Amazon and Lightning Source: The End of an Era?

by Joel Friedlander on September 9, 2011 · 272 comments

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For some years now many small publishers and self-publishers have been using a very effective strategy for distributing their books. This strategy has been widely written about and imitated. It was pioneered, as far as I know, by Aaron Shepard and Morris Rosenthal, both early proponents of print on demand distribution.

Here’s how the strategy works:

  1. Set up as a publisher with Lightning Source
  2. Set your discount to the shortest discount possible, 20%
  3. Have your book supplied to Amazon, where the vast majority of your sales will occur, at a discount that saves at least 20% off what you would have to pay Amazon otherwise.

On my standard book for pricing, here’s how this strategy plays out:
(A 200 page 6 x 9 paperback with no graphics or illustrations and simple formatting.)

Retail $15.00
Wholesale $12.00 ($15.00 less 20%, or $3.00 = $12.00)
Print cost $3.50
Net profit per copy sold $8.50 ($12.00 less $3.50)

This puts tremendous economic leverage in the hands of a self-publisher.

The Party’s Over

Now Amazon has changed the way they deal with books from Lightning Source and other print on demand suppliers—all except their own supplier, CreateSpace.

Perhaps in an effort to trim costs, they have changed the way they drop ship books using the third party vendors, and instead using their own warehousing and fulfillment. Whatever the reason, many books from these vendors are now showing up with an availability of “Ships in 2 to 3 weeks.”

A Self-Publisher's Companion

This is a real sales killer. When I heard about this move earlier this summer, I decided to leave A Self-Publisher’s Companion alone and see what happened.

And what happened was pretty bad. The book went to the dreaded “Ships in 2 to 3 weeks” and its sales rank took a nosedive as sales dried up.

A few weeks later, with the inventory apparently replenished, the book returned to a normal “In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.” But it only lasted a few days until the listing started showing “Only 3 copies left” and eventually went back to “Ships in 2 to 3 weeks.”


As the most vocal proponent of the short discount strategy, Aaron Shepard admitted the world had changed, and came up with a “Plan B” to help other publishers facing this challenge.

For about the past decade, the most profitable approach to selling books on Amazon has been to distribute through Lightning Source at a short discount—a strategy I helped introduce in my book Aiming at Amazon and elaborated on in its companion volume, POD for Profit. But now it looks like the days of that strategy may have come to an end. For those of us currently working with Lightning, the question is, what will replace that approach? In other words, what is Plan B?—Aaron Shepard’s Publishing Blog

You can read the whole of Plan B by following the link, but part of the strategy is to make your book available at both CreateSpace and Lightning Source—with the same ISBN—to take advantage of both companies’ strengths.

This is what I’m now recommending to my clients who are at Lightning Source. Others I’m sending directly to CreateSpace.

What’s the impact of this difference? At CreateSpace the “shortest” discount you can set is 40%. Here’s how it works out:

Retail $15.00
Wholesale $9.00 ($15.00 less 40%, or $6.00 = $9.00)
Print cost $3.50
Net profit per copy sold $5.50 ($9.00 less $3.50)

In other words, for every copy you sell at 40% discount instead of 20% discount, you will make $3.00 less. If you sell 100 books, you’ve just lost $300.

Now, it never feels good to lose control of a process that’s at the heart of your business model. But remember that publishing is a lot more than a specific margin per book.

In fact this is a great reminder for all of us that the form we use to send our work, our ideas, our stories and our passions into the world is not the crucial part of our business. What’s crucial—and what people pay for—is the value we create for our readers.

It’s interesting to me that Shepard, in the same article, now recommends new self-publishers skip print books entirely until they’ve tested their works in e-book form.

Let’s be nimble. As the world of books continues to twist and turn into new and startling shapes, let’s keep adapting, coming up with whatever Plan Bs, Plan Cs, Plan Ds we need to in order to continue what we started when we first decided to publish our work.

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    { 260 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michael N. Marcus September 9, 2011 at 4:20 am

    Although I started with LS in 2008, I’ve used CS for several recent books. Despite the shorter margin, CS does have some important advantages over LS:

    (1) It normally costs $70 and takes three or four business days to get a printed proof of a paperback from LS. A printed proof from CS arrives a little faster and costs about $15. I tend to go through multiple generations of proofs, so this is important to me.

    (2) CS has a new program that allows me to approve a proof for distribution, without actually seeing it. If I am reasonably sure that the book will be good enough to not embarrass me, I tell CS that it’s OK to distribute the book. In less than hour (maybe just a few minutes) the book will be available at Amazon (compared to several days for books printed by LS — in the old days). I can order a book for second-day delivery with free shipping because I am a a member of “Amazon Prime.” Alternatively, I can pay $2.99 for next-day shipping — even for delivery on Saturday morning! Although I pay the retail price for the book, my cost is reduced by the publisher’s profit I make on the book, and my purchase helps the book’s sales ranking. Because I make a lot of purchases with Amazon/Chase credit cards (I have one, my wife has one, and my business has one), I accumulate lots of Amazon $25 gift certificates. If I use a certificate to buy my own book, and then earn the publisher’s profit, the book costs me less than nothing. If I find major errors in the book I get from Amazon, I submit a revised file to CS, and the book quickly becomes unavailable on Amazon. This keeps people from buying a less-than-perfect book, but the book is still on Amazon and people can see it and order it for future delivery.

    (3) CS has knowledgeable human beings readily available to answer questions.

    (4) A few times I’ve received books with skewed covers from CS via Amazon. I was able to return them easily, with no cost for shipping.

    (5) A few times I designed covers with live matter too close to the edge. I was notified of the problem in less than 24 hours and submitted a revised design to CS. With LS, I would not have learned about the design problem until I had waited four days and spent $70.

    (6) CS is not perfect. I’ve had a few skewed covers and covers where the laminate peeled. OTOH, LS has also printed skewed covers, covers with a green tint, and once even wrapped my cover around another publisher’s book pages.

    (7) For newbies, CS is easier to work with than LS. Anyone can easily become a CS customer. The CS website is very user-friendly, and PDFs don’t have to be converted into PostScript and then run through Acrobat Distiller before uploading.

    (8) Although CS sometimes has its books printed by LS, it strangely has different standards for page bleeds than LS, and requires that a cover be designed with a different spine width than if I submit a book directly to LS. It would make sense for CS to accept covers designed for LS and to use the LS bleed standard.

    (9) I have to pay LS a $12 annual “digital catalog fee” plus $75 to set up a book. With CS I pay just $39. (If I was stupid or a pessimist I could pay zero.)

    (10) CS will provide a free ISBN if you like.

    (11) CS books are automatically set up for “Look Inside” and “Search Inside” on Amazon.

    If you are going to sell thousands of books, the difference between 20% and 40% is very significant. However, if you sell dozens or a few hundred, the CS savings can offset some of the decreased margin. Also, the trend to high-profit e-books makes the lower-profit p-books less important, and publishers have the option of raising selling prices to offset the lower profit on books printed by CS.

    Even if we give up 40% to CS, self-publishing authors still make much more per book than if we were dependent on royalties from a traditional publisher. Unlike the bad old days, we don’t invest in book inventory that can become moldy, mouse-eaten or obsolete. Finally, the profit on a CS book is still much better than on many consumer products.

    Michael N. Marcus (information, help and book reviews for authors) (pre-publication book assessments)
    – Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:
    – “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”

    – Just out: “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,”


    Joel Friedlander September 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks for the detailed analysis, Michael, that’s very helpful.


    marty koszegi February 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Hello, Joel. In an attempt to educate myself about how to get some help understanding Lightning Source (since I must understand all of the industry jargon and procedures on my own, without any “potential customer” assistance from them), I ran across some of your input, and I thought maybe you would be inclined to help me. I am in the process of setting myself up as an incorporated publisher because I understand that would enable me to get categorized within the LS system so as to earn greater profit margins on book sales. But I have a lot of questions that seem to be reasonable for a beginner, such as, “what are the different program features of LS, and how much do they cost?” Maybe I just talked to the wrong individual at lightning source (Heather). Do you think I should just try to contact someone else from the company? Is this sort of beginner’s difficulty with LS common? Thanks a heap. Marty


    Joel Friedlander February 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Marty, Lightning Source is a business-to-business enterprise and their customers are all book publishers of one size or another. Although I’ve found their customer service excellent, they are not in the business of providing author services.

    Your questions are reasonable, but you’ll need to download the many documents they make available on their website or talk to someone who has used them in the past to get your questions answered. There are also groups of people who might help, check this article:

    Top 5 Discussion Forums for Self-Publishers

    or this one:

    Q & A with the Book Designer

    if you decide you need some consulting. Hope that helps.


    marty koszegi March 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Joel; I’m planning a book-promotion poster, but, in light of LS, b&, or requirements, I’m not sure about the legality or feasibility of some information I thought about including, such as,”receive your free replica of this poster / by ordering [book title] at / [book title].com / [book title] also available at & b& [etc.].” Would such a poster that included a message like that violate any requirements or limitations that you know about? Thank you. Marty

    Richard Hurley September 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    “(2) CS has a new program that allows me to approve a proof for distribution, without actually seeing it. …”

    Be careful with this, Michael. I just tried to use this feature for a body text update and – just to be on the safe side – ordered an informal “proof” via media mail. CS sent me a proof all right – based on the old body text file.

    I alerted them to the problem, and they immediately sent me another copy…of the old file’s text.

    I wrote them again, and they sent a tech under the hood, who confirmed 1) they had indeed received my update, and 2) they were, in fact, printing from my old file. They claim the problem is fixed. I suggested they send me another proof, and am waiting to hear back from them.

    Generally, CS-folk are very good at acknowledging when they goof and are quick to make good the damage.

    Moral: don’t assume they have updated your file, just because your “member dashboard” indicates they have. Order a proof.


    Michael N. Marcus September 13, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Richard: With my “system,” instead of ordering a printed proof immediately from CS, I wait about an hour and order a book from Amazon. I get it faster, pay less money (or no money if I use a gift certificate), and see exactly what book buyers should receive.

    – Just out: “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,”


    Richard Hurley September 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Glad that works for you. I’ll give it a try. So long as you’re checking, you should be cool. In my case, I suspect CS would have sent out unrevised copies to Amazon buyers, too.

    A new proof did arrive, by the way, and it did reflect my last changes.


    Deb Simpson September 9, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Thank you for sharing this and providing an option to handle it! and , pooey to Amazon! I have self published with Amazon Createspace, Lulu and LS, and this may have a negative impact on Amazon–perhaps more than they realize!


    Mike Piper September 9, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Aaron’s “Plan B” has worked well for me so far. Sales took right back off as soon as my books were in stock again. And (because of setting the discount to 55% at LSI), Amazon is currently discounting my books anywhere from 25-32%. So as a percentage of list price, my margin isn’t that much lower for sales on Amazon.

    For sales elsewhere, the margin is significantly lower. But, now that my Amazon sales are all happening through an outlet other than LSI, I can see that Amazon was responsible for more than 95% of unit sales in the first place. So the lost profit margin on the other 5% isn’t too big of a deal.


    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Thanks for the detail, Mike. Obviously, this is going to be different for every author, depending on where books are sold.


    Barbara Techel September 9, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Thank you so much, Joel for this information. Most of all for providing options. It it in once sense tough to swallow. But I know for me, I want to make a difference in the world with my message and my books, so the more I can get them out there- the more lives I can change.
    Thanks again for such valuable information.


    Michael N. Marcus September 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    It sometimes makes sense for a publisher to “pay retail” for a CS-printed book at Amazon instead of ordering direct from CS. CS ships books faster to Amazon’s customers than to its own customers, and charges more for shipping than Amazon does.

    For example:

    Today is Friday. I can order a copy of one of my $9.99 books from CS for $2.65, and pay $15.98 to have it delivered on Tuesday. Total cost is $18.63.

    I can order it from Amazon for $9.99. If I deduct my $3.34 publisher’s profit, my cost is just $6.65, and it will be delivered on Monday with no charge for shipping, and the purchase helps my Amazon ranking. If I am willing to pay $2.99 for shipping ($9.64 total), it will arrive on Saturday. If I use an Amazon gift certificate, I pay nothing, and can still have the book Saturday.

    The least expensive shipping cost from CS is $3.59, for delivery a week from Monday (and a week after Amazon will get it to me with free “Prime” shipping).

    It’s important to do the math, if you need a lot of books, and are not in a hurry, it’s probably less expensive to get them direct from CS.


    Nathan Lowell September 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Print is still viable. The cost of set up (even with the $39 pro plan) is cheap vs sales. Having the book show up as both print and e-book increases exposure with relatively low downside risk.

    We price my books so it doesn’t really matter where the buyer picks it up, I still earn the same amount. That means the margins on the print books are a lot narrower as a function of list price, but we make it up on increased ebook sales. Typically we get 10% sales from paper and 90% from ebook and the development cost is easily earned back in the first 500 sales.

    I look at paper as my loss leader and “souvenir” pub. The income alone is negligible but the extra 10% added to the ebook revenue stream gives a nice boost.


    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

    From the perspective of a retired librarian turned publisher, issuing a title through two sources with identical isbn numbers confuses things. Cataloging, circulation, and buying books is a precision operation. Throwing in two sources may, in time, produce problems from the cataloging end of things.

    That said, I don’t see any other way around it. I don’t do eBooks as of yet as most of my customers want paper. I’m considering moving the LS editions to casewrap and the CS to trade paper. Different isbn would separate the two streams.


    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

    That’s a really intriguing option, Gary. I’ve always hesitated about having books available from more than one source because of the potential for confusion, but these are strange times and it seems like experimentation is more important than ever.


    Deana Riddle September 9, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I’m glad to hear that there are those who are getting their book back to “in stock” status by printing through both CS and LS. What still has me a little concerned is that both my LS client rep and sales rep told me that I couldn’t print through both sources. One said that CS would not print my books if LS was also printing them. The other rep told me that LS would not print my books if CS was printing them. They both sounded oddly frantic, though.

    I, too, have been trying to figure out how to advise my clients on which printing channels to use. I suppose I’m going to tell them to use both.


    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

    After a moments consideration, I am seriously thinking of instituting Plan B From Outer Space, as described here:

    I can imagine the problems at LS as LS prints some CS books. If I was either one, I would scream too. My answer is to print a hardcover through LS and trade paper through CS. I buy ISBN in blocks of ten so it’s just a matter of creating two different covers and adding two isbn to the verso page in the book.

    I think.


    Deana Riddle September 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Production costs for hardcovers are too high to allow anyone printing on-demand, to retail competitively. So…a hardcover book through LS would be pretty much DOA.


    Deana Riddle September 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Gary, I had similar thoughts. LS prints books ordered through Amazon and even ships in Amazon packaging. I don’t know how inventory or shipping costs could be an issue with CS. There’s also Amazon’s EDC, which wouldn’t exist without Ingram, which owns LS. I flat-out asked my LS sales rep why Ingram isn’t threatening to pull its support if CS doesn’t quit strong-arming LS print customers. She just said, “I know!”


    I do have a question about wholesale discounts if you use both CS and LS — As an example: I currently print one of my titles through LS and offer it at a 50% wholesale discount. If I also print through CS and choose the Amazon listing option at 40% discount (as opposed to the CS EDC option at a 60% discount) … won’t this cause a legal conflict? I thought that you had to offer the same wholesale price on a particular title, to all resellers. I suppose this means I’ll need to lower my current discount from 50% to 40%.


    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I have all our books set to either 50% or 55% discount. This gets them into library channels and both online and brick bookstore channels. I also sell through a few different publishers who offer the title through their online niche stores. If the discount was lower, most of these couldn’t compete and wouldn’t carry them. These extra channels account for 30% of sales. Sure, my cut is less, but we’re selling steadily. I don’t expect to sell 1000 copies per month. We move an average of 250 copies per month through LS and CS. We do have a handful of titles with CS that didn’t warrant the setup costs of LS.


    Bob Curby September 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I am in the UK and published initially via AMAZON KINDLE and it works very well. I was encouraged and wooed by Createspace to put the paperbacks with them. Now, I thought that was a great idea – WRONG! I’m in the UK yes? Createspace will NOT allow the Make on Demand in to print the books, forcing me to buy them in myself and then put them on the UK site as a marketplace seller. Every time I do that, each book costs me nett about 80c – yes you see that right, and that’s selling at the RRP, if I choose to drop the price, well – I ordered in one book (bad idea) to test the water the shipping cost to the UK was $23, the book’s only on for $19. So, by the time it arrived in the UK – 6.5 weeks after I ordered it – it sold in 12 hours :) – but it had COST me a nett LOSS of £7.12p – about $10.
    I have pleaded with Createspace to release the book file to the UK site and they refuse. Wanna know why?
    Because Createspace would lose money. I have seen them selling my books to Libraries and Institutions at ‘cost price’ and paying me 23c or nothing. This is not the way to go is it?
    Since I have been using The Blurb – my costs are down, shipping is within budget and I sell direct from my site – I am making money!
    I recommend UK writers to publish on KINDLE and sell at a low price (look me up on Amazon see how low I sell mine) get known and have your website in the digital file. People will filter there – and they will buy the paperback for friends who do not have or do not like digital readers. Don’t waste your time or effort with Createspace.


    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for the information, Bob. I’m afraid most US publishers have no idea what policies are in other countries, but your situation sounds very frustrating.


    Janet A. September 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I discovered the very thing Bob mentions with my first published book when I formed my new independent publishing firm in May of this year. My author lives in Spain, and I was almost certain I had read *somewhere* on Amazon’s CreateSpace setup pages that his book would also show up on and, but that never happened. Needless to say this is a huge concern for me because a lot of my authors (whom I’ve edited for, and who now want to publish their second books with me) live in the UK. So I wrote CreateSpace customer service and asked them to confirm or deny, and they told me flatly that a book published through CS on will NEVER show up on or .de.

    So last week I got set up to publish with Lightning Source, but as others have mentioned in their posts here, LS has told me that since CS is a customer of theirs, I cannot have a book published through CS and LS…but I need LS for the international distribution! So I’ve been thinking I should unpublish The Eating Enigma (the book in question) from CS, but a unique ISBN for it, and republish it through LS, but I don’t want to experience what you’ve described with your book, Joel! (Your blog post is really timely information, and I’m so glad you wrote it.)

    So maybe I should just be the bold, independent woman I am and keep The Eating Enigma listed on, and publish it also with LS with a unique ISBN that I purchase for it (I will soon purchase a block of 10 ISBNs anyway), and see how far LS pushes me about not “being allowed” to do that.

    Truly our industry seems like an amoeba slowing making its way through a droplet of water, morphing and changing its shape as it consumes food by assimilating it. Are we indies and newbies the food?!?

    (who is emitting a tiny little scream of h-e-l-p m-e, please…!)


    Dave Bricker September 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I always thought Amazon would change the discount they were willing to accept. I’m surprised they changed the game like this, but Ingram is a big player in the book market; they have some leverage and will act to stay competitive with CS

    One way they can take up the slack is to find ways to restock Amazon or dropship books faster. They can’t prevent Amazon from waiting before placing an order but they can certainly find ways to be more efficient.

    Another way LSI can make be competitive is by setting up better shipping and shopping options for direct sales and even by creating bookstore widgets that authors can use in their own sites. I’d be just as happy to sell direct if I didn’t have to handle the fulfillment hassles myself. There’s no reason LSI can’t drop their expensive UPS-only shipping and send books media mail or priority as the buyer wishes. The royalty that would otherwise be paid to a retailer could even be applied to reduce shipping expenses further. Authors would make more profit per sale if a retailer wasn’t skimming 20-50% of the cover price off the top.

    The dual-source “Plan B” is probably a temporary loophole that will be closed with a simple clause added to printing contracts. You’ll be asked to accept the terms, click the box and that option will disappear.

    Let’s hope LSI has the vision to advocate for its customers.


    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    The problem is also due to all of these operators setting up their systems pretty much to suit larger publishers. Individual sellers like self-publishers basically have no leverage at Amazon, LSI or other vendors and retailers. Let’s face it, if Amazon tomorrow decided they wouldn’t deal with self-publishers any longer, what recourse would we have?

    In my mind this makes diversification even more important. And since Amazon controls the vast majority of online book sales, that means diversifying your content into other formats and new ways of delivering information. Something to think about.


    James September 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

    A large company vying for control of the publishing game? Sounds familiar.

    Amazon’s changing the rules. Writers should assume those rules will *always* be in Amazon’s best interest. And, as more self-published writers come to depend on Amazon for their publishing needs, I hope they’ll stay alert and not put all their eggs in one basket.

    Thanks for this one, Joel–a very useful article.


    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Lately I’ve been bombarded with FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) offers. I strongly suspect Amazon determined that they made more money through FBA than through stocking from LS, or, that stocking through LS a few books at a time was a money losing proposition for them.

    We’ll never know for sure. Amazon is not one to communicate. I’ve had a copyright problem with and have yet to receive an answer.


    Vicki Hopkins September 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    We’re all talking about plans here, but what does this really mean in the long run for the vendors involved? Is it ethically right and legal for Amazon to force competitors, like LSI, out of Amazon space so authors will hop on over to CreateSpace to get better availability? I mean isn’t this a bit of a forced monopoly on POD? I won’t let my competitors books be readily available, but come on over to our service and yahoo, they’re out the door ASAP to you.

    Then what happens to Lightning Source? Will it effect their business, sales, and future if Amazon continues this practice or are they going to be forced to open their own online book space to offer books to the public quicker?

    I’m interested in thoughts here. Sure, I can hop on over to CreateSpace and release my book four books again through them. Then I’ll have one from my first attempt at Xlbiris, one from my own imprint through LSI, and another through CreateSpace. Tell me I don’t have to have the same book listed three times on Amazon from three different distributors to make a buck — that looks a bit funky too

    Just some thoughts here.


    Deana Riddle September 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Vicki, Amazon did something similar to this, a few years ago. They started removing the “buy” buttons from books that were printed through many self-publishing services / vanity presses. They were trying to strong-arm these companies into using BookSurge (now known as Createspace) to print their books. Amazon was actually taken to court over this.


    Guido Henkel September 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Crap! If only I had know this two weeks earlier. I just had two books published using Lightning Source, mostly because of those suggestions that Aaron had made. Now, of course, I wish I had gone with Creative Space.


    Ezra Barany September 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Guido, I’m personally bothered by “Plan B.” My bride published her book in both LSI and CS with two different ISBNs. When we saw the results, the LSI print quality was far superior than CS’s. With CS, the creme colored paper (a more professional-looking color for fiction) looked sickly, and slightly too dark. CS’s text inside the book was more of a dark grey than black making the text seem slightly xeroxed. The glossy cover looked like Mr. Gloss Mouth vomited all over the cover making it super reflective and quick to peel off. I love the creme color of LSI, the black text, and though matte seems to look better on LSI’s covers, the gloss is also well-done. Ultimately, I guess I’d rather have my readers read a quality book and wait the few weeks than get quick service for a reading experience they won’t pass on to their friends.

    My only complaints with LSI is that the blues on their covers come out purple until you have them do it over.

    Anyone else have thoughts about the quality of LSI compared to CS? Please reply!


    Joel Friedlander September 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Ezra, that’s interesting. The books I’ve seen from Create Space have been fine. I wish they had the matte laminate, but I haven’t had complaints from clients. Keep in mind also that, last time I checked, LSI does print some of the CS books. Perhaps others will report their own experiences.


    Ava Greene November 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Ezra, having read about this same quality issue before publishing, I chose LSI. The visuals, subtle and overt, are super important. I’m completely happy with the look of “Some Swamis are Fat,” my first published book. However, (and why I came to this thread) is that LSI screwed up royally by including in one of my books an 81-pg treatise about Aids in Africa—hardly my writing subject. Luckily (or unluckily), it was purchased by a good friend, who read the entire book wondering what motivated me to dedicate 1/3 of the book to a ’cause’ before getting to my own topic. I noticed here that Michael N. Marcus, above, mentioned the same thing happening to him through LSI. Anyone else out there??


    Joel Friedlander November 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm


    Unfortunately this is a recurring problem with digital book printers, most of whom run automated, high-speed production operations. Last week I had to exchange a book for a buyer who received one without the first 16 pages included. I don’t think this is solely the problem of one or another supplier, it seems (anecdotally) to be more about the process being used.


    Ava Greene November 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks, Joel. I was freaked since I’d only sold about 20 books and so quickly a snafu. Thanks so much for this refreshing watering hole!

    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    One other point that may pertain: with a lot of careful marketing, blogging, forum participation, etc., using LS distribution I’ve been able to bring the majority of sales in through sources other than Amazon. It took around a year for this to pick up, but now I have a steady sales number and I’m not stuck with Amazon. I run two blogs and three websites, all centered around woodworking, ephemera and books. It’s a bunch of work, but this serves to haul in many new and repeat customers. True, it’s a niche market.

    As for LS or CS refusing to print a dual published title, so long as you have different ISBN’s, the books are considered different books in the eyes of OCLC, Bowker and the rest of the world. I can guarantee that if you try to use the same ISBN for two versions of the book, the various cataloging services will note this and go with just one, not two.


    James September 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I agree, let’s be nimble. But since Amazon is increasingly the only meaningful game in town, how nimble can one be? And when this kind of game change inevitably happens with Amazon and e-books, what other serious options are there going to be? I’m seeing far too many self-publishing eggs in one basket, called Amazon.


    Gary Roberts September 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    After mulling this one over (the two ISBN thing), here is what I believe will happen from the perspective of libraries, educational institutions and many retail booksellers:

    The title is searched by ISBN. It shows up with two vendors, LS/Ingram and CS/Amazon. The institution may buy from Amazon if only a handful of copies are needed. If bulk orders are needed, Ingram is the better choice as most institutions and large retailers will get a better discount from Ingram.

    WorldCat cataloging by ISBN: The institution or retailer buying a book will again buy from the vendor they’re most familiar with, have a contract with and from whom they get the best deal. In addition, whoever is doing the cataloging will most likely chose one of the two as you can’t have two titles, same ISBN in the same database without creating havoc in the bookkeeping system.

    LS and CS printing, same ISBN: LS assigns product codes by ISBN. If I have the same title in both and LS gets an order through Ingram and another through CS, how are they to keep track of one little order? The possible factory messes are increased, which is why the LS rep responded to me with “please don’t”.

    In the end, assigning a different ISBN to each, LS and CS, makes most sense. More money in the short run out of pocket but more efficient and sensible in the long run. Buy ten ISBN’s from Bowker in bulk and use them. If you fuss over the dollars and cents at the beginning, you miss the larger picture of just how distribution works within the public, educational and commercial world of books.


    Deana Riddle September 10, 2011 at 7:22 am

    “..LS gets an order through Ingram and another through CS, how are they to keep track of one little order?.


    If I am printing through both CS and LS, I don’t know why CS would go to LS to order the book. On the same note, I don’t see why Ingram would go to CS to place an order for a book printed by LS.


    Deb Dorchak September 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    This really smells like a monopoly to me. If CS was so fantastic, everyone would be choosing it over LS and Amazon wouldn’t have to pull stunts like this to get people to use it.

    I went with LS for several reasons, including the amount of control I have over my files, their customer service, the fact I can get a matte finish on the covers instead of glossy and the quality of the finished product.

    A question for all of you out there who have used both: how do each of the final products stand up? Right now we’re on the verge of releasing our novel in paperback. How do the CS and LS paperbacks compare?


    Deana Riddle September 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Deb, up until now, I’ve only used LS my my books and my Community Press author books. As of late, I have had 2 clients who have gone with CS. From what I can see, CS paper is a little thicker, so there will be a slightly different spine width for the CS book. I think CS laminate is a little shinier / thicker than LS laminate and, as I’m looking at a CS book right now … I can see where the very top edge of the laminate is not as flat as the rest of the book, and I can feel a slight laminate overlap on the inside cover.

    Gary is right in saying that CS often uses / used LS for printing (and even drop shipping) but, I think that is becoming more past-tense as CS is trying to print more books in-house because it’s more cost effective. Probably another reason they are trying to push LS customers over to CS.


    Richard Hurley September 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

    There is one significant quality difference that drove me to CS. LS paperback covers have a 240% ink coverage cap. They apparently fear that more ink will cause de-lamination of their clear covering. This ink cap is fine for most graphics, but if you’ve invested in a quality cover that is heavy in the dark tones (like we have), the color distortion involved in the reduction to 240% is unacceptable. CS has a 300% ink cap (much more in line with print industry standards) and also does its CMYK conversion in-house from an Adobe RGB (1998) color profile – with excellent results. We get beautiful covers from CS, and it’s worth it. People pick up our book just to look at the pretty picture. (See for a sample.)

    CS will also bang you out a proof for the cost of a single copy, with shipping options at your discretion. CS’s tech support is also very fast and helpful.

    I dislike the monopoly aspect of Amazon as much as the next publisher, but I have to tip my hat where credit is due. LSI is simply too big to care about the business of self-publishers who have tricky graphic requirements.


    Deana Riddle September 10, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I guess what frustrates and confuses me right now (other than CS’s strong-arming) is why there would be a “problem” with printing the same title / same format / same ISBN through two different print sources. LS is not my publisher and CS is not my publisher (should I have to use them). I own the ISBNs and I am the publisher of record. So, I don’t believe that LS or CS could refuse to carry my title … any more than they could refuse to carry a large publisher’s title, that’s printed through more than one printing company. It’s as if CS and LS are (possibly) taking on traditional distributor roles, requiring that a book not move through any other “distribution” channel but its own.

    At any rate…I’m seeing (through this discussion board and a few others) that there are quite a few people who are printing through both CS and LS without any apparent problem / complication. I think that’s what I am going to do. As far as what to say to my students and clients … I guess I’ll just explain the complication and let them decide on what they’ll do.


    Gary Roberts September 10, 2011 at 11:09 am

    CS often uses LS for printing, although I don’t know what specs CS asks for. There are some minor differences, such as spine width. The LS rep said that while they can handle duplicate ISBN from different sources, the complication comes in if you also have Ingram distribution and CS distribution. If you buy in bulk and distribute on your own, the problem is only for LS to keep track of specs. It’s just a headache for them.

    Bowker’s monthly download will only list the single ISBN. For the average reader, there should be no problem other than the occasional duplicate listing on Amazon. Barnes & Nobles is much better at keeping their listings in order. Currently I have a few titles that are showing up as two entries on Amazon. Not a biggy, but annoying.

    For the bulk buyer (libraries, retail stores, etc.) and the cataloger, it’s a major headache. If these are not your focus, then it really doesn’t matter from the standpoint of sales. From the standpoint of your maintaining control over who sells your titles and what your prices/percentages are, that’s a problem as the bulk buyer will go to whomever is their preference instead of to the distributor you choose.

    It’s not about the printer, it’s about the distributor, about Books In Print and how the ISBN is used to identify a given title through Worldcat (OCLC), Books In Print, ABE, Alibris, etc.

    Go with duplicate ISBN and you loose the control you are trying to retain over your titles, if that’s important to you.


    Deana Riddle September 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    “The LS rep said that while they can handle duplicate ISBN from different sources, the complication comes in if you also have Ingram distribution and CS distribution.”


    That’s a good point, Gary. Here’s what I’m thinking: If I use CS I will only use the program that provides an Amazon page listing for 40% of the retail. I won’t use CS’s EDC “distribution” program (for 60% of the retail).

    From what I understand, CS’s EDC distribution means the book is listed with Ingram …so… if CS isn’t listing my book with Ingram … and only LS is listing my book with Ingram…

    Thanks for your feedback and helping me think out loud on how to resolve this problem.


    Marla Markman September 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Thank you, Joel, for bringing this important development to our attention. It’s great to see all insightful comments as well.

    I think I’m with Deana. I will send Joel’s article and Aaron Shepard’s to my clients and let them decide what to do.


    Gary Roberts September 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Deana, I’m closer to going with the same program. CS for Amazon but no distribution, LS for Ingram distribution as well as international sales. I currently have 9 books in print and am working on the next 6. Moving them all around will take time and, unfortunately, money if I elect to change some of the LS books to case wrap. Truth is, I don’t look for a break even point until a year or so and in some cases, never! Those never titles are simply in print because I think they should be or I like them. Every now and then somebody orders the strange ones by the case and presto! Break even.

    I’m wondering what LS will do as they see their smaller publishers losing sales?


    Deana Riddle September 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I’m wondering what LS will do as they see their smaller publishers losing sales?


    Just as importantly … what will LS do as they see a lot of their customers simply LEAVING, without a lot of new ones to replace them? For now, Amazon is a huge and important sales channel for publishers of any size, but particularly the smaller publishers.

    Joel is right … we have to diversify … use different formats … find different sales channels. Problem is, Amazon is still the biggest game in town for print and ebooks. If they shut out the small publisher, and there’s no equal sales channel, we have a big problem.

    Having said that … I don’t think Amazon will shut out the small publisher. Amazon seems to be more set on locking them in, on Amazon’s terms, and to Amazon’s benefit.

    Why did Walmart suddenly pop into my mind? hmmm….


    Mike Holman September 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I was planning to implement “Plan B”, but my book is for Canadians only and sells on The 40% discount is only for – it’s 60% if I want it listed on

    I’ve decided to remain with LSI and see what happens. 60% is too much.

    My sales are ok – I can’t really tell how much impact this change had on my sales, since the summer is a slow time anyway.


    Susan Ross September 10, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I offer 45% discount. LS suggested 55% if I want stores to pick it up but then I only make about 60 cents a book, so I’ve stuck to 45%. My sales are very low but $.60 vs about $1.30 makes no sense to me. I don’t understand why you were told you need to list is at 60% to be on All my books are on that site. They picked it up over time. Chapters says they won’t pick it up unless I go to 55%.
    It’s hard to know what to do.


    Mike Holman September 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    @Susan Ross – At Lightning Source, you can be listed on with the minimum of 20% discount. However, to be in the expanded distribution channel at CreateSpace, the discount has to be 60% (but if a book is sold on, the discount can still be 40%).

    According to their website, to list on requires being in the EDC which means I have to set the discount to 60%. I don’t sell any books on, so the fact that I can do 40% on .com doesn’t help me.


    Susan Ross September 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    The only reason I want a publisher is so I don’t have to deal with this stuff.


    Vicki Hopkins October 19, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Susan, I have to agree. It’s such a tremendous amount of work being an independent publisher. They take care of all the HEADACHES. However, if I went the traditional route, I’d probably never be in print and making money! No doubt, I’d be at home reading rejection letters instead. All the work has its trade-offs in the end.

    Joel Friedlander September 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Some of the confusion comes from the dual role of print on demand suppliers. It’s very common to use more than one printer to print a book, but they are all then shipped to the same distributor so, traditionally there is only one distribution point from which to get the books.

    I believe the plan Gary outlined is pretty much the Plan B that Aaron proposed, except for his third step, which requires you to change your discount at LSI to 55%. See his article for the reasoning behind this.

    Amazon, despite everything else, has really leveled the playing field for small publishers. This is still true regardless of these new policies. Whether LSI will be affected is harder to say. As far as I know most of their clients are large publishers, and I somehow doubt they are having the same issues.

    When I said we had to diversify, I meant thinking about the content of our books and other ways we can package and sell that content.

    Also interesting to note that this may encourage more self-publishers to start running e-commerce book sales from their own websites.

    I think we should expect this type of chaos and confusion to continue for a while. The whole industry is in so much flux that people—and companies—will continue to try to work the system to their advantage.

    “May you live in interesting times . . .”


    Susan Ross September 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    If you self-publish and sell from your website it means shipping. Shipping from Canada to the States is pricey. There’s also the issue of what you do if someone says they didn’t receive the book. I decided I didn’t want to deal with shipping issues, hence LS.


    Elissa Malcohn September 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Here is what has always concerned me about CreateSpace. Currently its Member Agreement (under 6.1: Content) contains the clause, “Accordingly, for each of your written Titles you hereby grant us permission, on a nonexclusive, perpetual basis, to (x) reproduce and store the entirety of each Title in digital form on one or more computer facilities of or under the control of us or our affiliates or our independent contractors…”

    I believe that an earlier version of this agreement specified yet more “nonexclusive, perpetual” rights. The word “perpetual” makes me nervous, not least because it transcends the termination of a contract.

    All the talk about “our affiliates or our independent contractors” also makes me nervous and seems to introduce a decided lack of control on the part of the author, even when we do own our copyright and/or have bought our own ISBNs and are therefore the publisher.

    My understanding (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that LS and CS differ in at least one important way. LS can (if the author holds the ISBN) function solely as a printer, though it enters into distribution agreements with multiple sources. I have not read LS’s POD agreements, which I think are available only when one actually registers with them. That said, the distribution road still ultimately leads to Amazon (and others), and I would be concerned about what those agreements specify.

    Amazon also has some curious phrasing under 16: Miscellaneous — “We may sublicense the rights granted to us hereunder to our affiliates or to any third party designated or engaged by us and acting on our behalf…. You may not assign any of your rights or obligations under this Agreement.” That seems to me to hobble the author with respect to finding distribution options outside Amazon, despite Amazon’s claims of nonexclusivity. The section goes on to say, “Nothing in this Agreement will act to restrict or otherwise limit any rights we may have in connection with the Content, or portions thereof…”

    I’m not a lawyer, but the language looks awfully monopolistic to me. I remember the days when the Kindle DX, claiming to serve 100 countries, did not include Canada, and also the Kindle “1984 debacle” of a couple of years ago. It’s why I have been very skittish with respect to distribution rights.


    Vicki Hopkins October 19, 2011 at 7:57 am

    My day job is a contract specialist/senior paralegal at a large worldwide firm. I deal with contract language all day long, but I’ll put a disclaimer in what I’m about to say – I’m not an attorney. Here’s my take on the contract:

    The language, as I interpret it from contracts I’ve worked on is that (1) you are merely granting “permission” for them to have nonexclusive (meaning others can have this right) perpetual basis (means the permission you give is perpetual – it has no end date) to reproduce and store in DIGITAL form on a computer you text at either their facility or their affiliate’s facility. Because your work is copyrighted, no doubt for legal purposes they need to be provided permission to print the text on your behalf because they are acting as your agent. It does not give them copyright or ownership in any way of your book. (2) As far as the sub-license of your rights, that only refers to if they enter into a contract with another vendor to do basically what they are doing on their behalf. If gives them the right to do so. (3) Assigning your rights or obligations to another has to do with the contract itself. You can’t, for example, assign the rights of the contract to your neighbor or best friend and let them be liable for the fulfillment thereof. You are solely liable. Sometimes you can assign rights, if the contract clause allows you to do so, such as one company purchasing out another company and they assume the underlying contract. It does not preclude you from working with other vendors, such as LSI. That only means the agreement between you an Amazon. It has nothing to do with your agreement with others such as LSI.

    Hope that helps.


    Gary Roberts September 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Elissa: Yes.

    LS is just a printer. If you buy the distribution service (Ingram), LS is still the printer and Ingram is the distributor for that ISBN. But, Ingram retains no rights to the book as you must provide your own ISBN to LS. You can put your title on hold or cancel it at any time. The only proviso is that LS will retain that particular title naming under your account unless and until you close your account.They’re not retaining rights, it’s just a database thing.

    I’ve stayed away from CS for some years due to their so-called publishing agreement. As I understand it, if you use a CS supplied ISBN, it’s their book to do with as they want. If you supply your own ISBN, it’s your book. That’s copyright and that’s the law. When I slap a copyright date on a book and supply my own ISBN, I own it. So far as I can see, there is nothing in the CS jargon for author/publisher supplied ISBN’s tht says you are signing over your rights. That would be in conflict with Bowker’s ISBN service agreement, not to mention the US Copyright Office and most European Copyright Agencies. At least, that’s as I understand it to be.

    But, CS throws peculiar phrasing into all their agreements which gives them an out if they want to crack down on an author or publisher. Is it legal or not, I don’t know. CS can say anything they want to say and hope that it scares people into complying. As I gather, most CS users are authors rather than publishers. CS offers a separate service for publishers but it’s really pretty thin.

    Who owns the ISBN owns the product. CS is the printer and can be the distributor IF you buy their EDC service. Amazon owns CS (and Book Depository… damnit) and so provides a built in channel for sales. I don’t like Amazon policies and I don’t like CS policies.

    I’m not sure how I’ll handle this for now. Summer is a slow time so I’m thinking of waiting for the fall and seeing what transpires. Amazon listings are so messed up just now that I can’t figure out what is going on. If the Amazon sales remain low, I may just invest in some advertising, more web presence, push my Amazon Marketplace and give the finger to the Big A. Or not.


    Joel Friedlander September 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

    >Who owns the ISBN owns the product.

    I don’t think the connections you’ve made in this comment are correct, Gary. ISBN is simply an identifier and has no influence on copyright, which registers the ownership of the content. For instance, you can quite easily create a different edition of the same content and assign a new ISBN, and this is a common practice in publishing.

    This is worth pointing out because many newcomers make this exact mistake in confusing ISBN with rights ownership. They have nothing to do with each other.


    Gary Roberts September 11, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Joel, you’re right and I’m wrong. I hang my head in shame. As an ex-librarian I should know better! I’m off to do penance now.


    Elissa Malcohn September 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks, Gary. Whether or not you supply an ISBN, you own the copyright; that’s not the issue. An author owns the copyright simply by placing a piece of writing into fixed form (Copyright Basics, ). Distribution rights, however, are another issue, because distribution is where the pipeline lies. Block the pipeline and you block the flow of product. Monopolize the pipeline and that compromises other forms of ownership.


    Karen September 11, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Has anyone seen the “2 to 3 weeks” shipping status on titles that are discounted more than 20%? Is it possible that LS isn’t the target, but just the very short discounts?


    Deana Riddle September 11, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Karen, the only one of my books that Amazon has targeted thus far, is set at a 50% wholesale discount. It’s also one of my better sellers and over the past few years has continued to hold decent rankings.


    Susan Ross September 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Mine says 1-3 wks. I have a 45% discount.


    N. Gemini Sasson September 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    All three of my books are at 20% discount and all are in stock. I’ve only noticed one of them being out of stock briefly.


    Gary Roberts September 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Elissa is right of course on copyright. That’s what I get for writing when half asleep.

    Take a look at what the current listings are on Amazon for our current titles:

    vs Barnes & Nobles:

    B&N is fully updated whereas Amazon is still muddling around. My LS rep said there have been feed problems between them and Amazon. Who knows?

    Before jumping into to creating new covers and files for CS, a lot of thought has to go into this to see if there are marketing or other solutions, at least for me. I publish non-fiction within a small niche market, making focused marketing easier than if it was fiction.

    I can’t help but wonder if a change in marketing for POD independents is what is called for?


    Robin September 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

    It does appear that Amazon and Lightning source may have resolved their issues in late August. The deaded “Usually ships in 2-3 weeks” notice has been removed from my LS books and those of at least one other small publisher who is using LS.

    In answer to Karen’s question: I discount my books 30% through LS and I did have the dreaded “2-3 weeks” ship notice at Amazon until recently. I don’t know if it has been removed for those offering only a 20% dicount.

    I tried to use CS in the middle of all this (per Aaron Shepard’s Plan B) but, frankly, the proofs were so awful that I felt I couldn’t risk it. My proofs had smears in the type, skewed covers, banding, etc. CS agreed that the problems were on their end, not with my files. As I sit here, I’m watching the laminate covers curl up even though I’ve hardly opened the books! I don’t feel I can risk using CS. My books are expensive and I have no idea what buyers will get. They won’t blame CS– they’ll blame me and never buy another book. I closed my account with CS. In my opinion, this printer is not a viable option for me. I’ve sold thousands of books using Lightning Source and never had a problem.

    FYI: There was a lawsuit brought by Booklocker against Amazon when they removed the Buy buttons a couple years ago to try to force small publishers to use CreateSpace. Amazon settled the case with Booklocker. The settlement is available online and is interesting in light of some of the posts here:

    In 2010, Amazon tried to dictate terms to all publishers for ebook sales. MacMillan stood up to them and Amazon blinked. You can find out more by doing an internet search for “amazon macmillan settle price dispute.”

    According to Aaron Shepard, you CAN print with both CS and LS BUT do not choose the Extended Distribution Channel option with CS. Frankly, in this distribution channel, CS simply uses LS to print and ship the books and you get to give CS a hefty 60% discount for the privilege.

    That’s about all I know. Hope it’s helpful.



    Susan Ross September 13, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Great post Robin. Thank you.


    Joel Friedlander September 13, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Robin, thanks for your detailed comment and for relating your experiences. I’m not too certain this situation has been resolved. As I mentioned in the article, Amazon is ordering inventory and warehousing the POD books themselves so they can do their own shipping (as far as I understand it). This will result in immediate availability for the book while it’s “in stock” but when it runs out, it will return to the “ships in a few weeks” status until the Amazon algorithms decide it needs to be re-ordered. At least that’s what’s been happening with the books I’ve been tracking.


    Joel Friedlander September 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I talked to one author today who has decided to publish two editions of her book, a standard edition (through CreateSpace) and a Premium edition (through Lightning Source). Like different bindings, different editions get separate ISBN numbers, so no confusion in the database, but they also have the same title and are assumed to have the same text, so buyers should not mistakenly buy both. Another creative solution.


    Michael N. Marcus September 13, 2011 at 4:17 am

    I’m in the process of moving the paperback edition of my “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults)” from LS to CS, at least temporariy, but LS prints the hardcover edition.

    – Just out: “STINKERS!: America’s Worst Self-Published Books,”


    Elissa Malcohn September 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    In the midst of all this, I also wonder how much the Espresso Book Machine will figure as a player.
    I notice they are now partnered with LS, but not with Amazon, and they have a network for self-publishers.


    Robin September 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    You’re right, Joel. I may have spoken too soon. I now have the “Usually ships in 2 -3 weeks” notice BACK on my books. I wonder if Amazon took it down during the time I had an account open with CreateSpace. When I closed my account there because I wasn’t going to use CS, Amazon returned to the 2-3 ship delay. There was just enough lag time that I didn’t connect the two! This really strikes me as a strong case for an anti-trust suit.

    BTW, when I compared Lightning Source and CreateSpace, I actually found that I make more profit using Lightning Source. I set a 30% discount at Lightning Source and my retail price is high ($35). Even though CS charges less to print the book, their 40% discount eats up the difference and then some.

    I’m planning to fill my FBA account with books and undercut Amazon’s price. My book will qualify for free SuperSaver shipping and there will be no shipping delay. Even with the fees that FBA charges, I end up making about the same as I do with sales through regular Amazon. The only drawback to this is that some people prefer buying through the regular Amazon channel rather than dealing with a merchant, even when the price is lower. Go figure!


    Scotian Gold September 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I would never purchase a book printed by CS. You might get good quality, then again you might not. When you type “Create Space” in the Amazon search you get pages and pages of crap to choose from. I’d be embarrassed to have my book listed with them.

    Can’t you send books to the Amazon warehouse yourself anymore? That’s how we did it for years. It would solve the “not in stock” problem.

    I’d gladly pay a little money out of pocket to maintain my reputation as a publisher.


    Michael N. Marcus September 16, 2011 at 11:19 am

    (1) I’ve had books printed by both LS and by CS. Neither company is perfect, but, in my experience, CS is no worse than Lightning Source (LS). The absolute worst mistake I’ve seen was made by LS. They wrapped my cover around another publisher’s pages.

    (2) You say a search for “Create Space” on Amazon reveals a lot of crap and you would not want your book listed with them. Unless your book is about CS or you let CS be identified as the publisher, your book should not show up in the same search. Some books about CS are not printed by CS, and some are not crap.

    (3) I would never want to invest in inventory and ship books to Amazon’s warehouse. POD works fine for me.

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


    Ava Greene November 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Michael, LSI did the same thing to my new book, “Some Swamis are Fat.” The cover was correct and my full text was in there, but only after 81 pages about Aids in Africa by who knows who! A friend said, “Now you’ll probably get sued for plaguerism. (sp?) This was just last week (Nov. 2012) and LSI has been responsive but not as shocked as me. Wonder how often this happens. . .


    Joel Friedlander September 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    This is likely a moot point for most book shoppers on Amazon. A lot of books printed by CreateSpace use an author’s or publisher’s ISBN and list them as the publisher, not CreateSpace. In these cases, the buyer is unlikely to know who printed the book.

    On the other hand, there’s still a big difference between books created on copying machines with toner and books printed on printing presses with ink.


    Richard Hurley September 18, 2011 at 11:56 am

    “…there’s still a big difference between books created on copying machines with toner and books printed on printing presses with ink…”

    Exactly. If your book looks professional, the great majority of readers don’t give a rat’s @#$# who printed it. The gigantic publishers’ choke-point (that gives them market control) is their ability to easily service large-scale brick-and-mortar store buyers – an edge that is fading fast because that distribution model is declining. Mega-publishing’s other advantage, industrial-scale publicity, is also vulnerable, because the web is quicker and smarter than most New York PR firm execs. They don’t know how to manipulate it to create essential word-of-mouth ripples.

    This is a moment of uncommon opportunity, if you have a good product and a gift for do-it-yourself publicity


    Gary Roberts September 19, 2011 at 7:27 am

    In an email on the side i wrote:

    The mess with Amazon continues to escalate. My listings under Toolemera are in turmoil, so much so that I can’t see the rationale behind the numbers. Some of the best selling books are out of stock, some of the worst selling are in stock and one has dropped from listings all together. I’ve elected to address some of the problem through a switch to true self-publishing through Paypal, as laid out in this blog post:

    I may even drop distribution through Ingram all together at some point and sell solely through the website and through Books In Print, through direct advertising in various print magazines, branch out into posters, t-shirts, etc. and go fully independent. All this mess with distribution, stocking, etc. is becoming a pain. I just may use Amazon’s FBA, stocking the better selling titles and undercutting Amazon through Paypal direct sales.

    It sounds severe, but in the end, I should do better all around. The old ‘hands off’ method is, I believe, going the way of the dodo bird.


    Michael September 19, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Not once did you mention that LS is owned by the largest wholesaler of books in the world Ingram.
    Not once did you mention that even Amazon buys from Ingram.
    Not once did you mention that the big six in Ney York use Lightning Source.
    How can one make informed decisions when you don’t do your due dilegence, thus creating panic and comments that could affect or effect whomever is reading this.
    No offense to you; just sayin’!


    Susan Ross September 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks Michael. I use LS and feel better about it now. I offer a 45% discount to encourage people to sell my books. LS says to offer 55% but that would leave me with under a dollar profit.


    Joel Friedlander September 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Michael thanks for your comment. There are dozens of articles on this blog about these companies, sorry if you didn’t find all the information you were looking for here.

    People who rely on book sales for a good deal of their income might disagree with your assessment that this is not a reason to panic.


    Chuck Rylant September 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Today I spoke with someone at Lightning who claims the problems has been resolved and Lightning printed books will no longer have the 2-3 week delay notice. I don’t know if this is true and am deciding where to upload my book. I wonder if anyone can verify this.


    Deana Riddle September 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I just got off the phone with my LS rep. She says nothing has changed…and that they are still “addressing the issue.” She also said that another one of her clients had called CS about the delayed delivery status. CS called back and left a message on his voicemail. The message said that this guy had to contact LS because the LS feed was stating 2 to3 weeks. The LS rep told me that this wasn’t true. They never have / never will do something like that.

    I’m starting to lose confidence in LS / Ingram resolving this issue any time soon, if at all.


    Gary Roberts September 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    As with anything, it’s always wise to figure things out as they pertain to your own particular business, irregardless of what other people are doing. That is sound business planning. I sell through Ingram, F&W Media, Museum Stores Assoc., my website, tailgating at tool auctions, a variety of trade magazine ads and various forum giveaways. Lately the Ingram part has dropped off significantly, coinciding with the mess at Amazon. I check weekly at Amazon and find that the listings change without any sense or sensibility. The one thing I can depend on is being so undercut by all the scam artists that at times I’m almost giving books away while paying for the right to do so through Ingram. I need to see a significant uptick in profit to make the Ingram cut worthwhile for my particular business methods.


    Michael Newton September 22, 2011 at 10:29 am

    After a jump in sales following a mention on a very popular blog, one of my two books went to “Usually ships within 2 to 3 weeks.” I asked Lightning Source and got the canned response:

    “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We are aware that Amazon has changed the availability of some LSI titles resulting in 1-3 week delivery status. Currently, we are looking into the issue and evaluating our options to address it. We will update you as soon as we have more information.”

    So the problem has not yet been resolved.


    Joel Friedlander September 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve continued to watch my book and it has continued to go through the up and down stock situation that I described in the article. Books are ordered and then go to “In Stock” and then they run out and it goes to “Ships in 2-3 weeks.”

    Personally, I don’t see how this will be resolved. What would induce Amazon to change their policy if they are cutting costs by doing their own drop shipping? Is Ingram going to hold back ALL their books and go to war? I think not. So it looks like a stalemate at this point, with small publishers the real victims so far.


    Michael Newton September 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I decided to switch over one of books to the new “Plan B” system (the other book has not been affected yet). I think this may even be a blessing in disguise because I’m raising my price at the same time, but now Amazon and others will sell my book at a discount. In the end, the book will be about the same price and my royalties will be about the same. But because Amazon will show “In stock” with a markdown of about 30%, sales might increase. We’ll have to wait and see.


    Michael Newton September 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

    One note to everybody: LSI’s website says you have to input your changes 5 days before the start of the new fiscal month. However, if you change your price by more than 50% or your discount by more than 30%, which will be case when you go from a 20% discount to 55%, somebody at LSI needs to approve it. This takes a day or two and caused me to miss the cutoff. So the price change I wanted on 10/1 won’t go into effect until 10/29.


    Chuck Rylant September 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    UPDATE: I called and spoke to 4 different people in past week at LS. All said they have not seen the 2-3 week problem with new customers, but only with old listings.

    The employees on the phone claim they are not privy to what is the cause of the problem and “executives” are working on it. I sensed a bit of double talk when I pressed them for answers. They will not guarantee that it will be corrected or that a new listing wont have these problems.

    My opinion is that this it the beginning of the end. Since I’m so far deep into it, I’m testing my new and first book with LS and will let you know in a month or so to see what happens.


    Joel Friedlander September 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks much for the update, Chuck. The more information we have, the better we’ll be able to make decisions. Let me know what happens.


    Susan Ross September 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Two of my books on Amazon show 1-3 wks shipping. The other 2 say order now and they’ll ship by Sept. 26 but they only have 1 or 2 in stock. (Why anyone cares about Sept. 26th is beyond me.) I have a 45% discount on all the books so I don’t know why they are showing up differently. This is through LS.


    PJ Ferguson September 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for the great article, Joel! As a new author myself, it’s important to know the very best ways to get your book out there. On top of earning an income, we want to get our message out there. If these new rules are slowing sales, it actually means people aren’t getting the message!

    Thanks again!


    Chuck Rylant October 4, 2011 at 1:05 am


    It turns out that my prior post and conversations with LS were true. My brand new listing shows in stock and I did a test order and waited until Amazon said “Shipped” before posting here. I checked UPS tracking and it is in transit, so this is very good, up to date info. There was no delay.

    You may see my listing here if you wish: If you visit, I’d love if you click the “Like” button and please forgive me if this little bit of promotion is not proper etiquette in this group.

    Good luck all with future listings.


    Joel Friedlander October 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Chuck, I understand not all 3rd party POD books have been affected, only the ones that are selling, since Amazon has to continue to order them rather than just relying on the POD supplier to do the drop shipping. What you need to do is watch your listing (I bet you’re already doing that!) and see if it goes to something like “3 copies left” because that might signal it will go out of stock until a reorder. Please let me know what happens.


    James Byrd October 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Joel. I’m way late to this party. Looks like it was a live one.

    Susan and I have continued to struggle with this issue as well. Our solution, which is working well so far, has been to do the following:

    1. Publish the book through LSI first, setting a 20% discount.

    2. If the title shows stocking problems on, upload it to CreateSpace and enroll it in the Pro Plan to get the cheaper printing. DO NOT sign up for the Extended Distribution Channel.

    3. Let LSI continue to distribute the title to all vendors other than

    With this scheme, we still sell to everyone other than Amazon through LSI with a 20% discount. We have to give up 40% for our Amazon sales.

    We aren’t happy about this solution, but it is what we have to do to continue earning a decent profit from our books. In spite of numerous reports from others to the contrary, our personal experience with the quality of CS books has been terrible. We just pray our customers aren’t seeing what we are.

    BTW, I recently published an article that compares how much money we make on our book “Funds to the Rescue” when selling through CS versus LSI. Naturally, the day I published the article, LSI appears to have cut their setup fees in half (now you pay $37.50 instead of $75 to upload the cover and interior PDFs). We also noticed that the print price you pay when you sell a book through the Ingram catalog ($3.34 in our case) is not the same as the price you pay to buy the book and ship it to yourself ($3.72 in our case). That was a surprise, but it didn’t change the main points I made in the article.

    Anyway, check it out if you are interested:

    Selling Books through CreateSpace vs. Lightning Source


    Joel Friedlander October 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for that James, very valuable information. For the record, LSI has always had 2 prices, one for books printed to fill orders from retailers, and a higher one for books shipped to publisher, it’s in their contract.

    Interesting that you didn’t adopt the “Plan B” that Aaron Shepard recommended, with the big discount at LSI to try to force a discount at Amazon. I like your approach better, but I don’t like any of them too much. Very messy, for one thing. And I can’t get over the feeling that one of these days the vendors will put an end to it and insist that you choose one point of distribution. But at least that hasn’t happened yet.


    James Byrd October 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    We saw Aaron’s article when it came out, and we thought he was nuts to give away such a large discount on LSI. We’ve never run across any evidence that doing that helps your sales at all. The online sellers seem satisfied with 20% (they are carrying our books, anyway). And Indie book publishers are extremely unlikely to get picked up by a book store — even with a high discount and allowing returns; indies just have no visibility in their procurement loop. We subscribe to Dan Poynter’s view that bookstores are the worst place to sell books.

    CreateSpace is probably the only vendor who would insist that you distribute your title exclusively through them, if it ever came to that. And I wouldn’t put it past them.

    In the meantime, I’m very interested to see what LSI comes up with to combat the anti-competitive practices at CS. Using both CS and LSI together is a mildly sophisticated approach, and I doubt most authors would have the patience for it. If I’m right, then LSI is probably losing a lot of small publishers to CS right now. LSI may not care, but if they do, they’ll have to do something.

    It’s also possible that this strong-arm play by Amazon is really trying to force LSI to change their discounting policies. I’ll bet the stocking problem would magically disappear if the minimum discount at LSI was changed to 40% (or higher). Then it might be worth it to Amazon to start drop-shipping through LSI once again.


    Susan Ross October 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I have a 40% discount on my books. Amazon says 1-3 weeks delivery.


    James Byrd October 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Well, so much for that theory. ;-) Thanks for weighing in.

    I guess Amazon just wants you to switch to CreateSpace, period. That goal does make more sense from a business perspective.


    Gary Roberts October 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Admittedly, I sell to a tight niche market, woodworkers. A number of online retail stores stock my titles, supplied by me at 55% discount. Some buy direct from Ingram as that is their existing sales channel. In every case, if the discount was lower, they could not make enough profit to make the title affordable for them. These are not full time booksellers, they offer books as an extra to their main product of tools and other supplies.

    Barnes & Nobles carries the titles and usually offers a reasonable discount, again because they buy from Ingram at the 55% discount. When I dropped the LS discount below 55%, B&N dropped the sale point and my sales there dropped too.

    It all depends on who you are trying to sell through. My next market to target is the museum store associations and the woodworking school organizations. Again, I’ll offer a full discount. After that comes the many woodworker groups around the US and Great Britain. Discounted again.

    Sure, I make less per book. But I sell books.


    James Byrd October 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    You are so right that it depends upon what kind of retailers you want to reach. The “Special sales” category, which fits the description of your market, works a lot like book stores, but usually without returns.

    As for online retailers, discounting becomes a strange numbers game. If you offer more of a discount, they often just pass that on to the customer, which might result in more sales like you describe. But what if you just set the price lower in the first place and offer a smaller discount? The end price to the consumer could end up at the same place, resulting in the same sales.

