I've been selling my eBook from my own website for several years now and have decided to put in a hard copy. I'm tossed up between Lulu, Createspace, and Lightning Source.
After reviewing all three and watching the forums, it seems Lightning Source is the way to go simply because they have a much more broad distribution program. However, I saw on Lightning Source's website that they only deal with publishers, not individual authors. What do they mean, "publishers?" I assume they mean "self" publishers such as myself.
I'd like to hear from someone who uses Lightning Source. What has been your experience concerning distribution and sales? Also, what is the level of difficulty compared to using Lulu and Createspace?
Welcome to the CS community . . . !
I'll be brief as other members will give you better feedback on using Lightning Source because they've used it before.
However, I can relate to your indecision. I've been marketing eBooks for 10 years (and can be quite lucrative if marketing is good) but after deciding to implement these same eBooks into paperback format - I've been very impressed with the results and have benefited as a result.
If you are willing to do the work yourself (or outsource it) - which includes the writing of the book, formating, cover design and so forth - and if you wish to get listed on Amazon faster than any other outlet - CS is a good place to begin. But that doesn't mean you should rule out other outlets . . . I use a combination of Lulu and CS to get my books published. Other members have done the same and it seems to work. There will be pros and cons to both - there always is, but this seems to benefit me the most.
Hope these comments are useful to you.
Please continue to use this forum if you have further questions or concerns or if you'd simply wish to share your thoughts. We are all here to help each other out!
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I've not used Lightning Source directly but I've seen many postings in both forums from people who have. I think they define a publisher as someone who has at least ten titles to place with them.
As for difficulty -- if you are expert enough to create your own print-ready PDFs to Lulu or CreateSpace specs for the cover and interior, you should be fine with LSI. If you rely on Lulu or CS features such as the cover creator or (in the case of Lulu) the Word-to-PDF conversion then LSI might not be appropriate.
Do you realise that Lulu uses LSI 'under the covers' for its paid-for retail distribution programs (not the free one), and that these progams get your books onto international Amazons (.co.uk etc.), Barnes & Noble, etc. etc. in addition to Amazon.com? Just checking, that you've not misinterpreted the potential for full distribution via Lulu.
More tips in Tony Loton's
Book Publishing DIY : The Do It Yourself Guide to Self-Publishing using Lulu and CreateSpace
If you (or a company you own) buys blocks of ISBNs and assigns them to the books you publish, then you are a "publisher" as far as the industry is concerned. If you don't, you're not.
As you noted, unless you're a publisher, LightningSource is not available to you. In which case, CS gives you access to Amazon, and Lulu gives you access to other retail outlets. Lulu has been doing POD longer, and seems to have a little better/clearer process in place for do-it-yourself authors -- but CS is considerably less expensive in most cases.
For Publishers, yes, LightningSource can help facilitate broader distribution -- but working with them is a great deal more involved than working with CS or Lulu. (I was introduced to their processes when I collaborated on textbooks, so I didn't have to "learn the ropes" on my own. I think that could have been somewhat daunting for a "publisher" who didn't really have any publishing background or experience at that point.)
For me, CS provides the simplest and most direct path to Amazon, as well as the least expensive source for small quantities of books to sell myself (which is how I sell most of my books). Printing through LightningSource to reach outlets beyond Amazon makes sense sometimes -- e.g., when one is going to actively market a book to people who would only see or buy that book through those other outlets. For example, the university press system has access to the LightningSource catalog, and I teach and guest lecture at universities -- so if the campus has a bookstore with POD capability, I'm more likely to sell a book if it's available there and the student can use his/her account to buy it (because most probably wouldn't go on-line and use a credit card to buy it from Amazon).
So my personal philosophy/practice is to use CS first, then consider other options only if/when they provide a better path to an audience that you are proactively and aggressively marketing to. Hope that helps. Good luck.
I have purchased a block of ISBNs and signed up for accounts with all three book producers - CS, LSI, LULU, but have so far only used Createspace. As other posters have pointed out, each production path has its own advantages and disadvantages.
I started with CS because it was virtually free and included an ISBN - which I felt was necessary. I used CS's ISBN with a 'test' book just to get familiar with the process and knowing I was just starting out 'reinventing the wheel' as a tiny publisher. I may continue to use ISBNs from CS for print versions and my own ISBNs for ebook versions with mobi until I start making enough sales to make the purchased ISBNs for all editions worthwhile to show my publishing company as the publisher instead of CS.
