Minor updates/checks March 2022
A few edits for flow and to reduce repetition to come… but this is now mostly current! Apologies as I’ve been very busy!
Low cost print-on-demand companies to consider if you’re going to do all of the legwork yourself include:
- KDP PRINT (owned by Amazon.com and based in the USA)
- Ingram Spark (a sister company to Lightning Source; the latter is no longer open to indie authors but instead services small independent publishers)
- Blurb (best for photographic/picture books)
I’ve ended up combining KDP Print (previously called CreateSpace) and Lightning Source. For most new self-publishers I recommend using KDP Print combined with Ingram Spark. Read on to find out more – especially (1) why it’s important to understand about ISBNs and (2) why opting for KDP Print for Amazon distribution is highly recommended but why choosing their Expanded Distribution Channel to reach other online and high street retailers may not be a good idea and why Ingram Spark is likely to be a better option.
KDP Print (previously CreateSpace)
I found KDP Print* a great place to start my self-publishing journey for a number of reasons – though you will see later that, being UK-based, I have split my distribution between KDP Print and Ingram. (*for simplicity I have updated this article to refer to KDP Print instead of CreateSpace)
Reasons to consider KDP Print:
- Next to no set-up costs – more on this below.
- Your book is made available on Amazon.com for free. In return Amazon deducts 40% of the retail price, giving you a 60% royalty.
- It will also appear on Amazon store worldwide. Orders are printed in the US, UK or Europe and shipped direct to the customer. You don’t need to do anything.
- KDP Print provides free Word templates for formatting your book’s interior. The templates come in a wide range of sizes to match the most common print book sizes.
- In addition they offer step-by-step instructions on how to convert your formatted file to PDF ready for (free) upload. These final PDF upload documents also work for Ingram Spark if you’re using them too.
- They also offer a free interior reviewer tool where you can upload and check your Word or PDF interior file before you order your hard copy review
- KDP Print also offers easy-to-use free book cover design software ‘Cover Creator’ which you can use to design a print-ready cover for your book. The software, which is housed on KDP’s site, allows you to upload your cover text and images into pre-designed templates and play around with text and background colours to suit you needs. Once you have your first prototype, you can then preview alternate designs at a click of a button. (The templates come with images that you can use if you wish, but it’s likely that you’ll want to replace these with your own.) I’ve not used these templates for my own book covers – but they are worth knowing about because they are free! They can also give you ideas for briefing an illustrator on a design. NB I personally don’t recommend designing your own cover or using these templates – let a professional do it. But the templates are worth knowing about.
- If you decide not to use Cover Creator (see above) you can download free cover templates that will ensure that your cover file for upload is sized correctly for your book size /format and page count
- KDP Print will provide you with a free ISBN if you wish. Personally I would not recommend using their free ISBN if you want to get your books into bricks and mortar stores because book sellers do not look on Amazon kindly and will see that your book is published and distributed by them. In addition if you wanted to self-publish the same title through another site you would have to use a different ISBN. Rather I would recommend buying your own ISBN from Bowker in the USA or Nielsen in the UK. Go to my section on ISBNs to lear more and find links to these organisations.
- KDP Print provides an easy-to-use Royalty Calculator enabling you to play around with different retail prices and estimate what you will earn based on the different distribution channels you opt for. What you earn depends on your trim size and number of pages, whether it’s colour or black and white interior etc – more on these below. (More on how your final royalty is worked out here.)
- It also has the most fantastic Community Forum where you can get help on all aspects of formatting files, understanding ISBNs or distribution channels and so on – it’s also a great place to meet people doing the same thing as you are. And a great place to find some real gems of folk who will help you out with last minute formatting issues at a very reasonable costs.
- It offers a free Preview Gallery where you can get feedback on your book from other KDP community members or friends/family.
- There is no charge if you need to make proofing corrections and re-upload your file, provided the page count stays the same.
- It has free member email support (requires log in) and they usually reply within one working day – you can fire anything at them from general to specific and they will answer. They also offer free telephone support for international customers – via a call-back system.
- Your financial outlay is minimal – (a) you get free listing on all Amazon stores worldwide (b) you also have the option to select to wider distribution channels beyond Amazon – albeit it at much lower royalty rates : see the section below on Extended Distribution Channel. However, I would not recommend choosing Amazon’s Expanded Distribution Channel if you want to have the chance of persuading bricks and mortar stores to stock or be prepared to order your book – I talk about this more below.
In short, if you’re truly planning to go ‘DIY’, KDP Print is a great place to learn the ropes of preparing digital files for print-on-demand and to get your books onto Amazon stores worldwide. It’s also a great place to meet other authors doing the same as you. (For info – KDP Print also offers a full professional publishing service – from formatting all of your files to upload and listing and marketing of your book. However I’d be wary of shelling out huge sums at this stage – there are many more places to find freelancers to help you. Come and join the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out why. )
KDP Print’s Expanded Distribution Channel: pros and cons
There’s a full explanation of the EDC here, but in brief, it means your book will be made available on global data feeds that go out to book wholesalers and many online and bricks and mortar book retailers (beyond Amazon) .
There are two reasons why I don’t use this channel and why you need to take heed before doing so:
1/ Books you sell this way will earn you much lower royalties than your non-EDC sales because KDP Print deducts a 60% sales channel percentage from your list price compared with 40% deducted from your automatic free listing on Amazon.
2/ If you choose this channel, although your book will find its way on to the extended data feeds that get sent out by Ingram (and which bookshops see on their systems), bricks and mortar booksellers will see that any orders they place will be fulfilled by an Amazon company and may be be unwilling to order your book in due to the Amazon connection.
I therefore recommend using KDP Print for distribution to Amazon worldwide and then Ingram Spark for everything else. Also, by not opting for KDP’s Expanded Distribution Channel you can use the same ISBN for your book with Ingram Spark. If you were to use KDP Print’s expanded distribution and then decided you wanted to use Ingram Spark you would need to use a new ISBN for that channel, which would create two records for your book and be very confusing.
For the record, I use KDP Print and Lightning Source (a sister company of Ingram Spark — Ingram Spark didn’t exist when I first started self-publishing, but it amounts to the same thing), to ensure that other bookshops are receptive to ordering my print books. For indie authors the dual route is now KDP Print and Ingram Spark.
Launched in July 2013, Ingram Spark is a sister operation to Lightning Source (both are owned by Ingram content). Reasons to consider Ingram Spark for self-publishing your book in the UK are:
- You can use it alongside KDP Print’s Amazon channels with the same ISBN if you own that ISBN provided you don’t select KDP Print’s Expanded Distribution Channel. Choosing this combination of options means your book will show in stock on Amazon at all times, but at the same time – because you are using Ingram Spark — it will appear in the data feeds of most online bookstores worldwide and Ingram Spark will fulfil orders from those websites for you.
- It will also make it available via Ingram’s data feed to the main wholesale booksellers worldwide who in turn supply the retail high street book shops. (If you instead list with Amazon and choose their Expanded Distribution, bookshops will see it in their feed but will not be receptive to ordering due to the Amazon link.)
