Let’s just start off this review by stating that you shouldn’t publish a book with Cafe Press. Of course, this depends on your overall plans for the book – but if you’re serious about marketing a book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, Cafe Press is not a place to publish your book. Even if you’re looking for a free self-publishing service, Cafe Press is not necessarily the right choice when compared to other self-publishers.
The closest comparison to Cafe Press is Lulu – as writers can upload a book and cover and order one book at a time, rather than having to order an entire package up front, i.e. there’s no set-up fee. However, Lulu is built for books first (though they do have calendars, DVD’s and such) and it is much easier to upload a Word document, convert it to a PDF, and use a pre-made template for the cover. Cafe Press is much less user-friendly and requires users to manage PDF and cover design on their own.
More importantly is that the cost per book for Lulu books is less than the cost per book for Cafe Press books. The base price for a perfect-bound 100 page book is $10.00 on Cafe Press, whereas on Lulu it’s $6.50. That’s enough to keep people from publishing on Cafe Press right there. Finally, just as you have to design covers yourself, you have to provide your own ISBN and bar code, which is more of a hassle than ordering it through Lulu’s Global Distribution plan.
Cafe Press Products
All that said, Cafe Press offers many useful tools for a self-publisher. SPR has written about VistaPrint before – a site which specializes in promotional products – and Cafe Press can perform the same service with added advantages to VistaPrint. Think of Cafe Press as the P.O.D. of promotional products. With VistaPrint you need to order a number of materials upfront. This is similar to having a print run of a book that may never sell out. Print on demand is much easier because items are only printed up as they’re ordered.
At the same time, printing up promo products one by one is more expensive than buying products in bulk, so this is something that needs to be considered. But if all you want to do is add a publisher’s logo or a book cover to a wide variety of products: hats, bags, shirts, etc. – then you can upload an image to Cafe Press and have promo materials for your book almost instantly.
In this regard, Cafe Press could make sense for publishing a book, as you can have the book and promotional materials all in one place. But because Cafe Press is mainly known as a promotional outlet – really a place for t-shirts and mugs – it won’t help get your book taken seriously.
There are interesting publishers on Cafe Press, but given the fact that these books can only be found within the Cafe Press store, and not Amazon, it’s a limited way to release a book, to say the least.