is a great way to test the waters and see if your book resonates with readers. However, there is a catch. The print quality is not as good with POD, and generating profits is difficult (printing one book at a time is always going to be more expensive than printing in bulk). 

Offset Printing

Offset printing can offer a beautiful, high-quality finish, perfect for children’s picturebooks. But it involves a higher upfront investment (thousands of dollars) as you need to order a large quantity of books for the price per unit to become reasonable. 

Markets like China, Thailand, Malaysia, and India offer potentially lower production costs. However, working with companies in different countries introduces risks— language barriers, unfamiliar legal aspects, and the need to be confident in the chosen printing company.

Offset printing children's books in Thailand

Even with quality offset-printed books, selling a children’s book in today’s saturated market is challenging. Amazon Advantage and Amazon Seller are popular distribution channels, but they have limitations (restricted marketplaces, high commission cuts). Etsy isn’t much kinder with its high fees for sellers.

My path to publishing

For my first book, 4 a.m. Raspberry Party: Childhood poems I explored both POD and offset printing. While POD helped establish my credibility (many readers still see being on Amazon as a big deal!), I wasn’t satisfied with the quality. Amazon KDP was unable to print the title on the spine of the book (this is normal for POD slim softcover books). There was also the issue of cost. For the hardcover POD version with IngramSpark, I had to price the book so high (over $50!) in order to make a teeny profit of around $1.

So, through the power of Facebook, I found a medium-sized printer in Thailand and I printed 500 copies of my book on premium glossy paper.

My second book, What Are Bubbles? is a board book for babies. Board books cannot be POD, so again, I went with the offset printing option.

Now, I sell books directly through my website, Facebook marketplace, and at in-person events.

With direct sales, the burden of distribution, marketing, and postage logistics falls 100% on my shoulders. It is hard but it is also a fantastic learning opportunity. I am discovering new things about publishing and e-commerce everyday. The experience is awakening my inner-entrepreneur, which I never knew existed! 

For Authors: Choosing Your Printing Path 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you’re an author, consider your budget, marketing capabilities, and the importance of quality. For first-time authors or those with limited marketing resources, POD offers a valuable testing ground. 

However, if you’re confident in your book and are willing to put in the work to promote and distribute it, offset printing allows you to create a premium product and maximise profits with direct sales. If you have the resources and passion, I encourage you to go for this option. I strongly believe Amazon should not maintain a monopoly over this space.  

For Readers: Supporting the Storytellers 

If you’re a reader and buyer of children’s books, look beyond Amazon, and support independent authors by purchasing books directly from them. Many authors sell books on their website, through social media, or at events. You can discover new authors by visiting book fairs, literary events, or following book reviewers on YouTube and TikTok.