- Ingram has print facilities or printing arrangements in many countries and so can often fulfil orders placed through online or bricks and mortar stores relatively locally.
- Ingram Spark allows you to set your own wholesale discount price — and vary this by country of distribution. Choose your discount carefully, though — see next bullet for why.
- Bear in mind when using Ingram Spark that choosing lower-end wholesale discounts will make it unlikely that your book will get chosen by the large UK bookstores as stock. This is because they expect a minimum 35% discount from their suppliers — the latter being wholesalers (such as Gardners, and Baker and Taylor) who in turn buy from Ingram. I tend to opt for a 40-45% discount, making an educated guess that this still leaves the retail shop book buyers a potential discount of 30-35% after the wholesaler takes their cut. Within a couple of weeks of launching The Secret Lake, seven branches of Waterstones (a major UK high street bookseller) ordered my book following calls I made to them to introduce them to introduce the book through The Secret Lake website . I doubt those orders would have happened had I opted to receive a higher royalty because Waterstones would have seen that the discount would have been too low —so it really depends on what you marketing aspirations are. See more in the marketing section.
- You can order your own short print runs from Ingram Spark for delivery to home or anywhere else in the UK at reasonable cost. I use these to take into schools and to supply to local bookshops on consignment (sale or return). There’s a calculator on the front of their website where you can work out the costs If you only use KDP Print you can also order author copies for the same purpose.
Key points to be aware of:
- You will need to supply your own ISBN (see the section on ISBNs) – but this is no bad thing!
- Unlike with KDP Print, there are set-up costs with Ingram Spark and there is a charge each time you alter a file — but these costs are by no means prohibitive. And if you join The Alliance of Independent Authors there is a code you can use to have these set-up fees waived.
- Ingram Spark offers free eProofs as well as hard copy proofs (for which there is a cost). The eProofs are great for checking first drafts and it’s free to upload a revised file if you discover any proofing errors, but be sure to order a hard copy proof before going ahead with final publishing.
- If choosing only to use Ingram Spark (and not KDP Print) you are likely to experience listing problems on Amazon’s sites in terms of ‘Out of stock’ messages, or delivery times showing of 1-3 weeks, because Amazon is not fulfilling those orders (but would like to be…). In contrast, if KDP Print is your distributor your title will always shows as being in stock on Amazon. This is why I recommend you use KDP Print for all Amazon channels and then Ingram Spark for everything else. If you are reading this and already have out of stock issues try contacting the relevant Amazon team via your Author Account — but prepared to get a standard reply; in the early days they were very helpful, but more recently they tend to refer you back to LS/IS. Here’s where you set up an Amazon UK Author Account
If Ingram Spark sounds of interest (I hope it does!), here’s what they do and don’t provide at the practical level when it comes to file preparation:
- It doesn’t provide interior templates for formatting your book – instead it just provides file size specification guidance. However, I found that my interior files created from KDP Print templates upload fine to Ingram Spark provided you choose the same book size and paper colour on each site.
- Ingram doesn’t provide any cover design software akin to KDP Print’s, so you would need to be using an independent illustrator to design your book cover and he/she will need to follow the Ingram Spark file creation specifications when saving the file for upload. (These are subtly different from the KDP Print specifications, so you cannot simply use the same files.)
- It does provide a what it calls a Cover generator — by which I mean a basic template that your illustrator can use with their illustrator package to ensure that your book cover design is correctly sized with images and text positioned within trim lines, the bar code correctly positioned, and so on.
Top tip on trim size if you’re thinking of using Ingram Spark
If you’re thinking of using Ingram Spark and are going to prepare your files using KDP Print’s Interior templates, make sure on KDP Print that you choose a trim size and paper colour that is also available from Ingram Spark!
Back in 2011, I had to spend a lot of time at the last minute reformatting The Secret Lake from 5.06″ x 7.01″ (the most common size for a children’s book in the UK) to 5.25″ x 8″ – because I suddenly noticed in the small print that Ingram Spark (or rather Lightning Source, which I use) would only print the former book size on white paper and not cream. Things may have since changed, so do check for yourself if you’re thinking of using this size. I would rarely recommend white paper for fiction — because it looks self-published! Back in 2011 I sent notes to CreateSpace and Lightning Source suggesting they include 5.06″ x 7.01″ on cream paper due to its being the classic size for a children’s book in the UK; I must check whether they have now implemented this!
The above all said, after have sleepless nights (!) over being forced to choose a few inches/centimetres above the norm, I can assure you that my book does not stand out like a sore thumb in the children’s bookshops due to its size. It looks great!
I have to own up that I don’t know a lot about Lulu.com because I quickly discounted them when I saw that the paper sizes they offered for paperbacks weren’t suitable for children’s fiction. Also, at the time I was doing my research, the cost to use them was more expensive than using CreateSpace and Lightning Source —and I did see this mentioned on quite a few forums and blogs. That said, I also noticed a lot of UK-based authors saying they were successfully using Lulu for their UK sales and CreateSpace for their US sales, so it’s definitely worth checking them out. When I have more time I will update this section to make it more useful for comparison purposes. In the meantime here are a couple of useful links:
Again, I know little about Blurb – again because none of the trim sizes they offered were suitable for the book size I needed. But I do know that it is easy to use and fantastic for making books that contain lots of photographs or illustrations. I have several friends who have used it for photographic books and they have been delighted with the results.
Here is their website link if you want to check it out (use the drop-down at the bottom right of the screen to select your country).
What would you recommend for a children’s hardcover storybook? I already have it edited, illustrated, formatted, I have my ISBN, barcode, copyright license…. but I can’t find anyplace to self-publish it in hardcover without losing everything. Any thoughts or advice?
Hi Karen, thank you for all the info, it’s been a godsend! Just wanted to let you know I’ve linked this page in my blog about my current self-pub journey, but if you’d rather I took it out please just let me know!
Thanks, Emma — best of luck with your book!
Thank you very informative.
Karen, Would you happen know how to get the ‘From the Publisher’ section added to my book detail page. I have self published through KDP and am not able to access that section. I have read you have to register as a publisher or register for Amazon Advantage which seems to not be taking applications at the moment. Any idea how I can add that section? Thanks!
Hi Emma — This area is reserved for big publishers who have special Advantage Accounts with Amazon (or some sort of Vendor account — it’s all a bit confusing!) And those accounts have a monthly fee and require you (I think) to ship books to Amazon. So not available for us I’m afraid. I’m also not entirely convinced of their value as not sure how many readers really scroll down that far. If you wanted to add extra notes about your books it may be possible to do so in the About the author section which you get to via author central — and in the US version of Author Central you can add a link to your blog and upload short videos. You’ll see these on my US (blog link and videos) author page. https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Inglis/e/B005LH568S/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1For some reason the UK page only shows the videos. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Karen-Inglis/e/B005LH568S?ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vu00_i0 Sorry I can’t be of more help! FWIW I know that Mark Dawson does use that feature. I’ve just asked in a FB group I’m in what programme it is and I’ll post back here if I get a reply. Apologies for my delayed reply btw!