    The sweet spot of pricing is always the maximum money you can generate in a given period of time. The sweet spot might be the one that leaves you with a margin of $0.10 if you can sell so many units that you make more money than you would at any other price. The only concern at that point would be market saturation, which might be an issue for a niche market, but generally isn’t for broader markets.

    What you are doing is using your discount to give retailers like B&N more choice on how they price your book. You’ve effectively handed control of your pricing over to them, which might be a good thing. They’ll find the best price/sales ratio for you.


    Gary Roberts October 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    James: exactly. After talks with Powells, B&N and many others, they need to set their own price points and discounts according to their needs, not mine. Who am I to dictate to them what they can make or not make on a given product? That’s nuts.

    I want them to want to carry and even feature my titles at times, not push them to the back shelves. If you’ve ever been a retailer (I have), you know it’s vital to have control over what you sell. The manufacturer who dictates prices and discounts puts you at a disadvantage and is at risk of being dropped when someone competitive shows up.


    James Byrd October 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Yep. That is is EXACTLY why I think Agency Pricing is one of the most stupid ideas ever. I agree that “dictating what retailers can make on a given product” *is* nuts.

    Realistically, setting a publisher discount doesn’t really mean much of anything with regards to retail pricing. If the retailer wants more margin, they can just price the item higher (and many do). If they can accept a lower margin, they just pass some of the publisher discount on to the customer. All the publisher discount *really* does is control the wholesale price, which is all I need to be concerned about.


    Gary Roberts October 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    What this really means is that authors and publishers should spend a few years as retailers. Not as clerks, but as owners or managers of a retail store, restaurant, wholesale, service or whatever. Be on the receiving end of the account rep and in between the customer and your employees and try to make a buck too.

    Last year I had one return and destroy. One. Sellers buy what they need, and if there are left overs, they put them on remainder shelves and sell them at heavy discounts. No need to ship them back. Or, they donate the books to local hospitals with my blessing.


    Karen Inglis October 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Hi – I’m based in the UK and have opted for LS for my UK distribution and have kept the same ISBN and used CS for the US without the EDC. Joel – I also point to this page from my blog. I only saw it when I had made my choices and am heartened to think I may have got things right!

    Here is what I have done:

    1/ I am am with CS in the US for the basic distribtion to Amazon and did not opt for the EDC but instead opted for LS for my UK distribution. This was partly due to the 60% discount required by the EDC, but mostly because there is no way that UK customers would pay shipping costs or wait several weeks for delivery of a children’s book! I’ve set my wholesale discount at 40% (the same as I get via CS on so that I get picked up by the UK bookstores etc via the wholesale feed (and that seems t be working). Interestingly when my UK listing first went up it kept showng as out of stock and then as being available in 2-3 weeks – not at all funny during a book launch! In the end (after exchausting all customer helplines) I found the person I needed to talk to at and they helped me sort the situation as I said I felt my launch was being hampered. Their advice to other authors if this happens was/is to set up an Author account and liaise with Author Central. The most frustrating thing I found was not finding the right person to talk to… I have blogged about this here – and Joel I have pointed to your article here for any US readers thinking of using LS as I see that the listing thing is not unique to the UK…

    2/ I’ve decided also to use LS UK for my US distribution beyond Amazon. I have the same ISBN for the CS and LS titles and I think this should be okay because CS will not be listing my title with the other US wholesalers as I did not opt for the EDC. I wrote to CS help to check all this out at the time I was deciding on all of this (ie asked whether it was okay to use the same ISBN) and they said it was fine provided I was not already in or had not ever been in the EDC with that title… My US distribution via LS isn’t due to come onstream until November – I’m just hoping there won’t be any confusion when it does. For this US contract I have set the discount at 55% per Aaron’s blog advice – in the hope that it may resut in my CS listing being discounted eventually. Not sure if that will happen but we will see.

    I launched my children’s book, The Secret Lake, at the start of Sept (it was online from 4 August but didn’t overtly market until Sept due to the listing problem). I’ve sold about 130 since then in the UK having done a lot of my own PR etc… early days yet but we will see – but having 40% discount means the bookstores can order it – and they have in London. Once it’s available beyond Amazon in the US I will need to think how to get the US bookstores to notice it – for my ‘to do’ list…

    Hope this is of interest/use for any UK authors coming your way… and to all generally.

    Karen Inglis (London, UK)


    Joel Friedlander October 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Karen, thank you for taking the time to explain the situation for UK authors, I’m sure readers really appreciate it, and none more than I.


    Chris Kiltzer October 30, 2011 at 1:22 am

    I was excited to self publish a full color art book that I recently finished writing by using POD through Lightning Source…until I researched and read that others found the printing quality for color books at LS and CS reportedly not that great. Now I am not excited at all and feel I need to print/order a boatload of books from a printer not associated with those mentioned in this blog because I do not want bad quality put out there with my name on it. I cannot believe it is o.k. with these printers to be cheap when considering paper and ink/quality of their work when they charge way more than enough for the printing. I got quotes from 3 china printers used by Barnes & Noble and two other large publishers that came in at $1-$2/book, but I just did not want to order 3000 books at a time, so I was considering POD. I may have to reconsider.

    After reading about LS/CS/Amazon/Ingram in this blog and reading Aaron Sheppard’s and other people’s experiences with them here, it is scary to go through with handing over my book to any of these people. It feels like the goal of our pimp printer/distributer mafia monopoly is to have us put out for 1-2% while they pocket everything they can with no appreciation for the fact that they did not write, produce, hire editors/graphic designers or spend over a decade putting together any of the material. These books cost a buck or two for a printer to print and the same entity owns the printers, controls the distribution and sells the book at a very small fraction of the printing cost to the bookstores and libraries…while playing gatekeeper giving priority only to books that are extremely profitable for them. To make a fair profit is not just not enough for them, they want the whole pie. If I want to sell my book using all these silly rules, I would make less than the cost of shipping and handling. There is most definitely a game going on here…and it has little to do with properly and fairly compensating a writer for his work. I may as well just put my book on pdf for free instead of help these pigs make bank while they offer us peanuts. I think I will start writing a book tonight called, “The Pimps of Publishing”…and maybe the last chapter will offer a new online bookstore where authors could sell their books and actually keep a good percentage of the profits after printing costs.

    What bothers me the most…and I would like a comment about this…
    If Amazon/Create Space is going to “strong arm” to force small publishers to use them…then why not take it a step further…what would ever stop them from selling 10 of your books…and reporting/telling you they sold one book? After all, they control the orders, money, printing, shipping…so why not doctor the numbers “a little” and call it “oops, sorry about the error” if they get caught? There is no way to get caught. Why would they be a little bit unethical and greedy with one issue (which everyone has pointed out in this blog) in order to take more of your money, but then be honest in another (when it came to reporting # of books sold/paying the author?) I do not feel they would.

    I am sorry if I sound like Weeza on Steel Magnolias…but I know I am not the only one here who feels he/she has to bend over backward just to cover his/her a$$. If I discount my book 55%, then I will be in the hole and actually be paying to give it to LS/Ingram/Amazon for them to make considerable money because the printing cost is $13.50 for me ($2 at most for LS) and I did not want to ask over $30 retail just because it was a color book 120 pages.

    Someone needs to start up for self publishers to sell their books…Really…

    I am truly sorry if I sound pessamistic…but the only two options I see are 1.) Screwed
    2.) You don’t even know how bad your are screwed
    d.) All of the above

    The kids won’t be going to camp…they will be lucky to eat beans…


    Susan Ross October 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I personally have found the quality of books printed by LS very good. However I have had them do picture books not art books. I must admit I have also wondered how I would know if they are reporting their sales accurately.



    Vicki Hopkins October 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I have no qualms about LS reporting sales accurately. I did have qualms about other companies such as Xlibris, who I used, and iUniverse, etc., who also uses Lightning Source. They contract with them also. LS reports their sales to these companies directly – not to authors, and it’s a fact I found errors with Xlibris when they took those figures and credited them to my account. That was the reason I pulled my books from them and went directly to the source. I totally trust LS, however, it does take time for those sales figures to be reported.


    Gary Roberts October 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    For printing, you just have to realize it’s a digital printer and design your product accordingly. For sales, it’s Ingram that generates the sales, LS simply processes the monetary transactions. I think Ingram can be trusted.


    Chris Kiltzer October 30, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing Vicki, Susan and Gary. I appreciate your comments…and some of the others I read here. I found Joel’s site here last night and this page was the first I read. Since then I have scanned through this site a bit more and want to say thank you to Joel for sharing all your publishing knowledge and information in a very nicely organized fashion and providing a way for people to share their experiences so they can learn from others. As a result, I am going to our favorite place, Amazon, to buy some books of some of the authors here…not just for the information, but also to be supportive because I appreciate their comments (while I look at the quality of the digital printing of LS/CS).

    I am trying to adjust my attitude from my first post so that I can find my way through this hellish printing journey and come out without sounding like a character in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”


    Susan Ross October 31, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Hi Chris,

    I have a number of posting about self-publishing on my blog and/or under “about the author” if you are interested.


    Susan Ross October 31, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Whoops the blog is


    Vicki Hopkins November 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    This is the official response I received from LSI when I emailed them this morning about the problem. I was surprised the email got answered within the hour.

    “Ingram Content Group’s Lightning Source division provides print-on-demand service to in one of two ways. The first method is our 24-hour service level approach which shows “in stock” at Amazon. In this method, Lightning Source prints the book and ships on behalf of Amazon. This method allows Amazon to meet “in stock / ships immediately” service levels without actually storing the books in their distribution centers. Our second method is where Amazon buys books from Lightning Source and stocks these books in their facilities. If and when Amazon makes changes between the first method and the second method in order to meet their business requirements, occasionally these changes can result in a delivery promise change on

    Recently, Amazon has made more changes than we typically see in their shopping logic and stocking strategies between method one, where Lightning Source drop-ships, and method two, where Amazon stocks the title in their distribution centers. This change in sourcing methods has resulted in a very small number of Lightning Source titles moving to a longer availability status, sometimes as long as two to three weeks. As we learn about these changes, we are working with Amazon to quickly adjust the availability back to 24 hours, but this takes time. We are working to improve availability of your titles on Amazon and truly appreciate you letting us know of the issue. The more information we have from our publishers, the more effective we can be as we communicate with Amazon.

    At this time this is all of the information that I have. When I hear anything else regarding this I will let you know.”


    Joel Friedlander November 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Vicki, that’s very helpful, many thanks. It sounds like there actually may be some movement on this. I’m not sure what they mean by “a very small number” because it seems like a lot of books have been affected, but I’m going to contact my rep and “alert” them and see what happens.


    James Byrd November 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Vicki: I’m sorry to say that this is not new news. That’s the same form letter they sent to us about two months ago. As far as I can tell, LSI is stuck. They appear have no leverage in this situation, and with publishers switching to CreateSpace “just in case,” Amazon has additional incentive to resist any move that might correct the problem.

    Aaron Shepherd posted an updated “Plan B” article on his web site that explains what he’s learned about the situation. It’s a worthwhile read, but it may give you a headache:


    Deana Riddle November 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks Vicki. This is definitely helpful and hopeful. Do you know if it’s necessary to contact one’s LSI rep and specify which title has fallen into this trap, so that LSI can fix it? My rep knows I am having this problem with one of my titles but I didn’t specify which, and she didn’t ask.


    Vicki Hopkins November 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I did not specify titles, but I did mention to her I was about to upload a new title and had concerns.


    Deana Riddle November 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks again, Vicki. I plan to contact my rep tomorrow and tell her I’ve heard they are finally working on resolving this issue. I’ll then give her the specific title information and see if I can convince her to do whatever whatever needs to be done, to remedy the delayed delivery status.


    Susan Ross November 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I talked to my rep yesterday about %’s. I mentioned that (the Canadian branch) has a deliver estimate of 1-3 MONTHS. No one will buy a book with that kind of a wait time. I can fill out the Canadian forms which may or may not help.
    Also I have my book at a 45% discount. Apparently that is in no man’s land. It’s high but bookstores still won’t buy it. I have to put it at a 55% discount (and make about 60cents a book) to get that to happen. Obviously I either need to increase the discount to entice stores OR forget about them and drop the discount to 25% since I’m losing 20% for nothing.

    I’d like to know what discount others have priced their books at. I’m leaning towards upping it to 55% if it will increase my almost non-existent (sp?) sales.


    Deana Riddle November 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I’ve always listed at a 50% discount off retail. Some of my author’s books had physical bookstore placement, while others didn’t. Even when placed in the physical stores, it’s not like it was a national rollout, throughout the entire chain. The orders have typically been for 200-300 books. Most of the sales still came through the online stores. So, I had to wonder if it’s worth leaving so much money on the table to maybe get a few books in the physical bookstores, or just cut back to a 30% to 40% discount, so that I can earn more profit from online sales. I’m also about to lower the retail price on several of my print print books, so the lower discount will make up for losses from the lower retail price.

    55% wholesale discount is still the magic number for physical bookstore placement, so if you want to be “considered” you’ll have to go with that percentage. It’s just that physical bookstore placement is difficult (at best).


    Susan Ross November 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Thank you Deana. I’d be thrilled with 200-300 books in bookstores by the way.


    Mike Holman November 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Wow! 1-3 months is ridiculous. Never seen that before.

    My ( book was showing 1-3 weeks off and on, but it’s been showing “in stock” since about the first week of September.

    Susan – From what I understand, it’s very unlikely any bookstore will stock your book regardless of what discount you apply. With that in mind, you should choose the minimum discount of 20% (not 25%).

    I believe Indigo has a program for self-published books.

    I suspect that some legwork will be necessary to get your book into any bookstore. One suggestion is to talk to the manager at a local Indigo and see if they will put some of your books on the shelf and see if they sell. If successful, then look into getting it in the rest of the stores.


    Susan Ross November 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I do have the books in some bookstore but they bought the books I printed with the printer, not from Lightning Source. Chapters/Indigo won’t put it on their on-line store without the 55% discount. The Coles in my city have them on consignment at 45% discount.

    Indigo does have a program for self-publishing authors. I know someone who used it. I was not impressed. She had a LOT of problems.


    Susan Ross November 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I forgot to mention Indigo was willing to buy my books (from me directly) IF I get a distributor. The one I found charges $1,000 to sign up. The discount is 65%. The buyer would not commit to how many she would take. It could be 10 or 100 or more. Without the commitment I am hesitant to pursue this.


    Vicki Hopkins November 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I wrote a long email to Author Central about the problem. My books are now 1-3 weeks delivery, in Canada 1-3 months delivery, in UK it varies. The answer I received? If you want to see your books offered more often, use CreateSpace. The whole thing was a sales pitch to come on over to their side of the fence. A small apology was offered for my books no longer being available. Has anyone else gotten this response? I’m a bit miffed. Here’s their reply:

    “I’m sorry to hear your book “The Price of Innocence” says “Usually ships within 1-3 weeks” on

    If you own the rights to your book you can go either through Advantage or CreateSpace. Here are some options that has to offer below:

    We have a great program for independent publishers, labels, and studios, called Advantage.

    As a member of Advantage, your titles will appear more often when customers search our website, and we’ll keep copies in our inventory to offer customers immediate availability. We’ll also display an image of each item’s cover along with reviews, excerpts, and other information designed to spur sales.

    You’ll find a complete program description, including information on how to sign up, at this URL:

    CreateSpace, a member of the group of companies, provides on-demand publishing of books, DVDs, and CDs. CreateSpace allows authors and artists to sell their works as books, CDs, or DVDs without having to pay for inventory.

    The print-on-demand service produces units as customers order, so there is no inventory needed. Content providers can use CreateSpace as a one-stop solution to distribute their work through

    You can find out more here:

    I hope this information helps to better explain the issues you noticed for your book and I apologize for any frustration this issue has caused you.”

    Apology not accepted, as far as I’m concerned.


    James Byrd November 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Vicki: This is where you use The Force to strangle them from afar and say “apology accepted” in your best Darth Vader voice.

    It doesn’t sound like you would be tempted, but be wary of Amazon’s Advantage program. In spite of their amazing IT systems, Amazon seems unable to manage inventory properly (which is actually part of the stocking problem we are seeing now). I’ve heard from authors who have tried the Advantage system that Amazon:
    * routinely allows titles to run out of stock before ordering more,
    * requires a 55% discount
    * places orders for 1 or 2 books at a time, which pretty much erases your profit margin with shipping,

    In other words, Amazon Advantage is only an advantage for Amazon.


    Chris Kiltzer November 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    This is when you say in your best Darth Vader voice, “Alert all commands. Calculate every possible destination along their last
    known trajectory.”

    Very interesting and useful comments from everyone here…I wonder how many people are trying Aaron Sheppard’s Plan B now.

    And I wonder how Lightning Source feels about Amazon trying to force self-publishers to use CreateSpace by controlling the availability of the books…or if they even care since the lines seem to blurred with how Amazon uses both printers.

    O.K. one more question (that some have already answered to a degree here, but I wouldn’t mind a few more comments if possible)…
    If you were going to print a 8X10, 125 page color book, how many here would do Aaron Sheppard’s Plan B (which sounds very strategic in dealing with the current situation)…and how many would go with either choosing just Lightning Source or choosing solely CreateSpace…and why.

    Because POD printing for color is so expensive, if I choose CreateSpace for faster availability (and thicker paper?), then I have to charge more for the book because they take 40% instead of 20% that Lightning source takes. I have a dilema because I read conflicting comments about which printer is better and quality is my main concern. I do not want it to look bad. Thanks to anyone with a comment about this.


    Janet November 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Chris, I hear you — as we speak I am waiting for my proof copy from Amazon/CreateSpace of a 274-page 8 x 10 book filled with 245 color photos printed on white paper. Their automated email tried to tell me that some of the photos aren’t 300dpi though I made sure every single one is. And then I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that the MINIMUM retail price I can set for this book is $52.99. I haven’t even begun the process with LS because CS is just so much easier to navigate. And I’m trying not to get knots in my stomach waiting for that proof copy (which costs a pretty penny too, $20 plus shipping :-/ ) because I’m so worried they will botch it somehow.

    It’s this kind of mess that makes me L-O-V-E ebooks. We go through all this agony for print books, and yet market statistics are proving on a daily basis that ebook sales are climbing while print book sales are diminishing, which sounds good to me because I like living trees growing in the ground, not turned into pulp and paper.

    Now I just need a Mac so I can upload this full color book to Apple’s iBookstore!


    Chris Kiltzer November 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    On Lightning Sources Small Publishers Benefits page
    ( )…it says:
    “Print to Publisher
    •With this program we fill orders placed by the publisher and ship them in any quantity to any location. That can be one book to a reviewer or 5,000 to a warehouse.
    •As part of that service we offer Offset printing on paperback quantities of over 2,000 or hardback quantities of over 750.
    •Turn around time on digital printing is days, turn around time of offset is about 7-10 days depending on the books specifics.”

    It is too bad that when Amazon sells one of our books, that we do not get a notice of the sale and have the ability to contact Lightning source to fill an order. This would result in accuracy in sales reporting…as well as get rid of the problem of a book ever taking more than a few days to arrive to someone’s house.

    “Offset printing
    •Offset printing isn’t a component of Print to Order.
    •We also offer traditional printing services for titles that require large print orders.”

    Does this mean that if you are part of the POD program, that you cannot order copies using offset printing?
    Is it not cost effective for LS or CS to do offset printing for a publisher’s books in the quantity of 100-200 books or so…and keep them stored at their warehouse until they are ordered on Amazon? If book sales of a particular author are going well, why would they want to print one at a time? Would the printer not make a lot more money to print a book for $1/copy offset…then to print one digitally every day at 10X+ more the cost?

    In other words, if an author has higher sales, why wouldn’t LS or CS print out a few hundred or thousand copies at a time using offset printing…they could make a lot more money than even the the author/publisher and bookstore ever do this way…

    It would be interesting to have someone who actually works at LS or CS tell what really goes on at these printing places.

    I guess my main question is…how many books have to be printed offset in order for it to be more cost effective than a digital print? Perhaps it is the storing of the books that is the big consideration as well. Maybe some of my questions sound show disregard to how these things need to work in order for everyone to profit fairly, but I am just trying to figure out how these printers/distributors work.


    Chris K November 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Janet. I can’t wait to hear how your proof looks!


    Vicki Hopkins November 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    An interesting development. One of my books was earmarked at Amazon for the dreaded 6-8 week delivery and had been so for almost two months. If you read my earlier posts, I’ve been struggling what to do. I decided to hold off re-releasing on Amazon’s Createspace, because the whole matter frankly ticked me off. I was pushing my sales toward B&N to compensate. In the process of releasing the second book in my series, I went through the first and made a few corrections, and uploaded an updated interior to Lightning Source, along with a price change. Well, now, behold Amazon’s response. It’s back to immediate delivery. No more wait. Shows two left in stock more on the way. So what’s up with them anyway? All, I can say is I’ll watch my other four books, but at this point I’m inclined not to pay them any money through CreateSpace. Perhaps they knew I pulled out the Antitrust Enforcement and Consumer material off the website yesterday with the address to write and complain of a potential violation to investigate. LOL. Anyway, with Christmas coming, I’m glad to be back and up for sale. Anybody else noticed a change in the listing of their books?


    Joel Friedlander November 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Vicki, it may be that Amazon has simply ordered the new version of your book, hence it’s back in stock until those copies sell out, then it may well go back to the “1 to 3 weeks” or “2 to 4 weeks” status. That’s what’s been happening with my book. Let us know how it goes.


    Susan Ross November 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I just checked. THE GREAT BELLYBUTTON COVER-UP had a wait time of 5-8 wks. A couple of days ago it said 1-3 weeks. Now it`s saying 1-2 MONTHS. What is going on? No one’s going to buy a book with that kind of wait time. I’m also directing people to B & N but I have the Amazon button on my website. This is so annoying!


    Janie January 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Well, I have just found this string, and the last post I am seeing was written November 30th. And here I sit with my LS printed book on Amazon, which has sold well there since 2008, and it has the dreaded 1-3 week wait!!! I feel like I’m being blackmailed. “if you want to live, marry me”, says the toothless, powerful Ogre with bad breath.

    So here’s what I need to know: I am having my self-published book translated into German, French, Spanish and Swiss. I WAS going to look into using Create Space, but losing 60% just irks me to no end. And if I use LS for each book, will I find the 1-3 week wait, or “months” wait?? I am sick to my stomach.

    I do have my own website and sell a LOT of books that way. But they have to pay SUCH high shipping.


    Susan Ross January 25, 2012 at 6:09 am

    I have four books with Lightning Sourse. Some say shipped the next day, some say 1-3 wks. Before Christmas one said 5-8 wks! I called LS and Amazon many times about that and each blamed the other for the issue. It was finally changed to 1-3 weeks.

    Now when I promote the book on-line (I haven’t changed my website yet cuz it’s big bucks) I direct people to Barnes and Nobles NOT Amazon since they say they’ll ship in 24 hrs.


    Deana January 25, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Janie, what seems to be working for my clients (at least for now) is printing through both Createspace AND Lightning Source.

    Select full distribution with LS, which will place your book in the Ingram catalog, which will get your book listed and sold through Barnes & Noble and other major online sites. (Which you’ve already done, since you are already printing through LS).

    Now go to Createspace (the same book / format, and same ISBN) and select the “” option.

    This option will provide you with a regular listing on Amazon, with normal delivery. You will have to give Amazon/Createspace 40% of your retail. There’s no way around that, but it beats 60%.


    Janie January 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Deana, as far your recommendation, it’s similar to Aaron Sheppard’s Plan B to go with both, but he recommends to raise the list price to compensate for the 40% (and I wanted to raise my price on my best selling book anyway), plus raise the wholesale discount at LS to 55%!!

    About the 55%, he explains: “This will generate the highest possible discount at, and so at Amazon. Because of your higher list price, you’ll make the same profit per copy; and because of the discounted sale price, you’ll sell about as many copies as before.

    In fact, you may find that Amazon leapfrogs’s discount, making the sale price much lower than your former list price, bringing even greater sales, and making your book more profitable than ever. You may also find that Amazon customers are encouraged to buy just by the presence of a discount, regardless of whether the sale price has changed.
    Of course, with the higher wholesale discount at Lightning, you will make much less per copy from any U.S. book sales not on Amazon. But since those sales are generally only about a fifth of the total for Lightning books, this shouldn’t too heavily weight the overall balance.”

    The above makes sense to me, but I badly want to know if anyone has done this above and met with the success that Sheppard says would happen??


    Gary Roberts January 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    don’t use the Plan B approach. I set LS discounts at 45-55% and that’s about it. I figure that anything less is branding me as a self publisher. Keeping in the expected range gets my books into the online and real stores that I want to see as customers and it works. So what is the point is lower per book, my goal is to sell more books at a lower point in order to reach my net.


    Deana January 30, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Janie, I’ve always placed a minimum 50% discount on my trade pubbed authors’ books…and have recommended a minimum 50% – 55% to my client authors. With some of my trade pubbed books, Amazon and B&N discounted them, but not all.

    While a higher wholesale discount definitely makes it easier (and probably more likely) for Amazon / B&N to discount the retail price — it’s just not guaranteed to happen.

    While I’m a huge fan of Aaron’s work / advice, I’ve never gone the route of 20% wholesale discount. Knowing that Ingram takes 15%, and the retailer would only be left with 5%. I knew Amazon couldn’t put my books “on sale” when they only had 5% to work with.


    Michael N. Marcus January 30, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Deana said, “I’ve always placed a minimum 50% discount on my trade pubbed authors’ books…and have recommended a minimum 50% – 55% to my client authors.”

    You are leaving much too much money “on the table.”

    I never offer more than 20% on books printed by Lightning Source. I have never had out-of-stock problems, and sometimes my books are discounted to the consumer.

    Since LS is part of Ingram, and I pay LS a fixed fee to print and distribute my books, it seems unlikely that Ingram takes 15% out of the 20%.

    Michael N. Marcus

    – Just out: deluxe hardcover edition of “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    – Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:


    janie January 30, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Michael, the strategy with the higher discount is so B&N will discount the retail price, making the book look appealing since it will show a higher price and a now-lower price. He also recommends raising your price 20-25% to accommodate this retail discount, and the discount would put you back where you were anyway.

    I used to offer 35%. It caused a discount. When I changed it to 30%, it was listed for the list price only.

    And I didn’t have out-of-stock problems either…at first. But I have a VERY popular book, and the out-of-stock problems hit by December. Out of stock issues don’t tend to happen to slower-selling books, but they catch up to faster selling ones, sadly, due to this move by Amazon.


    Janie January 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Gary, I’m curious–is 45% really enough to get your book into brick-and-mortar stores? I’d really like to give the minimum of a discount while achieving what you state.

    I also like Aaron’s analogy–raising the price on your book 20-25%, then the high discount (which he says should be 55%, but I can see 50% at the least. Mine has been 30%)…the higher discount which will cause B&N to discount your retail price lower (which may put it back to where you had it anyway)…BUT customers will like the “sale” price since they will see the higher price, and the discounted price. Amazon will follow suit.


    Janie January 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Deana, have any idea why B&N didn’t discount “some” of them?? Were they not good sellers in the first place? That would be a concern, since I have one very top selling book, and would rather see it discounted if I follow Aaron’s plan.


    Gary Roberts January 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

    The 45% discount I reserve for the lower priced book, something in the under $10.00 range. For me, these are almost a give-away to begin with. In general, stores list all my books (we’re up to 11 with another 6 upcoming) as it’s easier to simply do so for a small publisher than to pick and choose. We’re a niche publisher so it would cost the retailer more in worker time to select titles in any event. I sell to museum stores in particular and often give them the lower priced books at cost as an inducement to buy other books at a 55% percent discount direct from me.

    The trick from my end is that I’m not competing with a large number of publishers of my genre. A few local brick and mortar stores carry my titles as a means to get people looking at their shelves and buying either my or other books. I think people forget that the retailer has to balance what sales with what draws attention.

    As an example, when I co-managed a lunch restaurant, pastries were a loss-leader. We made our profit on soft drinks, tea and coffee (ok, this was 30 years ago, pre-StarBucks). Now, I advertise all my titles at a standard 20% discount from my website and a standard 55% discount if sold to a museum store, association or retailer direct. I donate quite a few books yearly to charity auctions also.

    Retailers understand that I have to assign a 45% discount to certain titles due to the low retail price, but that they will do well with the other titles. This approach really only works if you have multiple titles as an author or if you are a publisher with titles in the same genre. At least, that’s how I work!


    Gary Roberts January 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Michael, unfortunately, you can’t simply say “it’s unlikely” regarding LS and Ingram taking 15% out of 20%, based on an assumption. LS notes that this is below the recommended industry standard and with good reason. It’s a business. You can set whatever discount you want to but that doesn’t mean the retailer will accept it.

    There will be retailers, both online and street, who will carry the title. What you don’t know is which retailers are skipping over the book due to the short discount. If a customer requests the book, it will be carried on the shelf, virtual or not. Ingram will carry it in their catalog if you pay them to do so.

    The reality of the wholesale and retail world is that what discount you set allows the seller or middle to make some profit or not and if not, to not carry the title. How do you know what you are missing out on in that case?

    You’re fallen into the trap of the virtual world, namely, you see only what is in front of you, on the screen. Lacking data on what is happening in the rest of the market, it’s impossible to determine what is being missed.

    If I were to go by my Amazon sales numbers, I would give up the business and close shop. If I were to go by my LS numbers, I would say I’m doing OK but still not good enough. When I add sales from some other contractual accounts, things look better. Add in my direct sales and I’m doing nicely but I’ld always like to do better. More marketing ideas are in the works.

    All I can say is don’t be fooled by what you see on the screen. What I little I know I learned while working as a Librarian from the collections development end of things where Baker & Taylor had a strangle hold for many years before Amazon and digital media came about.

    Aaron believes his plan will control the sales flow. I really don’t see how that is possible. Does anyone really think that no one at Amazon has not read his book or blog and has not considered if his plan would matter to their bottom line, or not?

    Amazon runs an incredible number of algorithms to adjust discounts and sales positions according to what people are looking at, buying, recommending, etc. If you think for a moment that you can fool a sales rank or discount algorithm by playing around with your discount percentages, I think you don’t understand the nature and personality of the mathematician. This stuff is a creampuff to these guys. Having worked with many of them, and not understanding a word out of their mouths, I can only say that if an analyst says an algorithm can be whipped up to allow for your percentage manipulations, then it’s already been done. That’s a quote of sorts from a friend of mine.

    Aaron is in the business of selling his books and his blog, not in the business of making you money. If you think his system will work, then spend six months running a title his way and six months running it according to industry standard and see what happens. Who knows, Aaron may be right!


    janie January 31, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Gary, I have a lot to learn from you…

    1) You state: “What you don’t know is which retailers are skipping over the book due to the short discount. If a customer requests the book, it will be carried on the shelf, virtual or not. Ingram will carry it in their catalog if you pay them to do so…” Do we know what the minimum discount is where retailers will carry it, and where they won’t? Also, I have never understood who those “retailers” when bookstores are going out of business. Are we talking about mom-and-pop places?

    2) You state: “When I add sales from some other contractual accounts, things look better.” What contractual accounts are you referring to?

    3) You state: “Who knows, Aaron may be right!” Are you referring to the entire plan–raising one’s discount on LS to 55%/raising the price of one’s LS book (to potentially see the discount on BN, which puts it back to where it was)/using CS to print the book for Amazon, etc?


    Gary Roberts February 1, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Janie, I don’t know about learning from me, I’m an retired librarian, long time antiquarian book guy with plenty of retail experience too. I’ve dealt with publishers at all levels and simply think that all this hoopla about bending Amazon or any other gorilla to your purposes is silly.

    Standard trade discount is 55%. Some will accept 50%, some will request 60%. It all depends on if you are a known publisher or author, how many books they expect to buy and how fast they’ll move, what your terms are and how lousy the economy is. It’s not your market, it’s theirs. I ask the buyer what terms they need in order to do business with me and then we negotiate. If they need 60%, then I say ok, but I need payment in 30 days and a case order, shipping included.

    Book sellers have a bunch of different methods of determining what titles to carry and I’m talking about online sellers as well as street. Street could be the small local shop, Powells, The Strand or some other independent store. They also go by customer requests as well as their experience in what their customer base historically wants. They either know their business or they go out of business. Go into a store and speak to the manager to get an idea of what they are looking for and write what they want if that’s your target.

    On contractual accounts, I contract with a few online shops to carry my books, notably Shop Woodworking. There are a few others who buy by the case. Shop Woodworking advertises my titles, takes the order, handles the money, keeps a percentage and sends me the rest. I order through my LS account and send the book(s) to the customer. I also keep a Paypal storefront active for direct orders as well as an Amazon Marketplace.

    There is a reason 55% is called the standard discount. It’s what book distributors expect to see when they are working their numbers. Same for the retail outlets. Mess with those numbers and on down the line you’ll see book buyers consigning your titles to the “also-ran” room.

    Sure, street booksellers are having a hard time. Many small outfits have closed but many mid sized and larger ones are still there. Powells, Strand, New England Mobile Book Fair, Pazzo and others are chugging away. They’ve adapted and survived.

    I believe it comes back to the mistake many authors and publishers make of believing that because a book is written or published, there will be a market for it. Sorry, but either you create your market or you write for a given market.

    I’ve been a known name for years in the field of early trades and industries so when I branched out into publishing, it was not a big jump for me. I already had huge brand recognition having provided technical assistance to various non-profits in producing their books and dvd projects. My first imprints titles were geared towards what I knew these people wanted. Now I’m branching out into agriculture, bee keeping, cookery and other stuff. But, I’ve found an existing market for these titles rather than having to create a new one.

    I do plan on using CS for some small books that I don’t want to invest LS level cash in, books that I think will only sell a dozen or so a year but that I want to see in print. Books that I believe will attract attention to other titles.

    Does this all make sense?


    Deana January 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    @Janie — I just did a comparison on 5 of my titles, comparing Amazon discounting to B&N discounting. On one title, Amazon is listing at regular price and B&N is discounting the title by 3.00. On another title, Amazon is listing the title at a little over a dollar, while B&N is not discounting it at all. On two titles, neither B&N or Amazon are discounting it. All of these titles have the same 50% wholesale discount. All of these titles have also been on the market for a few years, so they are no longer selling as strong as they once did. One title sold really well, since 2007, but since Amazon placed it on delayed delivery, sales have nose-dived.


    @Michael — to confirm, I just got off the phone with LS and confirmed that Ingram takes a minimum of 15% of the wholesale discount assigned to the book. Even though Ingram owns LS, Ingram is still its own entity, providing wholesale services, and must charge for that service. This is completely separate from the production fee paid to LS. I very much agree with Gary’s explanation of how the system works, if you’re going by industry standards. There are systems in place and every source that helps you produce / distribute / sell your book, will rightfully receive a piece of the pie for doing so.

    I don’t necessarily look at this as “leaving money on the table.” I would always like to leave less money on the table, and will do so, if it doesn’t keep me from reaching my intended goal. If I want my book to have a shot at physical bookstore placement, I’ll give up the percentage required by bookstores to achieve that goal. If I am only interested in online placement / sales and direct sales, then I won’t give up as large a percentage of my sales because it isn’t required…at least not yet. I advise my clients to do the minimum of 50% to 55% wholesale discount if they seek possible placement in the bookstores. I tell them that it’s likely that most of their sales are going to come from online sources and direct sales and to think carefully about the discount. If they don’t care about physical bookstore sales, I still advise 35% – 40%, on the chance that Amazon and B&N will discount the retail. And even then…it still seems random as to which books Amazon will discount, and by how much, regardless of the original wholesale discount.

    I’ve been warning colleagues and clients for years — that this 20% wholesale discount wouldn’t last forever. That, one day Amazon was going to turn around and decide that 5% wasn’t enough profit…that…in fact…if was likely costing them. As Aaron sort of said … it was nice while it lasted.


    Janie January 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    This is an area that totally baffles me, i.e. physical bookstore placement vs online sales vs direct sales.

    I have a great marketing website for my books–a high-hit site which produces a lot of direct sales. I also have equally good sales from Amazon (and with my book in particular, only gives me half of what direct sales give me in profit.)

    I checked my Amazon/BN sales for January–still very good sales. So the delays haven’t hurt me there….yet.

    So…do I take the risk that I don’t need to use CS…then go back to LS and move my 30% discount to 50% in hopes of getting the book into brick-and-mortar stores…yet suffer a loss in my already GOOD sales with a 30% discount? (And do stores REALLY stock self-published books??)

    Or, do I take that risk and move up from 30 to 50%…but also raise the price of my book, which I wanted to do anyway with a $3 per book raise?


    Gary Roberts January 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Amazon sales rank is also wacked. Here’s an example. When I first published Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, 1703, roughly 200 copies sold the first week. Not much, but within it’s genre, that was a huge number and so the sales rank shot way up for a short time. Is that indicative of anything other than the fact that a bunch of people who follow early industries wanted a copy of this book?

    Amazon sales rank is a closely guarded secret. All people have been able to suss out is that it includes stuff such as time of year, holidays, genre, author, price, format, cross-media (eBook, movies, etc.), other retailers and then on to who knows what else.

    The best silent marketing ploy I found was to use SITB, keep my blog and web site updated and now, use Bowker’s version of SITB. The last thing I would do is rely on Amazon sales rank as it serves Amazon’s purposes, not mine.

    One last note from the street bookstore front. It’s not that street book stores don’t want to carry self published books because of the quality per se. It’s because so many of them are priced poorly or discounted incorrectly for their profit patterns. If a book is popular and sells, even if is poorly written, the book seller will sell it.


    Janie January 31, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Gary, you state: “If a book is popular and sells, even if is poorly written, the book seller will sell it.”

    I myself have a popular book. As I mentioned to Deana, both internet sales via Amazon and direct sales are good. Internet sales for January were good in spite of the Amazon shipping delays, I just noted, so it looks like I don’t have to go to CS for the time being. So you are saying I can get the attention of book sellers, even though it’s self-published? And I could do that by changing my 30% LS discount to 50%? But it would lower my profits which are already good on Amazon. And I have to question: would I make that up with exposure to book sellers because of moving to 50%? I’ve thought seriously of moving the price of my book up $3.


    Janet Angelo January 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    What all this about Amazon boils down to is this:

    Amazon is a RETAILER first and foremost…which we all need to keep in mind (and be a bit leary about) the more they venture forth into becoming the world’s biggest publisher.

    The retail industry has always had about a 500% markup in order to remain sustainable. Even when you buy an item at 70% off, I can assure you, the store is still making a profit. It might be small, but they are still making a profit. In fact, when it comes to mid-level designer clothing, only a few pieces of clothing on an entire rack need to be sold at full price to make enough profit to sell the rest at some level of markdown (30%, 50%, even 75% off).

    Amazon is a retailer. The only reason why they care about our books is because they hope to sell them. And many of the books published with them barely make a dent in sales, and so Amazon makes up for that by keeping a large chunk for themselves of ALL the published books.

    Even if you’ve just sold things on eBay regularly, meaning as a business with an eBay storefront, knows that all these things we’re discussing are part and parcel of the retail industry and its middleman, the wholesale industry, which in this case is the book distributors.

    This has been one of the main problems of the publishing industry in the 20th and 21st centuries as a whole — it has largely been about SELLING PAPER in the form of books moreso than connecting authors with readers.

    As a fairly new independent publisher (both print books and ebooks) but a longtime developmental editor, I ponder quite often the need for a truly independent source on an international scale for connecting authors with readers and selling books that way, almost like a co-op. I’m probably dreaming, but I still ponder it!


    Michael N. Marcus January 31, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Janet said, “The retail industry has always had about a 500% markup in order to remain sustainable.”

    I hope that “500″ is a typo and you meant “50.”

    Until fairly recently (late 1990s?), retail markup on most products (such as clothing) was 40%, but jewelry was a notable exception at 50% (“keystone”).

