Createspace vs. Lightning Source For Self-Published Print Books

Award-winning author Terri Giuliano Long originally wrote this article for me in October, 2011. The Huffington Post published her comprehensive update in 2013. Link here to read Paperback Distribution: Createspace vs. Lightning Source.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the plunge and publish your book. Welcome to the indie revolution! In addition to the myriad design and marketing decisions you’re about to make, you must also decide whether to publish only in eBook format or publish in hard copy too. Authors choose one option or the other for various reasons. For our purposes, we’ll assume that you’ve decided to publish your masterpiece, your baby, in paper.

Which service do you use? If you’re the nervous type who prefers everything done for you, you may want to go with one of the full-service self-publishing houses. It’s been a publishing lifetime since those so-called “vanity presses” made their debut. Back in the day, print on demand was a dirty word and authors who published with these shady companies worked (their detractors whispered), under the sick yellow glint of supreme self-delusion.

Today, even the top dogs use POD technology, and terrific full-service publishers, like Pennsylvania-based Infinity Publishing, offer an array of high-quality services and print books that rival any I’ve seen on the market. Of course, those services come at a cost. Royalties are typically low and retail prices can be high.

If you’re looking for a low cost, high royalty option, the two major competitors are Createspace and Lightning Source. While both are reputable companies that produce library-quality books, there are major benefits, drawbacks and differences to each that every author should be aware of before making an educated choice.

Createspace is a quick, relatively simple, inexpensive option for authors hoping to sell high-quality hard copies of their self-published books primarily online. With Createspace, publishing a book is easy and hassle-free; optional services include complete setup, cover design, formatting, and marketing. CS also offers a free DIY book creation service. Or, if you wish, you can hire your own designer. As long as your digital file meets CS specifications, you’re good to go. You can use your own ISBN (purchased separately, on your own) or, if you prefer, Createspace will supply one for you. (If you opt to distribute through the library and academic institution channel, however, you must use a CS-assigned ISBN. When I published my CS edition, that’s the reason I used theirs.)

Like most self-publishing companies, Createspace allows the author/publisher to choose the book’s retail price. By self-publishing standards, the CS per/book cost is low, offering authors the flexibility of choosing either a higher royalty (by setting a higher retail price) or a lower retail price (enticing for buyers, but lower royalties to the author).

With retail pricing, CS and LS are comparable. Compared to other self-publishing companies, CS and LS come out ahead. At one point, I considered working with a full-service self-publisher. I loved the company, found the staff friendly and professional, their design services excellent, and their print quality superior to CS; problem was, their sales model, which offered absolutely no flexibility, would have forced me to set my retail price at a minimum of $17.95, a cost that I felt would price my book out of the market.

Createspace offers no return policy, which means corporate brick-and-mortar bookstore chains are unlikely to stock your book. According to a Createspace customer service rep, the company instituted this policy to protect their authors: returns are unpredictable and, with shipping and handling expenses, accepting returns can get costly. This is certainly true, particularly if you factor in return shipping and handling changes.

For expanded distribution channels, CS offers a set wholesale discount of 40%. The author has no choice in this. The industry standard is 55%, with 47% and under considered a “short discount.” While, yes, less of a discount means that authors earn a higher royalty, a sub-standard discount decreases incentives for bookstores.

Today, with the rapid decline in bookstore sales, and the majority of sales occurring online, you may not care if bookstores carry your paperback book. However, if you suddenly find yourself with a hot-selling title, you may change your mind. If you try to place your CS-distributed book in bookstores, you’ll run into problems. When In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble bestseller list in August, B&N considered stocking the paperback in their brick and mortar stores. When they realized that Createspace was the distributor, they declined, citing the CS non-return policy. I never reached the point of negotiating discounts. Unfortunately, I ran into the same thing with other bookstores.

Of course, stores can always order your book from Createspace to fill a customer request. Nevertheless, if they don’t stock your book – put it on their shelf or, better yet, in their window – you lose impulse buyers and bookstore loyalists, as well as bookstore employee evangelists. As a solution, Createspace suggests hand-selling your book. If you approach your local B&N or independent bookstore, especially if they anticipate enough local interest to generate sales, there is a good chance that they’ll agree to stock your book. As an incentive, you can offer your own return policy or perhaps ask them if they’ll accept your books on consignment.