Karen – you are absolutely exhaustive with information – you cover EVERYTHING. So helpful.
I’m in Australia. I have a completely finished product. I had the help of a wonderful friend who worked in children’s publishing years ago with art and illustrations.
What I have is perfect – sampled by over 100 people and one lady who sells books in a large shopping centre that I showed said within 30 seconds ‘its better than anything I’m selling this second’. I could of fainted.
I need to make a decision.
I’m thinking ; obtaining my ISBN in America and I want to distribute in America, as I have a successful marketing friend with a large company wanting to help me. The book is targeted for the 3-8 yr old bracket, in rhyming format.
All the professional editing and formatting is completely done. Its ready. I have been told that an ebook is a bad idea for this age bracket. It needs to be a printed version.
I print in America, as this is the market I really want to target.
Ingram spark seems to be the vehicle I use.
In a nutshell – that’s what I’m thinking. What do you see as being my problem with any of these options?
Hi Craig — Firstly congratulations on the feedback you’ve had. What size is the book? And how many pages? And is it with colour pictures or black and white images? All of this will help me answer your question. Karen
The page size is 20×20 cm, so as a spread is 20x40cm
It’s 12 pages and full colour page illustrations.
Thanks so so much for the really detailed reply and all the info. I have emailed Ingram asking for advise – will keep you posted. Would be great to know what you have entered as well – if you did have the time to look into it.
I hope to join Alli at some point – at the moment I’m slightly stuck with my budget, and have spent more than I intended to :). When I do, I will definitely go through the link here, thank you.
Thanks, once again.
Hi again, Pippa — apologies for the long delay in my further update. I’m just about to email you a screenshot of what the back end entries look like in Nielsen for me. Karen
Your website is absolutely amazing! Thank you so much!
I am in the UK and and published my first book just last month via IngramSpark and Amazon and the ebook exclusively through KDP select. The whole process was so complicated and confusing that I felt writing the book probably was the easier part! I just realised that I may have made a mistake and would appreciate any advice.
My questions is: to allow paperback distribution in the UK (to libraries, brick and mortar stores and especially Waterstones) what should I name as the “UK Distributors” and “Online Internet Distributors” on my Nielsen Account please? What is the difference between these? At the moment I have set these as self-distribution naming my imprint (I possibly did this at the time of account setup). I now feel this is a mistake as I do not want to do any distribution myself at all. Should I change it to “IngramSpark” or “Lightning Source” or both for both these questions?
I hope you could kindly help me as i couldn’t get an exact answer anywhere.
Thanks a lot in advance
Hi Pippa — pretty sure that in your case for paperback distribution you need to say Ingram Spark (or Ingram) — but can I suggest that you check that with the Ingram Spark help desk too? They will / should understand your question. Alternatively (and as well) call the Nielsen helpline for Nielsen Data (or whatever the part is that deals with the Title Editor pages) — they are very approachable and will explain what should go there.
But you’re right — it’s not your imprint name 🙂
NB Ingram Spark didn’t exist when I started self-publishing, so most of my books are with Lightning Source — and as I type I can’t recall what entry I have for the one that is with IS (which is my non-fiction book). However for the others the distributor is listed as either Lightning Source or Gardners – I can’t remember which! (If Gardners, it’s on the basis that LS supplies to Gardners which is one of the main UK distributors to bookshops and libraries). I’ll take a look tomorrow and report back…
One thing to note that has changed in recent years is that Ingram has started to offer direct distribution to independent bookshops via a system called iPages (?) but I’m not yet sure how many bookshops are aware of it. I believe they may also be trying to do a deal with Waterstones for it too. So they (Ingram) may prefer you to list them as distributor even if in practice when a customer goes into a shop and asks for your book it’s likely to be supplied by Gardners (who receive the Ingram feed) and not Ingram direct.
On the ebook side etc, I’m pretty sure the eBook distribution field is irrelevant because you are in KDP so aren’t using anyone else to distribute your books in the UK (on which basis perhaps you should put ‘Amazon’ in that field?!) I don’t remember that field from when I last looked at my Nielsen records but again will try to do so tomorrow and leave another message here.
Are you a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors btw? If not, I would highly recommend joining — this is the type of question you ask in our closed FB group and get answers for pretty quickly and probably from authors who have uploaded new books more recently than me and will be sure of the answer right away. If you do decided to join please consider using my link below btw — the cost to you would be no different and I receive a modest referral fee. It really is worth joining and very affordable. More info here >> https://selfpublishingadventures.com/alli/
If I forget to leave a message by the end of tomorrow feel free to leave a reminder here — I will be notified!
A further thought is that the ‘internet distribution’ field is also about paperbacks, but means the ones sold online on the non-Amazon stores in your case — in which case I’d certainly say that Ingram Spark would be the distributor.
Many thanks for this advise. My book is now slowly getting added to the store websites through Ingram also. I’m a bit stuck again at the next stage and seeking your advise again please if I may.
I started advertising it on AMS adverts only to realise later that this applied only for the Amazon.com site and not the UK site. It’s disappointing as I am more interested in the UK market.
From what I understand, AMS UK charges either £35/month or £0.75 per sale, both of which seem rather pricey to me, as my book sales at the moment are very very low (it’s the first month). Even otherwise I’m not sure whether it would be difficult to breakeven with such costs. Would you have any insight on this please? I couldn’t find any resources specific to UK either as it seems to be completely a separate system from AMS USA.
This is a useful article I came across if anyone else was interested: http://www.loungemarketing.com/lounge-blog/amazon-marketing-services-case-study-mark-brownless
Any advise or pointers would once again be really appreciated.
Thanks very much
My book (print format) is finally on sale on Amazon! 🙂 Thanks so much for all your advice on many occasions. I hope you could kindly help me again.
I am now in the process of uploading my book to Ingram. in your book on publishing (which, btw, is my ‘go to’ for everything and has been extremely useful), you have specifically advised NOT to use Ingram to fulfil Amazon orders.
My question is: is there anything I need to do specifically at the time of uploading the print files to prevent Ingram from fulfilling Amazon orders? Is it OK to use Ingram’s Global Connect Program? I have selected all the markets on Ingram (US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia) using the same list prices I’ve used for Amazon (with 45% discount non-returnable, as you have also suggested) and I have opted out of KDP Expanded Distribution.
You advice, once again, would be greatly appreciated .
(ps – I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to leave a review for your book yet as I still don’t qualify, but will definitely leave one the moment they allow me to do that.)
Huge apologies for the delayed reply, Percy. The Christmas holidays rather took over and I was then just away skiing for a week. In short, you don’t need to change what you have done. Amazon will market its instance of the book — not the Ingram one — even though it will be aware of it.
