Print on Demand: CreateSpace or Lightning Source?

by Joel Friedlander on January 27, 2011 · 251 comments

Post image for Print on Demand: CreateSpace or Lightning Source?

There are a lot of self-publishing companies out there, they seem to sprout overnight in the fertile soil of the internet.

But when clients ask me who they should print with, I only recommend two: CreateSpace and Lightning Source.

(In the interests of disclosure, you should know that I have a contractual relationship providing content to the terrific CreateSpace community forums, and I’m an affiliate there. And I’ve published my own book through Lightning Source.)

Between these two companies, virtually any self-publisher can get a book into print. Each is appropriate for a different kind of publisher, and that’s what determines which one I recommend for any particular individual. Here’s how I decide:


I recommend Amazon‘s print on demand vendor when the publisher

  • Intends to produce only one book for the foreseeable future
  • Is not particularly computer-savvy and does not have technical assistance
  • Could use some editorial services or cover template capabilities
  • They have no budget

Lightning Source

I recommend Ingram Book Company’s print on demand vendor when the publisher

  • Intends to start a publishing company with longer-term plans
  • Has already started thinking about their next book
  • Plans to hire professionals to help get her book into print
  • Already has a company or is willing to set one up, and can afford the estimated $200 in set-up fees

Mick Rooney Knows

I never recommend other vendors. There are 59 companies being tracked by Mick Rooney‘s Self-Publishing Index for Author Solution Services on his indispensable POD, Self-Publishing and Independent Publishing blog, where he analyzes and rates each of these companies.

If you look at the result, you’ll see CreateSpace and Lightning Source at the top. Both of these companies are owned by much larger companies, each of which is a dominant force in its part of the industry. Amazon, of course, is the largest retailer online, and Ingram is the largest book distributor in the country.

You can double up on these companies from either end. Ingram will make your book available for ordering at almost every bookstore in the country, and automatically list it on Amazon. And with CreateSpace, for an investment of $39 you can get the exact same reach as part of an “expanded distribution” package.

So Now What Do You Do?

What does this mean to you, the self-publisher? A print on demand vendor with the backing of either of these huge companies is likely to be more transparent in their operations, and more stable over a long period of time than smaller companies.

Am I saying that all the other author services companies, self-publishing companies, subsidy publishers and vanity presses are worthless? No, of course not. Some of them have talented people working hard to create great books for their clients. Some don’t. Some are only in the business of selling you services, not in the business of selling your books. Some have been around for a while, some have been around for about a week.

I know many authors happily publish with companies like Lulu, Dog Ear, Fast Pencil and others, and for the right author I’m sure they each have something to recommend them.

I just don’t see any compelling reason to recommend anyone besides CreateSpace or Lightning Source for serious authors producing books they expect to sell in the marketplace. If you’re more of a do-it-yourself publisher, go check out CreateSpace, their friendly and easy to use website, their active forums for self-publishers and the trove of information they make available.

If your’e more of a competitive publisher with professional help and a publishing plan, set yourself up at Lightning Source. You’ll get great customer support in a business-to-business environment, access to all the customers of Ingram, and the capacity to do color books, hardcovers, and even offset runs of larger quantities, all with good quality

That’s my opinion. Either way, make your choice, and move your book confidently into print.

Photo by i_yudai

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    { 238 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michael N. Marcus January 27, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I’ve used LS for most of my book, but CS for two books when my cover artist was busy and I decided to apply my own limited artistry to CS cover templates. I’ve also used Lulu for printed proofs and selling PDF eBooks.

    A few differences among the companies:

    (1) CreateSpace is extremely paranoid about potential copyright violation, and demanded that I show proof that I had permission to use every photograph in a book. I’ve never encountered this, or heard of this, with other printers, and it delayed publication of the book. Another time, CreateSpace did not question the photos, but rejected a book simply because it mentioned the name of corporate parent I complained publicly and got a quick apology. Apparently, the robot censor was hyperactive and needed to be recalibrated. LS and Lulu don’t seem to care (or even notice) what you want printed.

    (2) It can get very expensive making repeated changes with LS ($70 per proof).

    (3) LS needs text submitted using Adobe Acrobat Distiller applied to a Postscript file, but CS and Lulu will accept “raw” PDFs.

    (4) CS robots will point out lots of potential problems with an interior file — many of which are not really problems. Responding to each one can wast lots of time.

    (5) Even though CS may use LS to print books in its Expanded Distribution service, it has different requirements. CS rejected an interior bleed on two pages that were identical to bleeds that were acceptable to LS.

    (6) File uploads to Lulu are much more likely to go nowhere than uploading to CS or LS, and it can take days to get the problem solved.

    (7) Even if you pay for “fast” shipping of a proof from CS, it may not come any faster than if you did not pay extra — and, unlike LS, no tracking number is provided

    (8) For normal publishing, Lulu’s cost per book is MUCH higher than CS or LS. Lulu is inexpensive for proofing (even though it overcharges for shipping). I like to use a UPS Store for early proofs when I don’t care about a bound book with a real cover. UPS proofs cost less than LS but more than CS or LL — but are done in hours, not days. UPs proofs may give a false indication of a problem with a photo (e.g., a white background may be printed as gray), that turn our fine with LS.

    (9) Lulu’s photo reproduction is better than CS or LS.

    (10) These comments are based on my experience with about 20 books. As with most things in life, “your mileage may vary.”

    Michael N. Marcus


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Michael, thanks for sharing the results of your experiences.
    (2) Readers should be aware that once you upload a file to Lightning Source, you will have to pay a fee to replace the file. Since a book consists of 2 files, one for the interior and one for the cover, the fee for each is $35. It’s also fair to point out that in the usual production process, additional proofs are usually not called for since all the proofing is done and finalized before the file is ever uploaded in the first place.

    However, Michael uses his own production process of repeatedly re-proofing his books and using the proof copies for proofreading, and this would get very expensive at LSI.


    Joe Fitzpatrick March 2, 2012 at 6:12 am


    Just wanted to comment that Lightning Source and CreateSpace are 2 entirely different types of companies. The latter is an author services company that does everything for you – marketing, book cover and interior design, getting your ISBN’s, etc. They hold your hand and guide you through all the complexities of getting your book self-published. There are numerous author services companies.

    Lightning Source on the other hand is primarily a printer. They print books for you, and will give you access to distribution channels like Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and also to

    If you want your book printed through them, you need to find your own book designer. They will accept only print-ready files. All the technical aspects of making sure that your cover and interior files meet specifications are up to you and your book designer.

    So these two companies are apples and oranges – not at all comparable in their functions. There are minor overlaps, in that both can get you listed in Ingram (Lightning is owned by Ingram) and B & T and Amazon.

    Personally, I found the services and the quality of the work at CreateSpace to be substandard. I went directly through Lightning after hiring my own book designer (for a far higher cost than the whole printing package at an author services company).


    Nancy March 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I hear the exact same thing about Create Space and the quality of their books. Sad. Because I’m feeling forced to take my LS-printed book and put it on Amazon via CS to stop the inane “Out of Stock” issue on Amazon. And since it will mean I’m going to lose some of my profit, I have to find out if I can put a higher price JUST on the CS-printed book and not the LS-printed book.


    betsy thomson March 8, 2013 at 10:52 am

    how did it all work out for you with CS nancy? i hope okay… i am just looking into CS and LS for my new book meditation, my friend. i’m so stuck in making decisions regarding all of this. i have never done it before. my book is complete and has lots of photographs and illustrations. it would be ashame if the art and photos do not look good….betsy

    Judith Yates May 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Hi all – I am so disgusted with LS right now I am seeking a better company. I have sent in my paperwork (application, W9, etc.) THREE times now with responses of “it was lost” to no answer at all.
    Every time I try to get an answer it takes days to reply and the reply is not always clear. There is more – but I will spare ya. I am SO disappointed with LS.

    I did 3 proofs through CS and the print went from dark (excellent) to light (readable but distinguishable from other pages). The photos turned out great. The binding was “OK” nothing to rave about.

    I thought about Bookpatch but the “competition” is poorly written and the covers look shabby. I want my book to be seen with quality items and taken seriously.

    So, what’s a writer to do??


    Spiferi Modena June 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to mention that I was employed at Lightning Source Australian plant in Melbourne briefly a few years ago and
    would like to share some things relating to production and the staff
    who were working there.
    The disappointing thing is that five key important staff members are no longer working there from production and Admin, there seems to be a problem that exists there because to have such a high turnover of staff in the short time the plant is being in operation seems bizarre.
    There were also many problems with quality control, a lot of the books were being shipped out faulty with many incorrect or missing pages.
    Also the staff members responsible for training newcomers were involved in a lot of disagreements and not on the same page with the information they were conveying to other staff members.
    A lot of political mind games were going on there which affected
    I think this may have contributed to high turnover of staff and the lack of belief in the company which was very evident.
    I would not personally conduct business with Lightning source Australia because of this and would warn potential clients to research the current operations of the plant to determine if it is right for them.


    Caroline January 27, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Hi Rick, so just to clarify, I have two out of three books finished in my YA adventure trilogy, and you would suggest Lightning source, as there will be more books to follow? Would you therefor suggest I publish one book at a time, or wait until all three are ready as a trilogy package?
    Also are these two companies you mentioned the best out there for helping the writer market the books?


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Hi Caroline, I’m standing in for Rick today. In general, I don’t see much advantage to waiting for an entire series to be finished before issuing the first books. After all, early titles in the series will build demand for later titles. As I said in the article, if you’re an author who needs author services like marketing, or needs support going through the publishing process, you’ll be better off with CreateSpace, which has lots of services and a big community for support. Lightning Source offers no support for new publishers, no marketing services and generally is a business-to-business operation. Hope that helps, and good luck with your books.


    Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations,Blue Sun Media January 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

    We have been very happy with Lightning Source, which we chose based on your recommendations that we read here on the blog. They have been very helpful with any questions we have had and have walked us through the process very easily. We would also recommended them and the quality of the product looks great.


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Thanks, Wendi. Your experience matches mine. Glad to hear it went well for you.


    James Byrd January 27, 2011 at 9:32 am

    We’ve had great luck with Lightning Source as well, and we have helped other authors who wanted to use them. The main obstacle for most authors so far has been the proper formatting of the cover and interior PDFs. That’s where it’s important to work with an experienced book designer.

    We have the book pretty well proofed before we upload it, so we usually only pay the $70 upload fees and $30 proof fee one time. Don’t forget the $12 per year “catalog” fee you pay to get into the Ingram distribution channel. But that’s the best $12 you’ll ever spend!

    Authors should not be afraid to use LSI just because they do less hand-holding. If you want to produce a professional-quality book, you’ll probably need professional help with editing, design, and layout anyway. The rest of the stuff you have to do in the LSI online interface is pretty straightforward.


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    James, great feedback, thanks. As many people have noted, creating PDFs to specification can be an obstacle for DIY self-publishers, but there is plenty of help available.


    betty ming liu January 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    love the clarity and info in this post. even though i’m not ready to publish yet, posts like this add to my sense of context. thank you!


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Yes, but when your book is ready, Betty, you’ll be ready too. Can’t wait to read it, actually.


    Patricia Benesh January 27, 2011 at 11:50 am


    Thanks for this great assessment of the two POD services–and Michael for discussion of your personal experiences–and how the “devil is in the details.”

    In working with new authors, I find that the demands of LS can be a bit overwhelming–for example, just submitting the appropriate PDF file. And even CS can be daunting for some newbies. That’s why independent professional sources can be helpful in identifying the appropriate resources and services–so that new writers don’t get sold a lot of expensive services they don’t need.


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Patricia, this is one of the principle reasons book designers get hired, to deal with all the technical aspects of bookmaking and the minutia of book publishing. Luckily, there are more vendors than ever to help newcomers to the field. Thanks for your input.


    Leslie January 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I know that Create Space will supply the author with an ISBN number. I went to the Lightning Source website and couldn’t find that information. Do they supply an ISBN as well, or should he author use the RR Bowker service?


    Joel Friedlander January 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Leslie, that’s one of those “author services” that Lightning Source does not provide. You should get them directly from the Bowker site, Also not that the CreateSpace ISBNs will show CreateSpace, not you, as the publisher.


    Lillie Ammann January 28, 2011 at 12:02 am


    This is a great comparison and clarification of which POD company is the best. My experience is similar—I recommend either CreateSpace or Lightning Source, depending on the author and his goals. I also appreciate hearing about the experiences of the other commenters.


    Joe Flood February 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I’m really happy with CreateSpace. One huge advantage which you didn’t mention is how CS books automatically go into Amazon’s catalog. The price for buyers is also cheaper than using Lulu (though I think Lulu’s books look better). On Lulu, my book was $13 plus shipping while on CS/Amazon I could price my book at $9.99 and be eligible for free shipping. Everyone knows Amazon and is comfortable buying there so CS’s integration with Amazon is really valuable.


    Joel Friedlander February 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for your detailed experience, Joe. Books from Lightning Source also are automatically listed on Amazon. It’s smart to use Amazon for the trust people have there, and they also deal with packing, shipping, returns and all those other things you don’t want to get bogged down doing.


    ed cyzewski February 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    This is excellent advice and an excellent comparison. It confirms what I thought to be the case when doing my own research–most self-publishing companies can’t beat CreateSpace. No one could touch CreateSpace for their price and value. I’m always running a tight budget, so I’ll probably never use Lightning Source.

    I’m curious if you’ve had any experiences with the Kindle Direct Publishing service or if there is another ebook publishing service to consider.


    Joel Friedlander February 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Ed, from what I’ve seen, Kindle is still outselling all other ebook retailers, and KDP (formerly Amazon DTP) is the way to get your titles listed there if you are not using an aggregator like Smashwords.


    Susan Daffron February 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Joel…I completely agree with your basic premise here. I never recommend anyone else either.

    With that said, it sounds like you know quite a lot about CreateSpace. I find their Web site and packages confusing, and I get questions about them a lot, so I’ll just ask you, if you don’t mind ;-)

    1. At one point, the lowest discount you could set with CS was 35%. Is that still true?

    2. Can you use your own ISBN with CS? (From what you said above, it sounds like the answer may be no.)

    3. From what Michael said, I guess you *can* supply your own PDFs. If you do, is there a set up fee? (Most of what I have read on their site is about “packages” that include some form of layout service.)