Lulu has a higher base (wholesale) price for their books, and this immediately put me off when I recognized I could not sell a book under $12 and not go in the hole doing it. To me the bottom line is the price you can offer a book to the reading public. It HAS to compete with other traditional publisher prices, or people will simply not buy, unless they cannot find a comparable book cheaper, and they really want the book. Some readers like the prestige of buying hardback, and will pay the price for it if the book is a 'keeper' but most of the time people buy books for educational or entertainment value and will place their valuation of worth on the book depending on which category it falls into. Most people consider entertainment books an option not a necessity, and will therefore be judicious with discretionary spending in this economic downturn. If Lulu takes all the profit out of selling your book, why do it?
Lightning Source, so I've been told, has lower base price but also a higher initial cost to get a book in print. The process for getting an account with Lightning Source involves filling out an online application wherein you detail the kind of books you publish and how many you publish. My impression is they do not want to deal with rinky-dink publishers who expect to publish less than 10 titles a year. I was contacted by email after sending the application, but have not been contacted by a follow-up sales rep. So I may not have made the grade at this point, as I do not have 10 titles to produce at this time.
I would like to hear from others who have dealt with Lightning Source, but suspect there is nobody here at CS who's done that. Otherwise, why would they have come to CS in the first place if they were already dealing with LSI? Except maybe to produce a whim book they did not want to stick any money into. So ... any LSI veterans out there????
Someone else pointed out the various marketing outlets for each company, so I won't rehash that here. I do want to point out that no matter where you get your book printed, if you don't market it, it makes absolutely no difference what distribution channels it shows up in, because nobody's going to buy it if you don't promote it. THAT is the hardest part of all for people like me who are trying to sell fiction. We are climbing up a slippery slope in the rain.
contrary to the statements of a few responders to your question, "publisher" status has naught to do with the amount of ISBNs youve purchased, but whether or not youve formed a company to publish your work. to publish my work, I formed Kimama Press LLC and bought 1 ISBN, then printed with create space. because I am now a "publisher" having my own company, I am now eligible to work with LS. Just uploaded my files to them yesterday. and just in case youre interested, I paid to have my book cover designed and for the text to be formatted before uploading to create space. So now Im printing with both LS and CS
I don't see where anyone said that you have to have a certain amount of ISBNs to be a "publisher," although I guess I may have implied that. (My thought was that if someone were going to form and operate a publishing company as a business enterprise, then the intent would be to publish more than one book at some point -- in which case it's just far more economical to buy a block of ISBNs than to buy them one at a time.)
Anyway . . . the key point I was trying to make is that to get into the LightningSource distribution system, you have to provide ISBN prefix information that's associated with your publishing company. So yes, you can buy a single ISBN through Bowker and be a "publisher." Thanks for making that clear. What you can't do is buy the ISBN from an unauthorized third-party reseller -- or use an ISBN that was assigned by CreateSpace, Lulu, or some other self-publishing provider -- and function as a publisher within the LS distribution network.
As I noted, my first experience with LightningSource was on a project where my co-author already had 16 books in their catalog -- so I didn't have to start "from scratch." You apparently have, and your present day experience at doing just that and making it work for you is very valuable information for this community. Thanks for sharing it.
Your experience is very helpful - thank you so much for sharing!
I am in the process of trying to decide between several different channels for my nonfiction book. I have started the process with Lightning Source and am considering publishing with them as my own publishing imprint. I'm also looking at Create Space, and I also have an offer from a small, independent press to publish my book at a 55% (to me)/45% profit split after printing cost.
??? Any advice? I really have no idea if it makes sense to go with this small press publisher, or publish through LS or CS myself. How much does it cost to get an ISBN?
I am very confused by the payment tiers with LS. It seems that once you do the wholesale discount there isn't much left. I would be looking at selling mostly directly to customers. In that case, what benefits me most? Obviously, the small publisher would offer certain things such as the ISBN, editing and formatting for publication, cover creation, marketing support, things I couldn't generate on my own as easily.
Any feedback or experience is MOST appreciated!
Hi shelley & dnb700 (original thread starter),
First, welcome both of you to the CS community . . . !
I apologize to dnb700 for not seeing this thread earlier . . . when I did see it, it was in response to shelley, however - I'm sure this information will also be helpful to you dnb700! <smile> <wink>
In no way do I mean to discourage you with this post . . . I'm simply trying to provide you with information you can read and think about before you make any final decisions.
So, my two cents . . . Lightning Source is probably best suited for the medium to large publisher who has many books, relies on getting books out through LS's distributors and selling high volume. That's just some things. I've 'heard' from several people that you are required to have 10 titles to start with LS, but that's not true. I'm pretty sure that LS wants to at least know you have plans to print more than a couple books.
