Yes, we all know the impossible 3 - FAST, CHEAP, GOOD - and the rule that only 2 of those work at any given point. I think I managed to go around this rule and find a way to cheat the system to print my novel draft almost fast, cheap, AND good. Teenagers in my house wanted to Beta Read it and take it to school, so I had to find a way to print 5 copies for them. Plus, I wanted a printed version for myself to read it like a real book and be able to distance myself from my own writing, to see things I didn't see before (this trick always works). Here are the options, choose one that's right for you:
Printing on your printer at home. I haven't done this because at the time I wanted to print my draft I was out of ink and my printer usually likes to 'eat pages'. So I did a rough calculation and it looks like it would take about $20 worth of ink for a 500 page Draft (about 110K words) + about $15 for a binder + a few dollars for paper + your time to sit and wait for it to print and then suffer through half an hour of hole punching and making sure it's all aligned. Or, as some of my friends suggested, if you have a friend working at some big company that doesn't care if an employee sneaks in and uses their paper and ink, great. Do that. I simply didn't have this option, plus the idea of carrying a huge binder with me didn't make me happy.
FAST? YES. Immediate, minus the time it takes to print and punch holes and buy a binder.
CHEAP? SORT OF. About $35 per copy.
GOOD? NOPE. It will look like a huge college project and will threaten to fall apart and unclip as you open and close it (drove me nuts).
Printing at Kinkos (FedEx now). When I wrote my 1st draft, I took Stephen King's advice from his book On Writing and printed out the whole thing to read and make revisions for Draft 2 by hand. It was an only copy that I printed, so naturally, unaware of the amount of money it would cost me, I thought I'd print at Kinkos. I was quickly breezed through their online printing options and didn't realize until I picked up the draft that I could've selected a cheaper paper and it wouldn't have been as expensive. Still, it took me a trip downtown to pick it up, AND I had to wait for the special window between certain hours they allocated me.
FAST? YES. But not as fast as at home, several hours longer. But no need to punch holes yourself!
CHEAP? NOPE. It cost me $70 for 1 copy together with the binder. If I would've selected recycled paper, it would've been $50. Still, a lot.
GOOD? NOPE. Same problem as with printing at home, a huge crocodile of a Draft to lug around or give to Beta Readers.
Printing through Lulu. I've looked at a bunch of other options before settling on Lulu simply because they had to simplest interface and nicely designed web pages to guide me through the printing process easily and quickly. What I didn't like was two things. Number one, to print my draft at 6x9 inches (typical paperback size) I had to somehow format my PDF. I have no clue how to do that, nor do I have time to learn, nor do I think I have the software to do it. I simply exported my Word doc into a PDF and voila - that was it. Lulu told me it will take them 3-5 business days to ship printed copies after printing. They didn't tell me, however, how long it will take to print. I picked the simplest design they offered (which was none at all, as you can see), but I didn't care. I needed the copies, fast, and I was willing to pay. Also, I didn't need to select an ISBN for this.
FAST? NOPE. I ordered 4 copies on December 8th, they arrived today, on December 12th. It took them only 4 days! I was prepared to wait for a week.
CHEAP? YES. Each copy ran me at $19 and it looks good, bound like a normal paperback, except 9x11 inches big because I didn't know how to format the PDF to 6x9 inches. Plus, I paid $23 for shipping.
GOOD. YES! It looks book quality, except too large.
Printing via CreateSpace (on Amazon). Same day, on December 8th, I ordered a couple copies of my draft through CreateSpace. Why? Because a few writers on my Twitter and G+ claimed it's the cheapest and the best. They were right. Each copy cost me $7 - at book quality and several design options and automatic formatting of my PDF to 6x9 size! The reason I only ordered 2 copies was that while creating a copy, it said it will take several weeks for it to ship. After printing. I thought, BUMMER. But... *drumroll* it arrived today, only one hour after the Lulu copies arrived! WOW! This is now my choice option. Before you do it, though, be aware that Amazon will ask you for your Tax ID and for an ISBN. I selected a free ISBN option because this was only for a draft.
FAST? NOPE. Same as with Lulu, it took 4 days. Though not several weeks like they said.
CHEAP? YES, YES, YES! Each copy cost me only $7 and it looks like a real book. Amazing. Though I paid $18 for shipping. That makes it at $16 per copy. Still, not very expensive at all.
GOOD? ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Like I already said, this looks like a real printed book, bound and everything. I even autographed one today for my boyfriend who is my fan number 1 (he asked me to, so no, I don't have an inflated ego...yet).
That's my rundown. I'm sure there are more options. I recommend you do it through CreateSpace. It might take you a while to tinker with their interface, but it's worth it. I picked simple colors because I wanted to be done with it, fast. You can be more creative than that. Have you had any other printing experiences or know of cheaper better ways to print? Let me know, I'd love to hear. Hopefully this post will save you time and money and my anguish over going through printing hell (took me several days to figure this out) didn't go to waste.