How Many Books Should I Print?

Your cover design is finalized, the copy on your back cover is incredible and you’re ready to upload your book files.

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Now the only thing that stands in the way of holding the first copy of your book in your hands is deciding how many copies to print.

Every self-published author’s journey is different. The purpose of publishing your book, whether you already have an established fan base, and how hard you’re going to market your book all make a difference in how many copies you should print.

But to cut to the chase, in our decade of experience, we’ve found that 200 books can be the sweet spot for a conservative self-publishing author. 

200 allows you to give some copies away to family and friends, send some to book reviewers, sell some to fans and keep some on hand — while still being able to turn a profit on your investment. 

But this run amount is far from a one-sized fits all. The amount of books a self-published author should print is as individual as the authors themselves.

The answers to the following questions can give you a better idea about how many books you should print.

1. What’s Your Goal for Self-Publishing Your Book?

This might be the most important question to ask yourself before choosing how many books to print.

There are many different reasons authors choose to write and self-publish a book. 

For some, the goal is to make a name for themselves as an author, with the hope of making a living off their writing. For others, it’s simply to tell a story that may be important to their family or community, or used for a one-time event (like a child’s birthday, family reunion or community event).

If your book falls into the latter category, then using print-on-demand (POD), or keeping a small inventory of printed books might make the most sense for you. 

At Steuben Press, we have a minimum order of 10 copies. Most book printers won’t let you print this short of a run, but we know this size of a run makes sense for some authors.  

We also keep all your digital book files on-hand, so reprinting your book is as simple as sending us an email or giving us a call

But if you’re a self-published author looking to make a name for yourself with your book, then you may want a larger run right off the bat. 

The larger your run, the lower the cost per-book. Plus, if you speak at events or go on tour, you’ll have plenty on hand for consignment. 

2. What’s Your Budget?

At Steuben Press, we understand that budget often dictates every move of a self-published author. And the amount of books you want to print is no exception. 

With print on demand, your book is only printed when it’s ordered by you or a reader. That means you only pay to print a book once it’s been sold, rather than printing a large run that may not sell. 

However, if you print a run in advance, you can save on per-book costs. The larger your run, the less you pay for each book.

3. What’s Your Marketing Plan?

As a self-published author, you more than likely wear the hat of author, editor and marketing manager. 

As such, an important factor in deciding how many copies of your book to print depends on how much effort you want to put into marketing your book. 

If you’ve done your research and already have a robust marketing strategy in place — including an engaging and informative author website, email marketing and social media strategy — then you’re trained and ready to do what it takes to sell more copies of your book.

In this case, it makes sense to print a larger run of your book so you can make sure to cross off the following important channels:

  • Sending advanced reader copies to friends and fans who are willing to give you positive reviews on your Goodreads and Amazon accounts. 
  • Providing copies to editors, designers, friends, and family who have helped along the way.
  • Keeping copies on hand for consignment at local bookstores.
  • Having plenty of copies for a book release party or book tour.

But if you’d rather take a more laissez-faire approach to selling your book, then you may want to start with a smaller run to gauge readers’ interest. 

However, remember that it’s always a great idea to have copies of your book on-hand, should you talk to a potentially interested reader or publisher at the bus stop, at a cocktail party, or a book fair...just like Steuben Press’ own self-published-turned-published author, Al Arnold!

Make a list of all the potential outlets that may need a copy of your book before you go to print to determine a run size that will make the most sense for you.

4. What Other Costs Do You Need to Consider?

The cost of printing is about more than just the physical book. 

Other costs to consider when planning your printing budget could include editorial or cover design expenses. You may also need to factor in fees for retail and advertising channels. 

To turn a profit on your book, the retail price of your book should account for these additional costs to help offset them. 

If this is your first time printing a self-published book, you may be more comfortable starting off with a smaller run while you get your toes wet as a first-time author. 

And when you become suffocated by masses of clamorous fans begging for more copies, you can shoot us an email to print hundreds of thousands more. It’s as easy as that.

If you’re still waiting for all that smothering fame and success to pick up speed, then you may want to apply for these book awards for self-published authors >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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I worked with Jamie Howell at Steuben, editing, formatting, and printing my first book, Divine Ordinariness. She did a superb job offering ideas that truly enhanced the final product. Sharp, responsive, creative, and quick processionals, a pleasure to work with. Jamie even stopped the press to make a major revision when I got midstream deal-breaker feedback and had to rework the project. Steuben is the way to go for fine quality service. Thanks a lot, Steuben.

– Catherine Scott, Evergreen, CO