    Michael N. Marcus February 10, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I’ll answer two thirds:

    (2) Yes — I always do.

    (3) I do, you can, and there is no fee.

    Keep in mind that CS, like Lulu, has two ways of doing busienss. One is selling packages like other self-publishing companies. The other is selling basic printing and distribution with minimal support.


    Susan Daffron February 10, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Michael – Thanks for the speedy reply to 2/3 of my questions. That’s what I thought.

    FYI, I use LSI for my books, which I forgot to mention. Every time I go to the CS web site, it just gives me a big headache. It’s ironic because everyone says LSI is so “hard.” I guess it’s all what you’re used to.


    Joel Friedlander February 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Susan, the discount in effect depends on what CS terms your “sales channel,” so,

    At their own eStore, the discount is 20% of list price
    For sales at, the discount is 40% of list price
    And for sales through their Expanded Distribution Channel, the discount is 60% of list price

    This is all complicated by whether you join the “Pro Plan” also. The best thing is to use their calculators. This is what you’ll find:

    For a 200 page 5.5″ x 8.5″ paperback priced at $10 retail, on the standard plan you earn $.50 per sale on Amazon. With the Pro Plan, that goes to $2.75.

    As Michael noted, CS does function as a printer and I have several clients who print there regularly. We supply PDFs exactly the same we we supply them to LSI, complete with ISBNs owned by the publisher. In fact, they are a little cheaper than LSI. But I get it about the websites. I don’t have a problem with LSI since I use it so much, and CS can be daunting simply because they are addressing so many constituents with so many offerings.


    Michael N. Marcus February 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    >>It’s ironic because everyone says LSI is so “hard.” <<

    That's like the "common knowledge" that Apple computers are much easier to use than PCs.

    Apples are easier — unless you previously used a PC. Then, Apples are very difficult to figure out. I'll never get used to a one-button mouse (but I love my iPad and iPods).


    Gregg May 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    The original idea behind the one button mouse is that it uses the “animal” part of your brain to operate it freeing your neocortex to focus on more complex tasks. The minute you right click the mouse, you use the neocortex and the function becomes task switching. That is how it was explained to me.


    Leslie February 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Apples work better with a two button mouse. I used a pc mouse with my mac because it increases functionality.


    Joel Friedlander February 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Same here, Leslie. I’m using a Logitech laser mouse with my iMac and it’s much more efficient than the one-button mice.


    Susan Daffron February 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the info Joel. When you say CS is “cheaper” do you mean the print cost per book? (I’ll have to check the calculators.) It seems like there are a lot more options.

    FYI, I just got an email from IBPA that a new member benefit is 50% off LSI set up and discounts on quantity orders. This is GOOD news! (Well, if you’re an IBPA member, of course.)


    Joel Friedlander February 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Hey, I got that email too, isn’t that a terrific benefit of IBPA membership?

    I’ve seen various calculations that show CS books are slightly less expensive as far as unit cost to manufacture than LSI. I don’t think it’s a big difference.


    Michelle Toth February 13, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Hi, Joel. I have read about a number of people using both CS and LSI, together. CS for Amazon and LSI for all other outlets. In your experience, does this make sense? I am researching that particular combination and my first stop was here to this very helpful post. Appreciate any insight you can offer.


    Joel Friedlander February 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Michelle, I don’t see any good reason to do that. While CS is an excellent provider of books for print on demand distribution, the main attractions there are their extensive website resources, the other services they offer and the excellent support of the user forums. However, in exchange you will be giving up an additional 20% discount on all books sold on Amazon. If you have more questions, feel free to post them here.


    Michelle Eastman August 22, 2014 at 10:51 am


    Hello. I am a different Michelle than the one who originally posted about using both CS and LSI. Since that post and your reply are several years old, I wanted to ask if you still think using LSI, exclusively, for POD is best. I have a LSI account. I am awaiting the proof of my first children’s picture book. Having read several posts `about Amazon showing LSI books as “temporarily out of stock”, I am now wondering if I should use CS for Amazon and LSI for the rest. My book will be available in hard cover and paper back. I appreciate any light you can shed on this topic.

    Thank you,


    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Michelle, many authors have adopted exactly the strategy you’ve outlined: they use CS strictly to fill Amazon orders (don’t opt for their “expanded distribution”) and LS for all others. Although it’s cumbersome, it seems to be the best solution at the moment.


    Joe Becker February 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Thanks Joel and everyone for the great advice here. I am in the process of publishing my first novel with Lightning Source. It hasnt become so “hard” or “complicated” yet, though everyone says it is, so I am waiting for it to become so.

    I formatted my interior according to another company’s template for a novel the same dimensions as mine (a company, I might add, that was going to use Lightnening Source anyway- I’m just cutting out the middle man;) So as instructed, I inserted page breaks, correct margins, etc. and it looks great to me. Is it more complicated than this? Need I hire a book designer to take a look at it? (I didnt want to pay another professional to tell me it looks fine, but perhaps there re book designers that will only charge according to that which actually needs fixing?) Can you recommend anyone?

    I don’t know. It seems fairly simple to me, but I dont want to get caught up in re-submission fees b/c I wasnt prepared.



    Kelli February 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Joel, for my two cents, I did a fair amount of research between those two before deciding on Lightning Source – the potential for greater control and a larger share of the royalties were my ultimate decision-makers. I suspect that Create Space would have given me a book a lot sooner, but I would have sacrificed some of the overall concept in design, which was important to me.

    Having said that, Lightning Source isn’t for those who expect hand-holding. The Lightning Source documentation alone can seem daunting and they’re not there to tell you how to get your ISBN or answer every question. If you’re planning on photos, then you have to understand what the saturation rate of the ink will mean and why you need 300 dpi and a hundred other things that go along with being your own publisher.

    It’s work, but it’s satisfying work. I wrote the book and then hired everyone — the copywriters for back copy, the interior and exterior book designers, and the editors. I paid for a consulting book editor to look over the concept, and for all the (royalty-free) photographs and studied my market throughly. (This is for non-fiction. I’m in an industry where the book *is* judged by its cover.). I have to say I was extremely envious of the fiction writers for awhile!


    Joel Friedlander February 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Kelli, you followed the right path to create a high-quality professional book. Having put that kind of forethought and effort into the project, I’ll bet you also know what your target market is looking for. That combination spells success. Best of luck with the project.


    Michael N. Marcus February 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    >>I suspect that Create Space would have given me a book a lot sooner<<

    Not likely.

    With LS, I generally upload files on Tuesday, receive a proof on Thursday, and if I approve it, it's on sale on Amazon on Saturday.

    With CS, it generally takes five days to get a proof — even if you pay for expedited service — and CS does not provide a tracking number.


    Joe Becker February 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I hope you;re enjoying the weekend. I just wanted to follow up and make sure you received my PDF of THE SPIDER AND THE ANT and see how that’s going. Thanks!


    Joe Becker


    Kelli February 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Well, thank you. I feel better. ;-)


    David Sanford March 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree. After more than 28 years in the book publishing world (as a literary agent for 300+ books, as an editor of 100+ books, and as an author), here’s what I recommend to the vast majority of book authors: Use Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing program. It’s fast, easy, virtually free, and leaves you 100% in control of your books now and in the future. Then again, I recommend Lightning Source to prolific and entrepreneurial-minded authors. Obviously, there’s still a place for traditional publishers and for top quality custom publishers, but only for 2 or 3 percent of all the books published in a given year.


    Joel Friedlander March 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

    David, thanks for that. I think CreateSpace has hit all the marks as far as creating a low-cost, high-quality way for authors to get themselves into print with the minimum hassle and expense. They operate with transparency and provide great resources for their community (disclosure: I write articles for CreateSpace’s community forums). You really do need to be more comfortable with technology or be willing to hire professionals to get the most out of Lightning Source. Thanks for visiting.


    Christopher August 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Hi David,hope you are fine,please send me your contact to i have an African Epic novel which i will like you to take care of. thanks.


    Beth March 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Here is a question: In doing some research about CreateSpace, I found some authors had stated difficulty with receiving appropriate profits from their books being sold by third party sellers Amazon contracted with. They either reported not receiving royalties at all, or receiving them in a sporadic way. They reported having to fight to receive those funds. Can anyone speak to that if that has proven true with their experience with CreateSpace?


    Derek Oscarson April 4, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I’ve been using MagCloud for magazines and Blurb for books. Both allow you to set your margin on top of the production cost. I haven’t been customers of theirs all that long and I’m not familiar with CS or LS so I haven’t compared yet. I’ll certainly check out these 2 sources now.

    I can say I’ve been happy with the print quality from both. Don’t forget about print-on-demand machines like Espresso popping up locally. Not sure how these are going to be utilized eventually, but they are interesting.


    Joel Friedlander April 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Derek, thanks for the input. I like Blurb for photo books although I haven’t checked their prices on non-photo books. The books themselves are great but he pricing keeps them from being sold retail. Look forward to hearing your results.


    David Henry Sterry April 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    When it comes to self-publishing, Joel is The Man! I highly recommend his book, and this is a great article to get anybody started to do some self publishing.


    Joel Friedlander April 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm



    Ade Fagbolagun August 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Joel,

    First of all, I say thank you very much for all your advice on this Forum. I came across this site just now and I am beginning to understand all about Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Your advice and time taken to respond to each enquiry is awesome and highly impressive, considering the fact that it is a free service. Really really impressive. I have read a lot about both in the last few days and I confess that I have been so confused on which one to go with, until I came across all your comments. I have not had much luck with getting my book published. I paid AuthorHouse approx £1500 to get my Novel out there, but after reading the numerous chilling and negative comments about the company, I recently backed out, terminated their contract, and was fortunate to get half of the money back from them last week. Since then, I have been surfing the internet for a better option.
    This is my first manuscript (romantic fiction), but I have started drafting another two.
    I am in the process of ordering ISBNs and also looking into sorting out my cover. I have done most of the editing/formatting myself, but will be getting a third eye to have it check it up. I would however be so grateful if you could advice me on the two (LS or CS) in terms of quality, reliability, costs, distribution etc. Again, I am really grtaful for all the comments on this site.


    jennifer blanchard April 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I’ve been going back and forth on this one for awhile now (in thinking about my own self-publishing future). For research, I purchased four books–two from people selling thru CreateSpace and two from people selling thru Lightning Source. While the CreateSpace books looked nice and felt like real books, the quality was semi-pro at best when compared to the books printed from Lightning Source. Just my opinion, but if I decide to go down the self-publishing road at some point, I’ll be printing with Lightning Source.


    Joel Friedlander April 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the feedback. Although Lightning Source prints all the books they supply, I can’t say the same for CreateSpace, which is more of a service than an actual printer. In fact, according to a lot of reports I’ve read, some of the books done at CreateSpace are actually printed by Lightning Source, just ot make your experiment even more confusing.

    My clients use both services, as well as others, and in my experience the books I’ve seen from CreateSpace are pretty much the same as the ones from Lightning Source. Given about equal quality, it might be better to be guided more by discounts, other products and services you might need, and company policies. Good luck!


    hersh April 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Hey Joel,

    I am not sure when was the last time I read all the comments of a blog post. You post as well the reader’s comments have helped me understand the self-publishing scene a lot better.

    I am a web marketer. Looking to publish my first book about web marketing. Its basically a brading exercise but obviously I would want to sell copies and get a wider international distribution. I am based in India. So, I would need to get copies shipped to India for distribution as well. I would also be selling a lot of ebooks so Kindle sales also matter.

    I am inclined to go for LSI ( set-up costs don’t matter to me) what would you suggest keeping in mind that I would be able to sell a lot of copies myself ( remember, I am a web marketer and I know how to market stuff online) ?

    Where should I go?

    Really look forward,


    Joel Friedlander April 18, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Hersh, thanks for your comment. Your background in web marketing will be most helpful when it comes time to market your book. I would suggest keeping in mind the needs of your audience, and how to satisfy those needs. If your book over-delivers on its promise, and you market it effectively, you should make the most out of your book’s sales potential. Good luck!


    Hersh April 18, 2011 at 9:52 am


    Many thanks for your inputs. I presume you suggest that I go with LSI. With my target market being very Kindle/ebook friendly and the fact that its my first book I am having second thoughts about CS. I;d be letting Amazon sell globally ( my site would link to them) and I would use my site to sell in India/Asia. For that I;d have to warehouse some copies locally. Just a lot of thoughts running about!


    Joel Friedlander April 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Hersh, I don’t know enough about your book, your tech skills or your publishing plans to recommend one company over the other. They both have advantages and disadvantages. Books published through LSI will end up being sold by Amazon anyway, you control distribution through the choices you make when you do your account and book setup at LSI. Keep studying and I’m sure the answer will become clear. Either choice will work for you.


    Aaron May 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I was looking to use createspace as printing on demand and then just shipping the books to myself. It is a niche book and I would only be selling to people I know for the most part. Is there any way to get around the ISBN number or making books publically available and just print books for myself? Or should I be looking at another service?


    James Byrd May 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Aaron: Since you aren’t looking for any distribution options, you’ll probably get the best pricing by just going straight to a short-run digital printer. They’ll print whatever you give them, ISBN or no.

    True print on demand is best used when demand for the book is variable and fulfillment is automatic through a distribution channel. If you are instead looking to order short runs of your book to sell in person, you’ll usually get better pricing by going straight to the printer and avoiding any middlemen.

    To give you an idea of what to look for, check out, which is just one example of a short run digital printer. BE SURE to check around, however, as prices vary widely. Also be sure you have the specifications for your book clearly defined before you shop. The printers will need accurate specs in order to give you an accurate quote.

    Finally, make sure you get a clear understanding of what setup and shipping fees the printer may charge.

    Whether or not all this is worth it to you depends upon how many books you think you’ll sell in the long run. If you are only talking about a hundred books or so, you may be best off just going through CreateSpace and letting them assign a free ISBN. You can then decide if signing up for the Pro Plan to reduce your unit cost makes sense. You can apparently (I’ve never tried this) disable the distribution options on your title to keep it from being publicly available.