Hi Percy — there is no rhyme or reason and Amazon often changes the category names and they don’t necessarily match to BISAC. Your best bet is to go with what looks logical at set-up (two categories I believe) then, once your book is up, look at books in a similar genre and see what categories they are listed in at the bottom of the page. Then when you have found enough that you think are relevant, email KDP and ask them to add your book to them showing the path as you did above. Many thanks on the review front for Eeek! And it would be great once you’ve spent what’s needed on Amazon if you are able to review the non-fiction book! With very best wishes, Karen
Thanks for your generosity in sharing all this information here and in your book. Could not have don’t without it! I’m finally ready to upward my book with ISBNs at the ready! 🙂
My query is on uploading the manuscript to KDP Print. I do apologise if Ive posted in the wrong section of your blog.
Mine is a children’s book with focus on disability, and I would like it to be in the following categories in par with those that do seem popular:
Books > Children’s Books > Literature & Fiction > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Special Needs
Books > Children’s Books > Literature & Fiction > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Health
Books > Children’s Books > Literature & Fiction > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Family
But I cannot find these under the categories on KDP print option or BISAC. The closest I get is:JUV039150 JUVENILE FICTION / Disabilities & Special Needs
I’m slightly concerned whether I am doing something completely wrong.Any suggestions would be much appreciated, as always.
Thanks very much
Hi Percy — once your book is up you can contact KDP by email and let them know which additional categories you would like your book to be added to. During upload the choices are very limited. You will find the information under the ‘Help’ section within KDP and you use the ‘Contact US’ button (bottom left usually) to send the email. I cover all of this and lots more in my book ‘How to self-publish and market a children’s book’ btw! (Oh, but I see you have it! If so you will find that info on page 271) I hope that helps! Could I ask a favour while here? If you have the book and are finding it useful, please could you take a moment to leave a short review on Amazon (and Goodreads if you are there?) With very best wishes, Karen
Many thanks for the prompt reply and the pointers.
I did see this in your book too:) however, was puzzled that the order of existing categories are completely different on both KDP and BISAC in comparison to the categories of books already published (which is seen below the book descriptions on amazon with the ranks for each category).
For example, KDP categories start with juvenile fiction>animals etc whereas the published books show more ‘sensible’ path starting with books>children’s books>fiction etc.
I checked the BISAC list also and they do not have a category called ‘children’s books’. Therefore I’m puzzled as to how it has appeared in the categorisation of the published books.
I will definitely leave a review. I tried to do that before but it didn’t allow me to – probably because I have a new account on amazon and haven’t spent enough to enable reviewing :).
(I’ve also bought Eek sometime ago. My partner bought it for me and has left a review already I believe :))
I have been a happy Createspace user in Australia for about six years but that all fell apart a couple of weeks ago when Createspace was merged with Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP uses amazon to ship proofs, author copies and retail copies and – here’s the killer – since 1 July 2018, when Australia introduced a goods and services tax on purchases of less than $1,000AUD, Amazon decided to stop shipping printed material to Australia. Now, in order to get a copy of my own book, I have to go through a freight forwarding service which is a much slower, 2 manual step process and in more than 3 times more expensive. So, I stumbled on your site when I started to cast around for an alternative to KDP. If you know of a CS-like service that is happy to work directly with Australian customers, I’d love to hear about it.
Hi Keith — I am sorry for the delayed reply; I’ve been trying to clear accounts! I’m afraid I’m not very up on how to get print copies in AU but I have heard Australian authors talk about placing through The Book Depository from the UK as it ships worldwide for free I believe. Have you tried that? Sorry I can’t be of more help. If you are still stuck, contact Elena Paige (a children’s author I know who is based in Melbourne ) and pick her brains >> https://www.elenapaige.com/ Here is the book depository’s website — but of course you won’t get the books at author cost… https://www.bookdepository.com/ This all said Ingram Spark does print inside of Australia I am pretty sure? Have you tried them???
thank you for replying and I will follow up on the leads you have given me. Thanks again. Keith
I have found this page while contemplating whether to self-publish on IS or CS. Although I have already seen a lot of remarks on this issue, I learned from your article more than from all others combined.
Thank you for sharing your precious experience and know-how with others. It is kind and generous.
Thank you for such insightful information on how the self-publishing book process works! I am writing and self-publishing my first children’s book and as I’m doing my research, I am hearing mixed reviews about having your first book professionally edited (for first-time authors). I have read some reviews saying ”a bad book can be turned into a beautifully written bad book. But a good story, even if the writing is not great, will still be more successful. it’s not worth it, fixing the writing won’t improve the story, polishing and improving the writing of a book won’t make it a better book, it’s a waste of time and too cost effective.” I just wanted to get some advice from you on this. Do you think it’s necessary to have your book proof read and edited professionally? If so, do you recommend and companies for this service, did you use a professional editing service for your first book?
Hi Brittany – many thanks for your kind comments, and for your question.
The story is paramount — that is for sure — and to that extent what you say above is correct: no amount of rewriting and polishing will improve a poor story.
But if your story is great/good and the editing is poor, it will let both it and you down and will put off readers/parents/teachers/booksellers etc who will spot this. And you will quickly get negative reviews (or negative comments in reviews) about the mistakes. And/or readers will have reservations about recommending your book, or local booksellers you may have approached may get wind of this from readers and won’t want to stock your book. (Imagine if you went out and bought a book for your children, or as a gift, and when you came to read it found typos, proofing errors and/or grammatical errors scattered throughout that very good story. What does that say about how much the author cares about his or her work that you’ve just paid for? I know that my mother has just bought such a book written for adults – and only when she looked more closely did she discover that it had been self-published. I’ve recently seen a picture book self-published that exactly fits this scenario where the author had ignored advice to use an editor. Thankfully we are seeing and hearing less and less about this compared with the early days, as authors who are serious about self-publishing know the importance of using editors.
One other thing to think about is that most of your book sales are likely to be at events where you personally meet the children/parents/teachers — word would travel fast and you’d probably have difficulty getting repeat bookings for signings or school events…
So yes, I think that you should use an editor! It’s a two-step process though. What you first need is professional feedback on whether your story is working: is it right for its target market in terms of plot, characters (including their ages etc), use of language and so on. Plus is it a good enough (in terms of entertainment and emotional resonance) that it will keep young readers engaged and turning the pages?
After this first review, ie once you are sure the story works, then is the time for the more detailed line by line editorial review which would look at language, grammar, and so on. Then the final phase is proofreading. (These last two activities could be rolled into one depending on how much may have been picked up on the first stage review.)
When I first started out with The Secret Lake, freelance editors for children’s books were few and far between as self-publishing was barely heard of over here. But I did find one — I used the services of The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books as my starting point to give me feedback on the story (as in ‘developmental editor’ feedback). I still recommend them today and also used them to review Eeek, and Ferdinand Fox.Their prices are reasonable and they will let you know whether your story is working. (Depending on how long your book is a phone review can sometimes be more useful — but take their advice on that.) And I’ve blogged about how I used them way back in the mists of time here: https://selfpublishingadventures.com/2014/10/17/the-writers-advice-centre-for-childrens-books/
As far as finding copy editors and proofreaders goes, I think Writers’ Advice may offer that too, however if you’re a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors they have a directory of service providers you could look through — otherwise there is Reedsy (where you can look for someone who specialises in children’s books). I used a developmental editor there for Walter Brown.
