If you want to print your own book, how should you get started? I think the best place to start is by picking a printer. If you don’t know what sizes your printer can print, how can you format your book?
Before my wife and I started our indie publishing company, we researched Print-On-Demand bookmakers. Print on Demand is a cool technology that allows your book to be printed each time it is ordered instead of doing a giant run of 1,000 books and hoping you can sell them. Since neither of us wanted to give up our closet space to store a thousand books, we knew we wanted to use Print on Demand.
If you’re looking to print a handful of books for friends and family, you could investigate Lulu, but we crossed that off of our list because we wanted to sell our books at Amazon and other major retailers. Despite its good reviews, we couldn’t print books at Lulu cheap enough to be competitive. That left CreateSpace and Lightning Source as our two Print on Demand options.
The quality and price of CreateSpace and Lightning Source are relatively similar, but there are some important differences:
CreateSpace is easier to setup and use. If you can type in Word, you can print a book with CreateSpace. It’s easy to get an account (don’t need much more than an email address), understand pricing (cool royalty calculators) and update your book (just upload a new PDF document). By contrast, Lightning Source has a long multi-step application, complicated pricing grids and a more cumbersome update process.
Lightning Source prints hardcovers. CreateSpace does not. But neither company publishes landscape books (books that are wider than they are tall).
Lightning Source has a better book store distribution network (if it’s important for you to get your book in a store), but CreateSpace hooks up instantly with Amazon (which allows you to sell directly to consumers). We’ve had much better luck selling our books directly to people instead of pitching it to bookstores — but that’s probably because we know more consumers than book store managers.
CreateSpace has free ISBNs, which is good if you’re getting started and don’t want to buy an ISBN number. (They cost $125 for one book or $250 for ten books!).
We use CreateSpace and Lightning Source since they both have their pluses, but if you are doing your first book, I would recommend CreateSpace. There are so many things that go into a book (writing, editing, illustrations, covers, marketing, distributing) that simplifying your printing as much as possible is important while you get your feet on the ground!