    There’s no “one size fits all” solution for this situation. You’ll need to do a little research, do a little math, and see how the numbers work out.

    Good luck!


    Joel Friedlander May 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Aaron, in addition to James’ excellent feedback, check out vendors like or for more straight digital book printers. I’ve used them both and they both do a great job.


    David Rivers July 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Hi – great forum and helpful discussion. Thank you.
    Just to add to your thread a little. I can share that I have myself published a book via CS and found the whole encounter with CS to be very professional and deeply rewarding. I am about to publish a revised edition of my book – The Dance of Stillness, once again through CS under the imprint Blue Jay Press. My reasons for choosing to use my own isbn and imprint are varied, although the fact that I retain the right to print through other agencies, such as LS or by a press here in Australia, if I so choose, is to me a fine and compelling reason in itself.

    However, I have noticed that many respected authors in my particular field (spirituality) have opted to simply use the createspace free isbn and are happy to have createspace be known as the publisher of their works. I myself would have done this, if it were not for the possibility that I may well choose to also have my book printed through other mediums simultaneously, such as a mentioned previously.

    CS (createspace) now offer a cover creation via Crowdspring, for my revised edition I am using this option and thus far have found that to be a superb choice, far exceeding my expectations.

    So, for this writer, CS gets a big thumbs up.

    Good luck to all my fellow Authors.


    James Byrd July 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I don’t know if you are aware of it, but LSI and Amazon are “having issues” of some kind.

    It used to be that POD books were considered “always in stock” because of a concept called “virtual stocking.” The agreement between LSI and Amazon was essentially that LSI would provide 24-hour turnaround on orders, and Amazon would artificially keep the stock at 100 units so they never ran out.

    Amazon has apparently reneged on their part of that deal. Many POD books that are supplied by LSI are now showing a small number remaining or when out, 3-4 week delivery times. Not all titles are affected, but many are. Since this started happening in mid-June, we’ve seen a drop in sales of over 50% on our affected titles.

    So what did we do to fix it? We’re loading our books in to CreateSpace. The day after we did so with our first book, it was suddenly “in stock” again. We believe that this tactic is an Amazon strong-arm bid to force POD authors over to CS.

    When queried, Amazon basically says they are not obligated to maintain stock from any of their suppliers. LSI says they are negotiating with Amazon to resolve the issue. Both sides admit there’s a problem, but aren’t willing to give any useful information about it.

    This situation wouldn’t bother me much except books that come out of CreateSpace are far inferior to LSI, based on the proof we got from CS for Funds to the Rescue. There were ink artifacts on the interior pages (thin and faint vertical lines in the margin area of some pages), and the binding was pressed to the point where the cover had a dent along the face and back. In short, it looked like crap, but it wasn’t something we could exercise control over, so we approved the proof.

    Just you watch, Amazon is going to rule the entire book industry. And we are all paying their way to the top.


    David Rivers July 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm


    Well that is very interesting, its business and Amazon is a business, so its in their best interest to do such, anything less would not be best practice. Im sure that things of this nature will keep happening and the entire field will keep morphing. The fist thing that springs to my mind is that one could simply supply Amazon with actual stock themselves. Or, as you yourself did, use CS as well.
    Your post confirms that CS is a good choice for POD and indie publishers. One of many options out there yes but a good one.

    I am glad to have found this forum. Its really up to date and helpful.



    James Byrd July 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

    If you decide to move a book from CreateSpace to LSI or vice-versa, watch out for the fact that the paper weight CS uses is not necessarily the same as LSI. This won’t affect your PDF for the book interior, but you may have to adjust the spine width of your book cover PDF to account for the difference. The more pages your book has, the bigger the difference will be.


    Joel Friedlander July 30, 2011 at 10:34 am

    James is correct about the paper spec. The two firms also use different terminology, with CreateSpace quoting the single sheet of paper, while Lightning Source uses the more typical pages per inch measurement. I’ve prepared covers for several books that were printed at both companies and yes, the spine widths are different and you will have to create a new PDF because of that. For Create Space your total document width will also change.

    More important than spine widths is the effect on publishers and in effect the whole PoD system first introduced by Aaron Sheperd and used by thousands of publishers. I haven’t moved my books to Create Space because I’m unwilling to give up the 20% quite that fast. Although I have no reason to believe the situation will change, I’m going to wait a while and see what happens. Right now my book is at “Ships in 2 to 3 weeks.” We’ll see what happens.

    James, thanks for your continued support of this discussion.


    David Rivers July 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Interesting – thanks.


    David Rivers July 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    The first edition of my book The Dance of Stillness, when it was up on Amazon through createspace, with the imprint- Blue Jay Press. Shipped out very quickly and the quality was great. I also found the “Royalty” rate the be very reasonable with the added bonus that can give customers discount codes and direct them to my createspace store front. Also considering that I had four other people involved in the work (through the interviews I did with them) I can also give those people additional discounts, if they should choose to buy the books at a wholesale rate to them sell themselves. Anyway my reason for posting is Im not quite sure what you mean by “I’m unwilling to give up the 20% quite that fast” Can you elaborate for me?



    Joel Friedlander August 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

    David, my comment referred to discount rates. At Lightning Source you can set your discount as low as 20%, but at CreateSpace you will have to give up a minimum of 40%.


    James Byrd July 31, 2011 at 11:35 am

    My pleasure, Joel. Your blog is a great resource, and the active comments section is one of the reasons why.

    We got an update from LSI on the “issue” they are having with Amazon.

    Amazon uses two approaches for ordering titles from LSI. Some books are drop-shipped directly through LSI, and others are ordered and stocked in the Amazon warehouse. LSI reports that Amazon has been shifting a lot more books to the second approach lately.

    You would think that having your books stocked in the Amazon warehouse would improve availability, but the opposite is actually true. With drop-shipping through LSI, an order gets shipped within 24 hours. With Amazon warehousing, the book only gets shipped quickly if it is still in stock. If it is not in stock, Amazon has to order another batch. That’s why the 2-3 week (or more) delay.

    Anyone who has worked with Amazon Advantage knows how poorly Amazon manages their inventory. It appears that POD books suffer from the same poor management practices when they are pre-ordered and stocked. Never mind that the practice of inventorying POD titles defeats the purpose of POD!

    Our theory as to why titles no longer have a stocking issue when you switch to CreateSpace is that Amazon goes back to drop-shipping. CreateSpace is their company, so their “cost” for drop-shipping a title is almost certainly lower than it is going through LSI.

    Whether or not this practice of moving titles to being inventoried rather than drop-shipped is just a cost-saving move or if it is a plot to get authors to move to CreateSpace is a matter of conjecture.

    Our solution was to do both. It costs a little more, but we get the tremendous distribution (and discount) of LSI for everyone other than Amazon, while CreateSpace gives us the availability we need on Amazon (we don’t use the CS distribution options). Since we made the shift, our sales have returned to their pre-debacle levels.


    Joel Friedlander August 15, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Well, it’s about 2.5 weeks since I wrote the comment that I was going to wait and see what happens with the Amazon availability problem. Obviously, I don’t have any inside information on what Amazon is doing with Lightning Source books, but my sense was that the move was on the whole bad for business, and that’s why I decided to ride it out. This would not have been an option if I was relying on revenue from book sales for a major part of my income. Anyway, 2 or 3 days ago A Self-Publisher’s Companion returned to “In Stock. Ships from and sold by” Will it last? Who knows? The sales rank of this book slipped about 500,000 places while it was shown as “Ships in 2 to 3 weeks” and it will be interesting to see if it now recovers.


    James Byrd August 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Interestingly, you might be able to figure out how many books Amazon ordered by looking at your publisher’s compensation report on LSI. I believe their reporting lags a few days, but the info you need should be available by now. You can finesse the date range on the report and window it to find the Amazon order, which would presumably appear as a spike in sales.

    I predict that when their most recent order is exhausted, you will go back to “ships in 2 to 3 weeks” until another order is placed with LSI and received by their warehouse(s). No one at Amazon appears to understand the concepts of “order lead time” or “safety stock.”


    Joel Friedlander August 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    James, you are probably right. I’m going to ride it out a while longer and see what happens.


    mari August 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Joel, I recently found your site after doing some research on both CreateSpace and Lightning Source. This article and the comments have already been quite helpful but I have another question: What do you know about the paper quality of CS? I’m currently finishing a book that will have quite a few photos in it of my decorated cookies, and though this isn’t a coffee table style book, the pictures need to look pretty good. I’m using InDesign CS4, and my professional photographer husband is working on the pictures. I read in the forums that CS produces crappy photo books but those comments were in threads that date back to when CS’s file upload limit was 100 MB (it’s now 400). Any help and insight from you will be greatly appreciated! cheers, m


    Joel Friedlander August 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Mari, are the photos in color? The last time I checked, CreateSpace did not offer color printing. The quality of the paper will not be the determining factor in how your book comes out. Digital color is problematic right now. You can get quite good quality, but the prices are much too high for resale. Tell me more about the book and perhaps I can help.


    David Rivers August 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Mari, if I may answer from my own perspective and experience, which is that of a complete novice, who has however managed to get a book into print via createspace – My father commented to me just yesterday that he thought the paper quality in my book was “excellent” he drew a comparison with a book siting next to it – published by a major publisher and said the createspace paper quality exceeded that of the book from the major publisher. Im about to bring out an updated and revised edition of my book and have elected for that to change from the white paper to cream paper, as the white was a bit too glossy for me. There are a few photos (black and white) in my book that the quality of those are fine. Okay, hope this helps somewhat, Im sure the guys who run this discussion group will offer you a far superior answer – they seem to really know their stuff, I just thought I would share my perspective with you. All the best with your book.


    mari August 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    David, Many thanks for your insight. Could you send me a link to your book? I’d love to see what you’ve published.


    Michael N. Marcus August 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    David, I’m changing colors, too — but in the opposite direction. One of my paperback books has lots of photos, and Adobe Garamond Pro type. The “AGP” has very fine strokes, which don’t provide adequate contrast against the cream paper — at least to my eyes. I did a hardcover edition with white pages and like it so much that I’m switching the paperback to white, too. This book is printed by Lightning Source, but I’ve been pleased with CreateSpace’s white paper, too.

    Just out (but may need a few corrections): “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,”


    David Rivers August 21, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Hi Mari

    My books title is The Dance of Stillness – Here is the link you requested (I could not see an email address for you on your Blog -great site by the way) The link is for the first edition of my book, as I mentioned on this form I am about to publish it as a revised and updated edition. By the way I used CrowdSpring for the cover design and found that to be an excellent option.

    All the best with your book project, its a challenging and richly rewarding thing to do.


    Peter August 24, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Hi Joel

    I went with a different company and have had nothing but frustration. I do have a book done, price $18.95 but shipping adds $6. People who have bought the book on line are waiting up to a month (granted, I’m in Canada and the publisher is in the US but, really?) I paid good mooney for editing (4 figures) and approved it without rechecking every word (I’d read the thing a million times) only to find that there were serious typos in the first proof – guess who paid for the re do?The “marketing package” consisted of a box of books (I paid for in the price,) a press release that was nothing more than a paragraph added to the book’s precis (that I wrote) and a list of potential book reviewers, most of which won’t accept self-published books.

    I’m thinking of moving my business to CS. Do you think I’d have a better experience? I’ve already started writing book 2.

    Thanks very much.


    Joel Friedlander August 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Peter, I’m guessing that you used a subsidy publisher, from the sound of it. The book is likely priced too high, and from your report it sounds like the typical subsidy operation.

    CreateSpace is not a subsidy publisher, and you will be much happier, get a better book, at a better price, if you use them. Keep in mind you will be responsible for editing and proofreading. Good luck.


    Peter August 26, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Thanks Joel. What is a “subsidy publisher?”


    David Rivers August 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm


    I can recommend CS, based on having gotten a book into print with them myself. I did a lot of research prior to go this way and even had a very good option for going with a traditional publisher but decided to self publish due to the enormous advantages held within such.

    You can find indie editors through the CS community if you think that kind of option may suit you best. I myself used an indie editor and had a few friends with experience in this area help with proof reading and extra editing.

    CS has formatted my book for its new revised edition which is only weeks away from release and I have found them to be excellent on every level, their customer service is great and prompt and the quality of the work for the formatting is excellent, although there have been little errors here and there, which is to be expected. I think with any work you get done, be it though a professional service from a POD provider or through an indie editor or what have you, you do need to focus on, get some coffee and do a very close proof read. For the first edition of my book, I had a third party proof read the final thing before going to print and it turned out they missed a glaring error, which only I could have noticed due to my being so utterly familiar with the manuscript.
    CS have partnered with a company called CrowdSpring, as on option for cover creation, I took this option for the revised edition of my book and I was well pleased with the quality. I know that CrowdSpring have a wide range of services extending far beyond book covers, so that may be a potential for you with other needs.

    Its work, its frustrating, its daunting but its deeply rewarding to finally see a book in print. If your not (totally) happy with the outcome with your book where you are now. Why not just move the book to another POD?

    Anyways, its 7am I need coffee.
    All the best with your publishing adventure.

    Dave Rivers
    Author of The Dance of Stillness


    Peter August 26, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Thanks Dave. Your comments are helpful. My problem now is that some of my friends who are ordering the book (directly through the POD company) have waited up to a month to get it (after paying $6 shipping) while those who ordered through Barnes and Noble or Amazon are getting it in days (often free shipping.) My POD company says they have “never” had this problem and they are adamant that as soon as they get orders they send them to the printer. So, that means to me that the actual printers (in this case CS is the printer) favor orders from their own (like Amazon) and don’t provide the same level of service to the “little guys.” That makes sense to me as a back-door way of gaining competitive advantage. Does it make sense to you?

    Also, do you know of a site that rates indie editors in terms of cost and quality? That part of the indie author world seems to be all over the map and clearly the services offered by the POD companies are not necessarily the best (or is it the same situation – behind the scenes all POD companies are using the same editors just like they’re using the same printers! LOL.)

    Your thoughts about your experiences are appreciated.