These are great ideas, but selling books by hand takes time and energy that many authors simply don’t have.

In August, when Barnes & Noble declined to stock my book, I contracted with Lightning Source to print and distribute a separate ILW edition. It’s too soon to determine if this will have been a good or bad move. While the Lightening Source print edition of ILW is now readily available to stores, and can be ordered for overnight pickup, LS reports only total sale numbers, giving me no way to tell if bookstores have ordered copies to shelf.

Despite nearly equal numbers – in September, I sold 223 paperback books through Createspace and 188 through Lightning Source – my Lightning Source edition ranks consistently lower on Amazon than my Createspace edition. This hour, for example, my LS rank is #22,678, CS #4522. Sales calculations determine rank. This disparity in Amazon rank, and again with total sales being roughly equal, suggests that many of my LS sales come from retailers other than Amazon.

Lightning Source, the go-to POD publisher for big guys like Random House, offers library-quality POD as well as offset printing (for higher print runs). They can also scan existing hard copies, a service CS doesn’t offer.

The return policy and wholesale discount makes LS books more attractive to booksellers. LS publishers have the option of accepting or not accepting returns. As a publisher, you set your own retail discount – I offer the standard 55% but you may offer less – giving you flexibility in offering wholesale incentives.

Lightning Source distributes titles through all the major players, including Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Bertrams, and others, which means that stores, libraries and academic institutions can buy LS books without making any changes to their process. Theoretically, if you go with LS, bookstores, libraries and academic institutions should be more inclined to buy your books.

Lightning Source costs more than CS. LS charges a $37.50 setup fee and $30 for proofs. Later, if you need to make corrections, you’ll be charged $30 per file change, plus $30 for a new proof. Createspace offers free setup, proofs have the same low set-cost as books, based on size and page count – in my case, $5.17 – and each file change costs $25, in addition to the set single book charge.

Should you decide to order a book for your own use or to give to a friend, Lightning Source charges more too. One copy of In Leah’s Wake from Lightning Source costs $6.30, plus shipping; the same book from Createspace – if I’m enrolled in their Pro Plan – costs $5.17, plus shipping. The difference is, the price of CS books is set, with the same cost for 1 or 500 books, while Lightning Source offers quantity discounts.

With LS, the book creation process is more complicated than with CS. First, LS is entirely DIY. Although they do provide optional marketing services, they offer no design services. If you run into a problem with a digital file, you’re responsible for making corrections. While the same is true with CS, CS offers design services.

Before you begin, you must create a publishing company. There is no need to incorporate. You can set up an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) or operate under a trade name, also called a DBA (Doing Business As). Here’s info from the Small Business Association on both. Lightening Source requires you to fill out a standard business application. This is not a hugely big deal, but it can be time-consuming. By the time I had my paperwork in order and submitted, two weeks had gone by.

Another drawback: Amazon stocks CS titles, while listing LS titles as having a 1 – 4 week delivery time. (LS claims to ship Web orders within 5 days.) This is purely anecdotal, but the delivery lag seems to be a turn-off for buyers. On Amazon, my LS edition retails for $2.00 less than my CS edition, yet my CS sales are much higher. To check the veracity of Amazon’s listed delivery times, I ordered a copy of my LS title; it arrived in less than a week.

Amazon’s delivery time for my LS edition recently increased from 3 to up to 4 weeks, so these artificially extended delivery times may be a marketing decision on Amazon’s part. I’m not sure. It’s possible that they’ll reverse it, but, while I hate to be a naysayer, I don’t see that happening unless they get a lot of flack.

SELLING THROUGH BOTH DISTRIBUTORS: You may be thinking, as I did – I’m smart: I’ll use CS for Amazon sales and LS for distribution. If so, hold on.

