Print on Demand Wins

Steve announced the release of Black Irish Books’ first subscription-based product earlier this week.

Fitting in with Black Irish’s boxing glove logo, the subscription features “JABs” from Steve—mini-books that pack a punch—starting with two books from Steve this month, and then one a month starting in February.

We’re excited about this new offering, but also exciting is the production model.

This marks the first time Black Irish Books has launched a product available only via Black Irish Books (No Amazon or B&N or anyone else)—and the first time it has done a print on demand (POD) project without going through Amazon.

When Black Irish Books launched, it was doing print runs of 10,000 copies at a time. This kept the per book production costs low. However, it brought up the cost of warehousing. Those books have to live somewhere—and until they take up residence on someone else’s shelf, savings from large print runs are lost to warehousing costs.

In a perfect world, those 10,000 books sell out right away—except that with every year more individual sales go to Amazon. We haven’t flown through books on the BI site as quickly as needed to offset the warehousing costs—and then the printer stopped handling distribution, which led to relocating all those books to a new warehouse.

As we ran through print runs for individual titles, Shawn set up the books for POD on demand via Amazon’s Create Space, instead of going back to print for another 10,000 copies. This is why some books on Black Irish’s site aren’t available in print on the BI site. It was proving less expensive to go through Amazon than to go through the process of reprints and paying for reprints and warehousing.

Amazon provided a solution to allow for distribution without high warehousing costs. However, the per book cost is more with Amazon and we don’t have connections with customers.

The Amazon model makes bulk discounts challenging, too.

While Amazon’s share of individual titles increased, Black Irish’s share of bulk orders has increased. When BI first launched, we received pushback from bookstores that wanted to 1) order through wholesalers instead of BI; 2) wanted BI to cover shipping costs to them; and 3) didn’t want to adhere to BI’s policy of no returns and prepayment. The prepayment and no returns were big sticking point since bookstores were used to being able to order books without having to pay for them right away—and then having the ability to return them at no penalty. Not great for a publisher since no sale is ever final. The bookstores—especially the university bookstores—came around. The 55% discount off orders of 10 or more copies of the same title beats the 40% discount most publishers offer (which usually goes into play at a quantity much higher than ten copies)—even if they have to cover shipping themselves. BI now has return bulk customers, placing orders of hundreds of copies every few months and/or thousands at a time.

However . . . It’s challenging to make a profit off bulk pricing when the books are printed one by by one, vs via the 10,000 print run model.

There’s also the fact that there’s an entire customer base at Amazon, with whom BI has no contact. We don’t know their names, addresses purchases, etc. Nothing.

How to keep costs lower and have a connection with customers?

Find a competitively-priced print on demand printer that can handle distribution and warehousing as needed.

We found just that—a printer that beats the per book POD pricing of Amazon.

This affords BI the option of providing exclusive print projects, without having to give Amazon or anyone else a slice of the pie, and helps keep warehousing costs down and direct connections with customers up.

Ever since Penguin Press provided quality books at affordable soft cover pricing, instead of the traditional hardcover premium pricing, publishers have been challenged to innovate in more of the same ways.

Ebooks, many thought, would be the wave of the future, and eliminate the need for books, but that’s not been the case. Enough of us still prefer print books.

With POD, though it has been around a while, it wasn’t accessible (or even available to) everyone—and it’s been looked down upon, partly because self-publishing wasn’t respected and the thinking that there must be something wrong with books that go straight to paperback.

This is the same thinking that brought us “it-must-be-bad-because-it-skipped-the-theater-and-went-direct-to-DVD thinking. And yet . . . Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” is one of the best productions I’ve watched this year—created and distributed by Netflix, direct to consumer instead of the traditional theatrical release, and cut into bite-sized viewings instead of film length. Todd Jacobs, a film guy and former high school classmate of mine, called “Haunting” the future of film. I agree.

Same with POD.

This idea that a book has to be hardcover is dated and unnecessary—and prevents a wide-range of individuals from having the means to purchase and/or manufacture it.

The softcover opens the market. The POD version rocks the market—and the printer that does POD and distribution is the future.

For publishers—traditional, indie, and the guy next door—POD kills warehousing fees. POD with distribution kills the need to rely on Amazon. POD with distribution and competitive pricing is a win win for everyone. Author makes money. Printer makes money. Customer and authors/publisher have an opportunity to engage.

All good—and exciting!