    Now, markup can range from as little as 5% on new cars to 10-15% on food and brand-name consumer electronics to 80%-90% on private-label and “designer” products.

    Another recent change is the “regular sale price.”

    At one time, products were put on sale to clear out merchanidse that was not selling, at the end of a season (e.g., skis in April), or when an item was discontinued.

    Some products such as mattresses and anything at Joseph A. Banks seem to never be sold at “regular” prices, except maybe from 3-4 a.m on one day each month. Some products (such as Bose speakers and high-end appliances) are on sale just once or twice a year.

    Now, retail “buyers” and “merchandisers” plan on sale prices for almost everything they buy, and consumers have been trained to wait for the sale price. At one time I was interested in a particular Craftsman drill that Sears was selling. I bought, returned and re-bought it three times because the price kept dropping. I analyzed the ads for several weeks, and never saw the drill “off sale.”

    Current popular books were seldom put on sale until B&N started discounting bestsellers every day, which helped kill the mom-and-pop bookstores. Amazon, of course, discounts most books every day, as do Walmart, Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s.


    Janet Angelo January 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Michael, when you write “At one time I was interested in a particular Craftsman drill that Sears was selling. I bought, returned and re-bought it three times because the price kept dropping. I analyzed the ads for several weeks, and never saw the drill “off sale.” — you are describing marketing tactics.

    When Tommy Hilfiger shirts can be purchased for $5.00 each by the merchandise buyer and the retail tag hanging from the shirt is labeled $50, you can see how the store still makes a slight profit even when that shirt is sold for 75% off. I know these numbers are accurate because of past experience.

    I am not talking about the retail practice of labeling everything as “ON SALE!” Again, that is a marketing ploy.

    Back to books … when I recently published Brazil through Irish Eyes for my author with Amazon/CreateSpace, a book that is 8 x 10, 276 pages, and filled with 245 color photos, the minimum I could set the price at is $52.99, so that’s what I set the price at because Lord knows that’s high enough.

    But you and I both know it does not cost the printer/distributor $52.99 to print that one book, even if it is filled with color photos. I bet it costs about $5.00 max to print that one book.

    That is the retail price with enough profit built in to pay various layers in between, employees’ salaries, costs to run the business, and so on.

    Thus, as I said correctly, Amazon is a retailer. Their business interests are driven purely from that standpoint. I am not saying this in their defense. I am just stating facts. As I mentioned previously, I think one of the biggest problems we face is that publishing should be about connecting authors with readers, which is easy to do at minimal cost with ebooks. The publishing business shouldn’t be driven by a retailer.


    Gary Roberts January 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    A comment on the whole pricing game. The customer is not all that dumb. Customers (which includes us), are looking for a good price from a reputable seller. Marketplace sellers who dither over prices are apt to sell fewer items as compared to Sold By Amazon due to reputation.

    People know what they want to pay for a book and what a going price point is for a certain genre. Why spend hours of your time fiddling with pricing when it’s more productive to be working on marketing, publishing and writing? I set my prices and discounts and walk away. It’s the marketing that makes the money, not the plan a or b.


    Susan Ross February 4, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I was told it needed to be 55% for Canada and other bookstores to pick it up and am thinking of doing that since sales are dismal.


    Lindsay Gold March 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    The problem with create space is they only allow you to upload a front cover. This is very bad policy. They add a white back cover and spine that does not compliment the front cover. In Australia even the smallest of publishers can add the spine and back cover. It is time some of the executives at create space woke up to themselves and provided a simple method to upload front and back covers together with spine. They need to get their act together.


    Joel Friedlander March 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Lindsay, you may have misunderstood something on the CreateSpace site. Softcover book covers are always printed as a complete wrap with front, back and spine in one piece. I upload books to CreateSpace often on behalf of clients, and all the files are laid out as flat full-wrap covers. Consult the help sections or ask the customer service people there if you’re having a problem getting this right.


    Janet March 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

    That’s not true, Lindsay. You can design a complete front-to-spine-to-back cover using their cover creator software, which is simply one of the steps you can click on in your dashboard while building the metadata of the book in the steps you take toward publishing it with them. One of the designs in their cover creator — on the last page of the design samples, if I remember correctly — is a template to use to make sure your own full cover fits the trim size you have chosen, including the bleed along the edges.


    Danny March 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I have an important printing decision to make and I would appreciate some guidance from the experienced commentators on Joel’s excellent article. I will soon need to reprint my book, either traditionally or POD. I am seriously considering CS and am trying to determine whether Plan B makes sense for me? My book currently shows 1 or 2 on Amazon for searches of its subject matter and I don’t want that to change.

    My book was printed traditionally and I have a distributor that deals with both Ingram and Amazon. I am not happy with the distributor regarding accountings and payments to me and feel the POD format would eliminate a lot of my problems, as opposed to trying to find another distributor. From what I can tell, 80-90% of my books are being sold through Amazon, but there are some niche book stores carrying it. I am selling about 40 books a month, but at an increasing rate because of what I believe is positive word of mouth and improved marketing. My Amazon ebook sales are increasing monthly and should hit 170 or so this month.

    Here are my questions:

    1. Does it make since for me to just publish with both CS and LS without all the maneuvering involved in Plan B?

    2. For Amazon to continue discounting my book by about 30%, don’t I need LS as well so that BN will discount the book, thereby compelling Amazon to match BN?

    3. Won’t I also need LS/Ingram to continue service book store orders? In that regard, I’m willing to give a larger discount, as opposed to using the extended CS distribution channels.

    4. I don’t want to lose my current Ingram data base for my book.
    Is that retained after I terminate with my distributor?

    5. Since my ISBN is in the Ingram data base, shouldn’t I use another of my reserved numbers for the new CS listing? Or should I use the same number?

    Thank you in advance for your time in responding.



    Nancy March 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I am not the experienced commentator you ask for, but I do have comments:

    1) I would think you could use both CS and LS without all the maneuvering. At least by using CS, you’d avoid the Out of Stock issues on Amazon. ***One thing I wonder: can we charge more for the Amazon version of a book (to recoup the loss from 40%) than we set with LS for the same book?

    2) I don’t think we know whether or how much either Amazon or B&N will discount our books….do we?

    3) Yes about LS/Ingram.

    4) I wouldn’t think so….that’s where someone else needs to respond.

    5) There is controversy here. Some say go ahead and use the same ISBN.


    James Byrd April 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Danny: I’ll add to what Nancy has said…

    >1. Does it make since for me to just publish with both CS
    >and LS without all the maneuvering involved in Plan B?

    Yes, you can do that. We do. We publish through LSI until we experience the stocking problem and then put the affected title at CS as well (for Amazon distribution only). We do not do Plan B. We stay at a 20% discount with LSI and take the extra 20% hit from CS on our Amazon sales. If we were selling hundreds of books each month, we would probably go through the machinations of Plan B to protect our profits.

    >2. For Amazon to continue discounting my book by
    >about 30%, don’t I need LS as well so that BN will
    >discount the book, thereby compelling Amazon to
    >match BN?

    Probably. According to Aaron Shepherd, Amazon does not discount books that go through CS unless it is a competitive discount. That is part of what makes Plan B work. You’ll need to set a high discount anyway if you intend to sell to bookstores (see #3).

    >3. Won’t I also need LS/Ingram to continue service
    >book store orders? In that regard, I’m willing to give
    >a larger discount, as opposed to using the extended
    >CS distribution channels.

    If you want to continue to sell to book stores, you will have to set your discount at 55% or more and allow returns. Those are the terms bookstores get (more or less) from traditional distributors.

    >4. I don’t want to lose my current Ingram data base
    >for my book. Is that retained after I terminate
    >with my distributor?

    The “database” you refer to is your Books in Print record, which is tied to the ISBN. You were smart to buy your own block of ISBNs. That allows you to publish the book under that ISBN wherever you want (LSI and/or CS). It’s no problem to use the same ISBN at both LSI and CS, as long as you don’t use the extended distribution features at CS.

    >5. Since my ISBN is in the Ingram data base,
    >shouldn’t I use another of my reserved numbers
    >for the new CS listing? Or should I use
    >the same number?

    I think I just answered this one with my #4 answer.

    Best of luck with your book, and congratulations on its success!


    danny April 3, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Thank you James (and Nancy, too) for taking the time to provide me with such clear and responsive answers to my questions/concerns. It is very timely.

    I was very excited to learn yesterday that ForeWord Reviews named my book as a Book of the Year Awards Finalist in the self-help category! Your counsel will really help my decision making process as I go forward.

    Best regards,


    Nancy April 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Wow Danny! I’m impressed!!

    I got the impression once from LS that my book is in the higher category with the amount of “print me some books orders” I give them as a publishing company. That was fun to know. My publishing website does sell a lot of copies due to strategic marketing. But I’ve never had a public award like that. Congrats!


    Joel Friedlander April 4, 2012 at 11:42 am


    Thanks once again for your excellent help. One point: in my experience bookstores require a minimum 40% discount and to be able to offer that you might have to set your LSI discount to 55% to allow for the distributor’s profit. But if you were to sell direct to bookstores, I don’t think I would offer more than 40% unless a specific bookstore needed a higher discount for some reason. Does that match with your experience?


    James Byrd April 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Joel: You are right. My comment was incorrect in stating that bookstores normally get 55%. It’s the distributor that demands a 55% discount because they need to be able to offer 40% to book stores and keep 15% for themselves. If you are selling direct to bookstores, 40% should be fine.

    We actually make no effort to sell to bookstores. We agree with Dan Poynter’s philosophy that bookstores are terrible places to sell books. We set our discount to 20% and don’t allow returns, which means our books are sold POD by online booksellers only.

    In our experience, if you set the discount higher, the retailer just passes most of the savings on to their customers, which means offering a higher discount is effectively the same thing as lowering your price. We’ve even had Amazon offer our books at a discount when they only have a 20% margin to work with!


    Ian Daniel April 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Question for you James, once you set up a title with LSI using their Distribution service and you later set-up with CreateSpace for the reason discussed above. Do CreateSpace allow you to create your title with no resistance and are Amazon happy to stop buying from LSI and buy direct from CreateSpace instead?

    Great blog Joel and great subject for me right now as I’ve had various issues related to this. I found your blog tonight when searching for an unrelated topic.


    James Byrd April 16, 2012 at 6:23 am

    Hi Ian. CreateSpace doesn’t care where else you might be publishing your book. They have no exclusivity clauses (yet.) Just be sure to publish your book through CS with the same ISBN, Title, and Author that you used at LSI.

    I don’t pretend to know what mechanism Amazon uses to recognize that the title has become available from both LSI and CS, but I can tell you that the “ships in 2-3 weeks” message goes away almost immediately. Amazon appears to source from CS in preference to all other suppliers, as you would expect.


    Ian Daniel April 16, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for your fast response James, appreciate it.

    danny April 16, 2012 at 8:44 am

    James, if you use the same ISBN for both, will libraries and book store orders automatically go to LSI, and not CS. In other words, will there be some confusion having the same ISBN with two sources? Instead, what if you use another of your own ISBN with CS when starting with them, and keep the original one with LSI?

    Susan Ross April 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Regardless of whether the book is distributed by LS or CS it should have the same ISBN# since it’s the same book.

    James Byrd April 16, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Danny: If you want to continue to use LSI for distribution outside Amazon, just make sure you do NOT sign up for Extended Distribution with CS. That way, libraries and book stores will never see your listing with CS. They’ll only see the book listing that is in the Ingram catalog, and those orders will be serviced by LSI.

    Gary Roberts April 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t think there is any one fit for any one title or publisher. I recently filled an order from a museum store for ten copies of each title on my list. I upped the discount from 55% to 60% as they are buying direct from me and informed them that for the future, they can buy from me or from Ingram. It’s up to them.

    The good will gesture produced further orders for titles needed for a conference they were planning as well as contacts from another museum store.

    The point is to put books into the hands of new customers who will, hopefully, turn into repeat customers or recommend you to other readers or buyers.


    Ian Daniel April 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Question for anyone really. Does the Amazon book ‘Availability’ change based on the percentage you discount? I’m thinking if you give them 55-60% discount, Amazon may treat you like its Advantage customers and give you the ‘Buy Now’ button and always “In Stock” availability and books ordered in advance before stock runs low?


    James Byrd April 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

    For most of our books, our experience has been the same as Dave’s. We set a 20% discount, Amazon *still* discounts them sometimes, and only one title (our most popular) has had availability problems so far.

    And for the record, I’ve seen Amazon Advantage customers complain about the same “out of stock” issues. The problem seems to be that Amazon does a very poor job of managing the inventory they keep in their own warehouses. They allow items to go out of stock before ordering more, and when they do place an order, it is for too few items, so the item quickly goes out of stock again.


    Ian Daniel April 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Agree James, I have a book in Advantage just for UK sales and the Advantage system places auto orders and they are always very low quantities so I always get the to cancel it and just send them 50-100 each time.


    Danny April 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks, James, for your advice regarding my ISBN question. I am glad that you concur. I also agree with you that should not use the extended distribution route with CS.

    Interestingly, just this morning I spoke with a customer rep. from CS, and she told me I needed to use a separate ISBN because they consider it as a “new book” and initially set up a separate product page for it. The two product pages are then automatically linked. Also, within 4-5 days of starting CS I would need to change the Amazon link on my web site to go to the new CS order page instead of Amazon.

    So it makes sense for me to retain my current ISBN when I set up with LSI, since it is already in the Ingram data base vis a vis my distributor, have Ingram distribute to libraries and bookstores, and then to use a new one of mine for CS.

    Hope this makes sense!




    James Byrd April 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    It does make sense. However, there’s a difference between what you “have to do” versus what you “can do.” We put our book into CS using the same ISBN and had no problems. However, it is not unusual for a book to have multiple ISBNs. Some publishers assign a new ISBN when they change distributors, and some do it even if they just change the cover of the book.

    Also, the reason the CS representative recommends that you change your web site links to go to CS instead of Amazon may be because you’ll earn more on your book sales. Sales through the CS web site have a 20% discount, while sales through Amazon have a 40% discount, so you earn an 80% royalty rather than 60%. However, there’s no reason that you couldn’t also provide a link to the new book listing on Amazon for your customers who prefer to buy that way.

    I suspect using a separate ISBN may actually cause some side effects. It will be interesting to see what happens to your Amazon book listings if Amazon gets the same book from Ingram and CS with different identifiers.


    Joel Friedlander April 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Danny, if you do go ahead and publish the same book with 2 ISBNs, I hope you’ll report back and let us know what happened.

    Ian Daniel April 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Are you sure about these royalty numbers James as I get 40% from sales, 60% for CS eStore and 20% for EDC.

    Are these the discounts you get or different?

    James Byrd April 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Ian: Sorry if I my use of terminology was a little loose.

    The discount I was talking about above was really what CS calls the “sales channel percentage,” which is the margin you give away for sales through the three CS channels: eStore, Amazon, and Expanded Distribution. LSI calls that same figure (more accurately) the “discount.”

    You still have to subtract printing costs to arrive at your true CS “royalty,” which LSI (again, more accurately) calls “publisher compensation.” When I said you get an 80% royalty from the eStore, that was just a gross figure before printing costs (which vary by title) are subtracted.

    At CS, the Sales Channel Percentage (i.e. discount) is as follows for the channels:
    * CS eStore: 20%
    * 40%
    * Expanded Distribution: 60%

    So, you earn (before printing costs are subtracted):
    * CS eStore: 80%
    * 60%
    * Expanded Distribution: 40%

    It’s easy to see why using ED is such a problem. You only earn 40% of the list price *before* you subtract printing costs. If a book costs $3.00 to print, you’d have to price it at $10.00 just to make a buck on each sale.

    The following page on the CS site explains the CS perspective on this subject in more detail:

    Michael N. Marcus April 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I have about a dozen paper books being sold by Amazon — roughly 8 printed by LS (20% discount) and 4 printed by CS (40%). They are all shown as “in stock,” and some have been discounted to consumers at various times.

    Michael N. Marcus
    – Just updated, “Self-Publish Your Book Without Losing Your Shirt: business basics for self-publishing authors,” (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    – Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:
    – New: deluxe hardcover edition of “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”


    Dave Bricker April 16, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I set my seller discount at 20%. Amazon has even offered my books at a discount price. I have seen no lack of availability on my LSI books.


    Susan Ross April 16, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I’m told it needs to be 55% for books stores to pick you up. 60% is too much.


    Ian Daniel April 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    So maybe its all sorted now and no need to worry. Amazon do a lot of testing, maybe it was that or possibly Bezos spat his dummy for a few months. Looking forward to going LSI only with my next title to test it. Then if needs be I’ll also bang it on CreateSpace as recommended.

    How long does it generally take for LSI to update the discount once you request a change?

    BTW I’m new to LSI having just moved printing from CS to LSI in the UK, using a new ISBN for my UK only sales and distribution. I was forced to for ‘UK sales only’ as I already had the existing ISBN with CS’ EDC. The problem was, shipping books to the UK and then to Amazon Advantage UK to control the Buy Now button was too expensive, plus the CS error rate was 10%, way too much hassle waiting for replacements,. etc. I’m very impressed with LSI so far.


    Gary Roberts April 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Thought I’ld point out that changing the ISBN for anything but new content tells libraries, professional book buyers for retail stores, etc. that this is a self published book. That’s the way these people look at the ISBN. The ISBN is the identifier of a given title which means given content, not of a marketing channel. CS if full of it if they require a new ISBN for their service. They’re just trying to put one over on you. You own the ISBN, hence you own the title/content and can publish it wherever you choose to publish it and that is the law of copyright. That’s also how Bowker assigns ISBN numbers.


    Mark Donnelly May 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Joel, wonderful site and great thread! After reading all the comments, I have these points, then some questions:

    I firmly believe that first impressions are vital. When a reader receives a book, he/she will see the cover first. I have spent 3.5 years writing my upcoming book (around 1,200 hours) and feel I nailed it with respect to writing quality and content. The interior layout and the cover are stunning (I can’t take credit for that though). Due to LSI’s ink restriction and CS’s poor gloss production, I feel the cover (and possibly other parts of the book) are at risk for lower quality. With that said, here is my plan:

    1. Register my book with Ingram and pay the annual fee to get in the database.
    2. Print the book using a local printer (digital to start, but eventually offset) and store the inventory myself.
    3. Create and market the book’s companion website which has a host of info/videos that people will want to share (email, social networking, blogs, etc)
    4. Fulfill the book orders myself or pay someone to do it (the orders will come via the books website).
    5. Sell the eBooks via Amazon and iBooks so that people can post reviews.
    6. IF the demand is such that I cannot keep up, sell some of the books via Fulfilled By Amazon. That way I can keep an eye on it to make sure they stay in stock (or people could buy from my site if they were out).

    Doing it this way, I can offer bulk order rates, and possibly, I can retain the readers’ emails so that I can inform them when new videos are released. If I am guessing correctly, FBA would probably not share the buyer’s email with me. Does anyone know?

    Do you (or does anyone) have comments/advice on the pros/cons of the plan above? The Amazon versus LSI seems like a soap opera and to me, it would be less of a mental load to fulfill my own orders than to wonder what kind of tricks either party is up to.

    Unrelated to the marketing, I registered the ISBN’s using my publishing company’s name. I looked at quite a few books that I have and noticed that many say “Copyright…(author’s name)” rather than “Copyright…(publisher’s name).” Currently my book has the latter format. Should I change it to my name? What are the pros/cons?

    You have provided a wonderful resource/forum here, and I appreciate all the comments/questions. I’m a complete newbie who just received the book block and am about to send it to the printer, so there is still time to change things if I need to do so. Thanks again!


    Steffan November 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

    This is a great place to read about Independent Publishing, astounding. I have had a book ready for over one month at LS and it is still not listed at Amazon. What should I do? I have asked the LS rep, and I am not looking forward to hearing that there is nothing more to do….


    Steffan March 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Hey All, this is a good discussion.
    I just finished my 2nd book with LS in December or Nov of 2012 and it took until about February 2013 before the Amazon page for the book really reached its proper state where it says “In Stock” and all is well. They just take longer. The era is not over.
    I am sticking with LS for now.


    Joel Friedlander March 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Good luck Steffan, let us know what happens from this point on.


    spencer March 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    This discussion is all very informative. Obviously CreateSpace is the way to go if you don’t care about quality production. Since the quality is different, wouldn’t it be problematic to sell the same book with same ISBN from CS and LSI? I mean, the product is not the same, right?


    James Byrd March 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

    To a publisher (self-published or otherwise), CS and LSI are just suppliers/distributors. They are manufacturing and distributing the same product (i.e. your book). Even if the manufacturers differ in the quality they produce, the book is still in the same format with the same content, so it can use the same ISBN.


    spencer selby March 11, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I understand about ISBN, but what about selling the product? The quality of the product I think would matter to at least some buyers. I have an idea for a solution: sell paperback through CS and hardback through LSI. This would require different ISBN and of course different price. But this would potentially yield even more extra profit from LSI book, to make up for smaller payoff through CS.


    James Byrd March 12, 2013 at 9:23 am

    If quality is a major concern, you will probably be disappointed no matter what POD vendor you use. Both LSI and CS have similar issues with quality due to the nature of digital presses. In a box of 50 books, some will be perfect and some will be a little “off” in some way. We’ve had better luck with LSI than CS, but Michael N. Marcus (below) has had better luck with CS. I no longer argue the quality difference; the books from both vendors suck at times.

    I would have to understand more about the problem you are trying to solve to have an opinion about your plan to do a hardback at LSI and paperback at CS.

    I will say this though. Since CS would be handling the paperback exclusively, that implies you would put the book into Expanded Distribution to get sales outside of I see no good reason to EVER use Expanded Distribution with CS. Why pay 60% for the same service you can get at LSI for 20%?


    spencer selby March 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for the response to my post about CS vs LSI production quality. There is a good reason for using CS Expanded Distribution: to get distributed by Baker & Taylor, whose library division YBP is the whole ballgame with a large portion of the library market.

    James Byrd March 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    LSI distributes to Baker & Taylor as well.

    If you are concerned about libraries, your odds of getting into them are better through LSI. Libraries only get a 25% discount through CS/ED, whereas you can offer them the 40% they are accustomed to through LSI. Granted, you’d have to set your discount to 55% at LSI, but that’s STILL lower than CS.

    Now a library strategy *is* a good reason to offer both a hardback and paperback with separate terms. You can offer the hardback at a 55% discount to make it more attractive to book stores and libraries, and you can offer your paperback at 20% for sales to online retailers.

    As you probably know, CS doesn’t even offer hardback POD.

    Michael N. Marcus March 11, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I have seen more variation from one LS printing of a book to another, than from LS to CS. Both companies can produce excellent books, and both have occasional disasters. The worst was from LS, where my cover was wrapped around the pages of an other book.

    Michael N. Marcus

    NEW: tax deductions and other business advice for writers:
    NEW: self-publishing company parody,
    NEW: reviews of books for authors:


    Ian March 20, 2013 at 4:11 am

    Is anyone seeing the same as me on When distributing via LSI to Amazon UK the price is held at full RRP. I’ve tried discounts from 35% up to 55% and no change, it’s always full RRP of £19.95.

    I know we’ve discussed this before on this thread and as does Aaron Shephard with his Plan B concept.

    If you’ve experienced the same thing and Amazon will not discount the sell price let me know if you have a fix.



    Ava Greene April 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Different topic here, but I’m not sure where else to address this: I was bummed to learn that LSI doesn’t pay authors for books ordered “used” from Amazon. Okay, in theory I get it, but Amazon was offering my book “used” the first day it came on the market! Used copies of my book didn’t exist. Even now, the few books I’ve sold have been to friends, who are not reselling them. Probing into this a bit, it appears that anyone (including Amazon itself?) who has an account with Ingram can sell “used” books by simply ordering a POD book to fill a “used” book order—that’s why the books are advertised as “like new” or “unused.”

    A book is either used or unused. If it’s unused, we should be getting paid. If it’s really “used,” then I’d like to see one of these. (In the case of my title, I’m certain there are no used books on the market.)

    Something’s fishy. I’m wondering if I should become a seller of my own “used” books on Amazon, offering the lowest price of all so at least I can get something!

    Does anyone have info about how authors are dealing with this? I mean, what reader is going to pay full price when s/he can get the same new book for 30-40% off? Meanwhile, the author is roadkill.


    spencer April 3, 2013 at 12:25 am

    I certainly agree that this sounds fishy, to say the least. Thanks for bringing this up, Ava. Have you discussed this with LSI? If this is really possible maybe we shouldn’t even bother producing our own books, just get in on the scam.


    Ava Greene April 3, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I’m going to call LSI tomorrow. Meanwhile, below is a link to the page that mentions the fishy stuff. It’s from back in 2005. I find it impossible to believe authors are missing such substantial sales. Must be more to this… :

    Maybe Joel will chime in!


    Ian April 3, 2013 at 5:27 am

    LSI shouldn’t be getting any orders from the ‘Used’ category, period. Even though we know that resellers do sell new books as ‘Used’. So my point is LSI need to pay up on every sale period, regardless of any BS T&C ‘used’ or otherwise.

    It amazes me how the term ‘business’ is used to screw ‘customers’ at any opportunity to make profits by any means possible. Just so the directors can mull over spreadsheets 1 day a month while they eat their prawn sandwiches and play golf for the rest of the month. People just accept it though so that’s how they get away with it.

    It needs to change ASAP.


    Robin April 3, 2013 at 7:20 am

    LSI does pay for every book ordered from them. They don’t know or care how it is sold. There are many Amazon Marketplace sellers who list books that don’t have. I haven’t figured out why they do this – maybe, it’s a form of free advertising to get their seller name on every book title. From what you say it sounds like they DON’T have your book in stock – used or new. If they get an order from a buyer, they will then turn around and order it from LSI. You WILL be paid by LSI.


    James Byrd April 3, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Robin is right. Anyone who buys your book from LSI pays the wholesale price for it, and you get your normal share. It’s not so much that LSI doesn’t *care* how the book is promoted (new/used), they don’t even *know* how the book is promoted.

    Some of the “used” book offers you see are a marketing ploy by vendors who have no problem lying to their customers. Likewise, some vendors will mark your book up horrendously in the hope that someone will be foolish enough to pay the inflated price without checking around first. I’ve seen vendors price POD books in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the list price is actually something like $20.

    No matter what the retailer does, LSI gets paid the same amount for every sale, and so do you.


    Janet A. April 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

    James and Robin are correct. You will receive a report from LSI showing your total number of sales. Here is what they state on their website concerning payment on those sales. Notice the last sentence:

    “Publisher Compensation Reports are sent via email at the first of each month for the prior month’s activity. Returns can affect payment amount and will be noted on your sales reports. Publisher Compensation is paid within ninety (90) days from report date, following our month end close schedule. There is a minimum check writing balance of $100.00. Therefore, payments are not sent until sales exceed $100.00.”

    Reaching that $100 threshold is why it is wise to publish your book with an indie publisher who has more than one book published through LSI, because that threshold is likely to be reached faster due to the total sales of all those books, especially an indie publisher who pays the author the greatest percentage of royalties.

    Janet :-)


    Ian April 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Getting back to the original subject if I may. I asked a Q a few weeks ago but got no biters. As I have a new book out soon, could anyone give their thoughts on the prices Amazon UK are charging to their customers on the website with books published and distributed with LSI. Are they discounting the price to Amazon customers or holding them at RRP?

    I’ve been following the whole Plan-B debate for a few years. I published my first book with CreateSpace (US Distribution via Ingram and later European Distribution via CS) and set up an account with LSI to do short-run to print and sell my own books. I also subsequently published and distributed to UK only via LSI.

    The reason behind this is somewhat complex. At the time CreateSpace did not offer European Distribution and shipping costs to the UK outweighed profits. So I created a second ISBN for the same title for the UK market and published/printed at LSI using Amazon Advantage to sell to Amazon UK. Subsequently CreateSpace offered European Distribution for the first ISBN to so I quit Advantage but kept open the UK distribution from LSI to for the second ISBN.

    On Amazon UK I now have first ISBN at the discounted price I determined via my CreateSpace account, this one is fine. And the second (UK only) ISBN is constantly held at full RRP even though I’ve offered discounts from 35% to 55% via LSI. It never makes any difference.

    Do you think Amazon are holding ISBN 2 at RRP because its a second/duplicate title?

    So, I’m not sure whether to risk it and publish my new book 100% with LSI and give them the full global distribution. I am concerned that Amazon will not list at the price I want them to sell it at and as a result maximize sales. CreateSpace gives you that control but doesn’t offer Global Ingram Distribution and has other cons that we all know.

    Any thoughts greatly appreciated



    James Byrd April 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    The thing I’ve never liked about Plan B is that it depends upon side-effects; there is nothing deterministic about Amazon’s discounting decisions, or if there is, it’s a closely-held secret. On average, Plan B probably works more often than it doesn’t, but on a case-by-case basis, it’s a roll of the dice.

    You probably already know this, but there’s something I’d like to point out for others who may be wondering. When you say you “offer a discount,” that discount has absolutely nothing to do with the price Amazon will charge for your book. The discount you set with LSI is the wholesale discount, which controls how much you will receive for your book and little else.

    Retailers are free to charge whatever price they want for your book, regardless of the wholesale price and regardless of the recommended retail price. They can choose to sell your $20 RRP book for $1 or $100.

    I know nothing about the UK market, but my GUESS is that Amazon does not put much effort into being competitive on their UK site. Perhaps they don’t finesse pricing in the UK to the same degree they do on their US site. They just list your book for the retail price and keep whatever margin your discount of the moment gives them. Or, it could be that they’ve very deliberately kept your price at RRP. You could ask them about it, but I doubt you’d get a very illuminating response. Probably something like, “Amazon reserves the right to control the pricing of the products it sells on its web sites.”


    Janet April 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Hi, Ian,
    Thus far all the authors who have published through my company are in the UK even though I am in the US. I publish all my books to LSI first, then wait a few weeks and publish it with CreateSpace. I set the same price with both. I have never seen the price discrepancy that you’re describing.

    For instance, here are the and links for my author Patrick Cox’s book A Baltic Affair:

    So I’m not sure what’s happening with your books. I just wanted to post this since my experience is close to yours as a US-based indie publisher working solely (thus far!) with authors in Europe.

    Janet :-)


    Ian April 4, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Thanks for your responses.


    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

    You say “The discount you set with LSI is the wholesale discount, which controls how much you will receive for your book and little else.” Doesn’t this also determine the price that LSI charge Amazon or do LSI charge a set trade price to Amazon regardless of your discount? This is a key point.

    If the above is true. Like any retailer Amazon have to make a profit per item. So logic would ask, why would Amazon buy a product for £5 and sell it for £3? Surely what you offer by way of discount via LSI determines what room you give Amazon to discount from RRP? I know that Amazon used to sell books as loss leaders to sell you on the back-end, but surely those days are long gone and they now make profits on every trade purchase they make?

    I actually emailed Amazon Author Central late 2012 on why they were holding my book at full RRP when I was giving them 35%. They gave the same reason, that the more discount you give the more they can discount off RRP for customers so advised I increase the discount. It didn’t work. I changed it from 35% to 50% and then to 55% but there was no change in sell price to customers on the Amazon UK website.


    Interesting. Are you using different ISBN’s for both CS and LSI and are feeding amazon UK via the CS Euro distribution?



    James Byrd April 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Ian said: “Doesn’t this also determine the price that LSI charge Amazon or do LSI charge a set trade price to Amazon regardless of your discount?”

    Yes, you are right. Discount determines how much you will earn *because* it determines how much Amazon will pay. The higher the discount, the less retailers pay and the less you earn. Sorry if my “and little else” comment was misleading. I was looking at the equation from the perspective of a publisher, not a retailer. ;-)

    Ian said: “Like any retailer Amazon have to make a profit per item. So logic would ask, why would Amazon buy a product for £5 and sell it for £3? Surely what you offer by way of discount via LSI determines what room you give Amazon to discount from RRP?”

    Your questions are logical, but based on two assumptions that I would challenge: (1) RRP means something to retailers, and (2) margin = profit.

    Keep in mind that the first “R” in RRP is for “Recommended.” Yes, LSI uses your retail price and your discount to calculate the wholesale price of your book, but from that point on, RRP means almost nothing. The retailer pays the wholesale price for your book, determines their own desired margin, and prices the book accordingly. Amazon is willing to sell books at a very low margin, so the price they set looks like a discount compared to your RRP. Other retailers may want a higher margin than your RRP offers, so they’ll price your book above RRP.

    The second assumption, that margin = profit, seems logical on the surface. However, Amazon has demonstrated again and again that price is strictly a marketing decision, not a value decision. Retailer profitability is based on the sales of their entire product catalog, not “per item.” They can afford to sell some books at a loss if doing so results in higher profit overall. For example, Amazon still offers free ebooks even though it definitely costs them something to maintain and deliver those ebooks. They know that those free ebooks help sell other books that aren’t free.

    Ian said: “I changed it from 35% to 50% and then to 55% but there was no change in sell price to customers on the Amazon UK website.”

    I can’t pretend to know how Amazon makes discounting decisions, but I’m willing to offer a guess here. First, Amazon manages a huge number of titles, so it isn’t reasonable to think that every title is evaluated on an individual basis. They probably have a set of “standard” rules that apply automatically. However, titles with high sales volumes probably do get individual attention. It doesn’t make sense to do price testing unless you have sales; without before-and-after sales figures, there’s simply no way to evaluate the success of the test.

    So, it could be that your price hasn’t been adjusted because the sales volume is too low to bother, or it could be that Amazon sets the price when the book first appears in its catalog and only updates it periodically from there. It’s possible you just have to wait a while longer for the adjustment to happen.


    Ian April 4, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Good stuff James. I guess the conclusion is what I initially thought. Because the CreateSpace published ISBN was the first and does the majority of the sales on Amazon. If so, book 2 out soon can be published and globally distributed via LSI only and should be given the Amazon discounts off RRP to get sales from the Amazon site that I’m looking for.

    If CS would start to publish to the trade in the UK (using Ingram’s global distribution) then this would negate the need for LSI. Maybe it won’t happen for this reason.

    And I may as well drop the wholesale discount on book 1 back down to 20% in LSI so I ultimately make more money on the small amount of sales I do make for this ISBN.


    Janet April 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I keep it really simple. I purchase one print book ISBN from Bowker for the print book (published first with LSI, and then after waiting a few weeks, published with CS), and I purchase one ebook ISBN (ebook published with Apple, Google Play, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook).

    I always publish witht Lightning Source first. Then I wait a few weeks and publish the print book with CreateSpace. I DO NOT pay the $25 for their expanded distribution channel since I choose full distribution with LSI. CreateSpace now automatically includes and lots of other markets without having to pay extra for them.

    For a novel, I choose the price of $12.99 with both LSI and CS because I think that is a reasonable price for a 6 x 9 trim size book of about 300 pages or so.

    I set a 20% wholesale discount with LSI with no returns allowed because I already know that it is rare indeed for most bookstores to purchase self- and indie-published books from LSI anyway due to their own prejudice against us, which hopefully will change in time.

    Most sales of my authors’ books come from Kindle, Google Play, and CreateSpace, in that order.

    Janet :-)


    Ian April 5, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Great insight Janet, I like it. I’ve seen similar publishing protocols on the CreateSpace forum, but not as succinct. I’ve also heard of the guys that like to submit their books to Amazon Advantage approx 3-6 months pre-release to get the book in Amazon’s listings and taking pre-orders. Then approx 2 weeks before release they tell Advantage they will be supplying the book via LSI and leave it at that.

    Is this a strategy worth considering as well?

    With the help of experienced pros like yourself, James and Joel I hope to get book two to market a lot faster and more efficiently than book one which took way too long. Coming from retail I was surprised at how antiquated the publishing sign up processes were, with Google being a (55 email exchange to support) nightmare.

    I also first published in print with Lulu and in a size that CreateSpace did not offer, so had to reformat the book again for CreateSpace, once I realised Lulu was a damp squib. Luckily LSI had the same size once I found them. The journey was arduous to say the least, but well worth it when orders started to come in by month 3.


    Joel Friedlander April 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    There’s an excellent chance that with your plan your book will not be stocked constantly by Amazon, while publishers like Janet will have their books always available on Amazon.


    Ian April 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Is there anybody there?


    Eric Baird April 29, 2013 at 6:16 am

    I did some monitoring a few years ago and thought I’d gotten to the bottom of this “ships in 2-3 weeks” thing.

    What seemed to be happening back then was that Amazon was using existing customer orders on POD titles as “virtual stock”.
    Here’s how it worked … amazon list a POD title and can ship it in a couple of days. But they quote 2-3 weeks. Customer #1 orders a copy, and pays up-front by credit card.
    A couple of days later, the customer’s book arrives at the amazon warehouse. They don’t send it to the customer, but hang onto it for 2-3 weeks, as they’re entitled to do, because that was the agreement with the customer.
    The book then shows up on the amazon site as being “in stock”, because there’s now a physical copy sitting in the warehouse.

    Customer #2 is encouraged by this, and buys a copy. They receive the copy originally ordered for Customer #1 the very next day, and amazon reorders. The title jumps back to “2-3 weeks” for a couple of days until the replacement arrives, and then it shows up as back in stock again.

    This cycle continues, until the original customer’s 2-3 weeks cutoff approaches, at which time amazon finally decides to send them their book (unless yet another customer has nipped in and bought it, first, in which case amazon have to reorder it yet again).

    This system lets amazon keep low-turnover books in stock for immediate dispatch quite a lot of the time without their having to take any risk, or pay to carrying any stock. All of this “virtual” stock is zero-risk, pre-sold, and pre-paid-for by customers. The winners are the customers who can then buy the book for immediate dispatch as a stock item, the losers are the customers who buy a book while it’s flagged as “2-3 weeks”, believing that it can’t /possibly/ take 2-3 weeks to arrive, and then find that … mysteriously … it does.

    If you’re seeing supply dates jumping about on your products, it might not be book industry politics, it might just be the amazon “virtual stock” fluctuating. Yes, that’s right. The POD book industry is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. :)


    Rrevisionist July 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Brilliant analysis Eric, if I may say so. You must be more or less right. If there are tens of thousands of small publishers, many of whose books don’t sell much, the stick holding costs must be higher than they’d like. However I’d imagine once a sales pattern is established, their re-order algorithms allow for the potential loss of 2-3 weeks’ delay. But perhaps not; if POD is as efficient as they claim, maybe there’s o need to hold stock?


    Viktar Zaitsau May 3, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Great post.

    I have just submitted my first title through Lightning Source and based on the information provided in your post will be watching it closely. Thanks.


    Yury June 3, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Thanks for the highly informative post and the comments below!

    Could you comment on my thoughts as well?

    What if I want to print and distribute a title with LSI and need to set different discounts to sell on Amazon and to other retailers. Say, 20% for Amazon and 60+% to athers. Can I set this with LSI?
    If not, can I do it if I set two titles in LSI with different ISBNs, but the same covers, contents, etc. For one of which – 20% for Amazon and for the other – 60+% ? I know that this way seles statistics would be broken in two parts and that would result in lower Amazon ratings. But what if Amazon links the two ISBNs? I heared they do such linking ocasionally, maybe after sending some letters to their support… What do you think?


    Joel Friedlander June 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Yury, no, you can’t set different discounts for different markets at LSI, they will only allow you to set one discount for all buyers. And no, I would not recommend publishing the exact same book with 2 ISBNs, you will create more confusion. You can, however, publish the book at CreateSpace and LSI with the same ISBN and keep CS distribution limited to Amazon, so LSI fulfills all other orders.


    Yury June 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the update, Joel!
    I understand that approach and it’s well described in the Plan B. Still I don’t see how to solve a situation, when, for example, I need to sell hardback titles both on Amazon — with as much profit as possible, i.e. with 20% discount — and to variouse outlets that could require up to 70% discount, i.e. some sort of airport stores or display markets, etc.
    As SC won’t automate hardback printing and selling, I think that different market discounts is quite a common issue, which most publishers care of. Well maybe 70% discounted book with a larger list price would have a sound cut off at, say, B&N and then be price-matched by Amazon to finally be sold there at a suitable price with around 20% over the wholesale price, but in that case all other retailers would see that pretty high list price in the Ingram catalog and could reject the title… If only Amazon could link ISBNs for similar titles…


    Joel Friedlander June 3, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    You’re making it very complicated. Print on demand vendors generally only allow you to set 1 discount. If you need a range of discounts to satisfy different channels, print your book offset and create your own discount schedule.


    Danny June 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Last year after considering all the input–some of it differing–from the many commentators on this important subject, I elected to do exactly as Joel suggests with respect to publishing at CreateSpace and LSI using the same ISBN, and everything has gone smoothly. My Amazon book sales increased, and LSI remained about the same. The over-all book quality was better with Create Space.


    Joel Friedlander June 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Great result, Danny. Quality seems to be up and down, with other authors reporting better quality from LSI, but I don’t think there’s a big difference between the two. Thanks for the report.


    Deana June 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Now that every one has pretty much figured out how to use both LS and CS … did you know that Ingram has announced the launch of IngramSpark? (I think it will be launched this month).

    It looks like it’s going to be something simpler, geared more towards authors, and will compete with Createspace (maybe Lightning Source 2.0?). Now, if IngramSpark also eliminates the expensive file upload fees … I’m all in!


    Gary Roberts June 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Something to keep in mind at LSI: standard color printing. I’ve used it on two books to great effect. It means color printing at an affordable price. It’s not photo quality of course but it’s half the price.

    Also, when printing through CS, you don’t know who the printer is. It may be LSI or someone else. I guess I’m being a stick in the mud but I’ve stayed with LSI for my current 15 titles. I know the quality of the printers which has increased over the past year, I control the percentage, get good market reach and great customer support. Maybe I would get better Amazon sales if I doubled up on CS but then I might sap my LSI sales and more so, I would have no control over quality.


    spencer selby June 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    I see standard color is only available in the white paper. I wish I had considered this option when setting up my book that has 65 pages of halftone images. Even though they are black and white, I’ve had trouble getting them formatted because of the 106 line screen used on LSI black and white printing. I assume the line screen for standard color would be better and these would work. I am shocked to learn that my 320 page book would actually cost less to produce in standard color the way I did it in black and white. Only explanation I can figure is that I am using creme paper and standard color requires the lighter white.


    Gary Roberts June 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    The white paper for standard is a heavier weight and harder surface. I’ve produced three books, not two (I forgot about one). One is b&W with grayscale engraved plates, Nicholson’s Mechanics Companion from 1850 that defied regular LSI printing but did quite well on the color press and is now one of my better selling books.

    For halftone plates, process in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements with a filter of Gaussian Blur of 1 to offset the halftone moire effect in regular B&W printing. If you print with Standard Color, Gaussian Blur of .25 or .5 will suffice.


    spencer selby June 3, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the info Gary. My biggest problem with the images was not moire. They went too dark and lost alot of detail. I was told to reduce the tonal range by 30% Don’t know if you have easy instructions for doing that. I tried to fix using the Shadows/Highlights controls in Photoshop. Had varying degrees of success. As to paper, you’re saying the white paper is different from that used for B&W? That’s good news but also surprising since the book quote I get in standard color for this project is less than B&W. Also, the white paper is still very thin, at least if you believe the LSI spine calculation.


    Gary Roberts June 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Their white for color is thinner due to the manufacturing process called calendering. It’s pressed through rollers to produce a harder surface which also makes it thinner but tougher.

    I think that the other problem is RGB v CMYK. You’re looking at RGB on your monitor but everything prints in CMYK which is always a little bit darker. Hence it’s difficult to gauge what till happen in print. Halftones are my bane too, older ones in particular.

    Sometimes if you select the Adjust Brightness/Contrast and play around you can bring the tonal levels up. You can also do this with Levels which takes more practice and trial and error in a halftone. I often spend a good amount of time before I hit on the right mix for a given set of halftones in a book. Some halftones do defy all attempts: you can only do so much with lousy originals!

    One hint: Preview on a Mac does a better job of handling final adjustment of tonal details than does Photoshop. Saturation, Exposure, Contrast, etc. are all controls that excel at correcting flaws in early photographs, halftones and engravings which, to tell the truth, are pretty much all that I work in. I have nearly no experience in using Photoshop for anything other than fixing old images! The only downside in Preview is that it handles TIFF files horribly, they increase in size. I do whatever initial processing in Photoshop Elements (I’m cheap), final work in Preview and then batch in PE to return everything to tiff or jpeg before assembling the PDF.

    I’m a retired research librarian. We’re known for being picky.


    spencer selby June 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks, Gary I appreciate all yr info. Sure wish I had known this stuff a month ago. Because I already launched the book then revised once. I did know about RGB vs CMYK and don’t think that is my problem. But my situation is tricky because the images were originally screen caps that I processed and reformatted as Tiffs in Photoshop. (Their resolution was greatly increased using Genuine Fractals) These were then placed in book’s Indesign files by someone else. The resulting PDFs have all looked great, but misleading since the source was not prints. I’m sure I could get these to print better using standard color but again that would take work and more expense. Not to mention distribution trouble caused by revising again. I wish LSI offered option to see sample printed pages, so you wouldn’t have to produce a new version of the book and buy a new physical proof each time.


    Gary Roberts June 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I suspect the source of your problem is that the originals are screencaps whose resolution was then increased. You can’t add data that didn’t exist in the original. By increasing resolution you have to rely on the algorithms of Photoshop which can only do so much. Your screencap started life at 72 or 96 dpi, was upsized considerably without benefit of the addition of true extra image data. Even when you looked at the PDF, you were viewing at monitor resolution, not print resolution which is why it looked good at that point in the process.

    I too wish LSI would offer samples. I’ve asked about it in the past and the response was that they just don’t have printers available for that service as all of their machines are dedicated to book production (each printer is roughly the size of an 18 wheeler). When I’ve really needed that option, I took the PDF to a local print shop and had pages run off on a small but commercial digital press.


    spencer selby June 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    The upsampling is not done by Photoshop but by Genuine Fractals, program designed to do that. I use GF with my art and it works great, as long as you don’t try to push it too far. I printed these out with my laserprinter and they look fine. But that is not the way LSI is printing and it is possible that the source coupled with 106 line screen printing is causing trouble.

    Interesting to hear of yr work around for getting samples at local print shop. Has this worked? I mean how do you know the process or result will be same as LSI?


    Gary Roberts June 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Her’s the thing, PS or GF irregardless. LSI commercial printers print from the center out in an expanding format, unlike a desktop laserprinter and many smaller commercial printers. LPI, DPI, PPI doesn’t mean as much here. True halftone images are a problem due to the original having a grid format which is amplified by the printers many print nozzles. The color printers have more nozzles per inch than do the b&w, allowing for more coverage per inch.

    It comes back to the original. There isn’t any algorithm that will accurately replace what wasn’t there in the first place. When you attempt to print on a commercial printer such as LSI uses, the problems begin to show. If you go to Standard Color, the extra print nozzles make up for the problem to some extent but you just can’t get around that a screen grab is a screen grab just as for me a poor tintype will never hold up to image manipulation no matter how hard I try even with software designed to approximate the original image details. That’s just the nature of algorithms and printers.


    spencer selby June 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    You seem to know alot. I certainly won’t argue. On the contrary, I’d like to pick yr brain more. Could you elaborate on how a local printer could be used to proof for LSI? Do you know the specs of LSI standard color? I assume you do, so just asking. Is the line screen number the main important spec? What is the line screen for standard color?


    Gary Roberts June 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Didn’t mean to get carried away! it’s the librarian in me getting pedantic.

    I can’t find the email from my customer service agent on the specs so I have to go from memory. The standard color printer works at, I think, 160 lpi, requires a PDF at 300 dpi CMYK set to PDFX standards (I’ve elected to move to PDF/X-3:2002 for better compatibility and so far everything has worked well, even on 1813 engravings). Line screen or dpi or ppi is not relevant once you run it through the PDF/X process. I use Distiller 11.

    The ‘knowledge’ comes from asking the cust service people enough questions and from knowing how, as a research librarian, to figure out how to ask the right kind of question! At least all that cash for the degree is paying off now that I’m retired…

    So long as you start with a setting of 300 (choose your index) you are within their specs. If you set your images at 600 it just increases the size but at their end the printer will still process down to, I believe, 160 lpi. The customer rep was clear that they need to start with a PDF /X that comes in at 300 irregardless of lpi, dpi or ppi.


    spencer selby June 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks. This is very informative. Do you use Indesign for setting up the books? Seems there’s no option for distiller in InDesign. At least that’s what I was told. Am I wrong? We used PDF/X-1a:2001 because Aaron Shephard says that’s still the safest option for black and white printing (which I guess wouldn’t apply in yr case since you are doing standard color.


    Gary Roberts June 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Mr. Shephard and I have differing opinions. Mine are drawn from working in a research archives digitizing documents and books, then setting up my own publishing outfit. His are based on, in my opinion and let the tomatoes fly, selling his book and theories on Amazon, etc. I’ve read his take on LSI color specs, discussed this with LSI reps and chose to ignore it. But then, I’m not producing photo quality books so take that into account.

    I have InDesign but use a strange workflow: images into Pages, text in Pages, Pages final doc saved as PDF, PDF edited in Acrobat Pro, Distilled in Distiller. Book covers done in Book Cover Pro because I don’t have the cash to farm out my covers.

    I tried Indesign but it just didn’t do the job for me and was too cumbersome for my purposes. But, what I do are facsimile reprints of early books with a text introduction so I can’t say this would work for everyone. I simply found InDesign to be overkill for me.

    As for what Mr. Shepard says about the version of PDF/X, I have no clue what he is talking about. PDF/X-3:2002 is preferable for all work so far as I know. It’s simply a matter of what version of Acrobat the standard is compatible with and version 3 begins with a latter version than does 1.

    The earlier version is maintained because some people are still using earlier versions of Acrobat and kicking out out-dated documents. A problem which gave me many headaches when I was working.

    But, and wait until you hear this, Adobe plans on moving Acrobat updates to the Cloud in which case earlier versions may no longer be supported.


    Joel Friedlander June 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Gary, I just wanted to thank you for the expert commentary here, I’ve been learning from your explanations along with the original poster. Much appreciated.


    Gary Roberts June 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    You’re very welcome Joel. I do think it’s helpful for people to realize that what I’ve gone on about is self taught and specific to the books that I produce. Lots of images, lots of scanning, lots of old books. Which is to say that when applied to other instances there would be other answers. Except for the PDF/x part. There are even more recent PDF/x standards in beta testing that we will see in future versions of Distiller.

    Now to get all these posters to join the IBPA…


    Jane June 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Above on April 14th, 2013, Janet states that she publishes first with LSI (including distribution), then publishes with Create Space WITHOUT using their Distribution since LSI is doing it. Questions:

    1) Am I understanding correctly that this would mean two different ISBN’s, or is it using the same one with simply two different printers?

    2) If I also use Create Space for the same title that I gave to LSI to print, does Amazon simply cease to contact LS for my book?

    3) Since I’m used to getting royalties from LSI, does this mean I’ll now start getting a monthly royalty payment from Create Space as well, but for ONLY the books they sell? Is it once a month like LSI?

    4) And something I’m curious about: I also sell directly from my publishing company, which means there won’t be “free shipping” like massive Amazon does. That’s a negative for buyers. Could I set a slightly higher price for both Create Space and LSI (I’m thinking $3.00 higher), and thus continue selling the same book via the publishing company for the current price, (which would make it cheaper than Amazon and somewhat make up for the high shipping cost)?


    Joel Friedlander June 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm


    1. No, since the book is identical, you should use the same ISBN for both.
    2. That’s correct, since they would prefer to get it from CreateSpace
    3. Yes, you’ll get royalties from both. Check the CreateSpace site for details on payment schedules
    4. Amazon discourages pricing your book lower elsewhere, and may well take action if (when) they find the book is priced lower on your site, so I advise against it.


    Gary Roberts June 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    #4 is why I have hesitated to use this system. I sell my books at a 30% discount direct from my site. Amazon should have no say over what I do as I am the publisher. It’s a legal issue they have used to lean on publishers and authors that will, I hope, someday be resolved.


    spencer selby June 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Yes, I wouldn’t want to rely entirely on Amazon. My recent launched book is a perfect exampe. This hardback from LSI only has 55% discount. It’s been available for a month and still is not in stock at Amazon, being listed as “usually ships in 9-14 days. The book has 9 resellers already, all of whom say “in stock” This makes no sense to me. You would think Amazon would need to have the book in stock just to match the resellers, some of whom also are offering a slightly lower price.


    James H. byrd June 28, 2013 at 5:55 am

    It makes even less sense when you realize that none of the vendors actually need to stock the book. The whole point of POD is that the book is printed *after* the customer orders it. Stocking books defeats the purpose of POD.

    An important element of the LSI business model was that vendors could use them to drop-ship books. The vendor never had to physically touch the book itself. The customer would order it on the vendor’s site, and the vendor would drop-ship the order through LSI. No muss, no fuss, no inventory.

    My guess is that drop shipping is at the heart of the problems we have today between Amazon and LSI. If Amazon shipped through LSI, they’d have to treat LSI like other marketplace vendors (no SuperSaver shipping, separate shipping charges, etc). But other marketplace vendors give Amazon a much larger share of the action than the short discounts offered on many titles from LSI.

    When the problems started, LSI noted that Amazon was shifting their ordering practices from using drop-ship to keeping small quantities of books in inventory. That is when the shipping delays started showing up: Amazon was stocking POD books. To make matters worse, Amazon orders in limited quantities, possibly because many POD books are not returnable. How long the book remains in stock at Amazon depends upon how well the book sells and how many books Amazon orders when stock runs out. Some books spend more time out of stock than in.

    It is worth mentioning that the new “Ingram Spark” program may be an attempt to address some of these issues. Spark clients will not be able to set a short discount (55% is mandatory). I’m not sure about how returns will be handled, but since the big catalogs (B&T and Ingram) are switching to making POD books returnable, I’m guessing that Spark users will also be required to allow returns. Will Spark have any impact on how titles are stocked at Amazon? Time will tell.


    Gary Roberts June 28, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I lose not a wink of sleep over the whole Amazon kerfuffle. Amazon always fails to update book covers if I update mine, posts Kindle SITB content instead of mine, mixes up other reviews with mine, etc. I’ld rather put time and effort into producing and promoting my books than in worrying about Amazon or dealing with their seller contacts. Figuring out where to advertise is a better use of time for me.

    I recently increased most of the prices on my current line of books and increased the trade discount accordingly to 50-55%. My cut rose only $1 per book but at the LSI end sales have increased and that’s all I care about.


    spencer selby July 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I don’t think you can turn your back on Amazon. At least I’m not going to. I still have my not in stock issue there and have decided it is at least partly the result of the resellers. Because their prices are a few dollars lower than Amazon and because they list the book as in stock. So the few orders so far are through the resellers. So Amazon listing doesn’t change because they are getting no orders. I got a friend to order from Amazon but that had no effect. I don’t know how many orders Amazon must receive to effect the listing. But I’m getting tired of just waiting and so gotta do something.


    RobRod October 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Please forgive this newbie question if it’s already been adequately answered elsewhere:

    Out of necessity, I will be going through LSI for a particular upcoming title, simply because the production price I was quoted was half what CreateSpace was charging for the same specs (full color). But I want to make the title available on Amazon – that’s where I expect most of the sales to be.

    LSI is quoting me a price of $11.50 per, for a book that will retail at $30. I know that Amazon will be offering it up at a discounted price; what I am trying to figure is what discount to set in order for the book to make a profit. What would make sense for me to do to make this a viable title?

    Thanks in advance for the assist.


    Joel Friedlander October 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    At LSI you can set your discount as low as 20% (“short discount”) and Amazon will still stock your book. Normal retail discount is 40%, at which point you would net $18 per book, and deducting your $11.50 manufacturing cost leaves you with $6.50 net profit per book.

    You might want to check this out: Self-Publisher’s Quick & Easy Guide to Book Distribution and Discounts.


    James H. Byrd October 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Rob. You don’t have to worry about how Amazon will discount your book. You’ll get paid the same even if they give it away. Amazon pays LSI the wholesale price for your book regardless of what they choose to sell it for.

    Given a cost of $11.50 and retail price of $30, the only variable you have to play with is your discount. If you set the discount at the LSI-recommended 55%, you will earn $2.00 per book. If you set your discount to the lowest that LSI allows (20%), you’ll earn $12.50 per book.

    Here’s the formula:
    Retail Price – Discount – Print Cost = Earnings

    For example:
    $30 – 55% ($16.50) – $11.50 = $2.00
    $30 – 20% ($6.00) – $11.50 = $12.50


    Gary Roberts October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    If you are already contracted with LS, there is a publisher compensation calculator that allows you to play around with pricing and discounts to get the figure you’re happy with. I shoot for a comp of between $4-5 per book in general for the average standard color book. But my books are niche and are not huge sellers.

    That’s the thing: how many you think you’ll sell and how to set your price at the point that will encourage sales. Set your discount under standard trade of 45%-55% and Amazon and B&N may not discount your title at all and you could lose sales. I recently increased all of my prices and increased all trade discounts to 50-55 and across the board sales doubled. For a little niche publisher that meant going from 20 books per month to 40. Not an average number, but every month at a minimum. All of my titles are what you would call back list in any event.

    You have to canvas the market and see what other books in your genre are selling for and hit the sweet spot else you will price yourself out of or under the market. You also have to allow the online retailers room to discount or they will never put your book on sale or feature it, leaving people to skip over it when they look for deals.

    I realize this goes against Aaron’s plan and a lot of the general thinking for independent publishing but you see I’m not an author, I’m a small independent publisher currently carrying 25 titles. Some sell five per year, some sell 10 or more per month. Niche. But it all adds up. If you have one title, you have to maximize your ability to encourage your reader to want to buy the book and that means sales or something else.

    On my personal shop site, I dumped the discount and changed to full retail price with free shipping everywhere in the world. That too seems to work well. It’s not a huge money maker but I find that people often see the title on the site and then look around to find the best deal which is ok with me.

    My three cents.


    Vienne November 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Sorry quite late to this post, but the saga continues…followed your link to Aaron Shepard’s blog to find that not only is Plan B outdated and Plan C uncertain, but that now Lightning Source is refusing new publishers business in an effort to try and get them to go with Ingram Spark which – by the sounds of it – is a bad alternative. As a new publisher looking to get my first book out within the next couple of months, I’m now a little panicked tbh. Are there ANY alternatives to Lightning Source for POD/distribution? I really don’t like the idea of settling for Createspace alone, even if it is just temporarily.


    Joel Friedlander November 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Vienne, Gary has given you a good indication of the differences between Spark and Lightning Source. Contrary to what you’ve heard, if you really want to sign up for Lightning Source, they will start the account process for you.


    Gary Roberts November 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Problem is, if you’re a new publisher without any books to your name, Lightning Source historically would not have been very interested in you to begin with. They have always wanted to work with publishers who have published or authored in the past or who have plans for future books. When I signed up I already had authored chapters in books and I indicated that although this was my first independent publishing book, that I would be publishing at least 4 more that year and more in following years. Spark is their service for people who have never published before and may need more assistance. If that’s not the case, you have to make that clear to them from the get go.


    Vienne November 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks, Gary. I have one traditionally published book already, one in the final stages and several planned for the coming year, but I was hoping not to have to wait to finish multiple books to get them in print. When the time comes, I suppose I’ll just have to be as persuasive as possible and see what I can negotiate. From what I understand, Spark isn’t even equipped to provide a physical proof at this point. That’s unacceptable.


    Gary Roberts November 4, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Vienne, I don’t think you have to worry about being persuasive at this point. Just point out what you’ve detailed here, your immediate plans and my guess is that Lightning Source will approve your application. What they want to know is that you know how to handle the details on your own with at most minimal advice from them.


    Vienne November 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks Gary & Joel. I certainly have a lot to learn as a first-time self-publisher, but between my advance research and consulting the vast community of self-published folks online, I’m anticipating being able to answer most questions that arise during the process. Thanks for alleviating some of my fears about the recent LS/Spark developments.


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