If your budget is really tight, your alternative after getting developmental feedback at step one would be to find other trust writers who know their grammar to perhaps take on the line editorial side of things…and then perhaps finish up with freelance proofreader. The main thing is you don’t want children buying your book and then pointing out errors to their parents and teachers! (Any author who says that fixing the writing is a waste of time isn’t a true author in my view! It just doesn’t stack up!)
I’m rambling a bit now (it’s late and the cat is sitting here wanting her food!) – but I do hope this makes sense. And of course you can use librarians and teachers in the early stages for ‘free’ feedback’ before going to an developmental editor.
Very best of luck with it – and apologies that this reply isn’t that well edited!
What a brilliant article and so full of useful tips. I am just starting on this journey having had limited success with Amazon Kindle and Lulu through a small publisher whose art is to simply get a book listed on these sites. However, it is illusory, because it is the big clearing houses that one needs to be able to get into the ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, and pays no attention to real hard marketing avenues.
I am therefore turbo-charging previous books having removed them from my Lulu account and fitting my own ISBNs for use on CS. That said, I am going to look at Lightning Source as a possible additional listing.
Thanks again for such an inspiring article – well researched and so well laid out.
Hi Lance – glad it was useful. One thing – these days it’s the sister company Ingram Spark you would go with as LS no longer accepts small self-publishers. So use your own ISBN on CS and OPT OUT of Expanded Distribution. Then use the same ISBN with Ingram Spark and opt out of Amazon with them. Your book will then show up in the data feed of bookshops world wide. IS has an offer on until the end of the month for free set-up by the way — see here and use the code they give. http://selfpublishingadvice.org/sponsorship/gold-sponsor-ingramspark-2/ By the way, I’d highly recommend joining the Alliance of Independent Authors — see the link on my site above. Our closed FB page has lots of info and discussion about all aspects of self-publishing and the link I’ve just given you is from a free online conference that we’ve just run. If you decide to join the Alliance please use the link in my menu bar as I will get a small commission (and it doesn’t affect your joining fee – that will be the same whichever way you join!). All the very best. Karen
My pleasure, Lisa — if you’ve not yet done so do join my mailing list as I shall be bringing out a book next year with lots more / new info and practical tips relating to self-publishing and marketing children’s books 🙂
Many thanks for your generosity in sharing this wealth of information with newbies like myself. I hope you could help me with my query as well.
I am based in the UK and trying to publish my first children’s chapter book using CS and IS. I would like to use a name different to the author name to be the ‘publisher’, especially as I plan to get 10 ISBNs and hope to continue writing (fingers crossed :)). However, I am not sure how to go about doing this. What steps do I have to take to register it officially.
My husband already has a limited company as he works for himself and I am also a partner in that. For tax purposes (I’m being very optimistic that I will have good sales :)) I would like my publishing company to come under the limited company we already have.
Could you please advise what the best way forward would be in this scenario.
Also, I am hoping to use 5.08×7.81” format. However I notices that you have used a large size for ‘Eek’ (yes…my husband bought a copy off amazon sometime ago and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it :)). Is there any particular reason that you preferred that size over others?
Many thanks again
Hi Lisa — first to say that I’m not a tax adviser or an accountant so don’t take my word as gospel and do check with an accountant 🙂 However, in short, you don’t need to set up (or be part of) a company to use a name for your imprint. If operating as a sole trader you can choose and use a ‘trading / business name’ and use that name (XYZ Press) in your book and create a simple logo to go with it if you want (of course don’t choose a name that someone else is using!). Gov UK talks about business names for sole traders here but I don’t think they make it very clear….
Personally I wouldn’t recommend putting your books under your husband’s company unless you are sure you have a bestseller on your hands as the sales/accounting is very fiddly and most of it’s not VATable so if you husband’s company is VAT registered you can end up doing lots unnecessary admin for VAT returns as well as having to tease out which element of the business relates to your books. (I’m assuming the company isn’t already book related?)
The only reason I went the limited company route was because I had/have an established professional writing business and at the time it seemed the path of least resistance at a busy time and the businesses were of the same ‘ilk’.I’d say talk to an accountant to see what they think and what would happen if you decided you no longer wanted the press to part of the limited company etc – not sure if you’d be able to trade in the same name afterwards… Of course it would be fantastic if you could get huge sales from the outset but bear in mind that if you’re writing for children under age 12, then unless you are extremely lucky, most of your sales will be face to face at school events — so how much you sell will be largely down to how keen you are to get out there! It take times and determination to build it up the numbers so I wouldn’t base starting out within a limited company on expected sales! But that’s just my view 🙂
On the paper, I chose the size I did because it was also available in cream whereas the smaller size you mention wasn’t at the time. That may have changed I guess but do make sure the paper stock you are using will be cream unless you’re making a conscious decision to buck the trend and go with white paper. If you check out most kids’ books you will see that the paper stock is off-white/cream. Bright white doesn’t look right unless you have a book with attitude to carry it off (eg Goth Girl!). I’m pretty sure I talk about that in this blog post somewhere.
Hope that helps rather than hinders and very best of luck with your launch 🙂
Hi again Lisa — yes my article above does explain the paper size thing — I’m copying the key paragraph here (you’ll need to double check paper colour options with LS…): However do read that whole section if you need a fuller explanation.
“I had to spend a lot of time at the last minute reformatting The Secret Lake from 5.06″ x 7.01″ (the most common size for a children’s book in the UK) to 5.25″ x 8″ – because I suddenly noticed in the small print that EDC – and therefore Lightning Source – will only print the former book size on white paper and not cream. I would never recommend white paper for fiction – because it looks self-published! I’ve sent notes to CreateSpace and Lightning Source suggesting they include 5.06″ x 7.01″ on cream paper due to its being the classic size for a children’s book in the UK – whether they will act on it in due course I have no idea!
The above all said, after have sleepless nights (!) over being forced to choose a few inches/centimetres above the norm, I can assure you that my book does not stand out like a sore thumb in the children’s bookshops due to its size. It looks great!
NB I have not checked the size thing with Ingram Spark but assume it’s the same story…”
Thanks very much for your prompt and detailed reply. It is extremely generous of you to devote so much of your time this way in helping new authors such as myself.
What I meant was… I am being overly optimistic about my sales :)… I would be quite happy if I was able to recover at least my printing costs! 🙂 🙂
I think I will go with the sole trader option – this seems to be the most sensible thing to do. I will also check with our accountant and will let you also know what she says.
Thanks very much once again for all your advice.
My pleasure, LenKs — and, yes, we had a great time! Weather far better there than here! Karen
I hope this e-mail finds you well.