First, by publishing print editions through both companies, using separate ISBN numbers (as I currently do), you kick yourself in the head. Book Scan, the company that tracks book sales, tracks by ISBN number. There is no way to show that two ISBN numbers belong to one book. Having two separate editions of a book hurts your sales rank. This is true on retail sites like Amazon and it’s also true of tracking for bestseller lists like USA Today or the NY Times. As we all know, once they hit stride, bestselling books sell because they’re bestsellers.

The other day, my CS edition ranked under 3500 on Amazon, while my LS edition ranked over 19,000. If every sale were credited to one edition, the higher sales numbers should have put my rank under 1000. Sales numbers affect not only buyer perception. They also determine where your book populates in queues. A book with high sales finds its way into the “readers who bought this also bought this” queues of popular titles.  When you finish a book you loved, where do look for another? First, check the author’s backlist – and then you look at those queues. Believe me, a book on the first page of the queue on the detail page for The Help sells copies.

A book queued with a hot title has what we refer to as “a positive meta-message.” In other words, a book associated with a hot title gains status in the buyer’s mind. Currently, ILW is queued with Midwives, While I Was Gone, and a few other older Oprah book picks. I’m ecstatic! Truly, I am. But, what if I’d been smart and stuck with one edition? Combined sales may have put it in the queue with newer bestsellers, maybe even on a back page in the queue under The Help.

Yes, if you own the ISBN for your book, you may use the same number for both LS & CS print editions.  BUT – while this may help your Book Scan rank – if you’re NY Times bestseller caliber, kudos to you – it changes nothing on Amazon, the world’s number one reseller. On Amazon you will still have two detail pages – one for the CS and one for the LS edition. Despite using the same ISBN number, sales of CS and LS editions will be credited separately. So, except for Book Scan, you’ll still be dealing with ALL problems outlined above.

NOTE: I was contacted recently by Aaron Shepherd/Shepherd Publications. According to Aaron, who’s published 12 books, if you use the same ISBN number for your Lightning Source and Createspace books, you will not – as I had been told by the CS rep I spoke with – end up with two detail pages. Here’s how Aaron recommends getting around this:  You may still encounter the problems I mention above with availability and stocking. 

I haven’t tried Aaron’s method, only because I  just learned about it and have not yet had time to make the adjustments. Although it seems rather complicated and time-intensive, it may be worth trying. 

Important: LS requires you to own the ISBN. You can NOT use a Createspace-supplied ISBN number with LS. If you publish with CS and opt-in to the library and academic institution distribution channel, you MUST use a CS ISBN.

It takes about 4 – 6 weeks for LS titles to populate on online retailer sites. A few weeks after mine did, spurred by the rank issue – sadly I’d failed to consider the rank issue beforehand – I contacted LS and asked them to cancel distribution to Amazon. I figured I’d use CS to service the Amazon behemoth and LS everywhere else.

No dice. With Lightning Source, it’s all or nothing. You distribute or you don’t. You can’t pick and choose.

Meanwhile, I’d already cancelled CS distribution. Practically overnight, the CS edition disappeared from online retailer shelves – e.g. BN – leaving me with a LS-distributed book with a 1 -3 week delivery time! Ack! Only one week earlier, the LS book had been listed as in stock! SO . . . I re-upped CS distribution – what choice did I have? – putting me right back at square one.

My advice? Wait until your eBook sales pop to spring for a paperback. Six months is a light-year in this evolving publishing world, and who knows? The rules may have changed by then. Or, publish your paperback with Createspace.

If you have the time and resources, consider hand selling to bookstores. If sales justify it (you’ll have to decide when that is) and you can afford to, offer your own return policy. This may not fly with corporate retailers like Barnes and Noble, but it will probably work in local BN and some indie bookstores.

For now, while it’s certainly not optimal, experience tells me that’s our best bet.

Terri Giuliano Long grew up in the company of stories both of her own making and as written by others. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when her award-winning debut literary novel, In Leah’s Wake, hit the Barnes and Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed! Follow Terri on twitter @tglong, and visit her website.

In Leah’s Wake can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also available at local indie bookstores through IndieBound.

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54 Responses to Createspace vs. Lightning Source For Self-Published Print Books

  1. bridgetstraub October 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    This is one of the most helpful posts I have read so far as I plot to self-publish. Thank you!

