CreateSpace is a POD printer, which stands for “Print On Demand.” LightningSource is the same. Both have distribution channels to regular bookstores, however, brick-and-mortar stores are quickly disappearing. The problem is the rise of POD and online stores that have eliminated the need for warehouse storage: the traditional publishing process required printing a certain amount of books (called a “print run”) and a place to store said books until they were sold or distributed to bookstores.
The average bookstore is still running on 19th century business practices. I love bookstores, don’t get me wrong. (I’d love to own one with rare books, a coffee shop, and maybe a few fat, indolent cats lounging on the shelves and chairs.) The traditional practice of bookstores BAZN (Before Amazon) was that they would only accept books from established distributors, who were working with known publishers.
This is primarily because self-published authors tend to not spend money on professional services: editing, design, etc. The quality of most self-published books is terrible; this is not due to the print process or the quality of the physical book, but due to ignorance and cheapness on the part of the self-publisher. The reason why publishing houses don’t publish most authors is that their work is often not good enough in its raw state. This is not a comment on the ability of the average writer, but most authors frankly can’t do it on their own. The editor in a traditional publishing company often served as creative coach, professional mentor, and best friend to the authors lucky enough to be accepted to work with them.
Another reason that bookstores are reluctant to offer self-published books is that they have to be able to return unsold inventory to the printer. You, as the “publisher” have to be able to accept the loss of one or more “unsold” books. CS allows booksellers to buy books from a “publisher” at a discounted price, just as LS does, but the CS discount is not low enough (25%) to appeal to most stores. At LS you set the discount, the standard is 40-55% off the list price.
I have had my LS books requested at bookstores. This is not good, even though it may seem to be on the surface. These people may have heard about my book on Amazon, and want to see it in print, so they order it through their local bookstore. The bookstore gets the book and the “buyer” comes down to look at it. Unfortunately, they often don’t purchase the book, or worse, they do buy it and then return the book, scuffed, dog-eared, bent, or otherwise unsellable. So it goes back to the printer or it gets shipped to me. (I was initially confused when I got my own book in the mail.) At LS you have three options relating to returns. You can set returns to: No, Yes-Deliver, or Yes-Destroy. If you select No, retailers are not allowed to return your books. Of course I paid for the printing and for the shipping, so the loss is then mine.
My advice: Don’t worry about the bookstores; they are like dinosaurs in this modern age, where you can publish a book overnight, print it when someone buys it, and have it automatically shipped to the buyer without you having to lift a finger or pay another fee. Distribution through the channels on CS allows bookstores to sell your books directly to customers online (drop-ship), without you even being involved.
Produce the best book you can: get a good editor (you need a professional copy editor, not your best friend), get a good designer, and get professional help when you need it. It is worth every penny.
~ Bestselling author Aliyah Marr has now published nine books of her own on CreateSpace and Kindle and helped several authors become publishers on their own. Currently, she is working on a book on Kindle/ebook publishing. She offers author services, such as Kindle conversion and book design to other authors and publishing houses.