Could I ask you how did you go about a Postal Address? Let’s consider that a self-publishing author creates his / her own Publishing company then the author needs a Postal Address. I am sure that many self-publishing authors are reluctant to put their own personal Postal Address on internet (considering that the author has his/her own website through which they also want to sell their book or they’re going to sell it through, let’s say, Amazon, yet they need the Postal Address for their Publishing Company and many authors work from their home.)
Looking forward to hearing from you. 🙂
PS: Hope you are enjoying the summer weather that we have today! 🙂
Hi Lenks – As far as I understand, having just checked with colleagues, you don’t have to include your address. You can leave it off the copyright page and just say the name of the imprint and the town, for example. Or you could use a mailbox address service if you wanted to include an address. Hope that helps. Karen
First I’d like to thank you for the information that you provided here on this blog for all self-publishing authors, this blog is just fantastic!
Secondly, I’d like to ask you the folllowing questions:
1. Is there any template for Copyrights page that any self-publishing author could use for a book?
2. Is there any rule that the Copyrights page is one of the first pages within a book? Could the Copyrights page be at the end of a book?
3. Since I am planning to publish a book in the UK (I am based in the UK) and in the US, how does an author go about the “Printed in” part on the Copyrights page since the book would be printed in different countries using CreateSpace and Lightning Source?
4. Does the Publisher’s address have to be on the Copyrights page? Does it have to be in the book at all? Or is any contact detail enough – like e-mail address and social media?
If you could help me to answer these questions, I’d be very grateful.
Thank you and have a lovely evening,
Apologies for my delayed reply – we’ve just been away in France for 5 days.
1/ I don’t use a template for my copyright page and I tend to use less info than some — but what I do know is that what I include is perfectly acceptable as I checked this with the ISBN agency when I first started out. If you open any of my books using the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon you will see my copyright pages. Feel free to use this as your ‘template’ in terms of what info it provides. You will see longer and fussier ones on other books — but they just look longer and fussier in my view!
2/ I’m not aware of any rule saying where the copyright page should appear but if it’s a print book i would recommend sticking with convention and having it near the front after the main title page. Again, see the ‘Look inside’ pages from my print books on Amazon. I tend to move it to the end for eBooks.
3/ You don’t need to say where the book is printed if using print on demand like CreateSpace and/or Ingram Spark etc – they add this info themselves in the back matter usually.
4/ From what I was told when I investigated this, YES,publisher’s postal address does need to be included for print books. However, if in doubt check with the ISBN agency or the Society of Authors (or Google!) as the rules may have changed. (And if in doubt about what to do, open any number of print books in your local library or bookshop/Amazon then just see if any don’t include don’t include postal address!
5/ – continued: The above said,For ebooks I think it less common to include the postal address on the file…
Thank you Karen for all this information, I really appreciate your help!
I hope you had a great time in France and wish you a nice and successful day. 🙂
Thank you! This helps a lot and certainly saves me money 🙂
Hi Karen, thank you so much for all the information you listed. It has been very helpful. I just wanted to clarify that I don’t need a barcode in addition to the ISBN correct? I’m assuming each outlet assigns their own barcode? Also, since I will be having a print and digital kindle version, do I need 2 separate ISBNs? Thanks!
Hi Ashley – the barcode for the print book comes with the cover template (used by your cover illustrator) which is supplied by CS or Ingram Spark – they create it using the ISBN number that you supply when inputting the book’s details.
You don’t need an ISBN for the Kindle version – Amazon assigns as ASIN number automatically and that does the job of an ISBN. You would only need a separate ISBN if creating an ePub version if you decide to upload to Apple, Kobo etc – though it’s not obligatory I don’t think for most of those platforms (but in the back of my mind there is one platform that I think does ask for one…). I do assign an ISBN to my ePub files but not everyone does – eg Joanna Penn doesn’t use them for her eBooks as far as I recall…. Hope that helps 🙂
PS not sure why this reply is sitting under your last post and not the other one but at least people can see it! 🙂
Thanks for the info, Phil…. I had it in my mind that using Lulu didn’t make financial sense when added to the ‘out of stock’ issues and this seems to confirm it. All the best with the publication!
Hi Karen – will do. My wife is producing photobooks with Blurb (I get to do the ‘boring stuff’ i.e. looking at the nuts and bolts of self publishing). Blurb can produce a photo book (a square ish shape format) which can only be distributed through Amazon. They can also produce trade books (a more standard shape format) which can be sold through Ingram. Books can also be sold through the Blurb website. Once I have all the info regarding discounts etc. I will post more info here. Thanks again! Phil
Many thanks for providing such a wealth of information about self publishing – its been a real timesaver in terms of research! I was interested to see how you use CS with Amazon only and Ingram for other channels. I am thinking of going down the Blurb route as am familiar with their set up. They offer distribution to all channels (including Amazon) via Ingram which I am guessing should be OK in terms of bricks and mortar bookshops stocking books – I just wanted to check I have understood this correctly though! Your recommendation to use CS only for Amazon is because CS is owned by Amazon and using the EDC might discourage bookshops from buying the because they know that CS is owned by Amazon. Blurb appears to be independent, so am thinking of using them with Imgram to distribute to everyone including Amazon, as although Amazon can be supplied with the book their is no direct connection between Blurb and Amazon. Have I understood this correctly? It all looks fairly straightforward except that Ingrams (via Blurb) offer just three wholesale discount levels: 25%, 36% and 55%. Having read your detailed notes, I think I would have to select 55% to have any chance of having it stocked in UK bookshops.
Thanks again for taking the time to help others by posting so much great information publicly!
I’m not familiar with how Blurb’s back end or distribution works however the principle you outline seems to make sense to me, in that you won’t be using CS for extended distribution (or indeed for any distribution on Amazon from the sounds of things) and instead will use Ingram for everything. So, yes, bookshops won’t be put off as they won’t be seeing any connection between your book and CS/Amazon. One thing I would stress, however, is that the likelihood of bookshops actively choosing to buy your book without someone coming in to place an order is very remote unless you have a big PR campaign or hit the big time in some other way that results in people going into the bookshop to ask for it. In my own case, all of my bricks and mortar stocks have come about as a result of my visiting the bookshop and persuading them to take my titles because of the local connection, or before or after local school visits, and/or after holding signings there — several of my local Waterstones shops became aware of my local track record (the sales figures at my signings were good.) and so invited me in or were easy to persuade to hold an event there. In addition, because I go into local schools, people were going into local bookshops to ask for my book.
Farther afield in the UK I’m only aware of a couple of Waterstones stocking my book and I suspect it’s on the back of sales made in my local stores which may affect child-friendly branches’ “recommended buys” or something from Waterstones’ internal systems (what do I know?!) This apart, I have made sales nationally (probably around 50 or so if I had to guess) as a result of people going into their local bookshops and asking for my book. This may have been because they saw it online and didn’t want to use Amazon, or following a recommendation or similar. Now, in these cases the shops will have seen the book on their data feed supplied by Ingram and been able to order a Print on Demand Copy – in most cases routing this order via their wholesaler. Had I been with CS they may have been put off placing the order due to the Amazon connection and simply told the customer the book wasn’t available — there is anecdotal evidence for this both in the UK and the USA.
