Print on demand allows small publishing companies like ours great flexibility. We publish two or three books a year, often by new writers whose selling strength we cannot know in advance. We also often publish literary fiction or books on subjects with limited appeal. With print-on-demand technology, we can print a minimum number of copies of a title and test a book’s appeal.
Small publishers should keep all options open and ask for quotations from standard printers as well as from print-on-demand printers. The break point, I have been told, is 500 copies: if you think you can sell more than 500 copies (realistically) in under a year, then use a standard printer.
At all times, keep options open and keep up with the new technology. It’s getting easier and cheaper for small publishers to keep their heads above water with respect to printing expenses. But the tough part is still selling.