Print on Demand: CreateSpace or Lightning Source?

by | Jan 27, 2011


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

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

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

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

CreateSpace

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

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

Lightning Source

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

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

Mick Rooney Knows

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

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

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

So Now What Do You Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by i_yudai

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

326 Comments

  1. Cat Fisher

    Hi Joel,
    I’ve just had my second children’s picture book printed with LS. I really like the company, the set up process, royalties etc. However, I had my first book printed using standard 70, and was super happy. It looks great and is selling well with Waterstones. But with my current book, the standard printing wasn’t good enough. The colours were still great. Very vibrant, but unfortunately you can see the illustrations and text through the pages. LS suggested premium printing may fix this, as it uses laser printing as opposed to standard that is jet sprayed? Anyway, I’ve gone with premium and there is a slight improvement. I’m sticking with premium as the paper seems slightly glossy and just looks more expensive. However, you can still see the text and illustrations through the paper, and I wondered if there is a print on demand paper weight higher than 70lb? I’d really love thicker paper so this problem can be fixed. I don’t want to do big runs of the book, and I LOVE print on demand as it’s more environmentally friendly.
    Any advice would be hugely appreciated.
    Many thanks,
    Cat

    Reply
  2. Lee Klasinski

    Hello Everyone,

    I could use some assistance with something. I am an Indy Game Designer looking to publish an RPG (Role Playing Game) Rulebook/Player Guide. Something Similar to a Dungeons & Dragons Rulebook. I am looking at 8.5×11 or A6 for the size, with some large size illustrations (some of them I would like to be a full page). I would like the illustrations and artwork to be a nice quality and I don’t want to have to worry about the images being dark after printing. I am new to trying to get a book published and I am thinking that POD is a good option for me as I currently have a limited starting budget. The book is not finished yet but I think it will be around 144 pages. I am ok with a laminated cover (would prefer a classic hardcover, but I don’t think that’s a possibility at this point as I need to keep the price around $30 US or less. In addition, I am considering running a crowdfunding campaign to fund some of this. As I understand POD I can rely on some of the POD Publishers to fulfill my pre-orders from the crowdfunding. The Crowdfunding platform I am considering is Kickstarter as they have a huge Indy Game following on that platform. Does anyone have any advice they could give me about who I should look into as far as a POD publisher? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Lee,

      Your main choices are CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, both of which can produce economical “commercial” color books at 8.5 x 11 trim size (good choice, by the way). My tip would be to set up the first chapter or two and upload that (with a cover of course) to CreateSpace and order a proof. You’ll get a very accurate idea of what the finished book will look like if they produce it. You can also do this at Spark, but it will cost you money.

      Reply
      • Lee Klasinski

        Hey Joel,

        Thanks for your response, Would you happen to know if either of these offers an easy way to do crowdfunding fulfillment? Thanks again for your assistance.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Lee, I have no idea if they have a Kickstarter integration, but I’ve never heard about it. However, both vendors can take your drop-ship orders very easily, so that could work just about as well for you.

          Reply
          • Lee Klasinski

            Thanks,

            I’m really glad I stumbled across your page!

            Lee

  3. Diane Marra

    Can you direct me to information that would explain how I can sell books from my own website using a fulfillment POD company….?
    Thanks

    Reply
  4. Cliff

    Hi Joel,

    Thank you for your article on the differences between LS and CS.

    I create Coffee Table style hardcover full color books in larger format 8.5 x 11.

    CS cannot do these.

    LS can do them. However, I have tried with LS standard color and the quality is not there for vibrant colors. The photos are appear much darker than the original file and seem washed out.

    I am now ordering the next book with their Premium Color, although the price more than doubles from their standard color. So you need to be able to justify a lot higher price in the market place for your book.

    Another problem I just ran into with LS is maximum file size. For a full color book, with large photos on every page, it is difficult to get the file size in high resolution under LS maximum file size of 250MB.
    This is not stated anywhere in the LS file creation specifications.
    Only after sending the file to them and after their premedia worked on the file, was I notified that the file was too large for their printers to handle.

    The file I had sent them with high resolution photos at minimum 400 dpi for 264 page book was approx 700MB. Their printers cannot handle that size of a file.

    I am now reworking the entire book to lower the photo resolutions to try to get down into a file size they that LS can handle.

    If I go to far down in resolution, the book photo pages will look horrible and I will have to scrap LS as a printer and find another source that can handle higher resolution pages.

    If you only have a small book, like 80 pages or so, you should not have a problem with their file size limit of 250MB. But with a 264 page book, I have to keep my average file size to less than 900kb per page, and that is very low. Most of my pages even down to 300 dpi are at 1.5MB each.

    Just a heads up for those that want to print coffee table style photo books in full color.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Cliff, thanks for your informative comment. In my experience most printers only require that reproduction-quality files be 300 DPI at the reproduction size, so that might help. You might want to change your plan for this book and switch it to one of the high-quality short-run book printers who have added digital capabilities, like Thomson-Shore. You won’t have the convenience of the POD system, but you’ll get the book you want without compromise, better stock selection (critical for your book) and actual printers to talk to.

      Reply
      • Aj

        Joel, is there a POD printer/distributor that prints in landscape orientation, and binds on the left not the top? I have to publish an 11×8.5″ illustrated children’s book, 16 pages in length. Another one is approx 6×4″. I would prefer hardcover but softcover is doable. I realize that CS has 24 page minimum, and Ingram’s is 18 pages.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Aj, there are digital book printers who can probably do that job for you, but I’m not aware of any POD suppliers that offer landscape printing at that size, but I would query them directly to see if they offer custom sizes, and if you find anything out, please come back and let me know, thanks.

          Reply
          • Cassel

            I looked at CreateSpace for something like that and it is possible, if you simply set up for a portrait format with binding on top, and just rotate your pdf file. Maybe it would work the same with other POD services too.

  5. Harley Smart

    Hello everyone,

    I have been publishing artist books for close to 10 years and decided to finally offer bookbinding service for short-run books.

    I enjoy working closely with artists and authors to create decorative covers and achieve fine reproduction using tradition bookbindery finishing techniques, and digital printing on an HP Indigo.

    Together with a small team, we work out of an old schoolbuilding in Montreal’s Mile End.

    We specialize in hardcover books, and offer a much wider range of materials and decoration then the big companies online.

    If anyone is looking for specialty bookbinding, please consider contacting us.

    Thanks!

    Harley Smart

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Nice. Thanks for the heads up about bookart.ca.

      Love to hear other people’s thoughts on this service and how it compares to CreateSpace and LightningSource for the standard book-binding options. Otherwise, we all know CS and LS will never provide fancy decorative covers, hand binding and other specialised options.

      Reply
  6. The Publisher

    Good news!

    IngramSpark is having a special as of March/April 2015. If you want to get a free editorial review for your book prior to publishing and setup with IngramSpark, try this.

    Visit https://pressquemanuscripts.com/?password-protected=login&redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fpressquemanuscripts.com%2F
    You will reach a place called Pressque, LLC.
    Enter the IngramSpark code of 1771.
    Upload your manuscript and about 48 hours later you will receive a sample edit for the first 8 or so pages and a one page summary showing you the pros and cons of your masterpiece.

    Unless you are Stephen King, this service might come in handy for any author wishing to see what people think about your manuscript.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  7. Jason Green

    Hey guys, interesting post here! And interesting comments as well. Thank you to all who have contributed.

    Had one question – I gather from the comments here that there is no restriction on content re: publishing nudes/erotic photos on Lightning Source?

    I would like to publish a nude/erotic photo book and my research has led me to Lightning Source as being the most economical way to go!

    Reply
  8. The Publisher

    You may probably want to pop open a bottle of champage, wine , or beer (hmm, those book sales could be a little higher) when you hear that as of 20 March 2015 IngramSpark has decided to make the Market Access/Distribution Fee free! Yes, you heard it right. It is free! Although I probably wouldn’t go as far as to say you should start a street party over this amazing revelation, but I would have to say IngramSpark is heading in the right direction by being a little more competitive with the likes of CreateSpace.

    And when IngramSpark finally does allow free set up of new book titles, I’ll be dancing in the streets.

    Until then, for all you first-time IngramSpark publisher wanna-bes, things are a bit easier on your wallet.

    For those who still can’t believe their eyes, here’s the quote from IngramSpark to keep you salivating with glee:

    “Say goodbye to yearly distribution fees. It now costs you nothing to connect your titles to more than 39,000 retailers and libraries around the world. Just another way IngramSpark makes indie publishing more cost effective.”

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  9. Adn Frs

    Hello,
    I was hoping you could provide some insight into IS ‘Standard 70’ vs. ‘Premium 70’ printing options. My book has many high quality photos. Have you seen any photos printed with the above options? I am wondering if I need to use the premium option or if the standard will be sufficient for photos.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Yes, IngramSpark has recently touted the Premium color and paper option. This obviously is a good thing to see as it gives more options to authors/publishers.

      Yay for more options!

      But how good is the Premium option in the real world? And will it work for your book?

      Assuming you have analysed the costs of producing your book through IngramSpark through the Premium options (it sounds like you have but just want to know if the premium option is good enough) and your marketing indicates this is an economically viable way to make money (i.e. make sure people want to buy at the price you intend to sell), you will probably have no choice but to try it yourself and see what the results are like.I would imagine someone on this page will say, “Hey, this is great stuff!”, but someone else might come along and say, “Well, it is okay, but I rather choose [blah blah] because of [blah blah reasons]”. In the end, no one can be a better expert for your own book than yourself.

      On the big plus, you don’t have to buy huge numbers of your book from IngramSpark just to receive a copy and see the results. It is Print on Demand (POD) stuff, so you can order as little as one copy if you want (not likely to kill you in a financial sense).

      Personally, I have not used (and, therefore, seen the results of) the Premium option from IngramSpark (well, not yet anyway). I’m sure someone will give his/her recommendations very soon to help you confidently choose the right decision. Anyway, I do see from that IngramSpark web site:

      “Choose between Standard color, an economical option printed on state-of-the-art inkjet technology, or Premium color, a higher-quality color option for superior color books.”

      Clicking on another link provides further details:

      “1. Standard color, our most economical option, is printed on 50 lb. paper.

      Select color is printed on a slightly thinner paper and has a slightly smoother sheen.
      Standard 70/105 is a high quality paper that can easily handle saturated colors, but still has the economical benefits of Standard color.
      Premium color gives you the highest quality photographs and has a more vivid color. The paper is also printed on a thicker 70lb paper.”

      I am strongly inclined to think, based on this information, that it is Premium all the way for you.

      Of course, you could always try CreateSpace (no harm in finding out). They do have a color option, but far too expensive in my view (the high costs suggest a premium color service, but I have not tried it as yet to confirm). The only positive I can recommend about the color option from CreateSpace is that they do provide a free color booklet sample for you to look at (on the paper they would use). At IngramSpark, well, I am not aware of anything they give away for free, not even a thank you note for choosing IngramSpark as your preferred printer (everything there costs, although I’m glad to see IngramSpark has advanced a little in recent times compared to LightningSource in that they do allow authors/publishers to update the book metadata information for free — apparently to help IngramSpark staff who must be suffering from serious bouts of Repetitive Strain Injury and having poor eyesight problems from all the checking of book titles they do). Yippy! But if you really want a sample colour booklet from IngramSpark, you will probably be whistling in the wind. I suggest setting up your book title, pay the set-up costs (when will IngramSpark finally catch onto the idea of making this part free as CreateSpace can do?), and print just one copy. And if you don’t like what you see, you can always try to argue for a refund claiming IngramSpark has over-exaggerated its claims of a premium color service and is not what you expected based on its advertising.

      Otherwise, I suggest you get a free sample copy of color booklets from everyone else in the POD industry, and if you are not happy with any of them, try IngramSpark.

      Reply
      • Adn frs

        Thank you. I first printed with createspace and was unsatisfied with the print quality so I am now trying IS. Id like to use the premium option but it makes my product very expensive. So I think I will try the standard 70 and if it isn’t good enough I will then opt for the premium. If anyone has printed photos with standard 70 or premium with IS I would love to hear your oinions on it!!

        Reply
  10. Carlen

    Joel … Two questions, which you may have addressed before: 1) Isn’t there an advantage to signing up with both createspace and IngramSpark? Let createspace go directly to Amazon for a lesser fee than ISpark. Let ISpark go to all else because Ingram’s expanded distribution costs less than createspace’s.

    Question 2: If I use IngramSpark, will my print and ebook be displayed on the following online book services: Barnes&Noble; Walmart; Target; Books a Million; other? PLUS would my print book be available for order (not necessarily on the bookshelves) in individual retail stores and chain stores like B&N?

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Question 1: Yes, you should have an account with both CreateSpace and LightningSource. Although CreateSpace can cover virtually all the same distribution channels as IngramSpark and vice versa and, therefore, technically you could choose to stay with one of the other, in reality you shouldn’t. The biggest problem is that certain booksellers tend to stick to either CreateSpace/Amazon or IngramSpark/LightningSource because of certain agreements or general incentives and rarely do booksellers give money to a “competitor” (i.e. the one who prints/manufacrures your books, which is either CreateSpace or IngramSpark/LightningSource) just to order your books and bring them into the stores. So basically you want your books to be available from as many locations as possble (including where the book is printed) and make it as easy as possible for your booksellers to order your books. So yes, you could stick to CreateSpace and choose the expanded distribution option, which does include LightningSource to help expand the range of booksellers for your books. Likewise you could pay IngramSpark (Yuk! You don’t see people pay money to CreateSpace to do this) to include Amazon (i..e both Kindle eBooks and the printed books). You can choose one or the other. For those authors serious at selling books, you should set up an account with both. Furthermore, IngramSpark has the advantage of placing your eBooks with Apple’s own iBook store. CreateSpace has not quite caught on to this idea (probably because Apple and Amazon are still not getting along together all that well because of the different eBook standards). Together with the cheaper standard colour printing option available through IngramSpark, expanded delivery options and a few other advantages (not so for all the costs of set up, revision changes etc, which is why CreateSpace is so attractive), you would be wise to have an account with IngramSpark. Whereas CreateSpace and Amazon gives you the flexibility to control how your book is advertised (including book description) on the Amazon web site (because you are allowed to set up your own Amazon and CreateSpace accounts). Have an account with both CreateSpace and IngramSpark and booksellers will have no excuses not to consider having your books in the bookstore or ordered on behalf of book readers.

      Question 2. With IngramSpark, not only will you have your eBook with the Apple store, but you can also ensure your printed books are available for ordering on just about all online bookstores. I say “just about” because I think CreateSpace has Amazon as its own means of ordering and delivering both Kindle eBooks and the printed books. But if you pay IngramSpark (or do it yourself for free, but remember to opt out of IngramSpark’s Amazon Kindle eBook distribution if you are already contracted with Amazon to distribute your eBooks), you can cover Amazon (both Kindle eBooks and the printed version). In terms of specific names of bookstores used by IngramSpark to sell your books, I see from https://www1.ingramspark.com/Portal/IngramSpark that they include “…Kobo, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.”

      Reply
      • Carlen

        Thanks for your explanation, Joel. Makes me feel better about my decision.

        Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Carlen, I recommend you use both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark for the simple reason that virtually no bookstore will order your book if it’s only available through CreateSpace. Plus, as you point out, there’s a pretty steep penalty if you use the CS “expanded distribution.”

      Reply
      • Carlen

        Thanks, Joel. Looking forward to working with you on my book. And you’ve got a good crew in Tracy and Treana with the Bookmakers.

        Reply
  11. Julie

    This might be of interest to self publishers: Blurb, in late 2014, got into the trade book realm and offers a more affordable product (color and black and white) for standard trade sizes. You can use InDesign or their free BookWright software. Their Global Distribution option sends your book to Ingram, and you can also have it go to Amazon. Plus, you can sell from Blurb on your own website. It sounds like a good deal (free ISBN so far) and I’m going to give it a try.

    Here’s info about their global distribution: https://www.blurb.com/global-distribution

    Anyone else out there used this program? Previously, Blurb books were too expensive, focusing on high gloss/quality photo books, but it looks like you can now do trades, etc.

    Reply
    • Victoria Malyurek

      Unless they have improved since last year, I tried using BLURB and ended up going to LuLu instead because in my opinion, they did not know the ins and outs of their own product and they did not have the best “sales manners.” They were very rude. LuLu tries hard to do their best for you and I like their manners much better. Since I have been working with they have improved their platform also.

      Reply
      • Julie

        I can’t answer to customer service. But they have made changes to their platform, snapping up HP Magcloud, to offer trade books and magazines.

        For those not wanting to deal with both Amazon and Ingram or get costly design software, perhaps Blurb would have a lower barrier to entry.

        Reply
  12. The Publisher

    Thank you for letting us know of your experiences with CreateSpace. It is quite interesting to listen to an example where CreateSpace may not be, or would appear not to, honor its side of the contract with certain authors such as yourself in terms of paying the royalties (for which you are legally entitled to receive).

    My understanding of CreateSpace is that this company usually do not pay royalties until (i) the minimum threshold is reached (to save on administration costs in preparing and sending numerous cheques to authors all over the world), as you have quite rightly noticed; (ii) you have provided a correct address for receiving your royalty cheque (and assumes that no one else has got to your cheque before you did); and/or (iii) you have supplied the relevant tax forms to CreateSpace. Although in point (iii) I must admit, CreateSpace should not hold onto your royalties for a long time because eventually the company has to take out tax (probably at a higher rate if you have not supplied the relevant tax forms to the company on behalf of the U.S. government). So eventually you should receive your royalties.

    Because of the potentially serious nature of this allegation of underreporting of sales according to some complaints, I have talked to a representative of CreateSpace for an explanation. The response I received was quick and emphatic that no such shady activities of the kind you are suggesting are taking place. Firstly the representative stated:

    “I would like to assure you that the royalty reports are extremely accurate and royalty earnings for your title can appear in your reports at different times depending on when and where we manufacture the copies to fulfill orders..”

    Then the representative explained the situation where the latest royalty earnings can arrive at different times. However, eventually all earnings are received and displayed in the report in an “accurate” manner.

    In summary, sales made on Amazon.com for your book should appear within 2 to 3 days. For other sales locations such as bookstores, the remote location for a number of them and the independently-run nature of these locations means it is often outside the control of CreateSpace. Furthermore, CreateSpace uses other locations to manufacture closer to where the books will be sold, so this information may take longer to appear on your report. So basically, the CreateSpace report you see in terms of book numbers are really a combination of actual and potential sales. In CreateSpace language, this is described as the number of books manufactured (i.e. new copies only) and sent to various location. For this earnings report to be accurate, CreateSpace relies on what it calls the manufacturing date, which is printed on the physical page of every book aoming out of CreateSpace. From this, you can estimate your royalty reporting based on this date. For the European Union, CreateSpace can also check the product ID number on the physical page (although date is probably a more useful guide).

    However, if you should discover any discrepancies in the reporting of your earnings, CreateSpace claims they can check this by referring to the manufacturing date or product ID. If they do find a discrepancy, CreateSpace will investigate and report back to you on what has happened. Due to the rarity of this situation, CreateSpace assures authors that the reports they receive for their books are accurate (you probably just need to give CreateSpace a little extra time for the information to arrive in your report).

    The only other thing to complicate the situation a bit is if you have enrolled your book in some program where used copies of your book may get circulated (mainly to increase exposure of your book, which in theory should increase book sales). Generally, these used copies are not recorded as additional sales, but my understanding is that people like Amazon.com does rely on a ppol of money that is used to pay authors for the privilege of making their books available in this program.

    Beyond that, the representative said you need to make sure your book is enrolled in Bookstores & Online Retailers channel, or separately register the book with the Ingram Book Company. Otherwise, you may not see BookScan sales information reported in Autheor Central.

    As for actually paying you the royalty, it is the responsibility of CreateSpace to do this.

    Have you asked CreateSpace for their explanation in terms of your specific situation? What did CreateSpace actually say to you?

    Reply
  13. Laura Davis

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

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Wow, that sounds fairly strict in Canada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Reply
      • Laura Davis

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

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

        Reply
        • The Publisher

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

          Sounds like fun. Good luck!

          Reply
        • Ruth

          I don’t quite understand this. Many of our libraries here in B.C. carry my books and I was also asked to submit copies to the national archives, but my books are not only printed in the US by Createspace and Lightning Source, they actually say printed in the US on the copyright page. I do have Canadian ISBNs, so not sure if that makes a difference.

          Reply
        • Ruth

          Just an update on my earlier comment. As far as I can see, with the CIP, it doesn’t say it has to be printed in Canada, it just says the publisher must have a Canadian address. If you are the publisher and you live in Canada, it appears that’s all that’s required. The CIP is for cataloguing titles prior to publication and I don’t believe it’s necessary for inclusion in the national archives.

          Reply
          • The Publisher

            Yay! I love Canada again!

          • Laura Davis

            Oh! Yay! That is good to know. Much better than ripping out the page where it says Printed in the USA! LOL!

          • Laura Davis

            One question Ruth – did you have to order 100 copies of your book? I noticed that was one of the requirements with a Canadian CIP and since I am mainly interested in e-books I wondered if you had to do that.