And as you’ve picked up from my posts, for those bookshops to make a decent return on getting the book in you’d need the 55% discount because in nearly all cases these bookshops are ordering via a wholesaler who also takes their own cut. And from what I gather, in order for everyone to make some money the wholesaler needs 55% in order to offer the book to a bookshop at, say, a 35% discount. Any lower and the bookshop’s incentive to buy is reduced — one bookshop told me that 30% was the minimum discount they would accept but ideally were looking for at least 35%.
If you did have a good marketing campaign designed to persuade bookshops to take your book without customer requests, then of course you would similarly need to offer this kind of discount to make your product attractive to the stores you target as, again, they mostly tend to order via wholesalers.
If in any doubt have a chat with some of your local bookshops about how they source their books. Ironically I now supply most of mine direct using stocks ordered from Lightning Source. That way I can offer the bookshops a 35%-40% discount and make more money than if they order from their their wholesaler who in turn orders it from Lightning Source. Of course, directly suppling local shops only works if they like the look of your book and so will take it on consignment (sale or return…)
One last thing to bear in mind is that one of the benefits of using CS for your Amazon only distribution is your book will always show ‘In Stock’. If you supply via Blurb/Ingram you may find it showing out of stock. I’ve blogged about his in detail == just something to bear in mind as it can be frustrating. Hence the advice to combine CS and (in my case) LS.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for clarifying and for the additional info. I now know which questions to ask of Blurb about discounts. It’s also really handy to hear how your bookshop sales are going as this helps not only with my approach but my expectations of sales! Thanks also for the reminder about ‘out of stock’ scenarios. You have saved me loads of time – just a bit more research with Blurb/CS before I take the plunge!
Many thanks, Phil
No problem – it would be useful if you could leave a short note here to confirm how it all works with Blurb as/when you are sure. (Helps others — and me — know about the different options.) I must say I tend to associate blurb with photo-heavy books but presume I have that wrong. Perhaps they have diversified? I assume the cost makes sense compared with CS / IS etc ?
Hi Karen – I now have a bit more information regarding self publishing through ‘Blurb’…
You can either publish through Imgram or directly with Amazon.com. Ingram would reach Amazon but the discounts are a one size fits all. If you sell through Amazon they take 15% plus a handling fee and the book could show as ‘out of stock’. This is because Amazon pull stock data in batches and how often they pull the data and update the listing is under Amazon’s control (not Blurb’s). So I think we are going to go down the Create Space route as it will always show ‘in stock’ presumably because Amazon own Create Space. Coupled with our expectation that are books are only likely to be bought through Amazon (North America is going to be our biggest market) so we won’t be pushing them in bricks and mortar stores (though maybe a couple of local ones in town!).
Thanks again for your help and I hope this is helpful to you and other readers.
Great information Karen. Thank you.Some tips would be appreciated. I have a local history published using Createspace and Amazon. It features 2/3 mini photos on each page which are interspersed with the text. Conversion to Kindle , using Amazon conversion service, completely mangles the books presentation. What should I do to ensure that the book appears on Kindle as it does in the physical copy. I viewed the e copy using their e viewer. I do not own a kindle. With thanks.
Hi Joe – Kindle works in a different way to print because the reader can vary the type size, which means that your photos would move around on the page. If you’re looking to have it formatted correctly I’d recommend eBook Partnership who did a great job converting my picture book to an eBook that works on colour Kindle. See my post Picture book to eBook conversion >> https://kareninglis.wordpress.com/picture-book-to-enhanced-ebook-conversion/ (The alternative would be to invest in Vellum software but if I were you I’d go with eBook Partnership as working with pictures in ebooks is complicated at the best of times.) Let them know I sent you if you do go to them. Best of luck with it! 🙂 Karen
Thank you Karen.
Karen you are amazing to offer so much info here. I have just spent all evening reading every single post! You have some very knowledgeable contributors too. I have been providing editing and proofreading services for indie authors for some time now amd increasingly they are asking me to support them with other aspects of self publishing. So, I have found all the information in this thread very helpful. I have recently been working with a few children’s authors so having the information on paper quality etc, for pictures amd illustrations has been very helpful.
Thank you for your frequent shout-outs for us editors too! One very important step not to skip to have a professional end product. I am going to join the Alliance of Independent Authors too. Cheers Karen xx
Hi Sue – glad to have been of help 🙂
Thanks very much for your extremely valuable insight!
I am based in the UK and have just written a 8×5′ 100-page children’s chapter book with b/w illustrations. I hope to go with Createspace for publishing. I was inclined to go with their wider distribution option but thanks to your post I have now decided to spend the £100 plus to get myself 10 (!) ISBNs – not sure what I’m going to do with the other nine!! 🙂 (but that’s just a rant… :))
This my query please. Since I am going to burn a huge hole in my pocket for a personal ISBN, I would like to register it to have a publisher – coming up with a creative name for a publisher would be fun i think!:) ( rather than having my own name)
However, I doubt this to be so straightforward. Could you please advise me the options, costs and the process involved in registering as a publisher.
Thanks very much, once again.
Hi Percy – there is no cost if you are planning to operate as a self-employed sole trader (which I assume is the case – I wouldn’t advise setting up a company ).
You can then trade under any name you like provided you follow the rules about not using names already in use etc – And you need to file a tax return each year once you get sales and include the name on on invoices etc
I suggest you read these two articles to understand more:
You can come up with your own logo. For Well Said Press I didn’t want to spend money so just designed a simple logo myself in Word 🙂
(Other business types include limited company or partnership etc but I can’t imagine you’ll want to set up either of those at this stage if indeed at all… those are the types of business structures where you would need to register the name –)
I hope this helps.
I also went for 10 ISBNs – they will last you for life so money well spent for when you come to write more! I only have 2 left now. I have used one for each paperback and one for each ePub version of the books. I don’t use them for the Kindle version as Amazon assigns its own ASIN nos to those…
All the best, Karen
Thanks, Karen. Your YouTube video was useful and wonderfully made. My picture book has been illustrated in landscape, 11X8.5. This seems to be a problem. Any suggestions on what to do? I feel stuck bc I would hate to shrink down the images.
Would u now recommend LuLu or CS?
Thank very much your very informative and quick reply. I have been trawling the web for hours on end looking for answers to many queries on self publishing without much use, until I came across your blog. I, like many others are extremely grateful for your generosity!
I hope I could ask you another question. I would like to use a pen name for my book instead of my real name (simply because my surname is very long and difficult to pronounce and I feel would put potential buyers off). Would this bring an added set of complications?
I am reliving my childhood in reading popular children’s books again – with the excuse of doing ‘research’ for my book 🙂 I have ordered Eek! too through Amazon and cant wait to read it.:)
Thanks very much
Hi Percy — I don’ know much about choosing pen names but here’s an article that covers it… http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/09/should-you-be-using-a-pen-name/ I don’t think it would add complications. But do google around also for more tips – and good luck!