    Lillie Ammann August 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

    I do not know of any ratings for freelance editors, but even a highly rated editor may not be the right one for your book. Different genres have different conventions, and you need an editor who is familiar with your genre as well as enthusiastic about your work and your writing style. I always offer a free sample edit (typically about five pages) so the potential client and I can both see if I’m a good fit for their book. Many other editors do the same thing, and I recommend you ask for samples from several editors to find the one who will make your work sound exactly like you–only better.


    David Rivers August 26, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Hi Peter

    I’m glad you found some useful information or ideas within what I have shared, I’m doing so out of a passion for the process of the creative endeavor of writing and self-publishing. You know regarding editors, its tricky, my own book is a little out of the norm, being of a mystical nature, the text contains all kinds of ambiguous and unusual syntax and non ordinary grammar, (which is the norm for this kind of literature. So for this reason alone, I had to search far and wide to find an editor I was happy with, I eventually found someone who has worked specifically with editing “spiritual” books of a similar ilk to my own. This took me a while and along the way I went through some editors (paying a hefty fee), which were not up to par. So I suggest you consider carefully the “type” of writing you do or intend to publish, then research, research, research. Ask to see examples of their work, also you may like to simply seek out specific editors which you see have already edited similar material. IE: track down the editor of a book similar to yours in style, form and content etc.

    Regarding Amazon, CS, availability, postage times etc. and other PODs in the mix, I’m really no expert on this at all, I can see how a company which has the potential to leverage a competitive advantage would really be virtually obliged to do such if it was possible. Think about this, in the world of commerce and shares and the current economic clime, big and small business alike are focusing everything they have on just staying afloat, and to that end being as profitable as they possibly can be, they hire exerts from a diverse range of fields to root out every possible unexploited business advantage they can. As I said they are literally obliged to so- within the context of being a business.

    I have not had any editing done by CS so on that front I can not offer a comment, I only know the formatting they have done for my book is great.

    Once again all the best in your publishing adventure.



    James Byrd August 27, 2011 at 10:51 am


    You may have made a wise decision to wait out the LSI/CreateSpace issue regarding availability. Mainly because the print quality that CS produces is terrible.

    I mentioned before about how we were disappointed by the proof of Susan’s book “Funds to the Rescue” when we switched over to CS. Well recently we ran a few ARCs of her upcoming book “Publicity to the Rescue,” and the results were just as bad (if not worse — the cover was affected this time). We may document the differences we’ve found in LSI versus CS quality and post an article about it. All I can say is that I hope CS sends our customers better-produced books than the ones that come out of the proof process.

    From a business perspective, I totally understand Amazon using their usual strong-arm tactics to get self publishers to switch to CS, but the least they could do is provide a decent quality service for the higher per-unit cost you have to pay.


    Alicia Wright Brewster August 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Sadly, I am also beginning to doubt CS’s quality. My issues start in the proof stage of my first book, but now I see the issues as being regular and expected. About 50% of the copies I order directly from CreateSpace have slightly grainy covers. Interestingly, I’ve yet to see this problem with my CreateSpace books that I order from Amazon. (But then again, most of my Amazon orders ship elsewhere, e.g., to the U.K., and not directly to me.) I’ve had this problem with both of my CreateSpace titles (which are also available through Lightning Source).

    At first, customer service swore up and down that I’d revised the source files for the covers and that the current files would result in good covers. This was untrue, and when I finally convinces them that my cover source files hadn’t changed, they told me that “a small amount of variance among each book is expected.” Only the variance isn’t small. When I put a good copy and bad copy next to each other, it’s significant. I don’t want my customers to have that bad copy.

    My second issue is with the glue. One of my coworkers left my first book in his car during the summer. The glue melted! He showed me what’s left of the book. The pages have separated from the spine. It’s a mess.

    As a result of these issues, I think I may stop using CreateSpace and stick to Lightning Source. I’ve found Lightning Source’s quality to be great, even though our contact there wasn’t particularly helpful (i.e., she told me to read the manual) the one time I contacted her.


    Joel Friedlander August 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had with quality, Alicia. I think it’s really challenging for these high-volumen, very automated facilities to keep real control over the quality of the output, but I do expect digital printing quality will continue to improve.


    Ade Fagbolagun August 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    First of all, I say thank you very much for all your advice on this Forum. I came across this site just now and I am beginning to understand all about Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Your advice and time taken to respond to each enquiry is awesome and highly impressive, considering the fact that it is a free service. Really really impressive. I have read a lot about both in the last few days and I confess that I have been so confused on which one to go with, until I came across all your comments. I have not had much luck with getting my book published. I paid AuthorHouse approx £1500 to get my Novel out there, but after reading the numerous chilling and negative comments about the company, I recently backed out, terminated their contract, and was fortunate to get half of the money back from them last week. Since then, I have been surfing the internet for a better option.
    This is my first manuscript (romantic fiction), but I have started drafting another two.
    I am in the process of ordering ISBNs and also looking into sorting out my cover. I have done most of the editing/formatting myself, but will be getting a third eye to have it check it up. I would however be so grateful if you could advice me on the two (LS or CS) in terms of quality, reliability, costs, distribution etc. Again, I am really grtaful for all the comments on this site.


    David Rivers August 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I must say, I have found the print quality of CS to be excellent overall. That is my encounter with CS, if I compare to other books the quality is on par with the typical book you would find in a book store or library. I say this with all due respect to anyone who feels otherwise or has had their own encounter with CS printing and holds another opinion, yet for myself I can attest that I am well pleased with the quality. I am just stating my own honest view here.

    God Bless


    James Byrd August 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm


    I’m very glad you have posted your experiences with CS, and that they have been positive ones. Your comments and the comments of other people who say similar things are really what keeps us from pulling out of CreateSpace, in spite of the rather poor experiences that we’ve had.

    Like I said, I just hope our customers are not seeing the same thing we are!

    Cheers to an “honest view.”


    Daree August 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I will be using LS and I see from all the discussion that the book will be funneled to Amazon by default. That said, do I need to do anything special to create the Amazon page for the book to collect preorders? Or is this all done during the setup with LS?


    jacqueline friedrich November 5, 2011 at 6:47 am

    At the end of August I published a book with Lulu. I purchased their Global Outreach package for distribution. Late last week I learned that mistakes at their end had created an enormous backlog and that my book was not in distribution anywhere but on their site. At the same time, I received an email from the Global Outreach people saying that the book’s spine did not comply with their requirements: they said the spine text was slightly too big and must be moved in .0625″ to fit within the template for their distributor.
    A highly experienced book designer formatted and designed my book. He immediately redid the text of the spine but it still didn’t pass muster, though no reasons were given.

    They also said that “other aspects” of the book might fail to comply with their requirements, indicating that they had gone no further than the spine of the book. I got the impression that they were taking one page at a time and I could spend the rest of my life correcting things.

    Numerous emails have been exchanged though no satisfactory solution seems even vaguely within site.

    I think the book looks great – as do others who have seen it. It is already being reviewed and I expect more reviews, particularly as we approach the holidays.

    So I’m desperate to get the book into distribution, online, eg Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in book as well as specialty shops.



    Joel Friedlander November 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Sure, switch printers. They really aren’t more than that.

    If you have your own ISBN, just use someone else. You could already have your book in distribution with CreateSpace, for instance.


    jfdp November 10, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    That thought is what brought me to this site.

    It does seem, though, that the author/publisher gets better royalties with Lulu than with eg Create Space.


    David Grote November 22, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I am about to use CreateSpace for my first novel, and will be ordering some hard cover books along with paperbacks. Are the hardcover books high quality? Just want to make sure they are done nicely.


    David Rivers November 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Hi yall

    I just wanted to give a little update on how things are progressing with my book “The Dance of Stillness” which I am publishing through createspace under the ‘new imprint’ Tandava Press.

    I received my second physical proof copy recently, which is top quality. The cover is brilliant, the colours are great and its a sturdy and professional level production.

    The photos within the book are also of a high standard, which considering that I had to re-size them to 300dpi is great, I was not sure how they would turn out. (they are all black and white photos)

    The cream paper looks great, I had initially used the gloss paper, which looked for too bright, kind of what you may expect to see in a magazine.

    We found a few small errors within the text, (simple things we had previously missed in a proof read) which we decided to amend and createspace were very generous in helping us with this.

    I know many people looking for a POD service struggle in weighing up their options, so thats the reason I am sharing my own encounter with createspace here. The quality is great, the online set up is fantastic and the customer service is first class. I recommend them highly.


    Dave Rivers



    Firehouse Publishing February 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I am in the process of transitioning from POD to traditional printing as some of my titles are becoming popular. (This was part of my plan to use POD as a test)

    Their is one big issues I have with Lightning Source. It is possible to have a NEGATIVE income. They check your files, fees, PDFs, forms, etc… but not once do they check the financials to be sure, you as author/publisher, make any money.

    I only found out with my first financial report, that I OWED L.S. 21 cents for every book I sold of one title.

    Createspace would not allow this to happen. Your title cannot be sold unless the numbers are zero or positive.

    It’s an issue to be aware of and figuring prices with L.S. is no picnic.


    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    The chief difference is that CreateSpace is designed to work with authors, while Lightning Source specifically tries to dissuade authors from using their service, which is designed to work with publishers. Since LSI is strictly a business-to-business enterprise, it’s none of their business, really, whether or how much you make on a particular book. They provide a service, it’s up to you as a businessperson how you want to use it.

    I strongly advise you to read the back of the estimate you will receive from whichever book printer you end up using for your project. It may be printed in gray type, but the trade practices enumerated there will be a binding part of your contract, activated by returning the signed estimate to the printer.


    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Today at LSI:

    6″ x 9″ softcover =

    $.013/page + $0.90 for the cover for books printed to fill retail orders

    $.015/page + $0.90 for the cover for books printed for the publisher


    Percy Cannon September 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Hi Joel, hope you remember me from your first self-publishing webinar.
    I am trying to decide between LSI and CS to publish my first book (The Business Apostolate, self-help, paperback, B&W interior). I have read your initial article and all of the blog comments/replies and still have 3 open questions:
    1. For POD, which of the 2 services offers better economics? I have been able to run the #s in CS but couldn’t find a similar calculator in LSI.
    2. In 1-2 of your blog entries you mentioned a 20% that seem to be a difference in favor of LSI. Can you expand on this?
    3. Is there any downside risk of using both? My rationale is to leverage the online retail strengths from Amazon thru CS, and Ingram’s offline retail distribution thru LS. I saw 2 blog entries on this topic but didn’t find a conclusive position either way.


    Alicia Wright Brewster August 27, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Out of curiosity, who are you using for your traditional printing and distribution? I hope to get my publishing company to this point in the near future?


    Joel Friedlander August 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm


    My favorite short-run book printer is Thomson-Shore, although I’ve printed many books at Malloy Litho, McNaughton & Gunn and numerous others. Usually these printers don’t offer distribution, you have to arrange that separately.


    Alicia Wright Brewster August 28, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I’m looking into distributors as well.

    I am going to get some quotes from those printers. I hadn’t come across them in my searches yet. Thanks for the names!


    Emily Kudeviz February 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    First of all, your blog post and all the resulting discussion has been extremely helpful!

    I do have a question though. I am in the process of starting a small publishing company and will want to offer electronic versions and print versions of the books. I also planned on going through LSI,. Do you know if it is a requirement to go through them for epub and .mobi formats as well? Or, as I know how to construct ebooks, am I able to go through other means?



    James Byrd February 9, 2012 at 7:36 am

    There is no requirement to use LSI for your e-books. In fact, distributing e-books through them has a completely separate publishing agreement.

    Also, LSI distributes only LIT, EPUB, PDF, and PDB formats. You can use them to distribute to many retailers, but they won’t get you into

    You have many choices for distributing e-books, but one popular model is to do the following:

    * Use Amazon KDP to upload your MobiPocket/Kindle edition and sell through
    * Use PubIt! to upload your EPUB edition and sell through Barnes & Noble.
    * Use iTunes Connect to upload your EPUB edition and sell through the iBookstore.
    * Use Google Books to upload your EPUB and sell through the Google eBookstore.
    * Use Smashwords to distribute an EPUB edition to all other vendors who do not have a way to upload directly.

    Some people use Smashwords for every vendor except Amazon, but you have more control over your EPUB if you upload directly to the various vendors. (Smashwords claims they may offer direct uploading of EPUB files later this year.)

    If dealing with all those outlets seems like too much work, you can also just upload to KDP and PubIt! and call it good. That will cover about 85% of the e-book market.


    William Derr February 20, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Hi All – have learned a lot form your posts…

    I have a client who is going to publish 12 (50 page) 8.5X11, full color, children’s books.

    Our plan is to put the first book on KDP, then evolve through Folium Book Studio to further distribute eBooks.

    Later, we are looking to print 100, or so, copies at a time and have them shipped to her home where her team will ship based on online orders.

    CS has been the most helpful of all we have studied and their quality seems adequate and their price seems quite competitive – your thoughts are most appreciated… w


    Joel Friedlander March 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    The color books I’ve seen recently from CreateSpace have been quite good. Keep in mind your graphics need to be done from the beginning for use in print books, and you can downsample from there for the ebook versions.


    Alison McLennan March 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for all this great information.I’ve spent some time reading the posts and had many similar questions, which are now answered. I’m about to publish my first novel, Falling for Johnny. I was going to go with LS because I didn’t know that you could use your own ISBN and retain all rights with Create Space. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to court agents and publishers and I can tell you I’m done with that. I’m so happy that authors are taking control of their work and that the “stigma” of self publishing is diminishing as we “speak”. Thanks Joel, for empowering us with the technical know-how!


    Joel Friedlander March 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment Alison. Keep in mind that CreateSpace offers four different ISBN options, and you can easily use your own ISBNs if you choose to use them as your print on demand vendor.


    dz March 23, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I plan to publish some music scores with LS. I am very very curious about the printing quality, since music is the line-art and there are a lot of curves and small symbols. 300 dpi sounds to little, or?


    Joel Friedlander March 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm


    Line art that is pure black and white is usually saved as 1200 dpi bitmap graphics for reproduction. 300 dpi is used for grayscale and halftone images.