  14. Tyler Smith

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

    Reply
    • David Grote

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

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

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

        Reply
        • David Grote

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

          Reply
          • Joel Friedlander

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

    • Tyler Smith

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

      Reply
    • Victoria Malyurek

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

      Reply
    • Rebecca Migdal

      I have used Lightning Source to print full bleed right into the gutter and it worked out fine. I actually forgot about the requirement to put in the blank gutter margin but it went through anyway. Keep in mind that with perfect bound the book doesn’t really lie flat, if you try it will break the spine. I did amend the file to add the gutter margin and the it doesn’t show, it’s the part where the glue is. I think they really just don’t want people to get upset if a slice of their artwork disappears into the gutter.
      Landscape format and endpapers are another matter. POD just isn’t that flexible yet. We get our periodical World War 3 Illustrated printed at a place called Quebecor in Canada and they do a great job. Of course there are minimum to make it cost effective. One solution is run a kickstarter, and pre-sell enough copies to pay for the total printing.
      I use createspace for proofs because it’s cheap as heck, but I publish through LS.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Migdal

        Update-you can print on the inside cover, actually. And they do have one landscape size now- 11×8.5. But, you have to get it in premium color. That’s double the cost of standard. It costs 500 for 100 32 page books including shipping.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Rebecca, thanks for the updates. This article is showing its age (CreateSpace closed down months ago) but with comments like yours I think it’s still useful

          Reply
  15. Chip

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

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Another excellent question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Reply
      • The Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Reply
        • Chip

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

          Reply
      • Chip

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

        Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • Chip

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

        Reply
  16. Nabeela

    Hi Joel,

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

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

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

    Regards

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      Thanks for this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Interested? I know just the place for you.

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

      Enjoy!

      Reply
  17. David Grote

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

    Reply
    • The Publisher

      A very good question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I hope this advice has been helpful.

      I wish you all the success with your book.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • David Grote

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

        Reply
  18. A K Nicholas

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

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

    Reply
    • The Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

      Good luck!

      Reply
  19. Hady

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the post.

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

    Cheers, Hady.

    Reply
    • The Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Reply
      • Hady

        Thanks Joel, appreciate it.

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

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

        Thanks.

        Reply
        • The Publisher

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

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

          https://www.cmykonline.com.au/

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

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

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

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

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

          https://www1.lightningsource.com

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

          Reply
  20. Carlen

    Hi Joel or anyone experienced with createspace.com…

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

    I certainly would appreciate some insight here. Thank you.

    Reply
  21. McGrouch

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

    Reply
    • Denis G.

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

      Reply
  22. Carlen

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

    Reply
    • Denis G.

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

      Reply
      • Carlen

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

        Reply
  23. Cheri

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

    Reply
  24. Susan

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

    Reply
    • Self-Publisher

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

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

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

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

      Reply
      • Sarah

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

        Reply
        • The Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Reply
  25. Alistair Roberts

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

    Reply
  26. Nila

    Hi Joel,

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

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

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

    Regards,
    Nila

    Reply
  27. Michelle Eastman

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

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

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

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

    Thank you,
    Michelle

    Reply
  28. PV

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

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
  29. Denis G.

    Hi Joel,
    You are hopefully out in the sunshine somewhere, and I ought to have engine-searched my NetGalley question first before asking. Many excellent comments, on the right track, and likely useful to your page’s other visitors. Here are a few:
    https://www.katiefrenchbooks.com/blog/book-marketing-what-works-and-what-doesnt-netgalley
    https://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-reach-reviewers-via-netgalley/
    https://www.kearytaylor.com/2013/02/the-netgalley-low-down-for-authors-and.html
    I hope this is helpful.

    Reply
  30. Denis G.

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

    Reply
  31. Natalie Graham

    Hi Joel,

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

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Hey Joel,

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

        Peace to you Joel.

        Reply
  32. Andy Traub

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

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

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

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

    Reply
  33. kasey

    Is Vook an option to KDP

    Reply
  34. Russell Brooks

    Hello, Joel, hello James, Hello Dennis,

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

    Reply
    • James H. Byrd

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

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

      Reply
      • Russell Brooks

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

        Reply
  35. Kasey

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

    Reply
  36. greg lalonde

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

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
  37. Julie

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

    Is this true?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • Julie

        Thank you, Joel.

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

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

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

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

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

          Reply
      • Denis

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

        Reply
  38. michelle staples

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

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • michelle staples

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

        Reply
  39. Michelle Staples

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • michelle staples

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

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Michelle, if you don’t want to sell on Amazon or other retailers, just from your own site, why not go back to your local printer since you can’t get spiral bound from either of these companies, and it seems to be a requirement? If you want a digital printer to produce the books I know https://360digitalbooks.com/ does both spiral bound and wire-O bindings, you might check them out.

          Reply
  40. Carina Rascher

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

    Reply
  41. H.William Ruback

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

    Reply
  42. Greg

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Denis G.

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

      Reply
      • Greg

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

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

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

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

        Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

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

      Reply
      • Greg

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

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

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

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

        Reply

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