Print on Demand: CreateSpace or Lightning Source?

by Joel Friedlander on January 27, 2011 · 299 comments

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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:

CreateSpace

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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    { 286 comments… read them below or add one }

    Laura Davis January 29, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    As a Canadian self-publisher I wondered if you knew of any companies that were comparable to Create Space or Lightning Source in Canada? The reason I ask is a governmental rule we have here that if we want to be recognized as Canadian author and have our books listed in the Canadian Archives they have to be printed in Canada. This is not about distribution – just printing. So far I haven’t found anything comparable to Create Space or Lightning Source.

    Reply

    The Publisher January 29, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Wow, that sounds fairly strict in Canada.

    Can I ask a question? How does the Canadian government or the people in the Canadian Archives know for sure whether a book is printed in Canada?

    I ask this because there is certainly no requirement like that at least here in Australia (in terms of where a book is printed). Of course, I can’t say for sure about all other countries, except for the fact that you do need a specific ISBN for your book if it is to be archived and be provided to local libraries and as legal deposits for various locations in a particular country. Thus, in the case of the USA, CreateSpace will have to assign its own ISBN to your book if you tell them to and then the book can be legally deposited in various archives, libraries etc. Otherwise, if you use your own ISBN (i.e., it identifies you as a Canadian publisher), no one really knows if your book had been printed in another country.

    Seriously, who would really know? You could easily say in the copyright page “Printed in Canada” (so long as you use your own ISBN) and it will be extremely hard if not impossible for anyone in Canada to prove where it was printed. Alternatively, just don’t say where it was printed (CreateSpace or LightningSource won’t get upset if you don’t acknowledge them as the printing people or where it was printed – they are getting their money at the end of the day from authors and publishers, which is all they want to know).

    NOTE: Even if you do have a CreateSpace eStore with a web address, Canadian people still can’t argue it is not printed in Canada. You, as an author, are just widening your options in terms of places where to print your book so you don’t have to pay extra taxes and custom fees for importing your book into other countries (or the country in which the book is being printed). However, if you really want to be safe, print the necessary numbers of books for your country (i.e. Canada) using printers in your country, and print/sell the rest from printers in other countries.

    Or maybe the Canadian government has one of those highly specialised CSI groups that carefully analyse the paper fibres in various books to determine if they are Canadian? Ouch! That’s pretty tough for Canadian authors. Do they also check for fingerprints on your printed books and later use a Canadian database of people to see if whoever printed the books are from Canada? Geez, that’s bad. Or else you could always argue that if it is printed outside Canada, your government should be thrilled to know none of the trees in Canada have been cut down to create your book (surely must be a environment plus in your part of the world).

    In Australia, we simply just have to show the author is Australian and that’s it for legal deposite of Australian books to the National Library of Australia. The ISBN usually is enough evidence to support this (if it is your own obtained from the relevant ISBN agency that issues them).

    Reply

    Laura Davis January 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    If I want the books to be included in libraries in Canada and in our national library, it has to be printed in Canada with a CIP number (Catalogue in Publication). The CIP number helps librarians and bookstore owners here find and order the book. The rules are fairly strict. For example, books published by a non-Canadian publisher, EVEN if they are printed or distributed in Canada are not eligible and books published by a non-Canadian publisher, even if they are written by a Canadian are not eligible. So CreateSpace, Lightning Source, etc. disqualifies any book I make and want to distribute in my own country. Also, if you are only making e-books you are not allowed to get a CIP number UNLESS you get 100 copies printed. So in other words – no e-books.

    I could try using a Canadian ISBN number this time and see if it makes a difference. My last book was done through CreateSpace and I used their ISBN and I found out (too late) that I could not get it into the libraries here or our national library because of the reasons I mentioned. I would love to try the “printed in Canada” thing, but doesn’t CreastSpace automatically put where it is printed when you go through them? I will have to check to make sure. Anyway, thanks for responding. I really appreciate it.

    Reply

    The Publisher January 29, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Yeah, getting your own ISBN is the best way to go (and hopefully you won’t need any other numbers to prove your claim). And if you do receive the books from CreateSpace for legal depositing in your country (it should go through you first), you can always rip out that last page about CreateSpace printing the book (of course, do it nicely with a razor blade tool so no one can tell the difference – a perfectly legal and reasonable thing to do since you have already paid for the service and it is your book now). And hopefully you won’t have too many books to prepare like this just to satisfy the requirements in your country.

    Sounds like fun. Good luck!

    Reply

    Tyler Smith January 25, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I was assigned to Ingram Sparks by LS because I am a smaller publisher. You can’t just choose LS outright. I create children’s books- children’s books have end pages (printed inside covers), full bleed double spread illustrations.What’s a children’s book without an end page? A blank end page, any blank page for that matter, in an illustrated book is an opportunity lost. Much to my dismay, Ingram Spark does neither. They can’t print on the backside of a cover- no end pages. They can’t print a double spread in case printing- they require a blank gutter margin that shows when you open up the book flat. (the ink interferes with the glued spine?) Okay, so saddle stitch it is, but again- no end page in a saddle stitch? AND, even more limiting, they can’t print in the landscape format.
    So, does CS have these issues? What POD is geared for illustrated art and children’s picture books?
    Thanks for letting me vet.

    Reply

    David Grote January 26, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Wow, thanks for the post. I don’t have any answers but I appreciate the heads up. I am about to publish a children’s book, but had in mind case-bound hard cover. I don’t think CS will do this. When you say Ingram Spark will not do landscape, am I correct to say they will not do, for example, an illustration that covers the full spread, say 11×17 on an 8 1/2 x 11 book?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 26, 2015 at 10:47 am

    David, “landscape” relates to the book’s trim size only, not a 2-page spread. However, most POD suppliers specifications wouldn’t allow you to do a double truck (photo that spans both pages) because they generally demand a clear gutter margin (where the binding is). Although I’ve done some books through POD that violate this spec and run graphics right into the binding, I wouldn’t recommend basing an entire book on this capability without talking to the vendor first.

    Reply

    David Grote January 26, 2015 at 10:52 am

    So, as Tyler asked, where is the best place to go for a children’s book? Heavy on color illustrations, case-bound, hard cover, and 2-page spread illustrations.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

    A short-run offset printer, of which there are many. Try Thomson-Shore (http://www.tshore.com) who has both offset and digital presses dedicated to book printing.

    Tyler Smith January 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Just to clarify- Ingram Sparks will print a double spread in perfect bound, but not with out a blank gutter- which shows with usage!, what’s the purpose of a double spread if there is a white gutter showing? Saddle stitch printing would be the answer. Except that they can’t print on the inside cover- so no end pages. Landscape printing is a whole different thing- a printing format- very popular with children’s books. They don’t do that either. Printing their way is $5 a copy, that’s a great price but not if you have to compromise the book design and layout to that degree. To get what I wanted in saddle stitch- paperback, full bleed color, double spreads with end pages, 48 pages including cover, from a local printer was $16 a copy. Obviously way too expensive if you want to make anything, unless you are book signing to friends, which is the only way i could justify $20.

    Reply

    Victoria Malyurek January 29, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I have the understanding that LuLu.com has that capacity but I could be wrong.

    Reply

    Chip January 19, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks for all the info. Especially the link to how to follow the money. Question. I have seen some complains about books being sold to friends or relatives on Amazon but the author said nothing showed up in the sales numbers so no royalty is paid. The author verified the book had been sold but the number of sales didn’t match. How can an author or publisher be sure the sales numbers are correct? If they say 20 sales but there were actually 50 how would an author know what is correct?
    Thanks, The information you have offer has been very helpful.
    Chip

    Reply

    The Publisher January 19, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Another excellent question.

    Short of having your own printing and binding presses, a sales team that you can control, and delivery drivers to send the printed copies of your book to buyers (the ideal situation no doubt and only if you can financially support this kind of operation on your own), it is impossible to prove how may books do get sold if you let other people handle not just the online payments from book buyers, but also the printing and delivery. Writing and selling a book is not like creating and selling your own software apps and delivering license keys to people who have made a payment (at least with software you have a pretty good idea how many have been sold so long as you deliver the license keys and no one else can crack the code behind your license key generation system). Books, on the other hand, are a totally different kettle of fish (yet they should be treated in the same way as software apps). We can’t simply send off a license key to activate a hardcopy of your book for someone who has purchased it.

    Sure, eBooks are getting very close to achieving this sort of thing. However, unfortunately there are too many accessible software tools to crack the protection schemes imposed by Amazon Kindle and other publishers on these eBooks.

    Until much better encryption and methods of allowing authors/publishers to directly sell books to buyers is achieved (e.g., supplying license keys), we are still at the whim of companies in the publishing market who can do just about anything with your books.

    Nevertheless, you should not be deterred from writing your great book and selling it at places that do offer online payment processing, printing and delivery to customers.

    For a start, you need to choose reputable companies that have a long history of working with books and have built up a reputation with many buyers and authors.

    Whilst I cannot vouch with certainty the veracity and integrity of other printing and delivery players in the book publishing market, it is generally accepted that CS and LS are the most trusted brands to handle your book. It is extremely unlikely (but not impossible) for CS and LS to suddenly go behind your back and start printing your book, sell them to whoever, and later keep the profits. These companies have a reputation to uphold. Indeed, should any whistleblower come out of the woodworks within these companies making any extraordinary claim of deceit behind the backs of authors/publishers, CS/Amazon and LS/Ingram could easily collapse overnight, if not take a serious blow to their reputation (which they may never recover, and would probably result in a revolution in the publishing industry that would eventually see power given to all authors in selingl and delivering any books they own to anyone using eBook technology – forget the Apple eStore, you would be thee one doing this yourself) if they ever attempted such an unthinkable move.

    With this in mind, I think it is reasonable to say that authors and small publishers can trust, at least in the case of CS and LS, to do the right thing. But if you are not sure, well it is basically the same situation with all publishers, even those big pushing houses with the equipment and marketing power behind them. How would you know? At the end of the day, you can’t. It is a question of trust and we have to let people like CS and LS do their job and assume what gets sold will return by way of royalties to the author/publisher.

    Just as further reassurance on this matter, I will get an official quote from CS and publish it on this page for all to see.

    Leaving this trust issue and the views of CS aside, at the top of my head, I know there are a couple of factors that may cause some temporary inconsistencies to crop up in a sale report for books sold by CS and LS:

    Certain distribution channels do involve third-party people, many of whom are beyond the control of CS and LS. In this circumstance, it will naturally take longer for these people to send information about books sold to CS and LS. In some cases, you may have to wait as much as 3 to 4 months to receive the latest information on books sold. If, on the other hand, the sales are made directly through, say, the CreateSpace eStore, there is a much shorter delay in receiving information on the number of books sold (well, CreateSpace has it all electronic and the information can be transferred very quickly to your online CreateSpace sales report via your CS account). If it isn’t exactly in real-time, it should be within a matter of a few days in the case of the eStore. But if one is dealing with bookstores asking for a number of physical copies to be delivered (and these need not be immediate sales), information about what actually gets sold will probably take quite a while to come back up the chain to CS and LS and ultimately to the author (in fact, printing books in readiness for delivery and selling need not get mentioned on your sales report, only the books that get sold is what you will ever hear about).
    If your books have already been sold once, someone else could re-sell the book on, say, Amazon, but this will not get registered on your sales report. Once a book is sold the first time, you should get details of your royalty from this sale, but what happens after the book is sold and whether it is resold, that’s another question.

    Could there be other factors to consider? Probably. I’ll find out more from CS (and possibly LS) and let you know soon.

    Reply

    The Publisher January 20, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Here is the official reponse from CreateSpace as of 20 Januaey 2015:

    “Thank you for contacting us in regards to your concerns of the royalty reports.

    Firstly I would like to assure you that the royalty reports are extremely accurate and royalty earnings for your title can appear in your reports at different times depending on when and where we manufacture the copies to fulfill orders. However, there instances where a title can be sold and it won’t be recorded, allow me to explain.

    Royalty earnings for Amazon.com usually appear in your Member Account within two to three days after we manufacture the book to fulfill an order. Whereas, we report Expanded Distribution royalties within 30 days after the end of the month in which the units were manufactured.

    Now keep in mind if no sales are reflecting in your account, its because no new copies were manufactured and any sale made during that time was fulfilled using existing inventory.

    Existing inventory means that a customer bought your book but returned or cancelled the order. Amazon will keep that book and simply reship it when a new customer places an order. In this instance, you would’ve received a royalty the first time the book was manufactured but not again when the book was resold.

    To confirm this, units printed domestically for Standard Distribution have a manufacturing date printed on the last physical page of the book. You can estimate your royalty reporting based on this date. We can also check the manufacture date for books printed in the EU based on their Product ID number, located on the last physical page of the book.

    That said even if something in the royalty report does not add up we will always be able to go back and research either the manufacture date and or product ID.

    As I previously mentioned, we report royalties earned on manufactured titles only. Sales data reported in Author Central contains both new and used copies and allows authors to see sales trends. You can see how your print books are selling across the U.S. for the past four weeks. Nielsen BookScan provides the figures and includes approximately 75% of all retail print book sales in the U.S., including most of Amazon print sales.

    If you did not enroll your book in Bookstores & Online Retailers channel or separately register it with the Ingram Book Company, you may not see BookScan sales information in Author Central.

    Follow these links to learn more about Author Central and sales information:

    Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com Sales: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?topicID=200580390

    If sales appear on Author Central but does not appear in your online CreateSpace royalty report, this means a previously printed copy was used to fulfill that order. You do not receive a royalty for this sale as you earned a royalty when we first manufactured the book.

    You receive a royalty when we manufacture a new copy of your book and a customer purchases the new copy through Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es and Amazon.it or any other distribution channel.

    I hope this information clears up any confusion. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.”

    Reply

    Chip January 25, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks Joel,
    There response was helpful. I can see how the number of sales, returns and manufactured copies are intertwined and can influence timing and perceived numbers. It could get confusing. In any case, I appreciate your effort in following up on this concern.
    I hope you have a great one.
    Chip

    Reply

    Chip January 22, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    What you say makes sense. The complains I saw showed them as mostly “addressed” but were not specific on how it was addressed. It could be there was an acceptable explanation for any believed inaccuracies. Who can say but I agree if there were misdealing and they did come to light it would be crippling to the reputation of these players. Let us assume it is their best interest to take care of us in an honest and predicable way.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 22, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Chip, I would take this up with whoever your POD vendor is, because that’s who is responsible for reporting sales to you and making sure they are accurate. As authors we don’t have the tools to answer this question.

    Reply

    Chip January 22, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    It would be a good question to communicate to the POD vendor once a choice has been made. I like being on the same page with someone before starting. It helps avoid confusion or suspicion before it grows.
    Thanks
    Chip

    Reply

    Nabeela January 15, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I have a novel ready to publish. I created a blog where i released parts of it to some few thousand avid followers, and i really need to get this book out. many are ready to order a hardcopy. I am not sure now which of these to companies to go with.

    I suppose I should go with create a space as I have no start up capital or professional services to back me up, but the thing is, I will need to order quite a few hard copies.

    Is createaspace feasible if i need to order an initial amount of say, minimum 50-100 copies at once?

    Regards

    Reply

    The Publisher January 16, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Thanks for this.

    I see time is of the essence for you here as you certainly would not want your readers to wait too long to receive their personal copy of your book. Apart from quality, speed is king when everything is ready to go.

    But where should you go to make your book publishing dreams come true?

    There are many great places to publish your book, except I see the magic words of, “…no start-up capital…” appearing in your comment. Hmmm. I think you may have answered your question. It will have to be the good old CreateSpace people for your book. And it is a novel too (i.e., no special requirements by way of coloured pictures etc). Yep, that’s real easy. If I were you, I would defiinitely go with CreateSpace at least for now just to get your hardcopies out the door very quickly, and especially since this company doesn’t ask for an arm and a leg just to setup your book online and start printing and delivering. Very nice. You will even get a web address to your book on the CreateSpace eStore where people can immediate make orders online for any number of books, plus CreateSpace just so happens to have Amazon on its side too, just in case your book ever needs a little more exposure (not that it would harm your book sales if you didn’t given the excellent customer base you have built up). What more could you ask? And with already a good solid customer base built up, you really can’t go wrong. All I can recommend is be quick to deliver. Readers don’t like to wait too long to receive their book. So get cracking!

    But I sense that the book is not quite in a form that can be printed looking at what you have said.

    Is your book already typed with the help of a reasonable text processing application (you can get away with having it typed and formatted in OpenOffice or, dare I say it, Microsoft Word for text-based novels—leave Adobe InDesign to the professionals where more sophisticated book designs and greater control are required)? Well, that makes an enormous difference.

    Is the text well formatted, contains the right readable fonts, and with nicely designed chapter headings? Beautiful.Do the chapters start on an odd page (i.e. to the right) and with a contents page too? You’re almost laughing. For a novel, you can skip the creation of an index at the back of the book. You won’t need it. This will save you a lot of time.

    And what about your bookcover design? You need one of those don’t you? Well, is this ready to go? If so, you are almost a legend in the book publishing arena.

    Yet somehow I get the feeling that professional services are not quite on your side? Why would that be? Does this mean you need printing and delivery services? Nah, don’t worry about it. You will be in good hands with CreateSpace. This company will deliver quickly in the northern hemisphere (especially in the U.S. and Europe). Or is it more to do with the fact that you need to get your masterpiece into a print-ready PDF form just to satisfy CreateSpace requirements? Well, it just so happens that CreateSpace does offer a variety of reasonably good professional services for authors just like you, catering to the budget you have. Of course, the more you pay, the better the outcome and the more choices you will be given when deceiding on the right design. But if you are not too fussed and need to save money, CreateSpace can create a cover and interior design to suit your budget (I’m not aware that even LightningSource has anything like this at the present time, just good printing and mass production is what LS is focussed on for now).

    For further details of CreateSpace professional publishing services, visit:
    https://www.createspace.com/pub/services.home.do?tab=LAYOUT

    Or perhaps you would like someone else to help you whip that book into shape, and hopefully make it stand out above the crowd? No problems. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can help you out in this regard. Come to think of it, I might even be able to find someone to help you. Want your covers designed at a low cost without looking tacky or horrid. Here’s a thought: have you tried some places where students who are in their final years of learning about graphic designing can help you with your project to design a good book cover. Excellent results for an excellent price based on my experience.

    Interested? I know just the place for you.

    However, if everything is ready to go, then what are you waiting for? The world is your oyster. Just go to CreateSpace and publish your fabulous book right now.

    Enjoy!

    Reply

    David Grote January 9, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I’m doing a children’s book, full color, with lots of illustrations. If I scan the drawings and send them in, will they be high enough quality? Or do I need to use an offset printer? Doesn’t seem like CreateSpace is set up for this type of thing. Is Lightning Source?

    Reply

    The Publisher January 10, 2015 at 3:07 am

    A very good question.

    Should people go with offset printing, or POD (Print-on-demand)?

    Well, let me put it this way. If you believe your children’s book is going to be famous as Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat (i.e. it will sell in large numbers), then I do recommend going for offset printing to get the consistently high quality results and rich colours, all done in high print volumes. This is a speciality of all big publishing houses with their own printing presses.

    However, in 2015, I am seeing more and more reputable publishing houses turning to LightningSource to produce more of their books only because they feel LS has the ability to print books in high volumes and with consistently high quality image results. Does this mean LS uses offset printing? Probably, especially for the premium colour service. Certainly I have been advised that LS does have the best printing technology on the planet. Therefore, I can’t imagine they would not have offset printing of some sort. But it is best to ask LS about this option. If LS does have offset printing, you should be aware of how many books you need to have printed for the unit cost per book to be comparable, if not cheaper, than POD (Print-On-Demand).

    If you are not sure how many books will sell, probably the POD approach through CreateSpace or LightningSource is the best way to test the market. Plus you have the advantage of not breaking your bank balance when the time comes to print the books (i.e, usually a minimum of 1,000 books must be printed in one go through offset printing compared to one or a few books per order made by buyers through POD).

    Whatever approach you do take, one thing is certain: nothing beats the high quality output of offset printing.

    Even so, does this mean printing children’s books with CreateSpace or LightningSource through the POD approach will be terrible? I don’t think so.

    In your situation, it is clear you need to transfer the artworks on paper to digital form using a scanner. If you have the quality scanning equipment, this should give you adequate resolution and richness in the colours. If not, make sure the resolution is adequate for the printing technology to be used, and I do recommend using Adobe Photoshop to perform some slight enhancements to the contrast and colour vibrancy of your images. From my experience, printing colour illusrations and handdrawings onto standard bond/matte white paper in standard colour from LightningSource, for instance, is never exactly as bright and rich in colour as you might expect (really expensive glossy paper printed using the premium colour option from LS is always the best and gives you the richness in colour, but it is the most expensive). Still, you should not be discouraged into thinking that the standard colour printing on matte/bond paper will not produce exceptional results for your children’s book. Personally, I think the standard colour print option is very good from LS and I see no reason why it cannot produce a quality full colour children’s book. The colour is nice and looks accurate and is consistently good quality with no unexpected fading as far as I can tell even after producing 500, 1,000 or more books. LS clearly has this consistency aspect and colour thing all fully worked out (but don’t discount CreateSpace for colour pritning too; just ask for a sample to see if it meets your requirements). In fact, you might find standard colour printing with LS to be more than adequate for your book, especially if you want to keep costs down so your can sell the book at a price that people are willing to pay for it without losing reasonable quality. The only thing is, be prepared to put a little more enhancement to the colour just a tad with Photoshop just to make sure you do wow your young readers with your book.

    Beyond that, scanning of images need to be of a minimum resolution, certainly with the POD approach from CreateSpace and LightningSource. Going on my experience on the requirements of CreateSpace and LightningSource, I do know that these two printing firms tend to complain almost ad nauseum with all publishers/authors about any scanned images that are less than 200dpi (dots per inch), claiming the images might show jagged edges (but always with a friendly message stating what problems they have found).

    But don’t feel upset that you can’t use an image less than 200dpi. I have used one or two images less than 200dpi in a book only because it is impossible to get a better quality, higher resolution version. Yet I continue to be amazed by the ability of CreateSpace and LightningSource to reproduce the images using the printing technology offered by CreateSpace and LightningSource. Nevertheless, I would not tempt fate by trying an image with less than 150dpi. That’s just asking for trouble. I usually find 300dpi to be more than adequate to produce an exceptionally high quality printing output of, say, photographs (and of hand-drawn coloured artworks) with both CreateSpace and LightningSource. For illustrations, I tend to have them produced in Adobe Illustrator and saved as EPS file format for importing into the document that contains text. This ensures the right reolution is always available for any kind of printer technology (and keeps CreateSpace and LS very quiet too).

    I hope this advice has been helpful.

    I wish you all the success with your book.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 14, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    David, CreateSpace, like Lightning Source, will print whatever you have on the PDF you supply to them. You or someone you hire can certainly scan the drawings and insert them into your book layout as long as they are high enough resolution for your printer. When you output your PDF from your layout program, you’ll have a file you can upload to either of these vendors.

    Reply

    David Grote January 15, 2015 at 9:49 am

    yes, I think I am going to hire someone to use InDesign to create the pdf, then send off to Ingram Spark to publish. Thanks again. Dave

    Reply

    A K Nicholas January 8, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Ingram Spark is the best I’ve found for my nude art photo books. The Createspace quality is too low for a book of color photographs. Lulu does as good a job, but at a higher per-unit price.

    Note that if you change both cover and interior (for example, to tweak color) you will pay $50 (essentially a new setup charge). Because it only take a time or two to get my files correct, need quality, and printing in volume, IS is the way I go.

    Reply

    The Publisher January 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I think Nicholas is right in what he said. Although I do have to say that what meagre colour option is available with CreateSpace to print a book is rather incredibly expensive compared to the LightningSource/Ingram people. Let me give an example.

    I have a book with LightningSource that is 6 x 9 inches in size. Nothing special. Just the run-of-the-mill common book size. Now the book has 444 pages, and is printed with standard colour throughout (both interior and the glossy covers). Unit price to print one book with LS is AU$14.15 exc GST. Add AU$1.41 for GST and that’s $15.56. Now suppose I had the worse case scenario of ordering just one book (as a Print-On-Demand situation) for one buyer. I would therefore need to add shipping and handling costs to the price. At LS, this would be AU$11.97 (as of December 2014). So the final total cost to me is AU$30.93. Of course, it would be better to sell in bulk to one location (e.g., a bookstore or some special event where you can sell in large quantities) and the price goes down dramatically. But let’s assume the higher price for just one book. Now if I ask CreateSpace to print the exact same book in colour for one buyer, the minimum list price I need to show to buyers is US$79 (since CreateSpace is only located in the United States). Assuming this includes shipping and handling, this tells me that either CreateSpace uses a very expensive colour printing option (probably the highest quality on the planet, so one would think perhaps the glossy paper for high quality glossy-like photographs in a book), or CreateSpace is asking way too much for pretty ordinary-looking colour.

    A.K. Nicholas has kindly suggested that CreateSpace does not print to the highest quality needed for a book with colour photographs. So I am inclined to think that CreateSpace is too expensive for colour printing and is hopelessly unable to compete with LightningSource/Ingram. So Nicholas is probably right. Assuming CreateSpace colour printing is not of the highest quality, go for LightningSource/Ingram. In fact, I do know that LS/Ingram does have different colour printing options, from the standard colour, to the premium version. Actually, if I recall, a premium version of the same book I mentioned earlier would be about AU$45 or thereabouts. For the nature of the book, I wouldn’t go for this option. But I can just see it viable in the marketplace with standard colour. However, if you really want to sell in huge quantities at a really low price, B&W is the only way to go (fortunately greyscale images are quite good in how they look with both CreateSpace and LS/Ingram).

    On the other hand, if you know you can sell your book at premium colour prices to the buyers (nude photos are a sure-fire winner, and that’s only for the art-related stuff. Of course, we won’t need to mention the potential sales of the more adult-related stuff)., I would agree with Nicholas all the way. Just go for LightningSource/Ingram. These people have it all covered for colour.

    NOTE: Not sure about CreateSpace potential on the colour side of things? The best I can recommend is that when you see the colour option with CreateSpace for the interior pages, just look slightly to the right of this option. Because there is a link where you can order a sample of the colour option so you can see what it will look like. It looks free as far as I can tell (in fact a lot of things are generally free with CreateSpace, which is one of the things I like about these people compared to “I want you to pay for practically everything that requires our fingers to do any kind of work for you” with LS/Ingram).

    Good luck!

    Reply

    Hady December 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the post.

    What is the quality of the paper with Amazon for colour books? They say it’s 90GSM, but is it gloss paper or bond and how do high resolution images look on them?

    Cheers, Hady.

    Reply

    The Publisher December 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    You are right on the mark in terms of the paper weight for CreateSpace (CS). On the other hand, LightningSource (LS) uses slightly lower weight paper (around 72gsm). Despite the lower weight, it doesn’t allow printing on the back of the paper to show through. So 72gsm to 90gsm are just fine for colour and B&W printing.

    In terms of the paper quality, I can only go by 2 books I have printed by CS and LS.

    As you probably know by now, the ubiquitous cheap paper used in B&W paperbacks sold in the bookstores are fairly rough textured paper. This is okay for books containing just pure text and with the occasional B&W line art illustrations. But I certainly would not recommend this paper for greyscale and colour illustrations (let alone photographs of any quality).

    Looking at the two books I have, touching rhe surface of the paper printed by CS and LS with my fingers tells me both use much better quality and smoother paper. Much nicer. There is a slight difference between LS and CS. LS is definitely slightly smoother than CS. but if you looked at the pages with your own eyes under the light you probably could not tell the difference. Only by feeling the surface you can tell the slight difference.

    Despite the smoothness of both paper types used by LS and CS, both would still be described as “bond” (as you put it) but of the much better quality than the really el cheapo paper used in paperbacks.

    As for the quality of the printing itself on this smoother paper and how images and photographs appear, one of the books (from LS) was printed on standard colour and I have to say for the type of smooth paper used, photographs look quite good and reveals all the details I would need to make my point clear in the text. Illustrations are actually best for standard colour as they show up really clearly. Both greyscale and colour illustrations look great. But I have to say, for photographs to appear like, well, glossy photographs on a page (with adequate contrast and vibrant colours) you would not choose standard color using bond paper. Always go for the top-of-the-range premium colour option on premium glossy paper (as used in coffee-table edition books). LS has this option. I haven’t checked all the colour options with CS so I am not sure if they offer premium colour (I think they do). Certainly the standard colour option is available. However, if CS does have a premium option, you will probably not tell the difference in quality between LS and CS. Premium color on premium glossy paper is the only way to go for top quality photographs to give you all the details and depth of colour and vibrancy.

    In summary, if you have heaps of photographs that need to show up in their glorious true colour vibrancy, contrast and detail and still look like a glossy photograph in a book, always choose the premium colour option.

    NOTE: The premium colour option is naturally the more expensive. So make sure people do want to buy your book at the price you need to sell it at in order to recoup not just the costs, but also make a reasonable profit. And don’t forget the profit bookstores like to make too (this will take out a fair slice of your profits) if you want them to get your books to your customers.

    Reply

    Hady December 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks Joel, appreciate it.

    Couldn’t see the premier option in CS in the book printing section at least; but do they offer this option under magazine printing maybe!

    I live in Sydney, Australia, and looks like shipping is rather expensive from the US. Maybe I should look for a local digital-on-demand printer.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    The Publisher December 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I had a quick look at CS. It would appear premium colour printing is not available (bummer!). Oh well, now that I see your purposes for colour printing is for magazines, I would probably steer away from CS and LS. CS and LS are more geared up for book printing.

    One possibility you may wish to consider if magazine printing and selling within Australia is your ambition and avenue to financial success is CMYK Colour Online. These people are based in Sydney and do have offices in Melbourne, Brisbane etc. They print books, but they specialise in magazine printing (i.e. saddle stich, with colour or B&W printing on a wide variety of paper, including bond and the more glossy type). To get you started, visit:

    http://www.cmykonline.com.au/

    You will have heaps of options for magazine printing to keep you busy for the next hour or two while you make your decision). For example, suppose you were looking to print a magazine with the following requirements:

    A4 Portrait (210 x 297mm) full colour magazines, 32pp A4 115gsm coated art paper and saddle stitched.

    Assuming you were looking at this option, the cost to produce 1,000 of these little critters as of December 2014 is AU$1,586.00. Or AU$1.60 per magazine (I’ve rounded up the price). Add the newsagencies commission (say at least an extra $1.00 per magazine) just to entice them to see the financial benefits of placing your magazine on their stands for people to buy, and finally a reasonable profit for yourself (this varies a lot depending on how popular your magazine will be and what you are offering, but always do check similar magazines from your competitors to see what they are selling at), and perhaps the final sale price of say $3.50 per magazine might give you a comfortable margin you need to survive this cutthroat industry of magazine printing and selling (note: you will also be competing with online eMagazines, which seems to be the way of the future given how many technophiles between 16 and 35 years of age with laptops and tablets there are in developed nations all wanting their information delivered electronically, unless you are marketing to a much older readership).

    Please note that CMYK Colour Online do have lots of other options for printing magazines (so you are not restricted to portrait printing, for instance), so please check them out.

    P.S. As a side note for other self-publishers more interested in printing and distributing books within Australia, LightningSource (LS) has recently come to Australia. LS (an American company) has a printing plant and office based in Melbourne. So all would-be Australian self-publishers looking to print and distribute books within Australia may find this information helpful. To visit the Australian web site of LS, visit:

    https://www1.lightningsource.com

    From there you can start setting up your account with LS. Also note that once you have book titles set up with LS in Australia, selling to the U.S. or Europe is easy to do (just pay LS its fees to setup the book title overseas) since LS already has a company in both these continents. So you don’t have to worry about costly exports with the possibility of paying extra for custom fees and extra taxes.

    Reply

    Carlen November 20, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Hi Joel or anyone experienced with createspace.com…

    I need to get a clearer picture of the economics of printing/fulfillment with createspace. If I order books for myself, createspace takes 60% of the book cover price. But if createspace prints for an order via Amazon, does it take 60% of the book cover price or of the discounted price posted on Amazon? Then I have two more questions: 1) By what % does Amazon typically discount the cover price? 2) What % commish does Amazon then take of the sale? Bottom line: What % of my cover price do I wind up with?

    I certainly would appreciate some insight here. Thank you.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Carlen,

    For a step-by-step explanation of how this works, see this article: Understanding Print on Demand: Follow the Money.

    Reply

    Carlen November 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you, Joel. I’ll check it out.

    Reply

    McGrouch November 19, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Here I am again after having unsuccessfully tried to communicate on this forum. I had the one simple question, whether CreateSpace prints non-English books. Can somebody answer my question for me? Or shall I use my English to write my book or translate it?

    Reply

    Denis G. November 19, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Hi, Best place to ask would be Createspace, would it not? :-) If you bear in mind that CS’s main interest is to sell books on Amazon and that they also have sites in French, German, etc., I can see no reason why they wouldn’t accept your creative work. On the other hand, sales numbers might be an issue, if the site is not one of their more popular platforms… Check directly with Amazon, for the latest details. Use your usual account and follow Createspace links. I recall there being an option over there to indicate the language of the book one is setting up. Good luck with your book.

    Reply

    Carlen November 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Hi Joel … How does the quality of printing at Create Space or Lightning Source compare with digital printers? Is there a max these two will print on demand? Also, Create Space has a distribution relationship with Ingram’s doesn’t it? If I use Create Space’s e-book conversion service, does it convert only to Amazon online?

    Reply

    Denis G. November 18, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Hi Carlen, While Joel is pondering his own reply, I can maybe offer these few words. :-) The quality of both those companies is as good, if not better, than many “local” digital printers IF your pre-press material is soundly prepared. I recently completed the design of a book for a client who, for reasons of non-profit affiliation, insisted on a state-run press of relatively high standing, but wasn’t impressed with the result. It made me wish there were local Lightning Source franchisees out there. LS/Ingram Spark is the one linked with Ingram distribution networks, by the way, NOT CS, which is an Amazon subsidiary. Read through the other posts on this forum, if you haven’t yet done so. It will nibble away most of an evening but it’s highly worth it.

    Reply

    Carlen November 19, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Denis … thanx for the response. I’d heard from other sources that the print quality of POD is suspect. But I picked up a book from my shelf that createspace did, and it looks good to me. Glad to hear your confirmation.

    Reply

    Cheri November 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Joel,
    Do you have any current info on Sparks, Lightening Source, vs. CreateSpace. I’m about to publish a Children’s full color picture book for Christmas. I used Create space before, but have just found out about Sparks…not sure what’s what. Quality is an issue. And, not sure if there is still a beef with Ingram and Amazon?

    Reply

    Susan September 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I’m wondering about quality for a children’s picture book – which print on demand company offers the best quality?

    Reply

    Self-Publisher November 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Most people have found LightningSource (LS) to have the slight edge in printing quality. LS also uses slightly thinner paper to help produce a thinner book, which looks more professional. But for children’s books, the opposite would be better; so CreateSpace should be fine too.

    However, do bear in mind the cost difference. LS charges you for just about everything at the beginning (setup, revisions, etc), but once ready, you only have to place orders and tell LS where to deliver or let bookstores order directly from LS (you need to promote to them and readers to get this part to work). On the other hand, CreateSpace has virtually no costs at the beginning to set up the book (assuming no editing, illustration work etc is required), and even to make revisions, but later only a small charge may be imposed for additional distribution services you might choose to have for your book.

    If you don’t mind paying a little extra for slightly better printing quality, I suggest LS. But for children books in full colour using thicker stock paper, CreateSpace should be very good for this.

    Finally, choose CreateSpace if you want the option to sell single copies to customers in the POD mode; otherwise LS for bulk orders to bookstores etc.

    Reply

    Sarah December 1, 2014 at 9:30 am

    How do you publish a hardback children’s book in color on CreateSpace? I published mine on KDP Children’s, but don’t see anywhere that allows me to publish a physical hardback book? I’m looking at publishing it through LS now, but would love to publish it through CreateSpace. I am wanting to publish it hardback in 2 weeks, in time for Christmas. Please help!

    Reply

    The Publisher December 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I believe the magical address you will need to keep handy for all your hardback publishing dreams to come true at least on the Amazon side of things is http://www.createspace.com/. Personally, I started from the hardback approach first and discovered CreateSpace already has the link to create an eBook from the PDF file I supplied when making the hardback book version (okay for a quickie and is readable, but you would create your own eBook in a much cleaner and more professional version) and would even help you to setup the KDP account for you. Great. However, as you say, it is true that the other way of linking back to CreateSpace from KDP is not quite as obvious. In fact, I don’t see any links to CreateSpace. I guess that will come eventually when Amazon KDP does a little more testing of its web site where it may discover the slight workflow issue from the perspective of the self-publisher. Until then, try the above address.

    With this address, you can establish an account with CreateSpace. I would also recommend visiting https://www.createspace.com/Special/Pop/book_trimsizes-pagecount.html to get an idea of the trim sizes available and the maximum page counts for both colour and B&W interior (in your case, you would definitely be interested in the color side of things).

    Now once you have decided on a size, go back into your CreateSpace account, click setup a book title link to begin entering the details of your book, including ISBN. You have a choice of having all the information you need on one page, or as a series of web pages breaking down he steps of publishing your book, which ever is easiest.

    Finally you just need to upload a cover file and the interior file (PDF is perfect). Make sure to use Adobe Acrobat’s PDF Optimise Save As option to ensure the files are compact for a quicker upload experience (set the dpi for this option for all pixel-based images to 300, which is more than adequate for paper-based printing).

    It takes about one or two days for the people at CreateSpace to check your files. They may do a little tweaking of the PDF files and let you know of any issues, but in most cases CreateSpace will be happy with your book. Next, you can download an eProof PDF of how the book will appear when printed. Use this as an opportunity to look for any flaws or things that you wish you could fix. Well, now is the best time to fix it up. Re-upload a new PDF file(s) and wait for approval.

    NOTE: CreateSpace upload progress bar is not very good and won’t necessarily help you see where you are at in the uploading process (not like LightningSource). So be patient and let your computer have all the time it needs to upload your files. The web page will change once everything is uploaded.

    No doubt you will find how easy it is to successfully have your books approved through CreateSpace. So the final stage is to select the distribution channels, set the price for your book, and which countries you want to distribute your book to.

    Finally, you can tell CreateSpace to publish and go live with your book once you are happy with everything, meaning you can begin ordering books at any time. You will receive a web address for your book where people can order 1 or more books (put this on your own web site and let the world know by other means).

    You will have to do all this very quickly looking at what you have said, and please note that there is a date cut-off period where CreateSpace may not be able to guarantee the books will arrive to customers and in the bookstores before Christmas. So get cracking…and I wish you all the best with your book.

    Reply

    Alistair Roberts September 8, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Create Space looked good until I discovered they only like to deal with authors in the USA or EU. Apparently they haven’t hear of PayPal!! So unless you want a cheque, which won’t even happen until you gain a profit of $100, you aren’t going to get paid! Back to Lulu – dosappointed…

    Reply

    Nila September 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Joel,

    Your site is awesome. I was totally lost until I visited your page. I am very new to publishing. I have like 15 books almost ready for publication. There are works of translation done by a language scholar. He has never tried any of the digital publishing services. All his previous books were published and distributed the traditional way. We are now planning to venture into e-books with an option for POD. I read most of the interactions between you and others and have developed an ‘idea’ about the way POD works. However, most of the threads are very old datign back to 2011. I am curious to know if anything has changed in the way these two companies operate and offer services. Do you still recommend these two companies? Aren’t there any other new competitors who are performing well? I have a couple of questions.

    Like I said earlier, this author is a translator who translates literature from a foreign language into English. So, his books usually carry both the original and the translation, printed side-by-side. Will there be any problem with using POD via these companies?
    Can you please explain about the Global printing and distribution services offered by these companies? Will the cost be the same for shipping to different countries? Will they locally print and distribute to other countries or will the buyer have to incur heavy shipping charges depending upon the country?

    Please bear with me, if you find my question very basic.
    Thank you very much for all the assistance that you provide here for people like me who can get easily lost in this wide ocean of information.

    Regards,
    Nila

    Reply

    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,
    Michelle

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Michelle, you might try these folks: http://360digitalbooks.com/

    Or you could also try Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/

    Reply

    PV June 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

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

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2014 at 11:40 am

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

    Reply

    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:
    http://www.katiefrenchbooks.com/blog/book-marketing-what-works-and-what-doesnt-netgalley
    http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-reach-reviewers-via-netgalley/
    http://www.kearytaylor.com/2013/02/the-netgalley-low-down-for-authors-and.html
    I hope this is helpful.

    Reply

    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 NetGalley.com 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!

    Reply

    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

    Reply

    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.

    Reply

    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.

    Reply

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