Lightning Source (LSI 268.40) has become synonymous with authors pursuing what is described as ‘true self-publishing—whereby an author sets up their own imprint, purchases a block of ISBN’s and uses Lightning Source’s global print and fulfilment services to publish and make their books available for distribution.
“Lightning Source, an Ingram Content Group company, is the leader in providing a comprehensive suite of inventory-free on-demand print and distribution services for books to the publishing industry. Lightning Source gives the publishing community options to print books in any quantity, one to 10,000 (POD or offset print runs), and provides its customers access to the most comprehensive bookselling channel in the industry in both the United States and the United Kingdom.”
Founded in 1997, with its headquarters in La Vergne, Tennessee, Lightning Source is a subsidiary of Ingram Industries Inc., and a sister company of U.S. book wholesaler, Ingram Book Group. Lightning Source quickly established itself as the global leader for print-on-demand book printing and fulfilment services with massive operations in their La Vergne base and their plant in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. The Lightning Source digital library database holds over 750,000 books and has built lasting partnerships with Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Gardners. LSI’s strength is the flexibility to print and ship a single copy of a print-on-demand book or several thousand copies.
Working with LSI as a publisher or author does require a reasonable hands-on knowledge of book creation software and the proficiency to provide and load-up print ready files to industry print standards directly to their website. This is not a service that should be used by the faint-hearted or novice author and I would strongly suggest that previous experience in self-publishing and book design is required, or contracted out to a professional prior to attempting to submit a book file to LSI’s database. My own experience with LSI reveals a company laden with online tutorials and guidance, a strong commercial customer focus, but a professionalism that means they are not available for hand-holding. This is one of the reasons their website is packed with the necessary information an author might need; from technical book specifications, a spine width calculator, and a step-by-step manual. The actual process of loading up a book file to LSI can be mastered with a degree of study, patience and attention to detail—by no means beyond any computer-savvy author.
“Thank you for your interest in Lightning Source.
If you are a publisher…
… and want to become a customer please proceed to our New Account page.
Please note that Lightning Source does not provide design, file work, editorial, promotional or marketing services. These are solely the responsibility of the publisher.
If you are not a publisher…
… and require publisher services, like design, editorial and marketing services, please contact an author services company.”
Print to Order
With this service the publisher sets the retail price, wholesale discount and return policy.
In effect, dealing directly with LSI, is simply cutting out the middle-man—or in this case the author solutions services who use LSI, like Lulu, Outskirts Press, Xulon, Xlibris, and hundreds of others. The difference is—the author will pay $75 for title set-up ($37.50 each for interior and cover files). You are also required to purchase a proof copy and you are charged $12 per year to keep the title in LSI’s database. One important detail authors should be wary of is the LSI submission load-up fee of $40. This does not apply to the first submission load-up, but does apply on any subsequent file revisions after the proof is delivered. This is why I believe LSI is really only for the seasoned self-publisher, familiar with working with print ready PDF files. Print charges for POD books are set out below, and taking our normal 200 page colour cover and black and white interior as an example, her is how it plays out:
PRINT CHARGE EXAMPLE