Print a Book for a Gift: Tips and Legal Concerns
Writing for an Audience of One
I received a question about writing and printing a book that the author wanted to give as a personal gift to someone special. Because the subject was very private and the author only wanted it to be seen by the recipient, there was a concern about getting it printed on the self-publishing platforms such as Amazon's KDP (which now has merged with the former Createspace). That concern is justified.
Then I had another inquiry about writing a children's book that was intended for one particular child: the author's grandchild. The author wanted it to be a regular printed book—hardcover preferred—and only one copy would be printed as a gift.
Both of these scenarios present the extreme challenges of writing and publishing for an audience of one. Yet, many people want to create these types of gift books for special people in their lives. So is a project like this even possible? Thanks to technology these days, it can be, but these projects are not without issues.
To Publish Means to Make Public
When you use self-publishing platforms such as Amazon's KDP, they will typically assign an ISBN number to the book, or authors can provide their own ISBN numbers. Either way, it's required, and it puts the book in R.R. Bowker's Books in Print ISBN database. This moves this book from personal to public, which may be undesirable for a private gift.
Remember, the Latin root of the word "publish" means "to make public." So if the content is extremely personal and private, these self-publishing platforms should NOT be used!
Printing One Book for a Gift
The reason that these authors initially look to self-publishing platforms, is that they want to print a book for a gift. Since just one copy of a book can be ordered from the likes of Createspace, that initially seems like a good idea. But the publishing and privacy concerns just discussed make that a bad choice. So what's the alternative?
Luckily, there are online services such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook that can be used to create and print just one copy of a gift book for a special someone. As a side note, the grandparent author mentioned in the opening example did use Shutterfly for the book and it was a nicely produced product.
Usually, these services are used to put photos, along with some text, into a book format. These can work great for shorter gift books, but there is usually a maximum number of pages that can be printed. And the longer it is, the more expensive it gets.
Depending on the service, as of this writing, even one finished copy can start at more than $20, sometimes way more . . . and that minimum was for just a 20-page (10 sheet) paperback book. Adding a hardcover case binding can quickly escalate the price, even up to double or more. Plus, there will be shipping and handling. If you are considering using any of these services, be sure read and understand the site's terms of service, pricing, and requirements before buying.
Copyright Issues With Gift Books
Surprised that legal issues could creep into this personal gifting project? Here's how that might happen.
Let's say that the gifted book is good. Maybe the author ends up thinking it's so good that he decides to publish it and make it available on the open market. Well, he owns the copyright, right? But will the recipient feel betrayed or exposed? This presents a unique legal issue involving copyrights, invasions of privacy, and other legal issues that should be discussed with an attorney, ideally one specializing in intellectual property.
Another issue that could arise is if the gifted book recipient feels that she has also received the rights to publish the book or parts of it. Of course, those rights have not been granted! However, not everyone is familiar with copyright and intellectual property law. And with today's reckless sharing of content on social media and the Internet, it could happen.
In this case, the author would, justifiably, feel betrayed and may have a claim for any copyright infringement that occurs. Again, discussing this unique intellectual property issue with an attorney is recommended before printing a book as a gift. Suggest putting a copyright notice on it . . . even if it is a gift!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne