Today’s short-run printing companies cater to self-publishers by offering easy-to-use book design templates and astoundingly quick service.

Here is a review of the companies from which you can get a PDF-formatted proof, approve it, and order 1, 25, or more books.


CreateSpace: Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) branch, will send you 1 copy or 1,000. You don’t have to distribute with them — just publish the book “privately” to review it with your editor, to play with your cover, or to keep for yourself. They do a pretty good job of color printing, too. They have templates to download so you can design the cover and interior of your book, and they’re cheap. When you’re ready, just one click will get your book listed in the world’s largest bookstore.

48 Hour Books

48 hour books

48 Hour Books just prints short runs of books. They specialize in newbie self-publishers, offer instructional videos, are super-friendly, and if you call customer support, the president of the company may even answer the phone. Their templates are easy, they’re cost-effective, super friendly, and the printing quality is great.



You probably know BookBaby as an e-book distribution company, but they offer high-quality short-run printing as well. They’re more expensive, but if you’re printing a high-quality, full-color book on heavier stock with colors that really pop, they’re a better option than CreateSpace. Remember, of course, there’s no print book distribution with BookBaby but, as they’re always expanding their services, I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered it soon.

Lightning Source


Lightning Source is a “publisher services” as opposed to an “author services” company, and newbies find them a little hard to work with. But they do a great job of printing, both black and white trade paperback and color books, and are cost-effective. They distribute widely, too, and allow you to offer deep discounts to brick and mortar bookstores so that they may be tempted to stock your books. See my previous articles: “Why Self-Publishers Should Consider Using Lightning Source.”

If you want print book distribution to all the online retailers, you can get it with CreateSpace or Lightning Source but not the other two. (See “Want Your Self-Published Book in Stores? Weigh the Options.”) Because these services do not lock you in, you can print with whomever you like, changing print and distribution vendors at will. You can, but only if you own your book’s data — that is, you haven’t printed and distributed your book with an author services company or anyone else who has bought your ISBN for you. The key is to buy your own ISBNs so you control how and where your book is created and distributed. (See “The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Boot Packages.”)

How-to-Self-Publish-Cover-PBS-logo-small_125This article is a short and sweet version of the information found in How to Self-Publish Your Book: A Practical Guide to Creating and Distributing Your E-Book or Print Book.

Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published her adventure travel stories since 1994 on the internet and in print. Find her workshop schedule and buy the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors on