Self-Publishing - Printing & Distribution

Unless you plan on going door to door with a stack of books, you want a printer who can distribute to the big guys.
The two major players in the self-publishing realm for printing and distribution are Createspace & Lightning Source.
Let’s look at Lightening Source first.
Lightning Source is a major POD printer that is linked with a variety of distribution channels. They are not a publisher. They will also not work with individual authors (this is where setting yourself up as a DBA or LLC is handy). Lightning Source does not do any hand-holding, nor do they offer any paid creative services such as: cover design, interior formatting & layout. With Lightning, you are expected to follow their guidelines and provide them with print-ready covers and interiors as well as the individual ISBN’s for your books.
While it may seem daunting at first, the interior layout and setup of print-ready PDF book covers and interiors is not impossible for the DIY self-publisher. It takes a little learning, but it can be done. I’ll cover interior design in a later chapter.
Using Lightning Source and its vast distribution network means that when your files are complete and uploaded, they will place your book with Ingram distribution network. This gives your book maximum visibility.  
Lightning Source Distribution Partners



To participate in the distribution channels you will have to allow for a discount on your books. The minimum discount to participate in these channels is 20% for some and 25% for others. It’s best you use 25% across the board to avoid being opted out of any online outlets. What this means is in exchange for being placed on (for example) you give them a discount on the cost of your book. You can go as high as you like with the discount but I would not suggest any lower than 25%.
A side note for those of you wanting to be stocked on bookstore shelves. The minimum discount required for Barnes & Noble to consider your book for their stores is 50%. We’ll touch on that subject a little later.
 To set up your files with Lightning it will cost you $35 for interior and $35 for the cover. These files are separate items that you will upload into the Lightning Source database. Additionally, you will pay a $12 yearly fee to maintain your files in the distribution network. Once those fees are paid your book is ready to go into production.
There is one other additional fee you may consider paying: Proof $30  (recommended before putting your book into production.) This is a copy that will be sent via overnight delivery to you before the book goes into production. This gives you an example of what customers are going to get when they purchase your book.     
Once your book goes into production the amount you receive per book will be the total, minus the discount and printing cost (book printing cost are determined by size and page count. These cost are outlined in the contract you sign with Lightning Source prior to book setup.). The remainder of those cost is your individual profit.
Lightning Source also offers short run printing for those who wish to purchase a bulk stock of their books. Like offset printing, this will give you a stock of books to sell, but using their POD system, you do not need to order thousands of books at a time. Short run orders can be a little as 1 book or as many as you like. The cost will vary depending on quantity.

Createspace comes in when Lightning is not an option. They deal directly with you, the author to create a book and offer many services that can be useful and helpful (for a fee). This differentiates Createspace and Lightning. Where Lightning operates as only a printer and link to distribution channels, Createspace also acts as a publisher by offering additional services like ISBN provider, Cover designer, Editing, etc. You do not have to choose these options. In fact, if you are the DIY type, you could use Createspace to produce your book for next to nothing.
 Setting up through Createspace will be very similar to setting up with Lightening. You will have to create a book block –interior layout, and have your cover file ready. You can use your own ISBN or theirs. Unlike Lightening however, if you have questions or problems, they will be there to help you. Lightening expects you to know what you are doing, Createspace offers ways to help you (some cost money). For the beginner, this might be a good way to dip your toe in and see how things work.
Publishing with Createspace, an Amazon company, means your book will be automatically included in their online store. They too have a large distribution network, however they do not offer the same discounting control that Lightning does. To opt into their extended distribution network, you will have to offer a 60% discount to Createspace. While that is significantly higher than I recommended with Lightning, I should note that the 60% discount only counts for sales through the extended distribution network. It does not count for sales via the Createspace eStore (20%) or through (40%).   
Just like with Lightning, the % discount is taken off of the books price and your royalty is calculated based on that number, minus the printing cost of the book. The remainder is what you will be paid.
 No matter what you choose, you want to have your printer selected before you move on to further steps in the book process. Each printer will require things to be formatted specifically for them. They will also tell you what trim sizes and paper selections you can use. This information will be extremely helpful when moving on to cover design and Book Layout.


Jessica Nelson said…
WOW! Katie, you're so knowledgeable about all this. Thanks for sharing all that info!
Katie Salidas said…
Glad you found it helpful Jessica!!
War Blogger said…
Hey Katie,

"They will also not work with individual authors (this is where setting yourself up as a DBA or LLC is handy)."

I'm not familiar with these acronyms. What are the (legal, I assume?) preconditons for working with LS?

Katie Salidas said…

DBA - Doing Business As.
LLC - Limited Liability Company.

you'll want to check out Lightning Source's website for all the legal mumbojumbo. I am not a Legal representative of the company I'm just a small publisher who works with them.

If you are an individual person wanting to publish under your own name then you'll need to use Createspace. Lightning will only work with a "publishing company".

For example, Rising Sign Books LLC is my small publishing company. All of my books are published through it.
War Blogger said…
Ah, thank you so much for explaining, Katie. :)
Katie Salidas said…
No problem! I hope I gave you enough information. =)