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Your Step-By-Step Guide to Deciding Which Hardcover Options Are Right for You

Why Consider Hardcover?

Bragging rights alone are a solid reason for hardcover editions. A hardcover omnibus—the print equivalent of a digital box set—would look impressive on your next Zoom call. Hardcovers are perfect for libraries and schools, a crowdfunding campaign (how about a limited edition?), gifts for die-hard fans, direct sales from your website, and for creating a three-fold offer of ebook, paperback, and hardcover to make the e-book pricing look especially appealing.

What Are Your Options?

Trim sizes, page count and other limiting factors—who can do what for you?

  1. Is your formatted manuscript over 550 pages? Over 800 pages? Or under 75 pages? A large omnibus, huge novel, or nonfiction title might only work with IngramSpark because of the high page count. Depending on the paper type and print quality you choose, IngramSpark can produce black-and-white or standard color hardcovers with a maximum of 1200 pages and a premium color hardcover with a maximum of 840 pages. The maximums are lower for tolino (882 pages), Barnes & Noble (800 pages), and Lulu (800 pages). KDP allows a maximum of 550 pages. A slim picture book might only work with IngramSpark or Barnes & Noble, which both have an 18-page minimum. The minimums are higher for Lulu (24 pages), tolino (52 pages), and KDP (75 pages).
  2. Do you want to sell special editions from your website? Lulu.com or Aerio, available in the US market only, might be your doorway into direct-print sales.
  3. Do you avoid exclusivity clauses? All these services allow you to distribute your print books with other services.
  4. Do you want a dust jacket? Only IngramSpark, Lulu, or Barnes & Noble offer that option.
  5. Do you want to lower your shipping costs? IngramSpark’s groundwood paper is reputed to produce a lighter book for the same page count.

Deciding on the trim size, or the dimensions of the finished book, and the type of binding is next. Case laminate has no dust jacket, and the cover design is printed directly on the cover. It’s popular for school and library use. Digital cloth or linen wrap are plain or printed hardcovers with dust jackets. See a comparison of available print-on-demand trim sizes for hardcover books offered by Barnes & Noble, KDP, IngramSpark, and Lulu.com below:

How Much Do Hardcovers Cost?

Many factors determine the printing cost for a print-on-demand book: trim size (the dimensions of the finished book), page count, paper type, embossing, jacket or no jacket, ribbon bookmark, and glued or curved stitched spine. 

Changing the trim size can change your page count and the printing cost per book or even determine if a project is possible. For example, an omnibus with three novels of 300 pages each comes to 900 pages. That’s over the maximum page count for several services. Only IngramSpark can print a book with that page count.

It’s worth considering a different trim size. If each of those novels were formatted for 6 x 9 inch trim size, the omnibus could be one size bigger. The Royal Octave (Lulu) is 6.14 x 9.21 inches. With a larger trim size, the page count dropped to 752 pages without a tiny font or tight line spacing, rendering the book unreadable. You will have to reformat your interior file to fit the new trim size, but it might be worth the trouble. 

In addition to printing costs, some print-on-demand services have setup fees or charge a percentage to cover their distribution costs. The table below gives you an idea of the costs by provider, but to figure your exact costs, use the cost calculators available on the providers’ websites. As the order size increases, the price per unit drops.

What Do You Need to Create Hardcovers?

The main difference in setting up hardcover versus paperback editions is the cover file and the dust jacket file, if you want one. If the book’s trim size is the same, you can use the same interior file for both the paperback and hardcover editions. It’s two for the price of one.

Cover files are unique to each provider. If you create hardcovers on both Amazon and IngramSpark, you will need two different cover files because the thickness of the spine differs slightly for the same page count. Barnes & Noble uses Ingram to print, but Barnes & Noble requires a different ISBN, so the barcode has to be changed on the cover.

Cover and dust jacket templates are available online. Here are a few more helpful tips for your cover design: IngramSpark recommends that any type smaller than 20 point be black only. Cover files should use a CMYK color profile, not RGB. Interior and cover files should be saved in a print-quality PDF format with embedded fonts. Ingram reports that blue will often print as purple. Metallic colors are not recommended. 

Now that you have your classy hardcover, use it to your advantage. Offer one gorgeous hardcover as a prize for a giveaway. Add the title information to your ISBN record on Bowker (or Nielsen or whichever agency administers ISBNs in your country). Set sail in the data streams, and help people find your intellectual property in its new clothes. Make a splash.


Cost calculators

1. IngramSpark calculators: https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/PubCompCalculator 

This calculator shows print charge by country.

Print-and-ship calculator: https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator 

This calculator includes the shipping by country. 

2. KDP calculator: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GSQF43YAMUPFTMSP

3. Barnes & Noble calculator: https://press.barnesandnoble.com/make-more-money 

4. Lulu.com pricing calculator: https://lulu.com/pricing 

5. tolino calculator: Create a free account to see the dashboard and compare prices. The setup fee of €14.90 per print book includes an ISBN and registration with Germany’s Books in Print equivalent: Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher. This is a great deal for indie authors because registration is normally a €69 minimum that allows for the registration of up to nineteen titles plus an annual fee of approximately €2, according to tolino’s website. 

6. BoD price calculator: https://bod.de/autoren/buch-veroeffentlichen/preiskalkulation.html 

BoD charges €19 per year or €249 per year per book. If the price is on the cover and you want to change the price, that counts as a new edition and costs €249. Or if you have BoD Classic, you pay €19 and release a new edition. They offer ribbon bookmarks, colored endpapers, and curved, stitched spines.

Hardcover trim sizes

KDP: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GVBQ3CMEQW3W2VL6#trimsize   

IngramSpark: https://ingramspark.com/plan-your-book/print/trim-sizes and https://ingramspark.com/hubfs/downloads/trim-sizes.pdf 

Barnes & Noble: https://help.barnesandnoble.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4047/~/b%26n-press%3A-available-trim-sizes-and-paper-stock

Lulu: https://assets.lulu.com/media/guides/en/lulu-book-creation-guide.pdf  

Only those trim sizes with global distribution included. If you sell from your website, you may have more trim sizes available to you.

Cover file creation tools

KDP: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GDTKFJPNQCBTMRV6 

Cover templates: 

Enter your book information, and the template will be emailed to you.

Note: Barnes & Noble has a downloadable template for dust jackets. Since they use Ingram for printing, you can get a template here.

Barcode generators: bookow.com or KDP will generate one for you automatically on upload. IngramSpark’s template includes one, but you have to get it from the PDF template in your graphic design software. Bookow.com will create a hardcover template but not a dust jacket template.

Sell books from your website

IngramSpark (US market only): 

Lulu: Lulu might be a solid option for direct sales via API, Shopify, the new WooCommerce beta, or for bulk sales because they don’t charge the distribution fee. 

There might be no frigate like a book, but publishing can feel like a voyage on the H.M.S. Surprise. There’s always a twist and there’s never a moment to lose. Laurel’s mission is to help you make the most of today’s opportunities. She’s a strategic problem-solver, tool collector, and co-inventor of the “you never know” theory of publishing. As an epidemiologist, she studied factors that help babies and toddlers thrive. Now she writes books for children ages nine to twelve about finding more magic in life. She’s a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), has various advanced degrees, and a tendency to smuggle vegetables into storylines.

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