Book design, distribution and marketing – CreateSpace or Lightning Source for my print edition?

I’ve had an email from writer/poet Philippa Rees , who is weighing up whether to use CS or LS for her book. Dave and I have published with both for a number of years, so here’s what we’d say from personal experience…

Philippa: My book is a poetic history of scientific thought. It’s a dip-in-and-return work, most likely to be read in print (although I will put it out as an ebook too). I have seen some VERY amateurish CS-designed books, fairly dire, and some acceptable ones.

Eek, I take it you’re referring to the covers?

CS offers templates for covers and urges you to use them, but I recommend you don’t. For one thing, they’re familiar enough that they yell ‘CreateSpace!’ to anyone who’s been on the CS site. Not that there’s any stigma, but you want your cover to yell about your book, not the company whose rather recognisable template you used.

You don’t have to use CS templates. You can upload a PDF, created by any package you want, either by yourself or a designer, so long as you leave space for their barcode and calculate the correct spine width from your page count. They give you an easy help page to get this all right – and indeed they have excellent help resources in the CS Community.

Although covers may look easy, if you don’t have experience, please, please use a designer. Your book is intended to be taken seriously and it needs a cover to do your words justice. The wrong design, even if it looks nice to you, might send the wrong message to readers. If you’re prioritising what to budget for this is a one-time investment that will do your book endless good.

So far, I’ve designed my own covers, but if I found I was out of my depth (which is extremely likely with my next novel) here’s where I’d look.

  • 99 Designs – a design site that lets you host a competition to find the ideal designer for your book. Post your requirements and budget and professional designers will pitch for it. You only pay if you commission a suggestion.
  • Smashwords has a list of cover designers that other Smashwords authors have used and would recommend, both for ebooks and for print – email and ask for ‘Mark’s list’ (that’s Mark Coker,the very approachable inventor of Smashwords).
  • The Book Designer – fantastic site by design veteran Joel Friedlander. He holds monthly book design competitions, so you can browse and find a designer whose work hits your sweet spot. He also writes some of the help entries on the CS site, though he’s not affiliated with them. He’s just a generous-spirited, knowledgeable guy.

When talking to a designer, make sure they know the book will be print on demand. POD processes sometimes don’t crop a book straight, or line up the spine precisely – so you need a design to forgive that kind of error.

Interior design CS also provides a Word template for the interior. Dave tried it, and while it was quick to use and saves you worrying about page sizes and margins, it has glitches. For instance, it insisted on an ‘acknowledgements’ page and when he tried to delete it everything else went haywire. But again, you can upload your interior on a PDF – and that way you have complete control.

Dave and I create our book covers and interiors on Serif PagePlus – much cheaper than the top-end packages like Adobe InDesign, and more versatile than Word.  Here’s my post on formatting the interior of My Memories of a Future Life.  It’s fiddly, but if it gives you an attack of the vapours, freelance designers can do it for you.

Europe, Australia etc

Philippa: I understand Amazon is difficult about stocking books put out by LS, yet LS may be better for distribution to Europe and Australia.

We’ve frequently found our Amazon listings for LS books are quoted as out of stock or ‘available in six weeks’, for no reason. When queried, Amazon reply that they get the data from the supplier. The supplier said the book was available. In fact, when you do order, the books arrive as fast as any other book. But buyers don’t know this. The same used to happen when I published Nail Your Novel with Lulu.

Pause a moment to growl and stomp.

Initially, LS gets books to the European Amazon sites more quickly. When you approve for press, the cover artwork goes up within a week. With CS, books go to immediately but expanded distribution to the UK site and further takes a good two weeks, sometimes more.

Some writers make CS editions to sell on Amazon, and LS editions for other channels. I’m not sure about the logic of that because once the book is up it’s up.


You make more profit per copy on LS than you do on CS, but LS charges setup fees – GBP£42 to set up each title, and a handsome hourly fee to give you proof copies. If you want to make changes on LS books that can get you into more expense and if there’s something wrong with your files they’ll charge you while they fret about it. As their PDF requirements are a lot more strict than CS, you could find yourself spending a lot of time and cash if you’re new to this.

