On-demand publishing simplifies the process of publishing a book by streamlining the expensive and time-consuming work of typesetting and large-run printing (as well as distribution to bricks-and-mortar bookstores and the hassle of keeping your own inventory of those books – say, cases and cases of books in your garage). Because technology has advanced so much, these things can all be done cheaply and easily by the writer via the Internet. Through these on-demand websites, you can establish a direct connection to book buyers. Instead of a large print run of a book (which may or may not be entirely sold, and may sit moldering in a warehouse or in your garage), books are made one at a time, at the demand of the book buyer.
The price of an on-demand book includes the cost of production and any markup (the amount of profit you decide you would like to receive). In most cases there is no upfront cost to you, except to set up an account with the website. There are also other more complex pricing options. At blurb.com, you receive all of the profit, as it is whatever amount you want to charge over the printing cost. At lulu.com, you receive 80% of the profit. CreateSpace is partnered with Amazon.com, which receives a percentage of the retail price. (Sample prices at lulu.com and blurb.com.)
If you have your own website or your own account on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter, you can direct people with a link to whatever online store or service you choose. Usually selling from a link from your website gives you all the profit, since you will set the price at the site you use to print.
Publishing a photo book is somewhat more complicated than publishing a text-only book. Print quality, paper quality, the quality of your photos, file format, their size on the page, and DPI (dots per inch) are all important factors of which to take account in the production process. Understanding file format, size on the page, and DPI is something everybody publishing photos will have to learn the basics of. The format and size of your pictures may be decisive in choosing one publishing site over another.
The cost of a photo book seems to vary among sites. Number of pages is obviously a big factor, as is size. Also very important in the cost is whether it is hardcover or paperback (hardcover is about $10 more expensive). There are a couple of sites that produce higher-quality books, but they are correspondingly more expensive to produce. One to take a special look at is Blurb.com, which uses a higher quality printing process and is cheaper than Apple’s iPhoto’s print-on-demand service.
Here are two reviews of the options available for publishing a photo book:
(CreateSpace/Amazon.com also does DVDs. For some people a DVD could be a good alternative to publishing photos in a book, since they allow quite a few more pictures, as well as music and text, are much less expensive, and much easier to ship and for people to carry around.)