    • Molly Greene October 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

      Terri is the best, isn’t she? Thank you so much, Bridget!

      • Terri Giuliano Long October 18, 2011 at 1:23 am #

        I really can’t take all the credit. This was Molly’s brainchild. I’m thrilled that you’ve found it helpful, Bridget! Thank you so much!!

  2. ggallen October 18, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Terri – this is great info! I’ve studied between the two for a while as well. Part of the issue is that Amazon wants to play bully on the playground and force people to use their services (CS). The “not stocked for 3 weeks” for LS books is all on purpose (though no one admits). Here is some more info on that: (For print: LS also will do matted covers while CS only goes glossy. Just wanted to throw that out there too!)

    • Terri Giuliano Long October 18, 2011 at 1:22 am #

      Thank you so much for the info, Greg!! I’ve heard the same thing. My LS page does give one-week delivery on Web orders; I’m not sure if that applies to Amazon. I hadn’t considered glossy v matte covers – but that’s a great point. Until I sat down, researched and wrote this piece, I would have advised LS. But the delivery times can mess people up and I’m not sure that most authors are as concerned – or should be – as I was about distribution issues. But, again, this is great info. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation!!

  3. Billy October 18, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    Wow, I can’t believe these are being touted as the only 2 options. We are a print shop that has been around 40 years and offer everything they do as well. We can design the cover, format the insides, get an ISBN/Barcode, build an author website with SEO, print 50-10,000 books in a week, PR and marketing, get you on Amazon, create an E-Book, fulfillment, and editting. I know these are the 2 big names from a marketing perspective, but we get ALOT of people that come from them with the same complaints. Customer service, quality, pricing, turnaround, and long-term profitabilty concerns. The reason, we are a family business that cares about the book, the author, and the deadline. That and we answer the phone. I have spoken at many seminars on the topic and feel like these companies have mainly both succeeded thanks to Amazon and unlimited funding. I appreciate the opportunity to speak my mind and just feel kind of depressed when I see that there are only 2 places to get a book done on demand when we have been helping authors succeed for 40 years doing the same thing. Thank you

    • Molly Greene October 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      Hi Billy! Thank you so much for your comment. Actually, we’re not touting CS and LS as the only options, just addressing the pros and cons of the major players and Terri’s experiences with them. As noted in the article, her first preference was neither of these two, but she ultimately decided the book price wouldn’t work for her. Wonderful to know you have a viable, valuable option – we look forward to reading your blogs & tweets about the benefits your company offers our peers!

  4. Cyndy Drew Etler October 18, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    Great post. Love that you don’t fear going in-depth with your logic. A dork needs the depth! Have been planning on going with CreateSpace; your breakdown validates my instinct. Thank you.

    • Molly Greene October 18, 2011 at 2:03 am #

      Thanks, Cyndy, and good luck with your book!

  5. Cyndy Etler (@CyndyDrew) October 18, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    Self-pubbers, read this!

  6. Mindy Ross (@Mindy1114) October 18, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I think I’ll go with ebooks only. Dorchester Media is currently going that way and it is one of the oldest companies. If it can’t make it with hard copies; I probably can’t either. Has anyone had experience with It doesn’t seem so bad, but then it may be too good to be true. Anyway, thanks for posting this story. I found it interesting.

  7. Jan Jacob Mekes October 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Very helpful article. Looks like I’m going to go with CreateSpace for the paperback edition of my soon-to-be-finished book!

  8. Jennie October 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Thanks for a great post, Terri! I had picked CreateSpace because they seemed to be more commonly used. After reading all the details you broke down, I have some other things to factor into my decision for the next book — though I still think I’ll end up going with CreateSpace if nothing has changed by then.

    • Molly Greene October 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

      We have a feeling many things will change along with our quickly-evolving industry. Jennie, thanks so much for your comment!

  9. Pamela Beason October 18, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Thanks for the analysis, Terri! (And thanks for posting it, Molly!) It is all very confusing and time-consuming. My current plan is to use both CS and LSI with the same ISBN, as recommended by Aaron Shepard, self-publishing guru. We’ll see how that plays out… the rules are constantly changing.

