A look at Createspace, Lulu, and Lightning Source

Steel Rose is an unholy matrimony of zombie fiction and horror fiction by Barbara Custer.

Recently my writer buddies and I had a lengthy discussion about the best way to publish a book. Some went for Lightning Source, others Lulu, and many went for Createspace. I then posed this question to my Mylar balloons and got the answer: “Whatever earns you the most money so you can buy more of us.”

My balloons had a point.

All three companies will offer a professional-looking book. Lulu and Lightning Source use the same files, and what’s more, Lulu works with Lightning Source. I used to publish my books through Lulu. I still do Night to Dawn magazine through them because I can get nice-looking print for the spine. Createspace will not put print on the spine unless the book is 100 pages. Sometimes you can get really great sales through Lulu; otherwise, Lulu’s shipping fees are steep, along with the cost for author/publisher copies. This cost then gets passed down to the readers who pony up the money to buy the book.

I’ve never worked with LSI – I was too frightened by the $35.00 yearly fee they charge small publishers per book to remain in print. To set up your book, expect to pay $37.50 for the cover file and $37.50 for the interior file. The big boy companies prefer LSI, which has the means to distribute books to the brick-and-mortar stores. Because they have an excellent sales team, set up costs are not an issue.

However, the small publishers have to consider that yearly fee, and if they’ve published ten books, that means $350 a year, not to mention the cost for proofs ($20 plus nine cents per page and $40 for revisions per cover and / or text file. If the bookstores decide to return books, and for some reason, the publisher says okay to return book on the contract, they must pay LSI the wholesale price of each book plus postage. They can also have the books destroyed. Given the price to set up the book, the publisher or author will have to sell an awful lot of books to make a profit. The Jonathan Maberry brand of writers would have no trouble selling books, but unknown authors might.

Because Lulu works with LSI, they, too, pay for those revisions and distribution, then pass the cost to the publisher. Make sure your book is error free before approving for distribution; otherwise expect to pay hefty fees to revise.

Enter Createspace. At first I shied away from Createspace because I had trouble adjusting my margins to meet their specs, but using their templates took care of the margin problem. Soon after I got comfortable using Createspace, I felt as if I’d been given keys to a kingdom. For one thing, there aren’t any set up fees. You go on their website, set up your account, select “create a book,” and follow the prompts. Createspace and Lulu will give you free ISBN numbers, but you can use your own. Your book gets to go on expanded distribution for free. Author/publisher copies are reasonable, which means you can charge a reasonable price for the book and still get a decent royalty. Once you approve your book, if later you decide to revise, you can do so without charge. Michael De Stefano, JoAnna Senger, Tom Johnson, and I decided to get new covers for some of our NTD books years after they were approved. Createspace allowed me to change the covers without charge. There is a charge for a proof copy, unless you get an online proof. I wanted a physical proof so that I have a better look at the product.

As the old saw goes, there are no free Mylar balloons. Createspace is part of Amazon, but they, too, work with LSI to get extended distribution. But they don’t accept returns, and most brick-and-mortar stores want the option to return. What’s more, once the book goes to Ingram, and Ingram takes its cut, the discount offered to outside stores is only 25% – not enough to justify stocking the book. They’ll take orders for the book from paying customers, but not actually stock the book.

If you’re lucky enough to have really great sales, consider using LSI and Createspace. That way, you can get a generous royalty and a shot at the brick-and-mortar stores. But use different ISBN numbers. Anytime you publish through two different distributors, you must use separate ISBN numbers.

Like my Mylar balloons advised, I went with the option that offered the best royalties and lowest expenses, given my situation. Your thoughts?

Createspace versus Lulu Revisited

Some time ago, I laid out the advantages of using Lulu versus Createspace. And my biggest beef with Createspace was not being able to use my credit card. Well, at last I found my way through the labyrinth of ordering functions, enough to order a proof. Createspace has made peace with my credit card, and when I got the proof of Cold War Heroes, I found that the proof looked decent enough for a bookstore. So the assumption followed that I could go ahead and run all my future NTD magazines through Createspace. Not quite.

I’ve already run NTD 20 through Lulu, and got a lot of nice compliments about the issue. So with the PDF generated by Lulu’s software, I proceeded to upload on Createspace. You see, any book run through Createspace software will automatically go on Amazon. But Createspace wasn’t crazy about handling 8.5 x 11 books. You can’t do 8.5 x 11 books for premium distribution on Createspace like you can with Lulu.

No biggie there, until I got a memo from Createspace informing that the PDF wasn’t viable. NTD always has a print label on the spine, the way many perfect bound magazines do. The print had to come off of the spine, said Createspace. Also on my book reviews, I needed to add two additional places where the books reviewed are available. I don’t have the Acrobat software needed to change the spine. I could make the changes on the inside file on my Word 2007, save it to PDF and use that.

Ah, but with Lightning Source, Lulu, and Createspace, it isn’t enough to use a PDF. The fonts have to be embedded a certain way for the file to pass muster. Lulu will convert your word files to PDF so that you’ve got a file that meets that requirement.

Does that mean I’m firing Createspace? Not necessarily. But I can’t use it for NTD unless I’m willing to forego print on the spine. Maybe I’m having a hard time with change.

I am turning more to eBook distribution: namely Kindle, the Nook, Smashwords, and a new company www.xinxii.com, a European distributor of eBooks. The eBooks look promising, and more people are buying them. But there is a lot to be said for the feel of a print book.

I would like to hear from you about your experiences using Createspace’s software, and your thoughts on the future of eBooks.

 

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