If you've never had experience with self-publishing, I'd actually recommend you start with a small service first - so that you get an idea what's going on and to learn what to expect.
CreateSpace is an excellent place to start (or dare I say Lulu), both of which have easy to use Cover Creator software and you'd obviously have to provide your interior book block and ready made covers if you happened to design your own. CreateSpace will be able to get your book on Amazon faster than Lulu, Lulu will be able to list your book on other sites such as Barnes & Noble and others if you use their paid service.
shelley wrote: "I'm also looking at Create Space, and I also have an offer from a small, independent press to publish my book at a 55% (to me)/45% profit split after printing cost."
Be careful with small, independent publishers - not all of them are on the 'up-and-up' (meaning not reputable). If they are saying you can get more royalties, look at the samll print in their contracts.
shelley wrote: "Obviously, the small publisher would offer certain things such as the ISBN, editing and formatting for publication, cover creation, marketing support, things I couldn't generate on my own as easily."
With all that work the publisher is doing - how are you getting 55% share in profits - that's hard to believe!!??
shelley wrote: "I would be looking at selling mostly directly to customers. In that case, what benefits me most?"
If that's the case, CreateSpace or Lulu would be a better fit for you since you'd be dealing with lower volume and selling directly to customers.
shelley wrote: "It seems that once you do the wholesale discount there isn't much left."
Actually, that's not entirely true. There is a slightly smaller share in profits, but you make up for it in the volume of books you'd sell. Also, you can set your own discount, as low as 20% (but not recommended), so you could end up with higher profits.
shelley wrote: "How much does it cost to get an ISBN?"
You can purchase from Bowker ("the official agency for the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in the United States, Bowker is exclusively responsible for the assignment of the ISBN prefix to those publishers with a residence or office in the U.S.") at http://www.bowker.com/
ISBN's can be purchased in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000. So for the cost of a block of 10 ISBNs will cost you: $275 or you could purchase a single ISBN & a Bar code for: $150.00
Here are a few things that might be of interest to you:
If you do decide to publish through Createspace, your book will not be listed with other distributors - it's only limited to Amazon (and obviously Createspace) . . . and not even other Amazon channels such as .uk, .ca, .jp, etc.
You CAN however get your books listed through the channels YOU'D LIKE if you use Lightning Source. There is somewhat a lengthy submission process, its initial costs are higher than CS, and you don't necessarily have to have 10 titles to get 'accepted'. If you fill out the necesary information properly - taking into consideration your publishing demands, you can print through them and your book will be made available through an extensive list of distributors.
Lightning Source parent company is Ingram, so your book will be available to all Ingram customers, that means approx. 30,000+ wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in 100+ countries.
Here are a few distribution channels you'll be exposed to:
In the U.S.:
In the U.K.:
It really comes down to HOW you fill out the application process. Also - you must be very familiar with book formating and cover design, cause if you make mistakes in your 'book block' or cover, it can get pretty expensive to keep ordering proofs and upload revisions.
A proof is $30.00 (that's paying for commercial overnight shipping, which YOU HAVE to pay on your first proof - you can make arrangements to get other proofs of your book at cost thereafter) and revisions can cost you $40.00. So this is not for beginners but for those who have plenty of experience.
Actually, I may have given you the wrong impression about LS being more expensive . . . it is, in the short term. You'll intially have more expenses but over the long term if you have plans to sell a high volume of books - LS would actually be less expensive. You'll make less in royalties compared to CS because it's suggested you use a recognized 55% discount for wholesalers (however, you can choose to go as low as 20%), but if you decide to go that route, your chances of selling your books to the big wholesalers will go down. They are more likely to buy from you if your discount to them is higher - so that they can make more of a profit when they sell it retail. There has to be an incentive for them.
It's a numbers game really . . . profits will be lower, but your volume over the long term will be higher, thus you'll make up for it in profits later.
Also, because your book will be available to more channels as a result of it being made available through more distributors, retailors, etc. you'll have the opportunity of selling many more books.
If your goal is to really sell alot, to really get your book out there in every market - in otherwords you are really serious about making a profit or you really want to help people, then making your book available through as many channels as possible would be advantageous. Using Lighting Source would be a good start.
However, if you are just now getting your feet wet, my suggestion is start slow and steady - see if CS or Lulu will fill your needs and then go from there if you want to go up a notch!
Anyways, hope I haven't chased you away or scared you off . . . ! <wink>
Continue to use this forum when you have questions or concerns or if you simply wish to share your thoughts.
