Print on demand (POD) publishing allows for printing relatively small quantities of a book or comic with a shorter turnaround time than traditional offset printing. This makes this option very attractive for self-publishing graphic novels and comics.
With traditional offset printing, it's nearly impossible or not financially feasible to print a single copy or even a hundred copies of a book. This is because the set-up costs, and the time/effort required to prepare a book to be printed on an offset press is quite high. When this cost is spread out over the printing costs for several thousand books, this is fine. But it's not worthwhile for the printer or publisher to pay for a high set-up cost to print a single book. This is where print on demand comes in.
Essentially, print on demand is like a super-charged version of photocopying. The files are uploaded to the digital POD printer, that can then print and bind one, ten, or a hundred copies at a lower cost per book than if one tried to print one, ten, or a hundred copies of that same book by offset printing. The print quality is higher than say, getting your book published at your local copy shop, but that's basically how it works.
Because the POD print process doesn't require press checks (quality control checks to make sure that the colors, print quality and trim is correct before turning on the press to print the entire print run) or the time/effort required to set up a traditional offset print run, the turnaround time for POD printing is much shorter than offset printing.
However, compared to offset print runs of several thousand books, the cost per book for a POD published title is much higher.
There are several print-on-demand printers that offer various types of services at different prices. Some POD providers offer services more geared toward comics creators and/or self-publishing beginners, while others are better suited to people who understand printing processes and how to set up digital files for printing. Compare prices and services with a variety of companies, read their file prep, page specs and upload guidelines carefully. If possible, request printed samples from each company you're considering before committing to printing your book with a company.
- Lulu.com - Lulu.com offers free, on-demand publishing for books, ebooks, custom calendars, music, and images. They offer ISBN number assignment (an ISBN number is the reference number/barcode used by booksellers to inventory and price books) and expanded distribution to Amazon.com and other booksellers for an additional fee.
- CreateSpace - CreateSpace is Amazon.com's publish-on-demand service which offers no set-up fees, no minimum orders, plus you keep the rights. You can publish books, DVDs, audio CDs, audiobooks, video downloads, and more via this service.
- ComiXpress - ComiXpress was founded by comics creators, so it offers services geared toward comics publication, including short-run print on demand comics and trade paperbacks.
- Ka=Blam Digital Printing - Ka-Blam offers digital printing services geared toward comics creators. In addition to black and white and full-color printing, they also offer distribution services via their IndyPlanet online store.
- Lightning Source - Lightning Source is affiliated with Ingram Books, the major book wholesaler in the United States. All books on its system are automatically available to bookstores across the world.
- Blurb.com - Blurb.com is mostly geared toward printing small runs of memory / photo books, but might be a good choice for full-color illustration books.
- Café Press - Perhaps better known for their print-on-demand hats, t-shirts, backpacks and mugs, Café Press also offers print-on-demand services for calendars, books, booklets, comic books, CDs, and DVDs.
- DiggyPod - Offers print-on-demand book publishing services with "48-hour printing" options.