Last Christmas, a woman in Texas gave everyone in the family her recipes bound into a book as beautiful as any of Emeril's. At a college reunion in California, 100 alumni received a book called That Was Then, This Is Now: Essays by the Class of 1992. And when her twins turned 21, a mother in Florida gave them each a volume she'd been writing since their birth: To My Daughters.

Although self-publishing has been around for a long time, Print on Demand (POD) technology has made it much simpler and cheaper to create books that look as professional as any you'd find in Barnes & Noble.

How It Works
You send your text in a word processing program to an online POD company; they design the book and print as many copies as you want, as often as you want. Getting printer-ready can cost as little as $199, with each copy setting you back another $5 to $12. If you're willing to part with more money, you can also publish your own full-color picture book or comic book, photo album or art portfolio ( offers a package that starts at $999).

A Few Caveats
The less-reputable firms skimp on paper stock and production values—so ask to see a sample before you sign the contract. And watch out for extras: Most companies will try to sell you additional services, such as proofreading and marketing—but publishing pros feel the latter aren't very effective.

Selling Your Book
If you want to sell your books, pick a POD company that has an online store and will list you on's and Barnes & Noble's websites; and invest in a book or course on Internet marketing. A few industrious writers have sold as many as 5,000 copies this way—but they're the exception. To become a best-selling or prizewinning author, you'll need to find an agent and a traditional publisher. But for a lot of people who have always had a book in them, POD is a digital dream come true.

Some of the Best-established POD Companies
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