(If you’re interested in learning more history about the paperback, and in being inspired by publishing innovators, check out Smithsonian Magazine’s article “How the Paperback Novel Changed Popular Literature” and Mental Floss’ article “How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read.”

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Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Dan on December 7, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Great advice. Been trying to figure out how to get customer names from Amazon but this looks like a better solution. What printer did you use for POD? I didn’t see it in the article. Thanks!

    • Ken Friedman on December 7, 2018 at 6:18 am

      Would also love to know the name of the print shop – thank you!

    • Callie Oettinger on December 7, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Dan, Being able to build direct connections with customers is important. I hope you’re able to sort it out. The press is Maple Press. Best, Callie

  2. Chris Edwards on December 7, 2018 at 6:12 am

    Didn’t see the name of the POD company- was this by omission or commission?

    • Callie Oettinger on December 7, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Chris, More like lack of sleep and late revising. We’re working with Maple Press. Callie

  3. Jeremiah Pent on December 7, 2018 at 6:14 am

    So, what printer are you using?

  4. Debbie L. Kasman on December 7, 2018 at 6:22 am

    Thank you SO much to the entire BI team for openly sharing your journey and the lessons learned with us! I, for one, am extremely grateful!

  5. John Clarkson on December 7, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Apparently, Oettinger and BI aren’t going to share the name of their POD shop, or they would have in the article. I doubt it matters with regard to self-publishing authors such as us. Doubt we would ever be able to make a deal with said POD shop at the numbers we are selling. I don’t begrudge BI its success with developing suppliers. They’ve spent years at it. I do however wonder – what’s the point in telling us about it? It reminds me of the joke: Guy goes to his doctor. Doctor says, I’ve got good news and bad news. What do you want to hear first? Guy says, give me the bad news. Okay, says the doc, you’re going to die in three weeks. Jeezus what’s the good news? says the patient. The doctor points to his nurse,. She’s tall, blonde, gorgeous with a knockout figure. See my nurse? Yeah. The good news is, I’m sleeping with her.

  6. Sherry on December 7, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I would also be happy for an introduction to your POD contact. I’d happily give a referral fee or if BI was to create an online course or masterclass around this I’d register for it.

  7. Joe Jansen on December 7, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    With a product launch of this scale, I bet your tires are smoking. Well done, and hope you all can recuperate some this weekend.

  8. Tommy Boy on December 7, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Dear Callie,
    Congratulations to Black Irish Books!!! Very pleased for the Win- Win proposition B. I. has adopted; that the P.O.D. manufacturer is from the Keystone State in my opinion is icing on the cake! Back around when Shawn started his editorial career, the Printing Industry averred that it was the third largest industry in the country. A primary reason for that was a low barrier to entry. As has been the case with the Publishing Industry, the Printing Industry has experienced tremendous disruption since that time and many of “the mighty” have fallen as what was once, is now vapor.
    That “a little guy” like B.I. is riding atop the wave synergizing both Industries rather than being swept from the field is a noteworthy and not insignificant accomplishment. Furthermore, that Black Irish is training artistic “combatants” in the Art & Science of “Turning Pro” is exciting to contemplate. It would not surprise this observer if someone from the Black Irish “Tribe” blows the doors off the “publishing” industry and creates the next “killer app” through creatively integrating onto the printed page “augmented reality” by the available technology of “clickable paper”. Ostensibly there is a “Facebook” of “connectivity” to the pioneer or pioneers that Seize the Day – This Day where barriers to entry have been lowered in a new way. – Black Irish Books I Salute you!
    Respectfully Submitted,
    Tommy Boy

  9. Nancy Larson on December 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Woo-hoo, what a way to go! I went the self-publishing route this year, and it’s much easier to store 100 books at a time than 10,000, which are locked up from the author if the publisher leaves and keeps the copyright. Kudos to connecting with customers, I’m a complete newbie to social media, and the learning curve is steep.

    Best wishes,

    Nancy Larson

  10. Pamela Sue Johnson on December 9, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge abt POD and how you see it shaping the future for writers. Exciting time to be a writer!

  11. Nat Simonis DVM on October 17, 2022 at 2:58 am

    It is a fairly simple fact that if you are printing out books, you will want to reduce the cost of printing. The cost of the book is going to go up as well. The less you print the better. Print-on-demand wins. There are multiple images available at site. Nowadays, consumers are looking for new and exciting ways to express their creativity. In addition to posters and prints, they can now choose from a wide range of custom mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, and more.

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