CreateSpace, Lightning Source – or both?
a guest blog by author Linda Austin
Most authors are familiar with CreateSpace (CS), Amazon’s self-publishing arm. With little financial outlay, authors can upload their formatted manuscripts to CreateSpace and post their own cover, or perhaps one made using a free CS template or one designed at extra cost by one of CreateSpace’s designers. CS also offers editing services for a fee. CS will provide an ISBN for free or allow you to use your own.
Their program is easy to use, and Amazon takes control of all sales and shipping and will direct-deposit monies earned, minus its cut, to the author’s bank account each month. Authors can purchase copies of their own print book at a discount, and can choose to pay for an Amazon service that creates an e-book from the CS print version if the author doesn’t want to do it herself. For those who choose to go the self-publishing route, what’s not to like?
For one thing, CreateSpace books are found only on Amazon. This in itself is not necessarily bad as Amazon owns the lion’s share of print book sales. What about selling to libraries and real, physical bookstores? Libraries and physical stores don’t buy from Amazon unless a customer requests a book that is available no other way. Libraries and physical stores purchase through their favorite wholesaler-distributors, usually Ingram and/or Baker & Taylor, who give them an industry-standard discount rate. They will not buy from your website, either, as they like to keep their accounting simple.
Many experienced self-publishers use Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI), as their printer because of its connection to Ingram. Ingram opens up distribution of their books nearly worldwide, including on Amazon, and offers industry-standard discount rates to book buyers –the LSI author has total control of his/her book pricing and can set the discount sales rate to standard 55% with returns allowed.
LSI requires an author to have her own ISBNs registered to her own company. LSI also requires a high-quality pdf book file, such as those created by Adobe In-Design or other professional publishing software program, and there is an initial set-up cost. Not quite as simple or inexpensive as using CreateSpace for your MS Word file, however this Ingram connection is important for authors who expect their well-written and well-formatted books to be attractive to libraries and booksellers because of subject matter or popularity due to their determined marketing efforts. For $25 per year, your book will appear in the Ingram online catalog.
But, have you heard CreateSpace has an expanded distribution option for only $25 per year? Yes, it does, making your book available through Ingram and most other online bookselling sites, including Barnes & Noble within the United States.
The Amazon-Ingram connection, though, does not allow Ingram to offer the industry standard terms expected by libraries and physical bookstores, so these entities will likely not want to buy books this way unless necessary, by customer request. Again, perhaps this is not a concern, depending on type of book, quality of writing and book production, and the author’s marketing determination.
Unfortunately, since last summer, Amazon has taken to posting availability times for LSI books coming out as anywhere from 2-8 weeks, even though the digitally-printed books ship almost immediately, as usual. For this reason, many serious authors have taken to loading their books to both CreateSpace for online orders from the general public as well as to LSI for its professional-level, low-cost worldwide distribution. And the same (author-owned) ISBN is used since it is the same book, just through different printers. The same author-provided cover should be used to avoid confusion.
In summary, an author who plans to be a serious contender in the book market, and has a book that will pass muster with librarians and store book buyers, should consider going beyond the Amazon experience.
Linda Austin wrote and published her mother’s story, “Cherry Blossoms in Twilight,” a WWII Japan memoir of history and culture. She is owner of Moonbridge Publications, encouraging life writing and educating authors on the art of successful indie-publishing. She is a board member of the St. Louis Publishers Association.
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