Self-publishing 101: Why Indy Publishers are Smart to Use Two Printers and Not Just One

A client of mine wrote 18 successful novels that made money. After a merger and acquisition of the parent company, this author’s major publishing house — for whom the author had earned lots of money — fired the author.

Like the news industry, the book industry is compressing itself. Lots of people are losing their jobs. In this case, the publisher, the editor, the copy editors, the proofreaders, the designers, and everyone associated with this author’s book lost their jobs along with the author.

The author wondered, “Why did this happen?”

The answer came back from the newly merged and acquired publishing entity: “Because you did not earn back your advance in 12 months. We have to draw the line somewhere.”

The author was dropped by a “traditional” publishing house because the most recent book earned back the advance in 13 months instead of 12.

So much for traditional publishing. That author is now becoming an independent publisher who will earn money, having established an audience that’s clamoring for more stories.

I wrote to my client to describe what’s next in terms of making choices for book printing, retailing, and distribution.

First step is to establish a credit union or bank account for publishing-related income and expenses. That account number is needed for setting up retail sales accounts.

Second step is to establish a Gmail or other email account for the imprint (the publishing enterprise) and direct all relevant email there. A formal company is not needed. A sole proprietorship is fine for most authors.


As part of the letter, I recommended using both CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon, and IngramSpark (Lightning Source).

For practical and diplomatic reasons, I recommend using two printers, CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon, and IngramSpark (Lightning Source), which is owned by Ingram, the largest wholesale book distributor.If you only used Lightning Source (aka IngramSpark for small publishers) as your printer, Amazon would delay selling your book sometimes for weeks saying, inexplicably, that your book is “currently unavailable.” That will cost you sales. To avoid FUBAR in print-on-demand publishing, it makes good sense to use at least two printers: CreateSpace AND IngramSpark.

By using Ingram Spark/Lightning Source as one of your two printers, your book becomes available for ordering at nearly any bookstore in the western world. That does not mean it will be shelved everywhere, just available for ordering at brick and mortar stores. (Shelving at brick and mortar stores takes more effort and expense and is not usually available to publishers who strictly use print-on-demand technology, as we are. Exceptions are sometimes made by local stores where you go in personally and plead your book’s case. Local stores where you are reading excerpts will also display your book for a limited time. In these cases, the arrangement is by consignment. Some bookstores accept a 50/50 arrangement with you delivering and removing the books.)


You might be thinking “Why don’t I use a P.O.D. (print-on-demand) printer like Lulu?”

We use CreateSpace because its parent company is the behemoth, Amazon, where an estimated 60 percent of books and ebooks are sold. Printing through CS means the sale of your book will not normally be delayed on Amazon for unexplained reasons.

We use LSI/IngramSpark for reach. Because LSI’s parent company is Ingram, doing business with LSI means that your book shows up as ‘available’ in most brick & mortar bookstores.

Who routinely thinks of dropping by Lulu to buy books online?

Absence of reach is a major issue. How often do you hear the average person say, “Oh, I want (a particular) book. I think I’ll go buy it at Lulu.”

You can certainly employ other printers to print your books. Doing so means you will be faced with issues of shipping, storage, and distribution, all separate but expensive headaches you will not incur if you cover the bases by adopting a strategy to print on demand with CS and LSI.

A line by line comparison of the differences and similarities between Lightning Source and CreateSpace can be found at Holly Brady’s site.



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