POD: Part 2 – Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing with POD

In the last post, we talked about what POD is. Although POD (print on demand) is a digital printing technology, some publishers who use the technology call themselves POD publishers. We’ll address the pros and cons of self-publishing with POD in this post and the pros and cons of using a POD subsidy publisher in the next post.

Note, these are the pros and cons of printing with POD technology rather than an offset press for an author who has already chosen to self-publish. For the pros and cons of self-publishing, see What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?


  • You can start your self-publishing business with only a small investment for printing, though you will have other expenses as described in How much does self-publishing cost? POD printers (not publishers) usually charge a nominal set-up fee, then the unit cost per book remains the same regardless of how many books are ordered. Although you can start business with little or no inventory, I recommend you order enough books initially to send out review copies and have some books available to handsell.
  • You can test-market your book and make changes to your text. You can experiment with different covers or titles to see what sells best. If your book is on a topic where information changes often, you can update the information and start selling a new edition immediately without any concern about existing inventory.
  • You can save on the unit cost of books compared to doing an offset press run for small quantities; however, the unit cost goes down with larger quantities in offset printing and stays the same in POD.
  • You don’t have to maintain an inventory, which means you don’t have to fill your garage or spare bedroom with books or spend money to rent storage space.
  • You will use your own ISBN numbers and be in control of your book as the publisher of record in Books in Print for the book. This is true for self-published books regardless of the printing method, but it is not true of books published by subsidy POD companies.


  • If you expect to sell large quantities of books, you will pay a higher unit cost than if you used an offset printer for a larger print run.
  • The quality of printing varies, so be sure to ask for samples before contracting with a POD printer.
  • The higher cost of POD printing will make it difficult to sell your book through distribution channels such as bookstores and distributors, who usually require a 55% discount.

These are what I see as the major advantages and disadvantages of having your self-published book printed by a digital/print on demand printer.

Do you have experience with POD printing for a self-published book? What other pros and cons can you suggest?

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