    • Molly Greene October 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

      It IS confusing and time-consuming, and we’re looking forward to hearing about your experiences and what you think! Thanks so much, Pam, I am a huge fan. Reading “Shaken” right now and loving it. I want more of these characters already!

    • Terri Giuliano Long October 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      Hi Everyone,

      Thank you so very much for your kind words!! I’m thrilled that you find the post helpful. That means a lot to me! It’s the reason I wrote this. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my journey. If I can help others avoid them or lead people in a positive direction, I’m happy.

      A few comments – as I mention, LS and CS are not the only options. I considered going with a highly regarded small press. I loved their work. The problem was, their retail price was, I felt, too high. It would have priced my book out of the market – and, in my opinion, it was too much money to ask people to pay. There was no negotiating – I understand; they have a business plan – so I opted to go with CS instead. That said, self-publishing presses provide a valuable service and do a lot for you. Some have an excellent reputation; others not. Author costs and retail prices vary as do royalties, so please do your research before choosing.

      Pamela – I understand and honor your decision to go with both LS and CS. Book Scan tracks by ISBN, so this will give you a more accurate accounting of your sales. Please be aware, though, you will still have two detail pages on Amazon, one for your CS edition, one for LS. This dilutes sales and affects Amazon algorithms. I tried to find a way around this and spoke at length with CS. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be changed. I don’t mean to be pushy. I just feel that some of the info about this can be misleading. We need to make decisions based on our own circumstances, which may or may not differ from those of the person offering the advice – myself included.

      I hope you all have a wonderful day! Thank you again for taking the time to read my post!

      Warmest wishes,


      • Pamela Beason October 24, 2011 at 2:22 am #

        Thanks for the warning, Terri. I’m not sure what to do about the two detail pages at Amazon. So far my LS book shows up as “in stock” and gives me a much better royalty than CS would. So now I’m wondering if I can use LS for distribution and CS for printing copies I can sell on consignment with indie stores and to friends…

        • Molly Greene October 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

          Pam and all readers: We’ve added new info about a potential work-around that may help. See Terri’s note about “working with both companies.” Thanks!

  10. Jane George October 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Hi Terri and Molly!

    Thanks for laying it all out there. I have another question, is there anything an author can do if they chose CS, own their book’s ISBN, yet still want to get into libraries?


    • Molly Greene October 19, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      Jane, this per Terri: “CS is supposed to get you in libraries through their distribution chain. The truth is libraries VERY rarely take indie books. I’ve given books to 6 or so libraries and they gladly accept them, but their funds are extremely limited. Couple that w/indie stigma and they won’t buy them. I’m of the mind that the more readers the better, so happy to give books away!”

      • Jane George October 19, 2011 at 12:40 am #

        Thanks – That makes me feel a bit better. In order to get into libraries through CS’s distribution, you must have a CS ISBN. CS won’t allow me to click that option because I own my own ISBN. Providing local libraries with copies is a great idea.

        I’m just trying to ponder the best ways to distribute subsequent books.

        • Molly Greene October 19, 2011 at 12:56 am #

          Yikes, that’s right, CS does require that you use their ISBN in that case. Good option for you, then!

      • Cyndy Etler (@CyndyDrew) October 19, 2011 at 1:05 am #

        Don’t you all love it when a good post takes off?! Anyway, I was just talking to a librarian today about this. She’s heard portions of my book and loves it, and said I should do the following: A) make sure I go with the library-friendly ISBN from my self-pubber. Okay, she didn’t say that part, I knew it already, from conversations with Createspace. It costs in a higher bracket, but it’s worth it, to be in the running for library-purchases. B) Go directly to the given library system’s purchasing person and “make your pitch.” Make them need to read your book. Maybe give ’em an author copy, in hopes they’ll love it so much they’ll buy more…C) She said if you can get a Library of Congress endorsement, you’re in like Flynn. That was totally a new concept to me, and I haven’t researched what it means yet, but it sounds like the Golden Ticket of advice from the horse’s mouth.

        • Molly Greene October 19, 2011 at 1:15 am #

          Hey, I thought it was “In like Flint?” SO glad you posted this info here, so happy to be part of this incredible group of self-pubbers. Thank you, Cyndy!