    Jami July 3, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Good Morning! I’m trying to figure out an ISBN number issue that we, as a small publishing company, are experiencing. (I’m new at the publishing world, so please bear with my possible lengthy explanation.) We have a title with our own ISBN number listed with Createspace, and we would also like to use Lightning Source with the same ISBN. I’ve read articles which tell me it’s possible to use the same (as we own it) ISBN number with two printers. However, this has not been the case. I’ve been told that I need to have two ISBN numbers for the same title, or I need to have Createspace “release” the title (which means that they would no longer have it all all), so that Lightning Source can take the title over. My question… can I use the same ISBN number with both companies (they–as in Createspace and Lightning Source–are telling me no, but articles and other people have told me yes…we own the ISBN number)? Or do I need to buy another ISBN number for the same title?


    Joel Friedlander July 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Jami, yes you can—and should—use the same ISBN for both vendors, IF you 1) own the ISBNs yourself, and 2) don’t sign up for the expanded distribution system at CreateSpace. Hope that helps.


    Gretchen July 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    @Jami-I wonder if Lightning Source and CreateSpace have recently changed their policies. I have a title printed at Lightning Source and just tried to upload it to CreateSpace since I am having a “1-3 weeks” shipping speed over at Amazon that I want to get rid of. However, CreateSpace is telling me that I can’t use the ISBN because “it is already in use”–which it is, over at Lightning Source.


    Linnet Woods July 26, 2012 at 2:43 am

    A friend has written a novella and had the manuscript edited, has opened a CreateSpace account, got her ISBN, created a cover and is now ready to have the book formatted for publication (headers/page numbers etc) as this stage has proved daunting. Can anyone recommend an inexpensive independent entity who can perform this task?


    David Mercier July 26, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Hi Linnet,
    It is a lot of work getting a book formatted just right, i.e. interior design, and that includes getting a proofreader to go over it several times. I had started this with CreateSpace, but found them unsatisfactory. So I went with a professional book designer and was extremely satisfied with him. But… the big difference is that while the interior design costs several hundred dollars with an author services company like CreateSpace, Lulu, Author House, etc., a professional book designer will charge usually $3,000 to $5,000. I hired Austin Metze of Metze Publication Design, and his work was outstanding. It was worth it to me, but I’m sure it won’t be for everyone. But this is a great example of “you get what you pay for.”


    Linnet Woods July 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you for coming back to me on this one :-) Her book has been thoroughly proof-read by more than one professional entity – all she needs is page numbering and to make sure that the guttering and any white pages are correctly positioned. Judging by what you have explained though, she is going to have to figure it out with a little help from her friends :-)


    rikkitikki September 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    hi all,

    firstly i want to thank you all for such wonderful contributions!
    i am doing some POD research and this page with all of the accompanying links has been a fantastic resource!

    my question is slightly tangential:
    i have a LARGE catalogue of old antique books which i own the copyrights to. i want to migrate my library over to a POD service. my current process is printing using high-res scans of the original books.. some are over 50 yrs old. the quality is marginal in many cases. i could likely get away with this using lightning source as-is but am curious as to other options.

    i am very interested in digitizing the scans into machine readable text via OCR.

    does anybody know of a service that provides OCR translation combined with a human that actually proofs the machine translations? i’m sure somebody is outsourcing this kind of stuff somewhere but i don’t know whom or where…

    my reasoning is that i would eventually like to enter the kindle market and want the machine text.

    many thanks for any assistance or links to more appropriate forums!


    Joel Friedlander October 3, 2012 at 11:17 am


    Check out this article that addresses your question: Is It Worth Converting an Old Book Into an eBook?


    Ed Lake October 3, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Wow! This blog has been VERY helpful to me.

    In 2005, I self-published a book titled “Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks,” which was about the anthrax letter attacks of 2001.

    I did all the work, writing, editing, proof-reading, setting up the pdfs, designing the cover, etc. I sent out quote requests to printing companies, I picked a good company, and I published the book. But, I didn’t do ANY advertising, so no one except for the readers of my web site knew about the book. I sent out a bunch of copies to reporters I knew, but the only book review was in New Scientist magazine, and they didn’t explain that the only place people could buy the book was on-line via Amazon or B&N. So, I don’t know if that review generated any sales or not. I sold about 130 copies, but I’ve still got boxes full of books in my garage (each individually wrapped in plastic).

    Now I know that sending out books to reporters doesn’t get reviews. Reporters don’t review books. Book reviewers review books.

    Anyway, I’ve now got a new book all set to go. Same subject, but VERY different, since we now know who sent the letters.

    The book is 392 pages with 31 embedded illustrations. I have created the pdf files, and I’ve built the index based upon the pdf files. So, the idea of changing formats could be a deal breaker for me.

    I’m surprised that no one here has mentioned iUniverse. A couple days ago, I was trying to decide if I should self publish about 300 book using a printing company like I did with my first book, or if I should use iUniverse. That company came up when I was doing research. A police captain in New York wrote a book that had a chapter about the anthrax case, and it was published via iUniverse. I bought a copy.

    When I researched them, I was disheartened when it turned out that iUniverse couldn’t use my existing pdf files.

    Then, a couple days ago, while researching something else, I stumbled across information about Create Space and Lightning Source. And that led me here.

    Now I’ve learned that Lightning Source also cannot use my existing pdf files.

    So, suddenly the decision is made: I’ll be using Create Space … unless a miracle happens, or unless they cannot use my existing pdf files for some reason.

    However, I’ve still got at least a dozen query letters to literary agents outstanding – plus one to a regular publisher. The 11th anniversary of the anthrax attacks is this month. So, something in the news might get an agent interested in the subject. Or the sky might open up and God might tap one of them on the shoulder and tell him or her to pay attention to my book.

    Anyway, thanks for all the information. It was VERY helpful

    Ed Lake


    Joel Friedlander October 3, 2012 at 11:18 am


    Great story, I hope it works out well for you. I think you’ve found exactly the right print on demand vendor for your book in CreateSpace.


    Ed Lake October 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm


    Thanks. I could probably write a book about writing this book. The FBI calls the anthrax attacks investigation “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement,” yet the typical literary agent doesn’t seem to remember it and can’t imagine why anyone would want to read about it.

    The second biggest problem I see is getting the media interested. It was also the worst-reported major crime in modern times. Every newspaper seemed to have its own theory of who did it, and they attacked the FBI for years because the FBI hadn’t locked up their favorite suspect. So, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers might not like the idea of a book that shows what a terrible job the those newspapers did when they pointed at the wrong people and looked in the wrong places for clues.

    Now I’ve got to work on a cover design. And I’ve got to get the ISBN number and the Library of Congress Control Number so I can finish the page after the title page. Then I’ll sign up for Create Space and start plowing through what is required to get the book into print.

    Thanks again.



    Ed Lake October 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm


    I’ve got a couple questions you may be able to help me with.

    When I self-published my book in 2005, I bought TEN ISBN codes. I only needed one, but I don’t think they were selling one a time back then. I can’t imagine why I would by ten. Looking at my profit&Loss statement for 2005, I find that I paid $244.95. So, it truly appears that I did indeed buy ten.

    Looking at my Bowker account, I see that I used one for the 2005 book and a second one for the Kindle version in 2011.

    Looking at Bowker’s web site today at I see that one ISBN code costs $125 and ten cost $250. So, it appears the price for ten hasn’t changed much.


    Am I missing something, or am I all set with an ISBN code for my new book. I’ll just take the next in the list.

    Do you recall any requirement to buy ten ISBN codes back around 2005?

    I vaguely remember talking with someone about how the ten codes were typically used for different editions of the same book. Italian edition, Braile edition, Sanscrit edition, etc. But, I see no reason why I can’t just take the next code on the list. Do you?



    Ed Lake October 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm


    I think I may have found the answer to at least one question:

    On this web page it says:

    “Most Books Require More Than 1 ISBN!

    If you plan to publish a version in hard cover, soft cover, ePub, PDF, with or without illustrations, you will need more than one ISBN for each book title.

    Buy 10 ISBNs & Save!

    Buying 10 ISBNs in bulk, costs the same as buying 2!

    Buy 10 ISBNs now and you will not run out later!”

    But, I still cannot imagine paying twice what I needed to pay for an ISBN code. And I distinctly remember being puzzled or surprised when I received 10 codes.



    Tony Green January 10, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Hello. I was recently with a book company that recently closed. My book has already been published. I plan on republishing it under my new company. Since the book is already complete which of these companies would you recommend for distribution? Thanks!


    David Rivers January 10, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    We are very happy with createspace
    As a small grass roots publishing house, it allows for real time tracking of sales and the user friendly set up is a dream.
    Very helpful staff as well


    Cathy Cleveland February 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the great info…been enjoying the reading here. I have a distribution question about CS. I have published ‘Fantasy Horses coloring book’ through CS and have signed up for expanded distribution. It was easy to set up and the quality is great. I am trying to get my coloring book into box stores like Walgreens. Through expanded distribution, is my book available to a ‘Walgreens’ supplier or distributor via Ingram? In other words, if a store likes my horse coloring book, would they have any trouble ordering it through their own suppliers? I am ready to approach these stores and I need to know that they actually can add my book to their existing supply channels. Hopefully with ease. Any insight on this is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!


    Joel Friedlander February 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm


    Anyone with an Ingram account will be able to order your book. When it comes to specific niche distributors, you’ll need to enquire to find out whether they are getting books from Ingram. However, your book should also be available from Baker & Taylor, too, and many wholesalers buy from them. The best bet is to try to get a couple of minutes with a buyer for the kind of store you want to sell into and query them directly about who they are buying their books from, then make sure that wholesaler or distributor knows they can order your book.


    Cathy Cleveland February 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thank you Joel! Do you know how that works when a company orders from Ingram? Is it a non-returnable…like CS Direct…does it matter?


    James Byrd February 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm


    Books distributed through Expanded Distribution are not returnable and the wholesale discount to the retailer is 25%. I know this from a discussion with a CS author who was trying to convince a book store owner to order a few copies of his book. She balked because his book did not have the typical 40% discount and was not returnable.

    For some buyers, a 40% discount and returnability are non-negotiable. Others are more willing to accept a lower margin, or they mark the book up beyond list price (giving themselves the margin they want), or they may let you put your books in their stores on consignment. As Joel suggested, your best bet is to talk with buyers directly and see what you can work out.

    FWIW, my theory is that CreateSpace takes a standard 20%. When you sell through ED, CS gets 20%, the distributor gets 15% (typically), and the retailer gets what’s left (25%). That “standard” percentage is also reflected in their online store discount (20% for CS) and their discount (40% = 20% for CS + 20% for Amazon).


    Cathy Cleveland February 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks guys, I really appreciate the feedback!

    George Norton February 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Joel or James,

    Has the issue of Amazon often listing some LS books as being out of stock for 1-3 weeks been resolved yet, or it is still hurting sales on Amazon of books printed by LS? Do I need to publish my book with LS and CS if I want to maximize sales?


    James Byrd February 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Hi George,

    It has not been resolved. In fact, the situation appears to have gotten worse. The last three books we put into LSI *immediately* went into 1-3 weeks delivery. In the past, that didn’t happen right away on new titles. My guess is that Amazon has stopped drop-shipping through LSI entirely.

    We’ve officially changed our policy to use CreateSpace for only and LSI for all other retailers. In my opinion, it still doesn’t make sense to use Expanded Distribution, which is why we continue to use LSI.


    robyn lindsey March 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I just released my 5th book through createspace. And I just found out that since I opted for the free isbn’s my books will never be in bookstores. Physically on the shelves I mean. They are available in online bookstores and

    To answer an earlier question, I have printed a full color photo book through them and it looked fine.

    My question, if any one here knows… I’d like to buy the isbn’s from and re-assign isbn’s. How different do I have to make each book? I mean, I know I could *just* change the titles (which I would rather not do), so how much do I need to change the content?

    Any help would be appreciated.


    James Byrd March 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    You don’t have to change anything. Although an ISBN can only be assigned to one edition of a book, you can assign as many ISBNs to a book as you want.


    robyn lindsey March 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    That is a huge relief! Thank you!


    steve kaffen March 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I have a question about CS vs. LS quality. Upon receiving from CS the proof of my 300-page book of travels through Asia, I found that the front cover (a green picture that fills the cover) was wrapping onto the solid orange spine. In following up with CS, I learned their acceptable printing variance is 1/8 inch, and thus they can’t do anything to correct my situation. I am the publisher and own my ISBN. The cover and interior layout is professionally done; poor setup of my files is not an issue. I’d like to use CS to print if possible, and the author’s price for me to buy my book costs less from CS (good since I will be selling them when I lecture). FYI, a second book should be out by year-end and a third next year. But, I want the book’s quality to look sharp.
    My questions:
    Is there any tweaking that CS can do that they have not mentioned, to resolve the variance problem on the cover?
    Does LS have the same 1/8 inch acceptable variance; that is, is it standard for POD?
    Does LS print books of better and more reliable quality?
    Any suggestions what I should do? Thanks.


    steve kaffen March 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I have a question about CS quality, and CS vs. LS quality. Upon receiving from CS the proof of my 300-page book of travels through Asia, I found that the front cover (a green picture that fills the cover) was wrapping onto the solid orange spine. In following up with CS, I learned their acceptable printing variance is 1/8 inch, and thus they can’t do anything to correct my situation. I am the publisher and own my ISBN. The cover and interior layout is professionally done; poor setup of my files is not an issue. I’d like to use CS to print if possible; the author’s price for me to buy my book costs less from CS (good since I will be selling them when I lecture). But, I want the book’s quality to look sharp. A second book should be out by year-end and a third next year.
    My questions:
    Is there any tweaking that CS can do that they have not mentioned, to resolve the variance problem of the cover?
    Does LS have the same 1/8 inch acceptable variance; that is, is it standard for POD?
    Does LS print books of better and more reliable quality for POD?
    Any suggestions what I should do? Thanks.


    Michael N. Marcus March 27, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Both CS and LS are inconsistent inside and outside the book.

    Here are the best cures I’ve found for the cover wrap issue:

    1) Place the image centered on the front cover with plenty of white space around it (not very interesting) and hope that no one notices if the image moves around from printing to printing.

    2) Have a continuous color or image that wraps from front cover, across the spine and onto the back cover.

    More in my The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one


    James Byrd March 27, 2013 at 7:21 am

    The printing variance you quoted is common to all POD printing equipment at this point in time. You can have the same issues with your book if you print it with LSI.

    Knowing there is an 1/8-inch tolerance is one of the design considerations when you are creating covers for POD books. Experienced designers are careful not to put sharp lines between the cover and spine. They also know to keep the spine text fairly small and centered. That 1/8″ tolerance can be a real problem for short (narrow spine) books.

    The best designs I’ve seen either use a gradient in the transition between cover and spine, or they wrap the color/image from the cover across the spine and onto the back. Some designers work around the problem by creating a “frame” of color around the edges of the front and back cover and wrap that color onto the spine.

    POD equipment produces nice results, all things considered. But it does not yet compare to offset for production quality.


    Steve June 20, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Thanks Michael. What I did was wrap the orange spine about 3/16 inch around both the front and back covers – the latter of your suggestions. It looks good, and therefore the front cover remains filled the green of the Mt. Emei, China, photo; the rear remains white with very light Guilin, China mountains. I’m not sure what to do with a similar book in manuscript form.

    Do you have experience with CreateSpace’s interior and cover work. The front cover is one picture; the back is “marketing” and author’s bio.


    Steve June 20, 2013 at 8:05 am

    James…and thank you for your astute ideas. I really appreciate when alternatives are provided. I chose the last of your suggestions.


    Fernando April 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I just read all the post and I loved!!!

    I am writing my first book and I hope to be ready by the end of this year.

    I noticed that many authors have two or more books. My question at this point is: do you know if at some point the authors could live with their royalties (as JK Rowling)?



    Ed Lake April 8, 2013 at 6:36 am


    You asked, “do you know if at some point the authors could live with their royalties (as JK Rowling)?”

    For every writer like JK Rowling, there are probably ten thousand writers or more who CANNOT earn a living by writing books.

    I’ve written two non-fiction books. Neither sold more than 150 copies. I’m currently looking for an idea for a third book. While I’d certainly like to write a book that sells a million copies, I write for my own enjoyment. It’s a hobby.

    If you wrote for your own enjoyment, you will get pleasure from your writing. If you write to make money, the odds are that you’ll get only disappointment and misery from your writing. But, there are exceptions like JK Rowling.



    Joel Friedlander April 8, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Ed, that was beautifully said, thanks for contributing. Although many people are focused on monetary returns and “bestsellers” it’s this sentiment, that books can provide amazing benefits to authors as well as readers even if their circulation is quite small, that continues to drive me to help authors get into print.


    Fernando April 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks Ed for your answer!!!

    100% agree, the first step is write for enjoyment!!!


    Dave Flanagan June 14, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Could anyone point me at a publishing forum that discusses Lightning Source? Thanks Dave


    Michael N. Marcus June 14, 2013 at 5:24 am
    Dave Flanagan June 14, 2013 at 5:36 am



    Joel Friedlander June 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Dave, also check out the other Yahoo groups linked in this post.


    Newt Barrett June 19, 2013 at 2:57 am

    The biggest problem today with CS vs LSI is that publishing with LSI no longer guarantees you ‘in-stock’ status on
    Our new color book shows 11-14 days shipping:
    After speaking with our wonderful LSI rep, we have determined that we will never be guaranteed in-stock Amazon status under Amazon’s current policies.
    CS is a bad choice for us because of pricing: CS charges $3.00 more/ book and with the 40% discount there is almost no profit.


    PT June 20, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Based on an experience I’m going through right now, I’d like to warn Canadian authors about


    PT June 20, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Sorry. Fat fingers. This post has to do with the current business relationship between CS and Chapters/Indigo. There is a problem at the moment – no one seems to be willing to fully explain t


    PT June 20, 2013 at 5:45 am

    the bottom line is that if you go with CS “Expanded Distribution” today, it does NOT include Chapters/Indigo. If you are Canadian and care about that, be forewarned.


    Calvin Richert August 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the fine discussion. I have readers in both the US and Canada as well as in several other countries outside the US. However, shipping from the US to other countries is really expensive, as you know. Do either CS or LS have on-demand operations in Canada &/or other places outside the US to reduce shipping costs?


    Joel Friedlander August 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Calvin, Lightning Source is building plants in a number of countries, and already prints in the UK and Australia, so they may be your best bet. Ingram, which owns LSI, distributes to something like 130 countries.


    hadjsmail August 25, 2013 at 4:02 am

    My name is Ismail from Algeria.
    And author of children’s stories. I have published four stories in Arabic. Are: illegal immigration, the cigarette, the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad and Jewish.
    I have other stories have not yet been published, such as:
    - Ahmad in space: talking about the importance of reading and science.
    - Unemployment and drugs: talking about the danger of drugs.
    - Disperse consequence: talk about the consequences of conflict and danger.
    - Ahmad security: talking about Born wants justice among people.
    - The road to dignity: talking about better way to reach to recover the sovereignty and dignity.
    All in a simple and wonderful imagination.
    I ask you to financial support for the printing and publishing these stories and translated into English.
    Thank you


    Kelsey September 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Could I use my CS pdf files for LS? I have their $10 ISBN (my own imprint name), but their ISBN (needed the cheaper route). But I heard that I could simply transfer everything over to CS without having to do everything again. Is this workable?
    Thanks so much for your insight!


    Ric Willmot October 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    As of 9 October 2013 …

    CreateSpace is incompetent, slow, inconsiderate, and …

    Well, you get the idea. It has taken them over 6 months to still keep sending me interior versions of the book that are wrong, inaccurate and poorly designed. I paid a premium for their service and I would have been better off paying a kindergarten child to design the interior layout.

    If you wish to produce a professional book and don’t want to do it yourself, but rather employ professional designers, editors, etc. Do NOT use CreateSpace. A waste of time and money.


    Michael N. Marcus October 9, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Ric — I’ve used both CS and LS for multiple books. Both are mostly good but occasionally sloppy or frustrating to deal with. I’ve never found either to be incompetent, slow or inconsiderate.


    Joel Friedlander October 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Ric, it’s almost always better to use vendors for what they are best at, in this case printing books and distributing them via print on demand. This is even more true now that lots of authors are creating good-looking interiors with our book design templates for Microsoft Word. I hope things work out for you, CreateSpace has been a reliable vendor for thousands of other authors.


    Ric Willmot October 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I have documented the failings of CreateSpace and my lawyers are currently corresponding with the Better Business Bureau as well as a legal firm in the United States to represent my case against them. I paid for premium services for them to design the cover, complete the interior design and layout, etc.

    The most recent example of their ongoing incompetence over the last 6 months was that the interior layout and content was poorly done. I had to resubmit the manuscript in Word rather than making the adjustments to the work already done (which I found quite unusual) and after 17 days (when it was supposed to be completed in 5-7) less than 10% of the corrections had been made.

    Now, they want to charge an additional fee to make the adjustments they were supposed to have completed from the previously paid editorial service. This has been the pattern ever since we started in May 2013. On every occasion after challenging their mistakes, they have waived the fee to do what they were meant to do, originally.

    In the meantime, I have missed out on substantial sales (I am a conference speaker specialising in accountants, lawyers, financial planners, consultants, etc.) because I’ve not had the physical product available at back of room for sale. And, we’re not talking nickel and dime. This book will be retailing at $99 with a back of room sales price of $75. And, as an example, the previous book similar to this one retailed at $99 and I sold 1,203 copies back of room since it was released in August 2012. Do the math. This is why I’m so upset at the poor performance of CreateSpace.


    Joel Friedlander October 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Especially because of the retail price on your book, I would strongly advise you hire a professional book designer to produce your next book, it would eliminate the time, frustration, and problems you’ve encountered, and you would still be able to use CreateSpace for their print on demand distribution into Amazon.


    Michael N. Marcus October 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Very valid, Joel.

    When authors buy a publishing package, they are far removed from the people who do the actual design work. Instructions from the author may be lost, mangled, misunderstood or ignored. At different times different designers, technicians and even financial people may be put on the project who don’t understand what was done before, what you want and don’t want.

    Especially for a complicated book (and maybe even just for a cover), it’s much better for an author to hire one designer to be a one-to-one partner for the whole project, not separated by “customer service reps” that can become barriers to communication and delay completion.

    For an important book cover, I work with one artist who may provide five to ten revisions before I am satisfied. I don’t have to communicate via any third parties who forward instructions to a changing cast of characters.


    PT Dawkins October 10, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I had a similar (very) frustrating experience with my cover design at CS. The question is, how does one find an independent artist? Is there some sort of central facility? The same would hold true for an editor. The website “predators and editors” isn’t that helpful in terms of rating the good people (or maybe I’m just not using it right?)


    Michael N. Marcus October 10, 2013 at 11:21 am

    PT — there are plenty of groups on Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. for self-publishing authors where you can get recommendations for all the needed services.

    DenisJG October 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Great thread. Very informative. Ideas on whether one might test CS versus LSI by publishing (with different ISBNs, of course) a paperback at CS simultaneously with a special hardcover edition through LSI?


    James H. Byrd October 26, 2013 at 10:27 am

    It’s been done, actually. Not so much as a test but rather as a publishing strategy. I know an author who used CS for paperback distribution to Amazon and LSI for paperback distribution through the Ingram Catalog. She also did an LSI-only hardback edition aimed specifically at libraries. (The LSI hardback offered a 55% discount while the paperback offered a 20% discount.)

    The problem with taking this approach as a test is that you aren’t comparing apples to apples. The hardback market is not the same as the trade paperback market. You would have to price the books very differently too, unless you wanted to sell them both at the same price and earn wildly different profits from each. (Hardbacks cost a lot more to print than paperbacks.)


    DenisJG October 26, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for such a quick reply. Did the author you mentioned not encounter problems with either CS or LSI for doing it? (even though she was doing paperback for both?) Does the “extended distribution” available through CS not already distribute the same product, through the Ingram catalog? What advantage did she gain?


    James H. Byrd October 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

    She did not encounter problems for two reasons:
    1. She owned her own ISBNs. That allowed her to use the same ISBN for her paperback at LSI and at CS.
    2. She used CS for distribution to Amazon only–she did not use Expanded Distribution. Instead, she used LSI for distribution to everyone other than Amazon.

    Here are the advantages she gained from her approach:
    1. By selling her paperback through CS, she was able to avoid the “out of stock” problems on Amazon.
    2. By distributing her paperback through LSI instead of CS/ED, she was able to set a discount of 20% instead of 60%.
    3. By offering a hardback edition through LSI, she was able to offer a 55% discount for the library market.

    If she had allowed returns on her hardback, she could have also gone after the bookstore market, but that wasn’t a priority for her, particularly given the risk associated with returns.


    DenisJG October 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Great tips, and food for thought. I am presently in the proofing stage of a book I had planned on wholly doing through CS, just because I didn’t really know much at all about LSI. What you are describing sounds like the best option though, finally. One of the reasons is this: although I have my own ISBNs (bought here in Switzerland through the official national agency), CS won’t let me have “extended distribution” UNLESS I use their own “CreateSpace” ISBN. Rule of the house, it seems. It bugged the hell out of me but I rationalized it this way… The Swiss ISBNs begin (as do the French and francophone-Canadian ones, whatever language their titles are in) with 978-2… and not 978-0 or 1… I told myself myself I would get better treatment on the USA/Canada market with the “local” looking ISBNs rather than mine. That lead me to accept the CS restriction. Mmmm. But as I haven’t approved the book yet, I can still change that, I think, and revert back to my own ISBN… and then I could go through the same path your friend followed. What do you think? Are my Swiss ISBNs (I have a block of ten already paid for, for my small publishing co.) going to get the same treatment in distribution networks? Thanks for your insights. Much appreciated.

    James H. Byrd October 27, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I’ve never heard of an instance where a book with a “foreign” ISBN gets different treatment simply because of the ISBN, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. The book market has been international for a long time now, so I believe just about every other aspect of a book’s metadata would be scrutinized before the ISBN.

    According to CreateSpace, it *is* possible to use your own ISBN for Expanded Distribution, as long as you have not used that ISBN with any other service. In other words, you can’t use your own ISBN at LSI and then use it again for CS/ED.

    DenisJG October 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Thanks James. I guess I had falsely lumped together the issue of “extended distribution” at CS, with their “Libraries and Academic Institutions” channel, which is only available if you use a “CreateSpace-Assigned” ISBN. Do you have any idea why that is?

    James H. Byrd October 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    My guess is that CS accesses libraries and educational institutions through a distributor that you could not get access to yourself. The distributor only deals with “real publishers” (each distributor defines for itself what “real” means), so they would not accept an ISBN that listed you as the publisher. Their relationship is with CS, so they want an ISBN that points back to CS as the publisher.

    Like I said, I’m guessing here. CreateSpace customer service might be able to give you more insight.

    DenisJG October 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Am I reading you correctly that you consider CS to have special distribution arrangements with libraries, that LSI doesn’t have? Did the author you mentioned, who had taken a dual CS-noED and LSI approach then miss out on the library market altogether?

    James H. Byrd October 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

    LSI has several distribution partners, some of which distribute to libraries. As I said in my previous post, I was just guessing about the arrangement between CS and their library distributor based on the fact that they require a CS ISBN.

    No matter which way you go (LSI or CS), libraries, educational institutions and bookstores are not going to automatically put your book on their shelves. Several hundred thousand books are published each year, and most of these organizations have long-standing processes in place for procuring titles. None of those processes include randomly selecting self-published books from the Baker & Taylor catalog or any other distribution source. ;-)

    What I’m getting at is that your book will only show up in libraries/bookstores if you do something to make it happen. Either your book has to become extremely popular so patrons start asking for it, or you have to do a lot of legwork to convince these institutions that your book is worth their time, money, and shelf space. The author I mentioned before was willing to do the legwork necessary to get her books into the libraries that were within her reach. Every individual library took some work on her part. It helped that her book was non-fiction and it addressed a common health problem. If she had been a fiction author, it would have been a much tougher sell.

    Joel Friedlander October 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Excellent advice here (as usual) from James Byrd. If you’re interested in library sales, you might also want to check out Quality Books, a company that for many years has sold independently-published books to libraries, and who knows this market as well as anyone.


    DenisJG October 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for the feedback. Excellent resources here. :-) As my book is non-fiction and has drawn excellent feedback from contacts in the educational community over its potential with teenagers, the library and educational sectors are of great interest to me. I will check out Quality Books. THX!

    Russell Brooks November 15, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Hello, Joel, hello, James,

    I’m two years late joining the party, as I’ve just discovered this particular blog article.

    I have two thrillers printed through CS and a third on the way (more will come). I don’t know much about LSI, but after reading the blog and several comments, I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve made the right decision by staying with CS.

    Here’s my publishing profile. I have my own professional editor, professional book cover designer, and eBook and print formater. I haven’t used any of CS marketing programs because I don’t trust them to help me sell more print books.

    I haven’t had any problems with CS, the quality of the books is great and the customer service is excellent. My main concern is distribution. I don’t know if it’s lack of marketing on my behalf or CS’s lack of connections, but I’ve sold few print books online versus eBooks. I also wonder whether I could print my books and ship them for cheaper through LSI. For someone like me who’s trying to build a career as a full-time thriller author, should I switch over to LSI or should I just stay with CS because there won’t be much of a difference? Would there be any real benefit for me to switch to LSI.




    James H. Byrd November 15, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Hi Russel,

    You might as well stay where you are. It’s typical for fiction authors to sell far more ebooks than print books. Moving to LSI won’t change that, although it would allow you to sell your print books at a lower price.

    The only fiction authors I know of who have any success with print are those who have a large following (and therefore sell a lot of books). The rest of us are lucky to get one percent of our sales in print.

    Congratulations on your thrillers! I wish you the best of luck with your goal of becoming a full-time writer.


    Russell Brooks November 15, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Thanks for the speedy reply, James.

    Selling my print books at a lower price is important for me because I attend book fairs (that’s where I sell most of my print books). As long as shipping through LSI is either the same or cheaper, I’ll switch over to LSI.



    James H. Byrd November 15, 2013 at 5:48 am

    When I said you could price your book lower at LSI, I meant for POD distribution. Doing a short print run and hand-selling is a different thing from doing POD for distribution. The last time I checked, CS printing charges are actually a bit lower than LSI, depending upon the quantity you order. I’m not sure about shipping charges. You’ll want to compare a typical (for you) print run before bothering to make a switch.

    For distribution, LSI lets you price your book lower because you can set a lower discount. The 60% that CS requires is a killer for most novel-length fiction. You have to price your book way too high or you have to accept almost no profit. Having a lower discount at LSI gives you more margin to work with.


    Russell Brooks November 15, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Ah, now I understand. Now that you mention that I could price my books online at a cheaper price, that’s also a good incentive.

    DenisJG November 15, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Hi Russell,

    James’s remarks were very helpful, higher up the thread, over my own choice to use both CS and LSI channels. I am just finishing up the rather lengthy sign-up process with LSI, which requires that you carry relatively official “publisher” status. The real plus that I could imagine in your situation, is the possibility of having hardcovers or a slightly more “upscale” product for your book-fair crowd. CS is perfect-bound only, no hardcover, etc. You are right in stating that their product is nicely done, and their customer support excellent. LSI expects you to be very autonomous and prepared to do some solid paperwork. Many writers don’t much enjoy the hard-reality paperwork of running their own business. All the best, in your thrilling and chilling. DG


    Russell Brooks November 15, 2013 at 6:11 am

    Hello, DenisJG, and thanks for replying. I’m very autonomous and have my own team that I work with to create a quality book. Therefore, I don’t mind doing the extra hard work that’s required to get my name out there. Hardcovers is a plus because Libraries are more attracted to them–from what I’ve read. As I mentioned earlier, if I’m able to price my physical novels less than CS then that may be a reason for me to switch over.


    Hersh November 15, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Hey All,

    Joel, as you know I have been following this thread for well over two years now. I haven’t published my book yet using CS/LSI but I have found a renowned traditional publisher. But having been in the self-publishing industry as a publicist and marketer, here is my short and sweet tip-

    DO NOT spend more than a bare minimum on the publishing side. CS offers ‘free’ entry but they will cross-sell you to death. Trust me when I say this. An average customer value is $2000. And all initially sign-up for free. Their cost to do things, such as, cover design, edit, review- is exorbitant. But once you are in the loop their proven sales cycle rinses every penny you have.

    So DONOT spend more than needed. You’ll find cheaper options outside of CS/LSI. Joel is a GREAT book designer.

    Here is the golden tip- Spend on marketing. Start at least 3 months before the books coming out. Hire pros if you’re unsure. Every penny spent on marketing will be worth the effort. I run a free coaching series and I know that even tiny consistent steps help authors big time. But mostly authors are too concerned about ‘publishing-process’, distribution and all that.

    Common guys, the whole idea of going indie is to get it done quick and focus on finding your readers.

    Any help on marketing side, please don’t hesitate.

    Hersh Bhardwaj


    Finley Eversole December 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I’ve been communicating for some days with with Lightening Source and IngramSpark about publishing paperback and eBooks and am also told I can only use IngramSpark with no control over discounts on sales. Giving up 60% on a $9.99 eBook seems a bit stiff given all the costs that go into creating a book in the first place.

    Also, I can’t seem to find out what on eBook sales LS or IS would be paying me. Anyone know?


    DenisJG December 19, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Hi James, Joel and others equally inspired!

    Finally found some time to start setting up my title on LSI. It’s been out since October on KDP and CS but as I wasn’t sure exactly when I’d find time to do the LSI set-up, I turned on “Expanded Distribution” at CS for the time being, that way people interested in picking it up in print would be able to do so.

    Since I possess my own ISBNs, I assume I should be free to use the same number for CS *and* LSI but I’m getting an “ISBN already in use” error message when working through the set-up procedure at LSI. Is that because I have “Expanded Dist.” turned on at CS? Is it because they don’t like books with exactly 250 pages? Or they don’t like Canadians who live in Switzerland?

    I don’t mind using a new ISBN — I bought the 10-pack, never know when friends might pop in ;-) but I prefer NOT to do so if there might be some hidden disadvantage I am not aware of. The books, cover, font, etc. are identical, save for the actual POD company printing the books.

    I’d love to hear what the experts here have to say about this. Same ISBN, yes? no? maybe? Thanks a bundle, and happy writing!


    James H. Byrd December 19, 2013 at 7:58 am

    If you enroll your book in Expanded Distribution, you cannot use the same ISBN at both LSI and CS. If you do not enroll in ED, you can use the same ISBN at both vendors.

    I don’t know if it is possible to take your book out of ED and then use that same ISBN with LSI. I’m sure it takes some time for your book to drop out of the catalogs in any case, so opting out of ED and trying to set the title up with LSI the next day almost certainly wouldn’t work.

    I also recommend that you avoid distributing the book through both ED and LSI at the same time, even if you do use separate ISBNs. The catalogs would list your book twice, as if it were two separate titles. It’s best to avoid things that cause confusion in the marketplace.

    If I had a book in ED and wanted to switch to LSI, I would take the book out of ED and list it with LSI under a new ISBN. The catalogs tend to update in batches, as far as I’ve been able to tell, so the odds are good that the update which adds the LSI ISBN would also delete the CS ISBN. Even if things don’t work out that way, it would only be a matter of time before things got straightened out.


    DenisJG December 19, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Aaah, the Voice of Wisdom. Thanks James. Your advice is appreciated. I will pull the book out of ED and use a new ISBN for it on LSI. It makes good sense.

    An excellent Holiday Season to you and all fellow writers, contributors and occasional lurkers passing through this fertile spot.


    Oliver January 3, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Happy New Year, everyone. Great posts here. I am in the process of signing up with Lightning Source, and finally got through the stack of contracts to contend with. Lots to read. Printing costs will be billed to my credit card, as I do not wish to go through the procedure of setting up an account with them at this time. I am curious what the fine print (and my inexperience) might lead to here, so I thought I’d ask you the Experts… Does it mean that if a book distributor decided (hypothetical, but better to know ahead of time, no doubt) to order a hundred copies, *I* would be billed on my credit card until the books were sold? Or do those buyers pay up front and Lightning Source cover printing costs from those funds, etc.? I prefer to ask a dumb question, and avoid surprises… Thanks for any comments or input you might have.


    James H. Byrd January 4, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Hi Oliver. In your hypothetical example, a retailer orders 100 books and the distributor (LSI/Ingram) fulfills the order. The retailer pays for the books up front, and LSI pays you the wholesale price (list price – discount) less printing charges. At this point you are earning money, not paying it.

    However, if you have allowed returns on your books, the retailer could return any number of those books at a later date. LSI would charge your account for the wholesale value of the returned books. What happens next depends upon what returns options you selected. You can have LSI destroy the returned books or you can have them send you the books. LSI charges a fee to send you the returned books (I think it was $1 per book last time I looked).


    thomas January 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks, I’m using fiverr to write the book up and going to use create space after to publish it. Next time I would like to write it up myself, but others writers don’t ,they outsource, what do you think?

    Keep up the good work, happy holidays from kobe, japan.


    Cindy C. January 28, 2014 at 10:27 am


    I’m planning to use Lightning Source for both digital and print editions of my book. I’ve started a company, and plan to write more books. After hours of research, I have a concern about the issue of Amazon not stocking LS books. I don’t want to use CreateSpace (after reading about poor printing and wholesaler dissatisfaction, among other downsides). So … how might I deal with the Amazon stock issue if I just use LS? One author says he offers Amazon a 30% discount and has no problems. Any thoughts? Thanks!


    Denis G. January 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hi Cindy,
    It’s a long thread to read but I believe it was James who mentioned, further up the page, that a combination of the two brought together the best of both worlds. Createspace is *excellent* as far as client resources are concerned, as well as having a great interface to work from, while LSI is mostly aimed at hardnut pro publishers, or almost. I use both and have, here on my desk, paperback copies of a recent book of mine, and as far as quality is concerned, they’re neck and neck. In fact, contrary to your impression, the paper quality is actually slightly better (heavier and less see-through) in the CS version. My LSI-produced book is a little thinner, but both are very well produced. And both houses now offer the possibility of a matte finish cover, a nice touch. Competition is always a healthy thing. ;-) There. My five cents’ worth. Good luck to you.


    grouch January 30, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Hi! I wonder how much of what has been written here is valid for authors that want to print their books in other languages.


    Greg February 17, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I am planning on using PoD for coffee-table quality photo books….. with significant amount of line art and text in them. Probably will hire a book designer one time and then use the files (& experience) so the next books I can do myself. Presuming that the workflow will be in PS/InDesign to PDF or something I am conversant in.

    My biz model is based around photo/video shoots and personal interviews of artists. Salable goods will include a PoD coffee-table book, plus probably an ebook of the “how to” story/technique, using material from the shoot sessions.

    Am getting nervous about the varying levels of print quality being discussed here. And expect the happy customers of LS and CS are printing primarily text-based works. So Lulu, DogEar, FastPencil, and Blurb are also on my radar. Is Lulu or Blurb a no-brainer because of their photo-centric market? I want even the coffee-table book to see international fulfillment.

    Any value in a one-stop shop? PoD for those that want to put the work on their bookshelf plus an ebook?

    Any of these PoD services sell swatches/samples or other ways to “hold it” before you own it? Paper stock? Binding techniques?

    And one more question. Was figuring to use a digital download shopping cart Wordpress site for sales of both physical and digital goods. I suppose there is a purchase & fulfillment path from such a custom e-commerce site to PoD publishers? Other than Amazon etc?



    Denis G. February 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Hi Greg, All that sounds like a pretty tall order, and not necessarily what POD was intended for. Having worked for years in design related activities, I can tell you that most serious “coffee table” books are often creative statements on the part of photographer, designer and publisher, beyond the well-meant efforts of most newcomers. Their quality level also push their production cost (and therefore retail price) outside the range of interest for POD producers, in my view. I certainly don’t want to steer you away from what sounds like an inspired project, but talk to your favorite bookstores and ask them how many books they sell these days in the $80-200. range, approximately the bracket in which such books usually land. Just the photo shoots, pre-press work, page-by-page color adjustments, etc. AND really high-end, solid design work, is hundreds of hours, and a LOT of money. POD printers simply are not in a position to guarantee the sort of consistency that is needed to make such delicate (if inspiring) projects a success. If I were you, I’d price a GREAT designer on this AND locate a top-notch printer, who does high-end offset. It’ll cost you, but you’ll have a coffee-table book worth buying.


    Greg February 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Denis. I am listening for sure. And thinking. I suppose I am using “coffee-table book” when I really mean…… as close to coffee-table quality I can get, from PoD. But advice from you and others is making me pause. The $80 to $200 price range per unit does not necessarily kill the plan. I was thinking more like $49 PoD. Fact is an artist can “give” a $100 book to a client when he buys a $1000 custom item if he has that built into the cost. So the table book is a bonus the artist gets when he signs with me, plus he can offer it for sale alongside his art.

    “Here’s this investment I made in this killer artist. And here (the book) is all about him”. Folks that buy art pieces want to share the BACKSTORY with their friends. It is a marketing tool, not worthy of a 5000 unit offset run. It is a lost leader. Money will be made from sale of the ebook or PoD “how to” book, plus the sale of the artwork itself. Two different books. Very small quantity.

    I suspect….. although I have my doubts now, that a nice looking PoD photo-centric book can be done via PoD, albeit very carefully. I thumbed through a Blurb book several months ago and do not recall seeing photo-color problems. And that’s what I am trying to zero into now. How to work WITH what PoD can in fact do. Before I spend too much money on the prototype.

    I wrote a book for John Wiley and it has sent me along another path now. Thanks for the help.


    Joel Friedlander February 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t believe your plan will work, Greg, unless you plan on selling the books for a very high retail, or you are using the “commercial” color option offered by some POD vendors, which is not really intended for coffee-table books. The finances just won’t work. Check out this article: When Print on Demand Fails


    Greg February 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Read the great article you linked for me Joel. See my comments back to Denis above. I chuckled when it said to get the marketing target in mind first. Which is what I am doing now. And the biz plan is definitely not fixed now and will be tested with a foray into some Discovery sessions with customers, art & booksellers.

    Determining the cost of the first five books is all I care about now. Who are the production pros to do the first design & how much will that cost me? Although I, myself could do an okay job given some time, I will try to get the real deal for some of the work. Care to suggest how I find such a person? What do they need to show me….. and how do I maximize my investment in them?