CS don’t have any hidden charges. Proof copies don’t cost any more than ordinary copies. However, CS quotes long shipping times (6 weeks) in the hope you’ll stump up for express shipping – especially if you’re eager to get your proof. Ignore those quotes and get the cheap option – it’s never taken anything like 6 weeks for me to receive a proof copy.

Eek, GIANT lettering. Proof copy prompted redesign and saved Nail Your Novel much embarrassment

Advance review copies

Philippa: I plan to print pre-publication copies to get (and then add) endorsements for the final edition.

As I said, proofs cost you dear on LS. So I’d set up a rough ARC edition either on CS or Lulu, where proofs are cheaper. Then if you’re still keen on LS, save your proofing budget for the final, sparkling copy. If you want to stick with CS, changes are easy – upload a new PDF, wait a day or two and check the proof either on line or order a copy.

Don’t try to do without a hard proof copy entirely. Margins in the printed book may not look as you expect. Cropping can make cover proportions look totally different. Colours can look sludgy or gaudy in the flesh, even if the PDF looked luscious.

Use Amazon Marketplace

Do you know Amazon Marketplace? Individuals can sell anything that’s on the Amazon database. A lot of people use it to resell secondhand books, but authors often use them to offload surplus contractual copies and online shops also sell that way. I have a stock of my CS books and put them on Amazon Marketplace to fill supply gaps, for instance –

  • – for limbo days when my print copies are unavailable because I’ve updated the cover or interior.
  • – for distributing my books to people who are outside the usual Amazon areas; if people contact me saying they can’t get my book, I direct them to Marketplace or sell them a copy directly using Paypal.

See the offer of ‘new’ and ‘used’ copies? Those are third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace. One of them is me. As for the others, how could they?


Philippa: What about the tax issue for a non US writer publishing with CS?

As with Kindle, CS deducts 30% from your earnings unless you send an exemption form, for which you need a US tax code. Here’s how you get it. I’d advise you sort the paperwork before you start selling, as CS can’t refund you the tax. You have to apply to the IRS, which by all accounts is like shutting your eyes and wishing really hard.


Phillipa: What’s CS service like?

I’ve been pleased so far. Their support team are quick to answer questions, and patient with what must be moronic queries. Mind you, I haven’t had any real problems, which is usually the acid test. Dave had mighty problems with a graphic novel he was producing with LS, and found their UK help people were clueless and obstructive. But that was a full-colour book with high-resolution graphics. With straightforward text we’ve had no problems.

 Amazon, Amazon, Amazon…

Is the Amazon connection with CS a genuine benefit?

Undoubtedly. As we’ve seen, it seems to be ‘easier’ to keep a CS title in stock.

I find my CS titles regularly get promoted in ‘three-for-two’ offers (see pic) – especially Nail Your Novel. It gets offered with other top-selling writing titles – priceless promotion that you couldn’t buy. This never happened – ever – when my print edition of Nail Your Novel was on Lulu.


Philippa: My book is probably the most unmarketable book ever written. I believe it will have a market but it will be up to me to find it. Do you know of anyone who has signed up for CS ‘marketing’ help?

I don’t, and I’d like to hear from people who have. But I would be wary of standard packages, especially for unusual works such as yours. Expert help is always worth paying for, but it has to be the right expert.

What works for one book won’t work for another – as I know from the vastly different experiences of marketing an offbeat novel starting from a writing advice platform! To be honest, I’m still guessing – I’m soaking up lessons from novelists who have marketed successfully but the less easily you fit a widely read genre, the fewer equivalents you have. Bide your time, understand who your audience is, and find out how similar writers have reached theirs. If an expert for marketing your book is out there, one day you’ll trip over them.

And – good luck!

Thanks for the printing press pic Tadson and the movable type pic Leelilly 

Any further questions? Share them in the comments! And comment if you have any further answers, or particularly if you want to set something straight

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  1. #1 by Philippa Rees on August 12, 2012 - 2:01 pm

    Roz, if I have thanked Joanna instead of you, please forgive! Comprehensive comment left on Linked In. Put it down to ‘old woman in a frenzy’ But this is SUCH clear and valuable and generous advice. Hugely grateful

  2. #3 by DRMarvello on August 12, 2012 - 2:10 pm

    Roz said, “Some writers make CS editions to sell on Amazon, and LS editions for other channels. I’m not sure about the logic of that because once the book is up it’s up.”

    We release our books through LS first and then through CS only if the title starts to have stocking problems at Amazon. At LS, we set a 20% discount. If we start to have stocking problems (only 1 title of 12 has had this problem), we load the title up on CS. We do not sign up for Enhanced Distribution because we already have distribution through LS.

    In the end, we earn 80% (less printing costs) from LS, and 60% (less printing costs) from CS. If we were to sign up for ED with CS, we’d only earn 40% (less printing costs) for those sales we currently get through LS. 80% versus 40% is the “logic” behind our decision. 😉 Those setup costs at LSI versus CS are insignificant compared to the difference in royalty you earn on each book you sell–unless you plan to sell fewer than 50 books or so.

    However, most *fiction* authors probably shouldn’t worry about this stuff at all. I would not have bothered with print for my fiction book if not for the fact that I’m married to someone who is a cover designer and interior layout person. Getting a book to the point of “print-ready” PDFs is expensive if you have to hire someone to help you. I doubt I would ever recover the investment, since 99% or more of my books sell in digital form rather than print form. Most authors I know (including the illustrious Joanna Penn) have had similar experience.

    • #4 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 12, 2012 - 2:39 pm

      Daniel, thanks SO much for that clarification (indeed Philippa said she’d chatted to you about this before). That is indeed eminently logical and it’s very interesting to see the figures. The majority of my sales are Kindle at the moment, although print sales of Nail Your Novel are increasing every month.

    • #5 by DRMarvello on August 12, 2012 - 4:07 pm

      That makes sense, Roz. I would expect Nail Your Novel to do better in print than digital format. That still seems to be true of most non-fiction.

      But *fiction* authors can probably skip doing a print version, at least at first. Once you are selling so many books that the additional 1-5% of print sales would actually recover the expenses of publishing in print, sure, why not do it? Besides, I can say from experience that there is nothing like holding a print copy of your book in your hands. 🙂

      With regards to figures, I can report that since June 1, I’ve sold over 400 books in Kindle edition versus 2 in print (less than 0.5%).

      I also just noticed that my print edition is already listed as 1-3 weeks delivery, so I need to move that puppy over to CreateSpace!

  3. #6 by Philippa Rees on August 12, 2012 - 2:31 pm


    In part your stratagem ( LS then CS if necessary) and no ED with LS lay behind my query to Roz ( and unknowingly to Joanna as well). Having read through LS contracts and obligations I thought I would just go shoot myself instead of making a decision. You don’t say whether you are UK or US based because the ITIN is the next nightmare and I suppose I expected that if I signed with LSUK then all sales would be paid without with-holding US tax if they came from LSUK? The other aspect of interest is the better profit per book but I reckon it will be hard enough to sell mine at all let alone making it more expensive…on the other hand those that might want it will be fairly committed to start with! Round and round, you see. ‘Let this cup pass from me’ seems where I have reached, which is why we’d all like a publisher ( God with ten sparkling new commandments)

    • #7 by DRMarvello on August 12, 2012 - 4:10 pm

      Philippa: I’m a US author, so my considerations could very well be different from yours. I know that some vendors do a poor job of accommodating UK authors. Fortunately, you have Roz and Joanna to pave the way and help UK authors make the best choices. I’m just an American bloke reporting what I’ve learned and what has worked for me.

      • #8 by Philippa Rees on August 12, 2012 - 4:31 pm

        DRM Thanks for answering. Philippa

      • #9 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 13, 2012 - 9:37 am

        Just checked with Dave, show says LSI pays in GBP, no matter where the sales come from. He says he doesn’t think the US sales are taxed, but I don’t think he knows for sure – can any UK LS users help?
        But getting the tax paperwork isn’t hard, Philippa. If I were you I’d get the number because it’s going to be useful for Kindle sales as well – and anywhere else you publish. It’s not much of a headache (as you’ll see from my post, I had a nice chat with an ex-spy at the US embassy). And you can now get one over the phone.

        • #10 by Philippa Rees on August 13, 2012 - 9:48 am

          Roz, Thanks for everything. Yes 480 pages will make an expensive book. Wondered whether to put the ebook out in two ‘volumes’ one cheap as chips to sample, the other to recoup? Or put the poetic narrative out on its own and if a reader wants the scientific footnotes make that a free PDF download. Although its a pretty academic book, it is not written for academics but those who perhaps wonder why science has been a) so successful and b) made such a mess of things! You are really focussing thought…head moving from the clouds to the stony road ahead.

          • #11 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 13, 2012 - 11:11 am

            Philippa, I was going to suggest splitting the book. It sounds to me as though you’d have a few potential volumes depending on how you organise the material.
            Personally I wouldn’t make one loss-leader volume and then hope to recoup by pricing the next realistically – the chances are, readers won’t understand your pricing logic. And remember, they think with their purses.
            Your concept – the double helix of disaster versus miracles – is strong enough that you should have mileage for several books. And you could write a thought-provoking blog to go with it. How about splitting into books according to subject areas – eg medicine, transport… ( off the top of my head….)

            • #12 by Philippa Rees on August 13, 2012 - 1:19 pm

              Roz….For a kind stranger to give so much thought to someone else’s headache! In terms of creative thinking you know what? That marketing guru you suggested would appear…? Enough problems to make a whole career…? If you could sell this book you could write your own ticket! Only joking. Unfortunately this poetic Divine Comedy intertwines the evidence of all the disciplines of thought…that’s why I have had to wait forty years since it was first written to wait for all the threads to be stitched together, and the overall pattern to emerge. The provocative blog however is brewing…fermenting nicely, and your additives will help

  4. #13 by Katharine on August 12, 2012 - 2:44 pm

    Hi Roz – wish I’d had this post when I was making the choice between LS & CS a couple of weeks ago! One thing I’d add, is that LS don’t provide ISBNs so those of us in the UK have to buy a block of 10 elsewhere which increases the cost of publishing. LS also ask a lot of questions to test how serious you are before granting you an account. Both are now printing in the UK (once live – proofs still come from the US), but I think only LS offer the nicer matt covers in a range of sizes. I went with CreateSpace though because I started to get fazed by the LS process and, even though I didn’t need any of their (paid) support services, I found CS far easier to use.

    It will come down to personal preferences although I think LS would have been closer to emulating an offset print book. Am just waiting for my proof to arrive from CS and then hopefully the book will be out in hard copy!

    Thanks for this and other blog posts, you helped inform me on the self-publishing process and I’m very grateful for the information you’ve shared.


    • #14 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 12, 2012 - 3:03 pm

      Thank you, Katharine – I learn such a lot from other bloggers so I like to share when I can.

      I also found the LS set-up a bit daunting, especially considering the number of copies I thought I’d sell. In fact, Nail Your Novel has sold much better than I thought it would and continues to climb. Perhaps this is because of the 3-for-2 offers, I’m not sure. With the second one, I might consider LS as Daniel has, and add a CS edition if necessary.

      You’re right about the matt covers. Every now and then I ask CS if they’ll do matt covers as I do think they look a lot better.

      Also, good point about ISBNs.

  5. #15 by Zelah Meyer on August 12, 2012 - 2:56 pm

    I used CreateSpace. After I clicked publish on CS, it took a matter of days for my book to go live on (only two or three – I think it was two.)

    It took 18 days for my book to be available on After about a week it had a holding page for it with the opportunity for people to click to be notified when it became available – it took its time appearing though! I got the notification that it was available about two days after it actually went live.

    Thought I’d share that for anyone else going through the process who is wondering about wait times!

    Also worth noting, is that if you have a POD copy, then you need to factor in mandatory deposit costs into your set up figures. (This is true no matter who you go with.) If you’re a UK based author, then you’ll need to do mandatory deposit both in the UK (one print copy to the British Library) and the US (two print copies to the Library of Congress – presuming your book is available in the US.)

    I did my cover in Photoshop Elements using one of their templates. My biggest headache was getting a PDF with a small enough file size for their requirements, as I over-engineered my image quality to give me a degree of future proofing (as most of the e-book vendors keep increasing the minimum pixel size for covers.)

