Publishing a Book? CreateSpace vs. Lightning Source

Years ago I published my first book, Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity through Lightning Source, then the premier POD (print on demand) printer for books. All the big publishers used Lightning Source. I encouraged my consulting clients to use Lightning Source as recently as 3 years ago.

Then I found CreateSpace. I haven’t looked back: last year, I celebrated my 7th year of book design when I published my 11th book, The Avatars of Eden. All of my books are now printed by CreateSpace and available on Amazon: Aliyah Marr.


Here is the record of a chat I just held with LightningSource.

–begin chat–

Aliyah Marr
I published 3 books through you, but I have republished all those books (some of them several times) through CreateSpace. Now I have 11 books on Amazon, the print versions throughCreateSpace.

First understand that I am a professional graphic designer who is a published author. I design all my books and design my client’s books. In fact, I sent some of my clients to you and they have become book publishers in their own right. Now, however, most of them are on CreateSpace.

May I state why I decided to switch my business to CreateSpace?

You may.

Aliyah Marr

1. CreateSpace doesn’t charge any setup fees.
This is important when you find that you have a small or large error in your book and you have to correct it.

2. CreateSpace has an astounding user interface.
This allows a professional such as myself a seamless way to upload my files.

3. CreateSpace is Amazon.
Enough said.

4. CreateSpace has distribution world-wide.
They have deals with printers in various countries.

5. CreateSpace connects the reviews of my ebooks (Kindle) with the printed versions on their site.

6. And most important: CreateSpace has better print quality.
I once tried to talk to the tech department at LS about the lack of print consistency from page to page. They were able to tell me that this is due to different toners on the heads, but they were not able to correct the problem.

Another time I tried to talk to a printing professional at LS about how to up the quality in the books from my end. They had no idea what the various printing terms meant. They are not printing professionals, they can only run the book making machines, IMHO.

7. CreateSpace has great turn around too.

8. Lastly, I was never able to really talk to anyone down at LightningSource.
It seemed that my account manager was never in the office, and never returned my calls. Have any of these items changed? I mean, I haven’t really dealt with LS for years.

We do have support available 7 days a week.

Aliyah Marr
Have any of the other items on my list changed?

CreateSpace and LSI are very different platforms for differing types of publishers who have different needs.CreateSpace does use Ingram Distribution and printing. They are a customer of ours. Some publishers feel that the services that come along withCreateSpace better suit their needs as self-publishers.

Aliyah Marr
Yes, I know that CreateSpace is a customer of yours. I assume that I cannot control the quality of a book outside the US, but those that I see from CreateSpace are excellent in quality inside and out. Whereas the ones from LS were not consistent at all.

I’m sorry, but chat serves as a way for publishers to ask quick questions concerning their LSI accounts. If you are interested in discussing CreateSpaces’s services compared to our own, you are welcome to give us a call for a more thorough and satisfying exchange. Do you have any questions concerning your account?

Aliyah Marr
Will you please submit my list of observations to whomever may care to receive feedback?

Yes. I will.

—end of chat—

I assume that my feedback won’t have any effect. But I hope that this helps others who want to publish their books.

via The New and Improved Ingram’s Lightning Source


Can Bookshops Sell Books Published Through CreateSpace?

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. (blog on books and design) (website on creativity)

The Path to Buying a Book

One of the things I learned from interface design is that a good designer / marketer has to know the common path that the user takes when first encountering the product.

Sites like Amazon make it easier for a user to peruse a book in the same way that he might in a bookstore. So the gap is narrowing in the user experience online and in the brick and mortar store.

The path to buying a book in a bookstore looks like this:

  1. See cover
  2. Read title.
  3. Read synopsis / back cover / inside flap.
  4. Read inside at random.
  5. Check out price/shipping.
  6. Buy (or put down) book.

Perhaps you don’t buy books this way—in fact, many people won’t get past step 1—but the process is probably not any longer than the above 6 steps. You might want to do your own market research: play spy and hang out in your local bookstore in the section of your genre. See what books the readers pick up. Are they picking up books that look like the ones you would pick up? Do you think they are attracted to the title, to the cover, to the author, or all three?

The path to buying a book online differs in only two areas (see #5, #6):

  1. See cover
  2. Read title.
  3. Read synopsis / back cover / inside flap.
  4. Read inside at random.
  5. Compare to other books.
  6. Read online reviews.
  7. Check out price/shipping.
  8. Buy book or leave page.

You might argue that some people might do similar comparative shopping in a bookstore, however, the one thing that publishers and authors should be aware of is that the reader has access to more books and information on those books than ever before. In inverse proportion, the reader has an ever shorter attention span, thanks to the internet (I think it is down to 2 seconds for a website page). It is ever more important that we design great book covers, brainstorm the best titles, design a great website, and write the best copy for our books than ever before.

Copyright Aliyah Marr

Aliyah Marr is the author of Squawk! Social Media for the Solitary Bird
and Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity: The (missing) manual for your right brain