Lauren Krueger & Matthew David Brozik

Privately printed vs. self-published

In Definally on August 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

Here’s one that has troubled Definally. for years—and by “troubled” we mean “bothered us that others don’t know the difference.” To be fair, though (to those others), there isn’t a whole lot of private printing going on these days/decades. Here’s the skinny all the same:

Imagine, if you will, and you should, writer Simon LePlume. Simon has penned a novella of which he is quite fond. Sadly, no agent will represent him and his work, because the book-buying public isn’t interested in novellae. The public demands tomes. Nonetheless Simon believes that the public would love his novella if only it were available for public consumption. So Simon, solely and wholly at his own cost, has 5,000 copies of his novella printed and bound, in softcover. Simon then arranges with, say, amazon.com for copies of his novella to be offered for sale to anyone who wants it. Simon has thus self-published his book.

At the same time, Simon collects some short stories of his into a small booklet—also printed up and bound at his own expense (although in this case who pays for it is not determinative)—but not to sell or otherwise distribute publicly. Rather, Simon sends copies of his little book of stories to specific persons known to him personally, perhaps as tokens of his appreciation for their years of support of his creative endeavors, or for just being his friend. This is private printing.

The difference that matters, then, is not who prints the books (for, in either case, it is almost certainly not going to be literally Simon himself, unless he is skilled in the arts of printing and binding as well as that of writing) but who gets the books. Private printing also typically involves a limited print run, whereas self-publishing might/can/should go on as long as people are buying the book in question and the sales revenue exceeds the production costs, thereby making the venture profitable.

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