The Hard Facts on Hardcover Books

hard cover books book-wall-1151410_960_720Article by
K. Rowe and K. S. Brooks

Hardcover books are seen as a luxury to novel-writers, but to children’s book and picture book authors, they’re seen as a necessity. Until recently, publishing a hardcover was out of reach of indie authors.

Today, we’re going to focus on six manufacturers — some well-known in Indie book circles, some not so well-known. Some of these suppliers offer print-on-demand (POD) services, some don’t. Of course, using a POD printer means you won’t find yourself saddled with dozens (or more) of copies of a book you can’t sell. Who wants to drive around with a trunk full of books?

Sizes, page counts, and minimum quantities vary by supplier. In order to keep things as standard as possible, we asked these publishers to quote the following:

6×9 laminate hard cover (full color), 500 full-color pages- 50# white paper. (for children’s book & picture book authors – and yes, we know that these books aren’t normally this long, but we did this for comparison purposes.)


6×9 laminate hard cover (full color), 500 black & white pages- 50# white paper. (for novelists)

Here’s what we found. To set a baseline, we’re going to present what it would cost to run the full-color books with Createspace (in soft cover). FYI, the highest page count Createspace can run in 6×9 is 480. See the price in the screen capture below:

createspace page requirements
Createspace full color book cost. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, full-color paperback publishing is not Createspace’s strong suit. Now let’s check the other manufacturers.

Signature Book Printing (SBP)
Minimum order: 300

signature book printing hard cover quote

Minimum order: 1

Book1One hardcover price quote

Pearl River China Printing
Min order: 700-1000

Price: $8.25 ea

Is lead-free ink used in printing books? – We never got the answer for this. Barnes & Noble has issues with this in their stores. We were told by a very … um, unfriendly manager at a New Jersey store that they do not accept any books from Indie authors because they are afraid the books are printed in a foreign country with lead inks.

Ingram-Spark (formerly Lightning Source)
Min order: 1 (FYI, the price for 1 or 50 is the same) (POD printer)

ingram spark hardcover printing quantity 1
Click to enlarge

Min order: 1 (POD printer)

lulu full color hardcover

NOTE: Lulu did not offer full-color interiors in a 6×9 hardcover. We had to go to “picture book” style, and there was really only one size available. Also, note the limitations on the page count. Pricing for that size is above.

Min order: 1 – but yikes! The price for 1 is $371.98. The image below shows the price for 99 copies (if you order 100, they send you 25 free).

48 hour full color hardcover

Now, for all your novelists out there, here’s the skinny on the black and white interior versions of the above book. Again, to set a baseline, we’re going to present what it would cost to run the black and white books with Createspace (in soft cover).  See the price in the screen capture below:

createspace black and white quote
Click to enlarge

The price for Createspace is the same whether the quantity is 1 or 100. Again, this is a print-on-demand supplier.

Minimum order 1

book1 black and white interior hardcover price

Minimum quantity 1 – same price for 1 or 100 IngramSpark is a POD printer.

Ingram spark black and whiteLulu
Minimum order 1. Lulu is also a POD printer.

Lulu BW interior

Min order: 1 – but yikes! The price for 1 is $155.98. The image below shows the price for 99 copies (if you order 100, they send you 25 free).

48 hour books hardcover bw qty 99

Please keep your eyes open – some of these printers will charge a fee to distribute your book. Make sure the size you choose is considered standard enough for distribution, otherwise your book will not be eligible to be sold in the world’s largest bookstore – Amazon. These are the things you need to take into consideration when making your decision of which supplier to go with.

Don’t be afraid to contact the printers and fire a volley of questions at them. As Indie authors we’re constantly having our books compared to big publishing companies for both quality and value, so it would behoove you to take time and consider which is the best company to make your work look like a million bucks without having to spend that much. In the end, will that hardbound piece of immortality be a legacy you are proud to leave future generations?


Author: K. Rowe

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “The Hard Facts on Hardcover Books”

    1. I wrote the article a long time ago, and Kat updated the figures. Yeah, not cheap to do hard cover.

  1. Yikes is right. I think I’m very glad I’m a novelist and can go with paperbacks. However, a memoir or a family heirloom book would probably be worth the higher price. Great info!

  2. I’ve worked with several people willing to pay Createspace the full-colour-interior price for a family history-type softcover, typically around 100 pages. I’m sure they would have paid $20 each for a hundred hardcovers. If I’d known, I might have sent them to Ingram-Spark.
    Thanks for the info.

  3. Hi Kathy,
    Thank you for the excellent warning article on how expensive in price and large quantities hard cover books are for indie authors. The industry pricing is outrageous and sounds like Vanity printing.

    I think I will stay with paperback POD for now and evermore.

  4. Thank you for this information. I am often asked by students who want to write children’s books how to get hard copies Indie published. Now I can send them your way.

    You really are a wonderful group of people putting all this Indie information out. When I win the lottery I will donate a huge chunk of money to your efforts. What I love best is that when I have stroppy students, who nag at me and whine for instant answers in the middle of a class about something else, I can send them here to you and get on with helping the nice students!

  5. Having done graphic novels overseas, there are many more reputable and affordable companies to choose from, like Print Ninja, Kraken, Freisen (Canada), Shenzhen Jinhao Color Printing, and more. They also do hardcovers for graphic novels and novels.

    For US digital, Greko has done a great job for me as well as Prestige Printing in Texas (off-set). I think all of them do B&W soft and hardcover as well. Though I found CreateSpace to be good for novels and anthologies (paperback).

    If you want to do hardcover, you need to do a lot more research than what this article offers.

    1. This was just scratching the surface to give folks an idea of potential prices they may encounter. Have not heard of Greko, might have to investigate that one.

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to be negative.

        Anyway, I have had great service from Greko. They did a short digital run of my trade and it looked great. The off-set from Kraken was nicer and less expensive, but I did have to wait 2 months for them to arrive.

    2. She stated in the beginning her goal was to cover six resources, and that’s what she did. Any additional resources anyone else can add are always welcome. The more information the better!

        1. I know you didn’t want to sound negative. Anyway, thanks for the input. I will definitely look into the other hard cover book printing companies. Publishing/printing options are moving so fast anymore it’s hard to keep up … but exciting and great news for Indie writers. Again, thanks to all who take the time to share. I really appreciate it.

  6. All great info as usual. I’ve been looking into hardcover and just hit dead end after dead end. They haven’t caught up to the trend yet obviously??

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