    I did the interior in Word & uploaded it as a Word document because I didn’t know if I’d got the PDF settings right. It worked out OK doing it like that – though I would have liked a bit more control over the layout than Word allowed me. I have a version of Serif PagePlus (version 10) that we got free with Computer Shopper, so I might take a look at that at some point & see what it can do. For now, it\’s an unknown program to me & I’m fairly comfortable with Word.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that the fading of the text towards the middle of the book on the CreateSpace previewer is designed to give the illusion of an open book & your text hasn’t actually got all faint & corrupted like I originally thought it had!

    I also probably should have left a bit more space at the top of my text, as it cut off the cover design a little lower than expected and my text is only about 3mm from the top of the book now. It\’s not too drastic an issue but I’ll fix it at some point. I just thought I’d mention that to remind others to make sure that all their essential elements (title, etc.) are well within the cut-off guidelines.

    (WordPress ate my first attempt at posting this because it wanted me to log in – and then seemingly forgot that I was in the middle of trying to post something! Apologies if a duplicate version somehow gets through!)

    • #16 by Zelah Meyer on August 12, 2012 - 2:59 pm

      I should perhaps clarify that I’m talking about the text on my cover design. If it were the interior text, I’d have corrected it already!

      • #17 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 13, 2012 - 8:50 am

        All good tips – thanks, Zelah! Margins are one of those issues that only really become visible when you see a proper print copy, even if you make a printout and wrap it around an existing book for a rough idea.
        PagePlus is quite easy, even without reading the manual – although I’ve used Quark so I had a rough idea of how programs like that are organised. If you can master Photoshop you’ll be well away.

  6. #18 by Philippa Rees on August 12, 2012 - 4:07 pm

    Roz, I’m sorry I have searched everywhere for the original comment and can’t find it. I assumed I read your long post through Linked In ( which dominates my inbox) but no RSS search has produced it. This comes from diving into deep waters ( the internet) when you can no longer swim. So I’ll try to reconstruct ( which never retains the freshness of the original) I just thanked you in all positions for the generosity of your post, its comprehensive analysis and said I was glad it would reach others (as it clearly has and will). Many of your recommendations ( get professionals for everything important in design) I have done, but the distribution issue seems to divide people. Katherine obviously felt as I did ( I also want matte covers!) but in the end LS seemed daunting, but then I rebuke myself and think if you can master a wordpress site, (not that I have, but getting there) a little technical jargon should not defeat. I also thought your point about Amazon Marketplace was a really good idea for a book that mostly will be read as a book, and given its weighty appearance (480 pages) maybe it would just be simpler to buy a awful lot of envelopes! I am probably now afraid of shadows. Anyway I hope my problem affords grazing for many to visit your marvellous site. Philippa

    • #19 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 13, 2012 - 8:55 am

      Philippa, thanks for the reprise! While you bang your head over LS, I furrow my forehead whenever I try to do anything at LinkedIn – it seems there’s only so much technical whatnot a brain can hold.

      Your book’s 480 pages? That is going to be expensive to produce, which means you’ll have to charge quite a lot for it and that may put off potential buyers. On the other hand, many academic texts are quite expensive, probably for this reason. If you were aiming at that market perhaps it wouldn’t matter.

  7. #20 by moonbridgebooks on August 12, 2012 - 6:54 pm

    Excellent, comprehensive article! I published using LSI before Amazon started falsely stating availability as anywhere from 2-8 weeks. I now tell people to print using both LSI and CS because of that as many are finding this problem. One thing not mentioned with CS expanded distribution is that yes, while the book gets into the B&T (I think Ingram, too?) system, book buyers from stores and libraries are not able to get industry standard terms (50-55% discount, returns allowed) from them so books are still not that attractive to them, not to mention their dislike of Amazon. This is something to think about for books that would pass muster with bookstores and libraries.

    • #21 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 13, 2012 - 9:04 am

      Thanks! I wondered whether to talk about other distributors.
      CS Expanded Distribution lists your book with third-party distributors Ingram and Baker and Taylor, but not, I found, Nielsen Bookscan, which is used by many UK retailers. But don’t let this put you off. I emailed Nielsen and was told I could enroll the book myself, free – and then it could be ordered by bookshops if necessary. Here’s the address – Can you do this with free ISBN from CS? Absolutely. Your book is eligible, wherever its ISBN came from.
      As for discounts, the standard CS discount is 60%, which is, I think, industry standard. But no returns are allowed, as you say.
      I found that local bookshops were happy to take my books. I get more profit if I order a batch myself and sell them to the shop at a 40% discount, sale or return (and that’s including the cost of shipping).
      Uncle Joel (again) has a video about the economics of getting POD books widely distributed in shops. He explains that you have to be able to print at a cost of one-eighth the cover price in order to make a profit if you do it the traditional way – with distributor, stock and sales force. POD books tend to cost so much that if you multiplied the cost price by 8 you’d price yourself out of the market! Knowing that probably doesn’t help anyone, except to highlight that if we’re aiming for serious volume print sales to shops, POD isn’t the way to do it competitively.

  8. #22 by jennymilchj on August 13, 2012 - 1:37 am

    So happy when I hear about indie print editions 🙂 To paraphrase Junie B. Jones, the kids’ cult heroine: Print books are my favorites, of course!

  9. #24 by Laura Pauling (@laurapauling) on August 14, 2012 - 12:05 am

    This was terrific. I’m still contemplating between the two as there are advantages to both. But as time goes on more Indies seem to prefer CS. Interesting.

    • #25 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 14, 2012 - 7:09 pm

      CS is definitely easiest, Laura – but see the next comment down about customer service. Although I haven’t had any problems, Jayfingers clearly has.

  10. #26 by Jay Fingers on August 14, 2012 - 4:44 pm

    I initially published my first novel through CS. At frst, there were no issues. But then problems began to arise — issues with shipping, royalty payments not arriving on time. The staff are nice and all, but ultimately ineffectual. When I told a senior customer support rep that they were in danger of losing my business over $8, instead of offering to keep me (as a customer) happy, he simply cited “company policy” and said there was nothing that could be done for me. As someone who’s worked in customer service management, his answer was unacceptable.

    I also set up an account with LS, to produce the hardcover edition of my novel. Since then, I’ve also released a second book, in paperback. I’ve yet to experience any issue with LS. I have a dedicated rep who answers any and all questions in a timely fashion, and I find the quality of the final books is leaps and bounds ahead of CS. Further, LS gives the option of matte covers as opposed to cheap-looking glossy covers. That’s a bonus.

    My LS-only title has been promoted in Amazon’s ‘three-for-two’ offers as well. That was unexpected, and it lets me know I don’t need to go with CS to receive such benefit.

    I get it. Signing up with LS can be difficult. The contracts and forms are daunting. And I know most hate the set-up fees. But I will say it is WELL WORTH THE EFFORT AND EXPENSE to deal with a company that knows what they are doing and are willing to go above and beyond.

    As for CreateSpace, well, they’re a company that’s willing to piss away a good customer over $8. So, yeah, they’ll never get an endorsement from me.

    • #27 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 14, 2012 - 7:12 pm

      Jay, that’s awful. My royalty payments have always arrived on time, so it sounds like something has gone badly wrong. I did say in my piece that the acid test would be if anyone had had a problem, and yours certainly does not present an impressive picture.

      It’s interesting to hear that you got 3-for-2 with LS – so far no one who’s used LS has mentioned this, although of course that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Thanks very much for your input, it’s useful to hear the other side.

  11. #28 by Denise M. Hartman on August 14, 2012 - 5:04 pm

    I thought I understood that US libraries only work through distribution channels that only are available on LS. I thought that would be my way of making a decision between the two, but reading all your great comments I am not so sure. I’m just adding print availability to my novel’s ebook availability. I do have my own ISBNs, so that is already covered however I do it. Library purchases anyone?

    • #29 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 14, 2012 - 7:17 pm

      Denise, I found that I could add my books to other distribution channels simply by emailing for the forms – so that may make little difference. Also, some of the channels in CS expanded distribution supply libraries. I think the bigger problem, though, is getting the book known about first of all. Without effective publicity it’s just another title on a list. (Although you may have that sorted…)

    • #30 by Daniel R. Marvello on August 14, 2012 - 7:55 pm

      One of the best things about LS is control. You can choose to allow returns or not. You can set the discount to whatever you want. This has big implications for anyone going for the bookstore or library market.

      With CS, your discount is 60% and you cannot offer returns. So you keep 40% (less printing costs), the distribution catalog (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc) keeps15%, and CS keeps 20%. That only leaves 25% for the retailers and libraries, which is well below the industry standard 40% they expect.

      With LSI, you can set your discount to 55% and choose to offer returns or not. You get 45% (less printing costs), the distribution catalog gets 15%, and the retailer/library gets the remaining 40%. So you can actually set your discount lower at LSI and still offer an industry standard discount to retailers/libraries.

      Libraries don’t care about returns, but they may care about getting the standard discount. Some booksellers and libraries may order your books even at the lower discount, but I’m betting it won’t be their first choice.

  12. #31 by Nick Thacker - Writer, Blogger, Lifehacker on August 14, 2012 - 5:14 pm

    Hi Roz!

    Thanks for the great article, and all your work! This answered some questions for me–I’ve gone through the CS and Lulu processes, but never LS. I’m currently in the post-paperwork process w/ them, though, so it shouldn’t be too much longer!

    My question is: is there a noticeable physical difference between CS and LS? Like, paper, weight, cover, binding, etc.? I’d like to “feel” one of each, but I haven’t been able to yet. What are your (or anyone else’s) thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

    • #32 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 14, 2012 - 7:24 pm

      Nick, for book interiors there seems to be very little difference in quality between CS and LS. Binding seems to be equivalent quality.
      There’s more of a difference with covers. You can’t have matt covers with CS, only gloss. LS are far more fussy about the PDF specifications – which means that you ultimately get a lot more control over the colour gradations and brightness with LS. We found that a PDF that printed in rich colours on LS was dark and sludgy on CS – probably because CS do some kind of averaging.

      Anyone else?

      • #33 by Nick Thacker - Writer, Blogger, Lifehacker on August 14, 2012 - 7:39 pm

        Awesome, thanks Roz! Yeah, that’s sort of what I expected. However, I did think that since there was more of an upfront investment with LS, their interiors would be “out of this world” better–oh well!

        And it’s a shame with the covers: I’m a huge fan of the matte finish rather than gloss. Maybe one day!

        Thanks again, and interested to hear from anyone else w/ experience!

    • #34 by Daniel R. Marvello on August 14, 2012 - 7:43 pm

      We’ve published books through both CS and LSI, and here’s what we’ve found regarding differences (some duplicates what Roz said):

      * The “creme” paper offering is different between the two printers. The CS creme is darker and slightly thicker–enough so you may need to increase the spine width if you move your book from LS to CS. Personally, I find the lighter creme offered by LS to be more attractive, smoother feeling, and better for readability.

      * You can get gloss or matte finish from LS. CS only offers gloss.

      * You can print a hardback edition through LS. CS does not offer hardback right now.

      * Print-run consistency is not as good as offset with either printer. Both have a tolerance (“safe area”) of 1/16th inch, which has implications for cover design (e.g. avoid hard color transitions from the front to the side or side to the back.) Since POD books are printed one-at-a-time, these tolerances affect each individual book printed. A single print run of even 10 books can produce books with covers shifted slightly to the left, shifted to the right, and dead-on.

      * If you set a CS book and an LS book side-by-side on a table, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between them. Both use toner-based presses that produce acceptable but not exceptional quality.

      In general, we prefer the production options and print quality of LS over CS. We’ve also had more printing errors with CS than LS (enough so I worry about what my customers are getting), but I know other publishers who claim the opposite.

      • #35 by Nick Thacker - Writer, Blogger, Lifehacker on August 14, 2012 - 7:54 pm

        Awesome, Daniel–this is great! Thanks for the help, and the insight!

        It may be awhile, but I’m definitely to try out LS in the future!

      • #36 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 14, 2012 - 8:12 pm

        Awesome, Daniel – thanks! Er, what printing errors? I thought each company printed exactly what you gave them….

      • #37 by Daniel R. Marvello on August 14, 2012 - 8:53 pm

        We’ve seen three kinds of printing problems that come immediately to mind:

        * Toner problems: The margin or text has “goobers” on it, like a vertical stripe down part of the margin (repeated across multiple pages) in one case. We’ve also seen problems with text fading.

        * Trim problems: The interior of the book is trimmed so the text does not line up properly on the page. My copy of Nail Your Novel has this problem, and we’ve seen it on other books too (including our own proofs). The lines slope in some or part of the book, so the text is not parallel to the top and bottom of the page.

        * Color problems: The cover for one of our books looked perfect when printed at LSI, but the same cover was distinctly more “purple” in cast when printed at CS. The CS cover was wrong enough to really annoy the designer. (Note: I believe this error could happen with LSI just as easily).

        In case you are wondering, the first half of my copy of NYN is perfect. The text only starts to slope at about page 100. I just measured the text slope on the first line of the “About the Author” page of NYN. The bottom of the “R” in “Roz” is at 6.9 cm, and the “r” in “other” is at 6.8 cm. That’s only 1mm difference in a line that is 9cm long (1.1%), but it’s visually quite noticeable.

        • #38 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 15, 2012 - 2:38 pm

          *splutter*! This is the stuff I never get to see. I already moved my name down on the cover because some copies I had looked unforgivably close to the top, even though I’d designed it with leeway. But perhaps I need to move it down further so that wonky trimming is not so noticeable. Or use LS for the next book… Hmmm

        • #39 by Daniel R. Marvello on August 15, 2012 - 5:46 pm

          I wouldn’t worry about it, Roz. Although my copy has the problem I described, the very next copy CS produced may have been perfect. It isn’t really a CS problem, it’s a POD problem. We just have to give our printers the best files we can and hope that more copies end up looking right than not.

          That said, here are a few things my designer recommends when creating books for POD (you probably already know this stuff, but I’m including it for others):

          * Layout purists insist on a narrow gutter (inside margin), which was fine in the days of sewn bindings, but hurts readability/durability in the days of perfect (glued) bindings. The gutter should be wide enough to allow the reader to easily read the text without breaking the spine of the book.

          * On the cover, avoid putting anything important within 1/8 inch of the trimmed edges. Otherwise, the 1/16th-inch tolerance of POD may shift the text/image right up to the edge.

          * Also on the cover, avoid putting a different color on the spine than on the front or back. If you do use different colors, you can end up with a stripe of the front or back color on the spine, or worse, a stripe of the spine color on the front or back. If you really want a different spine color, consider a gradient that fades at least a 1/4 inch onto the front and back covers.

          * Photos tend to reproduce poorly in black-and-white POD book interiors. Images should be at least 300 DPI and have good contrast. If the original image is color, you will get the best results if you convert the image to greyscale using your image editing software and tweak it before you insert it into the book.

          For what it’s worth, NYN is consistent with all of these suggestions (except I didn’t see any interior images).

          • #40 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on August 15, 2012 - 7:14 pm

            Terrific tips. Glad NYN passed – half of that must be accidental, so it’s brilliant to have it confirmed.

    • #41 by Denise M. Hartman on August 26, 2012 - 4:35 pm

      Thanks Roz, Nick, and Daniel — I’m leaning further and further toward LS for my first run. We’ll see.

  13. #42 by Bob - recovering lawyer, turned to writing and thus flunked retirement on September 6, 2012 - 2:40 pm

    Dog Ear Publishing ( the self-publishing house I selected to handle my Maine-based police procedure novel Unnatural Deaths.- and after considerable research on the subject, I might add – uses LS. I am quite pleased with their operation. I was unaware of CS. The colors in my cover and spine came out sharply with no bleed-over. I am fortunate enough to have a relative who does graphic design for a living and helped me with the layout.

    • #43 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 6, 2012 - 6:09 pm

      Hi Bob! Apparently the spine slippage is a potential problem with all POD books, especially as each book is a one-off. You may spot a few glitches yet – but on the other hand, you may be lucky.

      I’m curious that you used a ‘self-publishing house’. I’m not familiar with the term, and of course everyone has their own terminology. What exactly did they do?

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