Are Printing and Publishing the Same Thing?

If you’re interested in making your written work public then you should learn the difference between printing and publishing. Though somewhat similar, the terms printing and publishing are not to be confused for one another or used interchangeably.

Put simply, printing is production, while publishing is dissemination.

Here’s everything you need to know about these two overlapping activities, as well as how they fit into the process of making your written work publicly available to the audience:

What Is Printing?

Printing includes only the physical act of reproducing text and images from computer to paper, along with bookbinding. There’s no need for you, as an author, to build any kind of long-term relationship with a printer. You simply pay them for their printing services.

Printing is usually a bespoke service, which means that you’ll be able to choose formatting and paper type, as well as the number of copies and other specifications. This depends on the type of printer, however, as not all of them have the same technical capabilities.

What Is Publishing?

Publishing is a far more complex process that involves many moving parts and is contractually binding. Unlike a printer, a publisher is responsible for everything from editing and design to marketing and sales. A publisher handles finances and public relations as well.

As an author, you can approach a publisher with some of the material you want to publish and wait for their response. If your material gets picked up in their selection processes, a publisher will negotiate with a printer and set up a marketing and selling plan.

In exchange for their services, publishers usually take a sum of the profits.

By agreeing on their marketing and selling terms, you’re giving away all financial responsibilities but also a bigger part of the ROI. In other words, a publisher will own the rights to your material and give you, the author, a previously agreed upon royalty payment.

For every sold copy, you’ll be getting a certain percentage.

Being at the top of the production process, a publisher usually handles the following:


A publisher is responsible for hiring a professional editor who will proofread your written work and make grammatical and structural changes if necessary. This includes everything from typos and length to writing style and plot consistency.


In collaboration with a professional designer or by themselves, a publisher will also create a suitable layout and choose an appropriate type of formatting and fonts. They are also in charge of designing the front and back cover and hiring a printer.  


Every written work is intellectual property. As a new owner of publishing rights, a publisher will have to obtain necessary legal documentation and copyrights for your material, which includes registering for an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).


In the publishing industry, marketing relies on various techniques to target the most interested buyer and eventually sell the finished product at the optimum price. Some of these techniques are social media campaigns, offline ads, and author appearances.


Publishers are also in charge of inventory management, warehousing (storage), and the distribution of finished products. Though distribution to retail stores is more common, some publishers print copies on demand and send them directly to customers.

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The Difference Between Printing and Publishing

It’s quite obvious now that printing is only a small part of the publishing process.

If you’re a self-publishing author, you’ll be negotiating with a printer by yourself. If you choose to work with an official publisher, you’ll be giving away your copyrights for an opportunity to make your work public quicker and easier and earn a certain percentage of profits.

For help with your next print project, reach out to United GMG today!