  11. Todd Moody (@ToddRMoody) October 19, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    This is one of the best posts of the year Terri and Molly. So much good info in here. Wish I had something to add, but I’m still working on finishing my first book. I’m spreading the word though! Great great great post!

    • Molly Greene October 19, 2011 at 12:40 am #

      Todd, Terri and I both thank you so very much for your kind words! So happy to be able to help in any way.

  12. scotthunterbooks October 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    What’s really irritating about CS is the proof delivery time delay. Will I get a proof this year . . . ? sheeeesh! Thanks for the informative post! Scott Hunter.

    • Billy October 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      When you have 10,000,000 customers, there unfortunately is not a rush for anybody. What gets lost in the shuffle is book signing dates, release dates, and turnaround time.

  13. Catherine Bybee October 19, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Fantastic post. I’ve been with a small press who uses LS and have only recently self published. I agree that an author should wait to see where sales look like in six months then decide if a print is in order.

    • Molly Greene October 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      Catherine, thank you so much for the read – best to you on your project!

  14. Elle Strauss October 19, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience–very eye opening!

  15. Joanne October 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this part of your journey Terri. There’s so much for a writer to know along the way, and having resources like this does help as we make our way along the self-publishing path. And I’d think that every twist and turn in the road with this book will only help to make the next book’s journey that much smoother 🙂

  16. Susan Kaye Quinn October 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Fantastic article!! Thank you so much for sharing this VERY valuable information. I had already decided to go with Createspace for my soon-to-be-released novel, but I can already see that (if sales justify it) it would be fantastic to approach the local B&N and see if they would carry it. I was thinking I would switch to LS some time after release, but I never considered the ranking issue. But I’m thinking now that having it available to the bookstores on LS (and, really, assuming those sales are going to be minimal) while keeping CS for my main customers (who will order online), might be the way to go. At least I have more data now to weigh the choice!

    Great post!

    • Molly Greene October 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      Thanks so much, Susan! Terri and I are happy that you found it helpful and grateful that you took the time to read and comment! Best of luck to you on your project!

  17. Laura Zera (@laurazera) October 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Terri and Molly, thanks so much for the detailed information. I haven’t looked at anything to do with the self-pub industry since 2004, and as we know, that was, like, a grillion publishing years ago. At that time, I did a self-pub using a small-run print shop and then contracted for two years with Biblio Distribution to get the book into stores (and yes, Terri, I fully agree that returns are painful and costly!). Biblio has since closed and sent all of its more recent publisher clients over to AtlasBooks Distribution, which is an arm of BookMasters. Are either of those on your radar? I just wonder where they fall in the self-pub continuum these days, and if they’re even a player. At any rate, thanks again for a very informative post. Had I been blogging in 2004 (were there even blogs then?) I would have also had plenty of ‘lessons learned the hard way’ to write about, so really appreciate that you’ve shared yours.

  18. John Chapman (@JChapmanAuthor) November 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Thanks for this – a very informative post. One other company you might like to consider is who offer the choice of hardback, paperback and e-book. Worth a look I think since CS only offers paperbacks.

    • Molly Greene November 11, 2011 at 1:20 am #

      Thanks so much, John!

  19. Harriet Schultz December 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    i know this post is two months old, but I’m so glad I found it and I hope my question can still be answered!
    My problem is with the lack of U.K distribution by CreateSpace, which only prints its books in the U.S. and then ships internationally (expensive). My book, which is now in e-book formats through Amazon and Smashwords, will be heavily promoted in the U.K., so I’m leaning toward LS, which has distribution there. However, CS has distinct advantages in the U.S. so I’m totally confused.
    If you own your ISBN, can you publish identical books with both LS and CS or does one have to differ in some way from the other?

    • Molly Greene December 27, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

      Hi Harriet! Thanks for your question! I’ve asked Terri what she thinks, will let you know when I have an answer.

  20. Jane Steen January 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    What a useful article. And thanks for saving me some time – filing a DBA has been on my to-do list, but thanks to your link I didn’t have to search for it.