"If you find our answers to be helpful - click on your choice of stars that indicate a 'helpful answer' or 'correct answer'. We'd be appreciative of this acknowledgement. Thx!" - Eric V. Van Der Hope
Eric V. Van Der Hope | Publisher & Author
After Purchasing the Book - Get Your Free Gifts Here: http://www.MasteringNicheMarketing.com
I just did a computation to see the feasibility of producing one of our paperback books on LSI. Here's how it breaks down:
Setup fee: $117.00 ($75 for interior and cover, catalog fee of $12.00, and proof fee of $30.00)
This particular book is 280 pages, creme, 6x9. The cost breakdown for sales is:
Retail Price: 15.99
Wholesale Discount (55%): -8.77
Cost to print: -4.54
Profit per book: 2.68
To recoup the setup fee of $117, I would need to sell 44 books via the LSI distribution channels (117 / 2.68).
Now let's look at the same book on CreateSpace with the pro plan
Setup fee (pro plan): 39.00
Proof: 10.54 (including shipping)
total Setup fee: 49.54
profit on CreateSpace e-store: 8.55 -- need to sell 6 books to recoup setup fee
profit on Amazon sales: 5.36 - need to sell 10 books to recoup setup fee
Now this would all be weighted by the fact that LSI will get your book into their massive distribution channels (including Amazon) which gives the potential for many more sales if you market heavily I don't have any knowledge of pricing structure at Lulu, so I can't do a comparison of the breakdown for the same book there.
Hope this helps a little.
CreateSpace Preview: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1056130
CreateSpace E-Store: https://www.createspace.com/3378153
Publisher Website: https://www.casadesnapdragon.com
ok, you sound like me a year or two ago: confused. let me tell you what i did. after contemplating lulu, iuniverse and all those jokers, i returnd to the states after almost a decade in japan to form my own imprint: Kimama Press LLC. but before I did that, the first thing i did upon returning to the US was purchase Dan Poynnter's self publishing manual: how to write, print and sell your own book. YOU MUST GET AND STUDY THAT BOOK. get a highlighter, youll need it. while in japan, i paid someone the equivalent of $500 to design my cover and when i arrived in the US i paid someone $300 to format the text for upload to create space. I did not use create space's isbn, since i had my own imprint (publishing company). so i bought a single isbn for $150 at isbn.org and a single bar code for $25 at bowkers.com
then i uploaded the text and cover files to create space and the book was available from create space in january 2009. last week i decided to complete the paper work for lightning source because they have international distribution. i uploaded the files i used at create space and recieved my proof copy from LS today. the create space cover looks better because the graphics and text on the spine on my LS proof is not centered. my create space book is a 5.25x8 and the LS book is 5x8, hence the text on the LS page is too close to the edge of the pages. so i will need to reformat the text for upload to LS and hopefully they can correct the problem of the spinal text and graphics being off centered. anyway, im going to use both creat space and LS. my website is linkded to CS as the cost per book is lower than that of LS. http://www.blackpassenger.com
finally i contacted smashwords.com and formatted my book to various types of ebooks. it can now be downloaded to your ipod. in a few weeks im going to record the audio version.
Im suggesting that you take the route that I did. get the book i recommended, its the bible of self publishing.
PS. I will be on the howard stern show on thursday morning and my book will be featured in hustler mag in a few months. i am now sending out copies for prepublication reviews and the official publishing date is sept 2009. by then I will have collected tons of reviews to put in the book. and that in a nutshell is the process. check out some of the reviews on amazon
It's interesting that you say your LSI cover was off center. When I got my proof copy back, mine was off center too! How frustrating! Now I get to spend another $40 to resubmit a revised version.
LSI is really more costly up front. I'm hoping for lots of sales to make it all worth it!
LSI is waiving the costs to upload the text and cover until june, if you order 50 books
I read your CS posting of April 23, 2009 with great interest. I am in the same position as you. I was wondering if you could let me know the cost of book cover design and file conversion that is required for LSI entry. Also, how did you locate the resource? Thanks for your help.
my book cover designed cost 50,000 yen, the equivalent of $500. i met the designer in japan (i live in japan but am in the US to publish and promote my book. im being interviewed by howard stern tomorrow morning) the day before i left there exactly a year ago. my website was designed by someone who contacted me on myspace. im very very satisfied with my website and i HIGHLY recommend the designer for all your design needs. He lives in holland but we communicate by skype. his prices are quite reasonable.
His name is Joslin verheul and his email is
my website addy is
hope that helps
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