Like most self-publishing decisions, the answer to this question is “it depends.” Authors have different reasons for publishing books and these reasons play a big factor in deciding how many copies to print.

Because “it depends” isn’t all that helpful, we’ve put together a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about how many copies you should print.

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

If the goal of publishing your book is simply to tell your story, whether fiction or nonfiction, using print-on-demand (POD) or keeping a small inventory of digitally printed books might make the most sense. Both of these options let you test the waters first, gauge readers’ levels of interest, and then do another print run if needed.

If you plan to use your book to promote your business, printing a larger number of books might make more sense. When your book is intended to bring more business to your business, having a large inventory is more economical because your per-book cost is lower, and if you speak at events or conferences, you can meet the demand for your book or gift them to potential clients.

Do You Have a Robust Marketing Plan?

If you’ve taken the time to determine how you plan on promoting your book and are dedicated to marketing it like a business (e.g., setting up signings and events, participating in giveaways, being active on social media), you need enough books to support those activities.

Does this mean you should print thousands? Not unless you know you’re going to get national media attention. But if you have other promotions—like signings or speaking engagements!—you’ll have to plan out how many books you need for those, whether they’re copies you plan to give away or sell.

If you don’t have much planned in terms of marketing (please do!), you’ll be better off with POD or printing a small number of books (fewer than 300).

What’s Your Budget?

When it comes to publishing, many authors overlook printing costs. No matter how you distribute your book, you have to pay for printing—it’s just a matter of how and when.

If you have a limited budget, POD is a good option because your book is only printed when it’s ordered by you or a reader, rather than having to pay for a lot of books at once.

If you print books ahead of time to store in a warehouse for orders, you’ll need a larger starting budget. You pay for printing upfront, but this can be more economical in the long run because when you print in large quantities, your per-book cost decreases.

How Mill City Press Helps

Once you’ve answered the above questions and have a better idea of how many copies you need, our Printing Coordinator can get quotes from different printers to determine your printing costs.