Comic books printed on demand

On two previous occassions, I explored the costs for printing books on demand using online services. The first time was with Cafe Press. The second time was with comiXpress. Somewhere between then and now I looked into Lulu.com (but didn't post anything). Newcomer Ka-blam has inspired me to compare all four of these services.

Although there are many print on demand (POD) services out there, these particular ones operate primarily from an online customer base. Also, each of the four offers a printing option specifically for comic books. Below is a quickly-made table to compare their prices.

Before we get to the table, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. First is the assumption that you are providing them with the file format they prefer (PDF, JPEG, TIFF or whatever). Second, if the service offered a discount for placing one of their ads in the book, I chose the placement with the best discount. Third, shipping will always cost extra (although some of the services sell through their site direct to the consumer and periodically mail you a check with your profit). Fourth, always keep in mind that print on demand is best for small quantities—if you're printing hundreds or more books then you should go to a "real" printer for much better bulk rate prices.

Service Set-up Cover Inside Pages Printing 1 book 100 books
Cafe Press $4.00 Color B&W 32 $1.44 $5.44 $148.00
comiXpress $15.59 Color B&W 32 $1.40 $16.99 $155.59
comiXpress $15.59 Color Color 32 $4.35 $19.94 $450.59
Lulu.com $3.20 Color B&W 32 $3.52 $6.72 $355.20
Lulu.com $3.20 Color Color 32 $4.80 $8.00 $483.20
Ka-blam $20.00 Color B&W 32 $1.64 $21.64 $184.00
Ka-blam $20.00 Color Color 32 $2.89 $22.89 $309.00

So, assuming I wanted to do a short-run, POD 32-page comic book, here are my conclusions, based on the information in this table:

  1. For any quantity of books with a color cover and B&W interior, Cafe Press is the cheapest (although comixPress is a close second).
  2. For very small quantities of books with a color cover and color interior, Lulu.com is the cheapest.
  3. For larger quanities of books with a color cover and color interior, Ka-blam is the cheapest.

However, there are things besides cheapest printing that might affect one's decision for who to use. Ka-blam has the simplest process for submissions, but they are also the only one of the four that doesn't have an online shop to help you distribute your comics. (Ka-blam would ship them to you and then you would distribute them.) Both Cafe Press and comiXpress have referral systems in place, giving you money or credit with each successful referral. Lulu.com has an additional pay service to help you get your ISBN. You can also pay Lulu.com to have your books automatically appear on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble sites.

Update: Barry Gregory from Ka-Blam pointed out that I had the prices wrong for the Ka-Blam black and white book. Also: Barry points out that Ka-Blam is still giving a 20% discount to people who use their service and that Ka-Blam is working on an online store. Thanks, Barry!

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Read Comments (6)

Barry Gregory commented at 11:58 AM on March 6, 2006:

I'm Barry Gregory from www.ka-blam.com. I'd like to point out that your numbers for ka-blam are ... sorry ... incorrect.

The 32 page, color cover, black and white price per copy is actually $1.28 (including the 20% discount currently available) not $2.85.

And factoring in that 20% discount the price per copy on a 32 page, color cover, color interiors is actually $2.31. $2.89 is the regular (undiscounted) price.

And as to the webstore ... we are building it right now!


Barry Gregory


Nobody commented at 12:40 PM on March 6, 2006:

Hi Barry, thanks for the info!

I see where my calculations went wrong. I factored in black and white interiors for the cover only, not black and white interiors for the entire book.

I'm updating the 32-page black and white Ka-Blam comic to include proper pricing for a color cover (inside and out) and black and white interior: $1.64. (Discounts not included--just base prices.)

Since you're here, I would like to point out that that your calculator only goes up to 52 pages, but your descriptions say books can be up to 56 pages. Which is correct?

Barry Gregory commented at 2:33 PM on March 6, 2006:

Neither actually. We're updating the page (post-beta test) to include the things we learned during our beta test. We can actually print up to 72 interior pages saddle-stitched ... if the pages are NOT full bleed. When you've got that many pages folded and stapled together the thickness of the book causes the trims on the very center pages to be notably closer to the live area than on the outer pages. Honestly ... at that page count you're probably better off going with a perfect bind than a saddle stitch. But we can go up to 72 pages on a saddle stitch.

Barry Gregory

Nobody commented at 4:29 PM on March 6, 2006:

"We can actually print up to 72 interior pages saddle-stitched ... if the pages are NOT full bleed."

That sounds awesome, Barry. I like the improvements you've already decided to add to your service. I can't wait to try out Ka-Blam. Hopefully I finish creating the TIFFs before your 20% discount ends. ;)

"Honestly ... at that page count you're probably better off going with a perfect bind than a saddle stitch."

Is Ka-Blam also thinking about offering perfect-binding for comics/graphic novels? Or would that be on your wish list still?

Barry Gregory commented at 10:48 PM on March 6, 2006:

Right after we get the webstore live and the updates to the ka-blam site in place, we will be immediately getting to work on securing the equipment necessary to do perfect binding.

Laser commented at 10:14 PM on June 18, 2008:

Thanks, Keith for taking the time to do this research & then sharing it with us!!! It's REALLY APPRECIATED!!! All the BEST to you!!!!

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