    Molly, I’m enjoying your re-postings. Yours is one of the more informative blogs. Thank you.

  21. Joanne January 26, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    This is great! Exactly the information I was looking for. Am about to launch my mystery series with THE TEMPORARY DETECTIVE, using my own imprint, Dulcet Press. I would do it solely as an ebook except that my indie trade published book, PANDORA’S BOTTLE, has given me some loyal readers who I know don’t have e-readers. So, while it is important for me to have a paperback available from the start, I’m also realistic about how (un) likely a brick and mortar store is to stock a new soft-boiled mystery title by an unknown author. CreateSpace it is!

  22. Siri Weber Feeney January 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    This is a great article, thank you so much.

    I have been comparing info on both LightningSource and CreateSpace. When researching something else, I found the info quoted below, on CreateSpace.

    It appears to be either a new change in CreateSpace policy, or a hard-to-find snippet on one of their FAQ pages (read all the way down, the info is in the last sentence):

    “Can I publish my book with another publisher even while it’s in the CreateSpace program?

    Yes. However, if CreateSpace assigns an ISBN to your book, this ISBN belongs to CreateSpace and may not be used to publish your book with another publisher.

    Aditionally, if you have CreateSpace assign an ISBN to your title and intend to sell both books on, multiple detail pages may result on’s retail catalog. Alternatively, if you intend to use an ISBN that you have purchased, one detail page will be created.”

  23. Justin Bog April 24, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Hi Terri and Molly

    I loved your post. I am so happy I found it through googling LS & CS. After reading and studying your choices (and reading the article more than once & passing along to my IT guru), I have quite a decision ahead of me. I appreciate the sound reasoning you use to write about the print-on-demand process here, and hope for the best. May both of your writing lives prosper.

    • Molly Greene April 24, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Hi Justin! Terri did a great job on that post and I think it’s helped us all. So glad you found us!

  24. Morgan St. James May 9, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Extremely interesting and valuable article. Put it in my “saves” and will refer to it. This is a fair comparison of the pros and cons of CREATESPACE and LIGHTNING SOURCE and how to determine what’s best for you personally.

    I’ve been published traditionally and also published for other titles through both of the above companies. I determine what I want from the book, what the timeline needs are and several other considerations for each book. Now I have more pros and cons to add into the decision-making process.

    • Molly Greene May 9, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m grateful to Terri Long for sharing this valuable information with all of us.

  25. Suzan Tisdale May 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I had never heard of LS before so thank you for the information! I’ll be sure to check them out. This was a very informative article. ;o)

  26. Deborah H. Bateman May 16, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Thanks for sharing this article. It is very informative. Having two eBooks on Amazon and interested in doing them in print, I found this article very helpful.
    Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author

    • Morgan St. James May 16, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      It’s always good to know the players and the rules of the game. I’ve used both and made my decisions based upon what I wanted from the book relative to distribution and the markets it would hit. Glad you found it informative.

  27. Peter Taylor June 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    Greetings from Australia and thank you for this insight and article. I and many others will find it most useful.

    I believe you need to carefully consider how/if you plan to sell copies yourself and what they will cost you to have them delivered. If the books are printed outside your own country and you wish to purchase in bulk, or even 50 or 100 copies to sell personally or market through stores, then you also need to factor in ‘Customs/Import Duty’ that you will need to pay on top of the listed delivery cost advertised by the printer. It may not be important for sales you make yourself, but added to the wholesale price for copies sold to stores, the resulting increase could easily push the selling price above market expectations – which I unfortunately know from experience. 10 years ago I purchased 100 copies of my POD picture book that was printed in Canada. The Customs Duty was over $100, which took me by surprise. You must do your sums and research thoroughly. LS now prints in a wide range of countries, but I’m not sure if they are all doing colour and how orders are processed.

    The industry will keep changing rapidly, and as suggested, a lot of change can and will occur in the next six months.

    Best wishes to all

    Peter Taylor

  28. Mary Dunford July 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I’d REALLY like to know what happened when you used LS and CS simultaneously turned out to be the smart move or not. It looks like there has been some time lapsed.

    Please let me know. 🙂


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