    At $100 a piece retail, I doubt this kills the concept. It just has to be well-designed as an artsy photo-centric book specifically for PoD from the git-go. The parallel, PoD “how to” book is when profit could be expected, from reworked material from the art-book production. As well as commission from the sale of the art piece itself.

    Question for your blog readers: “what is the best artsy-fartsy photo book you ever saw produced by PoD? And how do I get to hold it?”


    H.William Ruback February 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Having read just about the entire thread here, I have only seen a brief mention on comparing the two when it comes to selling in the retail marketplace. I currently work for a retail market and having released a Fiction Anthology, I am being asked to do various signings at multiple locations. I know that almost all retailers will not let you bring in your own copies, so they must be able to order them in, but in order to do that they MUST be returnable. I am under the impression that in that scenario Lightning Source is the better alternative. Please correct me if I am wrong.


    Carina Rascher March 3, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Reading through these posts has helped me to orientate in this somewhat complicated process. I have signed up with CreateSpace, and yes, they have always been very friendly, but when I called the other day and asked a question for some help, they wanted $579 !! I was a bit shocked and am now in contact with a local book designer. One of my problems is that I have had big difficulties converting from Sibelius 7 (music notation program) to pdf without loosing clarity and the other problem is figureing out the measurements in inches instead of centimeters (I live in Germany) for the front cover, spine and back cover. Thank goodness I need not fulfill any deadlines like it is when I edit larger works of music.
    Thank you for taking time to read my post.


    Michelle Staples March 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Hi. I’ve read the blog til my eyes crossed, and I’ve read some of the sites and I’m still confused. I wrote to CreateSpace with questions and never got an answer. Maybe all you folk can help.

    In 2006 I wrote a book and started my own “publishing company” – just doing my own stuff. I ordered books through a small firm near me and they found me a printer who sent me stacks of books. Because my book is non-fiction, some of the material changes from time to time, so I ordered in lots of about 500 and as each lot sold out I revised and reprinted. I had the room to keep the books then.

    Now I don’t, and my life is too hectic to work this way, so I started looking at POD places. I’m down to the last three copies of my fourth edition and belatedly working on the revision. Here’s what I have — an 8.5×11 spiral bound book of about 130 pages with b&w pictures and line drawings. I have ISBN numbers and a bar code.

    I really don’t want to go with traditional binding because the spiral binding is handy for emergency responders in the field (they can open it on the hood of a truck). I’m used to submitting in PDF and don’t understand other programs that can be used for this. Frankly, I’m not interested in learning more about them. I want to be able to buy a box of books (for cheap) to keep at home since I donate copies to fire departments and non-profits. I’d also like to offer this as an e-book.

    I know that my customer base is limited and my field is really specialized. I’ve sold all my books so far by word of mouth, and that’s fine with me. I’m not looking at making a fortune, but more on making the world a better place (corny as that sounds).

    I’ve read about CreateSpace and LightningSource and a lot of it seems good and a lot doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t care if the book is offered to bookstores. I’ve never pursued selling to them because of the spiral binding. Same with libraries, although I usually donate to those that ask. I want to be able to list the book on my website, same as always, and be paid through paypal, same as always. And I want a good quality product. Am I being unreasonable?


    Joel Friedlander March 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Michelle, I understand your situation. An ebook would probably be a good solution for you. Printed books will continue to be a problem since no POD suppliers I know of produce spiral-bound books, so to keep it in print you would have to continue to print them the way you have been over the years. I don’t think CreateSpace or Lightning Source are going to be much use to you, unfortunately. And FYI, virtually all books printed these days are done from PDF, so it doesn’t matter what program you use to produce the PDF as long as it conforms to your printer’s specifications.


    michelle staples March 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Joel. So given everything else, which do you think is best for me. I want to buy my own books for cheap, don’t need to sell to libraries, have lots of b&w pics and line drawings, the book is 8.5×11, I want it done fairly quickly, and definitely want to use Paypal.


    Joel Friedlander March 6, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Michelle, if you don’t want to sell on Amazon or other retailers, just from your own site, why not go back to your local printer since you can’t get spiral bound from either of these companies, and it seems to be a requirement? If you want a digital printer to produce the books I know does both spiral bound and wire-O bindings, you might check them out.


    michelle staples March 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Joel. Sorry. Didn’t make myself clear on the Amazon thing. I’m happy to sell on Amazon just don’t want to go out of my way to market to libraries. I want to be able to list my book on my site and have the link go through to Amazon. I can do that, can’t I? The reason I can’t go to my printer — to have my books at my office — is that I now live in a micro apartment with no room for the books. Added to that, I’ve started traveling — I’m on call with several rescue groups — so am often not at home to mail out copies. That’s what makes the POD concept so appealing. I can see that I’m going to have to live with a traditional binding and that’s ok. There are now two other books in my field and both of them are traditional binding.
    I still need to buy my own books, though, but I can do that with these POD companies, right?


    Joel Friedlander March 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Michelle, if you can print the book as a perfectbound paperback, you should start with CreateSpace, which will make sure you book is always in stock on Amazon. You can buy copies for yourself and sell them as you wish, but you can’t list them at a lower price than offered by Amazon. To get coverage of the rest of the book market you’d have to also place the book with one of Ingram’s POD vendors, either Lightning Source or Ingram Spark. Hope that helps.


    michelle staples March 7, 2014 at 7:19 am

    You’re a jewel. Joel. Thanks so much for all your help.


    Julie March 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Great post, and the comments were exceptionally helpful. I’ve read them all. One that caught my attention was that in order for a local bookstore to have you there for signings or events, they would not allow you to bring in your own stock (they’d need to order it, so I suppose LS would be a good option), but that it also needed to be returnable.

    Is this true?


    Joel Friedlander March 14, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Julie, it’s hard to generalize about bookstores, they are each likely to have their own policies. I’ve certainly had events at stores where I brought in the books myself. Sometimes they will keep a few on consignment, but generally they prefer to order from a wholesaler or distributor they are already dealing with, from whom they get a standard discount, and where they can return unsold copies.


    Julie March 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you, Joel.

    I ended up contacting the bookstore (Barnes and Noble) to get some information, and found out quite a bit. She also sent me a copy of the PDF of what Barnes and Noble asks of its self-published readers.

    One of the things I’d been hearing is that if you use CS, you won’t be finding your way to Barnes and Noble. She indicated that wasn’t necessarily true, that she would sometimes get a local book created on CS, but through Ingram.

    The biggest challenge is that it isn’t just a black and white text book. It’s more quirky essay/poetry/art/illustrations (though not a coffee table book). Kind of a standard soft cover size book with color images here and there. It seems LS has a viable color option, but I need to do more research on that. I’d hate to kill the color; it wasn’t originally intended to just be words. But, we’ll see.


    Joel Friedlander March 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Good to know about BN. Quirky or not, realize that if you leave the color in the book you’ll need to print the entire thing as a color book, and it will be much more expensive than otherwise. If you could isolate the color to one 16-page signature, you could print it more reasonably at an offset printer, but you would lose the convenience of print on demand. The plain fact is that POD works best for standard books in standard trim sizes, and anything outside that range can be problematic.


    Julie March 29, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for the heads up, Joel. Ingram Spark recently announced a color option that I’m looking into.

    Denis April 1, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Joel, Do you have any thoughts on the issue of unsold-book returns, as handled by LSI, Ingram or others? What is the likelihood that a small publisher could find themselves suddenly billed a hefty sum for books that had been printed, ordered, not sold and subsequently returned to LSI, etc.? Is it important, in your view, to take that risk nonetheless, for the extra orders from bookstores that would simply not place an order at all, if returning were not an option? Have you ever heard of a small publisher having to dish out thousands, to pay back book-sale payments when the books got returned? Thanks in advance for the insights.


    greg lalonde April 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Joel: I am self publishing a single book – a memoir, via CS. just received the hardcopy for me to proof. the problems are as follows:
    1. as it’s a memoir, i wanna switch to cream color paper, but i also am using many color images in the interior (sorry, no black and white!). so i’m asking for cream color paper but the color images will have to be on bright white paper. the proof copy has it all on bright white paper. ugh! how ugly and unprofessional-looking and hard on the eyes for anyone to ever read. is CS or Ingram gonna print the text pages on cream and the images on a good photo-quality stock?
    the softcover “Empire of the Summer Moon” does all these things. so, what about the above pod vendors?


    Joel Friedlander April 3, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Greg, sorry, but no major POD vendor I know of will mix stock in a book like that. You can print the color images on cream colored paper, you know, and if someone adjusts them, they should print fine for a memoir. I just looked at the new Chelsea Handler book, and the publisher did exactly that. Since the photos are basically snapshots, reproduction quality could be sacrificed. But of course, these books were printed offset, and the print run must have been in the hundreds of thousands, a totally different situation that a POD publisher would not be able to achieve.


    Kasey April 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I would like to publish my first 130000 word fiction novel.
    I’m reasonably computer savvy and will attempt my own cover illustration and I think I should be able to configure to a print format, hopefully?
    Who do I use &
    How does one get around the company tax withholding problems in the US?


    Russell Brooks April 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Hello, Joel, hello James, Hello Dennis,

    Based on what Joel wrote (LS better if you have your own professionals designing the book, etc), I was thinking of switching from CS to LS because I sell most of my print books at book fairs and not online and I got the impression that it would be more profitable to go with LS. I just did a comparison in production costs (for me to order and sell print books on my own) between LS and CS and noticed that CS is less expensive due to them charging less to print a book. Did I miss (or misunderstood) something?


    James H. Byrd April 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

    In your situation, you are probably better off staying with CreateSpace. You might double-check your production costs based on the quantity you want to order. The last time I checked, LSI gives quantity discounts but CS does not. But you’re right: in small quantities, CS is usually cheaper.

    Plus, be sure the figures you are comparing come from Ingram Spark, not LSI itself. LSI is pushing all small publishers to Spark now. I don’t know if the print and delivery costs are the same between the two.


    Russell Brooks April 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

    OK, thanks, James. I’ll stay with CS for now, but I’ll keep checking back from time to time.


    kasey April 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Is Vook an option to KDP


    Andy Traub April 28, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Big development recently with Lightning Source as a company that I think needs to be added to the discussion. With LS you were able to set your discount to 20% so if your book retailed for $10 Amazon (and all other vendors) had to pay $8. Createspace’s discount is a mandatory 40% so Amazon only pays $6 for your book.

    The big news is that LS is no longer accepting new accounts if you have less than 30 titles and is instead sending new accounts to IngramSpark which is their attempt to compete with CreateSpace. IngramSpark has mandatory discounts of 40 or 55% so that means the 20% advantage of printing through LS vs. CreateSpace is now gone and you have a more apples to apples choice between IngramSpark and Createspace. Ingramspark has also simplified the book process like Createspace has for a long time.

    Bottom line is that LS isn’t an option for 99.9% of self-publishers anymore and that 20% discount is gone as well unless you already have an account with LS. In that case they grandfather you in.

    One last issue that I have not been able to resolve and is forcing me to stop using LS as my printer is their system and Amazon aren’t playing nicely with my book. It consistently shows my book shipping in 1-3 weeks even thought it’s a print on demand title. LS says it’s all Amazon’s fault and no one at Amazon is going to help resolve is so I have to leave LS to go to Createspace. i see no advantage of using IngramSpark in comparison to Createspace now that the discount (40%) is the same for Amazon. A disappointing development in my opinion as it cuts into my profits quite a bit.


    Joel Friedlander April 28, 2014 at 1:10 pm
    Andy Traub April 28, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    You’re smart.

    Did you get my email earlier today? Talk soon.


    Natalie Graham June 8, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Hi Joel,

    My first children’s book is uploaded on a PDF and ready to print. The trim size is 9.2 x 6.7. I have a traditonal printer in the family but also want to use a POD service like, CS or LS to reach a broader audience. Would I need to correct the trim to fit a standard size or would CS do this for me? Is it easy to retrim a book once placed in PDF form


    Joel Friedlander June 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Natalie, you can find a list of the trim sizes offered by the major POD vendors here: Book Trim Sizes. You’ll notice the size of your book is not included, and no, it’s not always easy or possible to change the trim size once the book has been exported to PDF. You would be better off going back to the original files and creating a second version in the standards 6 x 9 format.


    Natalie June 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Hey Joel,

    Cool beans, and thank you for the quick response. I will then create a second version of the book.

    Peace to you Joel.


    Denis G. June 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hi again Joel,
    A little sad to see spammers attempting to channel their silly wares through this wonderful site and resource recently, but I guess you’ll figure a way past it. Quick question: What do you think of the service? It seems a little pricey for small publisher/author types, but is the exposure worth it? Thanks for a comment or two, when you’ll have time. All best, and keep this place humming; it’s great!


    Denis G. June 11, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Hi Joel,
    You are hopefully out in the sunshine somewhere, and I ought to have engine-searched my NetGalley question first before asking. Many excellent comments, on the right track, and likely useful to your page’s other visitors. Here are a few:
    I hope this is helpful.


    PV June 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

    How much lead time do CS and LS require for shipping within the US?


    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2014 at 11:40 am

    They typically ship within 4-5 days of your order being placed.


    Michelle Eastman August 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Createspace has dropped hard cover printing from their services. Hardcover was never an option for POD, but authors could choose to print and ship hard cover copies to themselves. Today I was told, “At one time we offered it, but have cut that service from our product line.”
    In February, my CS publishing consultant quoted the hard cover prices listed below.

    The cost breakdown for your hard cover printing:
    .15 per page then add one of the cover prices below
    $6.50 for case-bound laminate cover
    $8.50 if you choose the dust cover
    Example – 34 pages x .15 = $5.25 + $6.50 case-bound = $11.75 per book

    I have an account with LSI, but they do not offer text on the spine for a book under 48 pages. CS hard cover included spine text, so I thought it was a better option for me to supply books to libraries, where spine text is important.

    Any suggestions for a printer that includes spine text for a 32 page children’s picture book?

    Thank you,


    Joel Friedlander August 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Michelle, you might try these folks:

    Or you could also try Lulu:


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