In the past, I have always used a small, local printer for my POD work. They are very reasonable and even deliver my books to our store. Fellow Tweeter Levi Montgomery reminded me, however, that Lightning Source was a good resource for print on demand work as well. When I did my research, I discovered Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI) was a little bit cheaper until set up charges and shipping were added in. Even so, their costs weren’t unreasonable at all, compared to many of the so-called vanity POD publishers.
The really important consideration, however, was LS’s distribution partners. First is their parent company, Ingram Book Distributors, the largest book distributor system in the world. For a small or self-publisher to even be considered by Ingram, it must offer at least 10 different titles. Even then, one’s books must go through a very picky vetting process. By using LS, all that goes by the wayside and your books will automatically be in Ingram’s system, and they’re not the only ones. The other distribution partners include: Baker and Taylor (2nd largest book distributor), NACSCORP ( an Ingram college bookstore distributor ), Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Espresso Book Machine (often used by large bookstores for on the spot POD), Eden Interactive Ltd. (a British Christian resource company), Aphrohead (a British discount book & music mail order company). and I.B.S – STL U.K (the leading British Bible and Christian Book charity). That’s an amazing distribution force and LS has already done the hard, expensive work.
First comes the one time set up charge of $75. This is fixed, so the per book impact is a function of how many books you get printed. If you had 100 books printed, that charge would be 75 cents per book. An annual cost is $12 per ISBN to be listed in their catalog. That’s a no-brainer decision. Printing costs are based on either 50 lb white paper or 55 lb creme paper with black ink. The covers are 4 color with coating. They can render several format sizes and binding types. My 1st book runs 212 pages (they need 4-page signatures). The last two pages must be blank for their use of their barcode on the last page. The printing cost for my book in a standard trade soft cover format would be $3.65 per book (plus $0.75 setup and $0.12 catalog) for an order of 100 books. That is very reasonable for digital printing. Compare that to the quotes you’ll get from vanity presses. Hah!
They will provide a cover template based on the number of pages in the book so the trim and the spine measurements will be accurate. This will contain an ELAN barcode on the back, so you won’t have to bother buying one of those separately. They have free downloadable guideline manuals on interior design dimensions and other layout considerations, which are very helpful.
These are too numerous to go into detail here. I recommend you go to https://www.lightningsource.com/ and peruse. Be sure to download all their free manuals and their application blanks, which include many pages of detailed information. You can have books printed in lots of 50 and you can have onesys and twosys printed for the various distribution partners, and LS will handle all the fulfillment and invoicing chores to the partners.
The registration process is a little involved. You are expected to provide your own ISBNs and BISACs.
[Publetariat Editor’s note: see this post from Walt Shiel for more information about BISACs]
Once you are in their system and all admin loose ends are finalized (3 business days for digital submissions), you can expect turnaround times of 2 business days for paperbacks and 5 for hardcovers, plus shipping time for printing. One cool aspect is they have a UK facility as well as their Tennessee headquarters. This gives you direct access into the Euro business environment. How cool is that?
Once your book has proved out and you decide to have it printed in larger amounts by traditional offset printing technology, LS will be happy to render you a bid for that service. Since I am not at that level yet, I don’t know how their rates compare; however, I’ll be sure to give them a chance. If they’re anywhere in the ballpark, I’ll let them have the job out of sheer convenience and simplicity. If not, oh well.
So far I’ve covered the basics of ebook, audio download, and POD publishing. Hopefully this has given you a toehold into the process of modern book publishing. I’d love to hear your comments and field those questions I am able to answer.