Hi Percy — I meant to say thank you for ordering Eeek! Please do leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy it — every little helps! And tell your friends, of course 🙂 It is also on Kindle if they prefer eBooks…
I am based in the US and am in the midst of deciding on which publisher to go with: Createspace or Ingram Spark. It seems as though with children’s illustrated books, it is better to open the field of where one can purchase books. My book is a color picture book ~30 pages.
You seem to have a fantastic market plan of how to sell your book. I feel rather stuck as to what to do after it gets published. Would you recommend a book launch party? Is a FB page profitable? Do you have a timeline of how things should occur and when after or before printing of book? And, how do I split the illustration royalties or even pay my illustrator? We need to draw up a contract and not sure what are the options. She is a first time illustrator as well as me, being a first time author.
I have so many more questions as to what and where to go from here.
thanks so much,
hi Anjali — it’s late here in the UK so I won’t reply fully right now but in the meantime can I suggest you start by watching this video I have made about self-publishing and marketing children’s picture books >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo You will find this useful in terms of where real sales are and to be honest that is face to face at school events… Let me come back to you tomorrow or Thursday on choice of CS or Ingram etc Speak again soon, Karen
Hi Anjali – I hope that by looking at the YouTube video and after reading my page on marketing (follow the link ‘Marketing tips’ at the top of the page) you will have a better idea of what to spend your time on. In short you need to focus on face-to-face sales at schools, libraries or bookshop signings if you can (or playgroups etc depending how young your children are). I cover this all there.
If you decide to create a Facebook page I would do that as an ‘Author’ not a page for the book itself — I found it too time consuming to keep up my books’ individual pages and I talk about this on my marketing page above. On the wider point about whether it’s worth having one at all, if you use Facebook a lot it may help spread the word about your book but it will depend how active you are. To be honest I’m not a big FB user so don’t think my FB page has made much of an impact… I tend to favour Twitter but that doesn’t really lead to many sales… Again I refer you to the the YouTube video.
Regards CreateSpace or Ingram Spark I personally would stick with CS for Amazon.com and Amazon.Eu sales and IS for everything else including your own orders. (The reason for the dual choice is because the book won’t ever show out of stock on Amazon but it will if you just use IS — very often at the outset when you launch and regularly unless you are selling a lot). If going this route it’s important *not to opt for CreateSpace’s Extended Distribution Channel*. I cover the reasons why in my blog post above. Similarly you opt out of Amazon distribution with IS when signing up with them. Use your own ISBN — the same one for both CS and IS.
But if that sounds too complicated why not just start with CreateSpace and sign up to Amazon Prime and order yourself a stock of 10 or so to start with so that you can take it out and test it with a few people before going to the extra cost and time of also going with IS (There are set up costs with IS and you will need a slightly different format for the cover when using IS..)
In terms of illustrator royalties I think you’ll find that most illustrators will want to be paid up front as the work for them is huge and there is no guarantee of returns from your sales… again I talk about this in my Youtube video. Also do of course take a look at my page on Self-publishing a picture book (link at the top of this page) — but I don’t recommend ordering your own short print run (which is what i did with Ferdinand Fox) unless you are sure you’ll be able to sell the book in high numbers!
I hope this has helped in some way and best of luck.
Hi Anjali — I think you left your question about landscape books under the wrong thread but I’ll paste it here and then answer it for others’ benefit and to avoid confusion.
Your question to me:
My picture book has been illustrated in landscape, 11X8.5. This seems to be a problem. Any suggestions on what to do? I feel stuck bc I would hate to shrink down the images.
Would u now recommend LuLu or CS?
My reply: I’ve just checked both sites and I can’t see that either of them offers this trim size…. so I’m afraid you will either have to adapt your design or search for another option. I see that CS does do a square size — perhaps that would work for you? I really can’t help beyond this I’m afraid other than to suggest you look at those sites (and google to see if you can find anything else) then do the sums to work out what is best for you.
I’m so sorry I can’t be of more help, Anjali. But my gut reaction would be to try to adapt for CreateSpace if you can as they will always show the book in stock on their website whereas if you use other suppliers it’s possible you will have Out of Stock notifications on the book’s Amazon page — it’s hard enough marketing children’s books without facing this extra hurdle!
Then, if you think you will want to order large numbers for yourself to take into schools it may be worth looking at Ingram Spark alongside this using the same ISBN but opting out of Amazon distribution on the IS site. BUT first check that IS does the same trim size so that you can at least use the same interior file as used for CS. I see that they both do 8.5 x 8.5, for example…. but do take a look yourself…. And of course check with Lulu sizes too… I’m less familiar with how Lulu works but assume you can opt out of Amazon distribution and also order books to be delivered to you. But I’m afraid I’ll have to leave the research to you!
NB If deciding to with a combination of CS and IS I think it also makes sense for you to opt out of Extended Distribution with CS as that will be covered globally by IS…
I do hope this helps but you may have to read up quite a bit to help yourself finally decide!
Have any of your readers used Lulu for a picture book? I am leaning that way since they will do the 8.5X8.5 and trim down my book from 11X8.5. I hope it will not take away too much from the illustrations. Anyhow, would love any feedback about Lulu-using picture books. Also, there again, would I not got with global/expanded distribution to avoid the problem of books being “out of stock” with bookstores. I hope I have this information correct.
Hi Anjali – sorry I was away for a few days. I’m not aware of anyone using Lulu for picture books but if you google around I’m sure you’ll find someone who has. All I do recall is seeing people say that Lulu works out as quite expensive. Since CS does 8.5 x 8.5 why not compare the costs and decide from there. Also, if you set up an account inside Lulu I’m sure you’ll be able to post queries there to find out what other people’s experiences have been? Hope that helps! Karen
Thanks Karen, for your advice.
Now, the next step, in trying to set up a budget, and figure in all the costs to sell the book.
Has anyone commented on costs of marketing a children’s book? For ie, trying to figure out what costs will be after production. Have a book launch party, etc. etc. I often here, to sell books you need a cash flow. Any tips on additional costs would be great.
I’ve left a few comments on this site over the last 12 months or so and finally started generating some content on my own so…
Just to let you know I have referenced your site on one of my (very few) blogs
I wish you continued good luck!
Thanks for the link and recommendation, Nick – and very best of luck as/when you decide to approach Waterstones buying dept. BTW you might be interested to know that tonight there is a twitter chat 8-9pm UK time hosted by Orna Ross about book marketing — and whether paid marketing work. See the my retweet earlier today from the Alliance of Independent Authors
Karen – I wanted to say thank you for writing this: it’s the most helpful piece of information that I found when I was self-publishing my children’s novel: particularly useful on the different advantages of using CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. I ended up going with both, and it has felt like a really good strategy… I’m now wrestling with trying to get into bookshops (still hovering nervously on the brink) but I’ve just revisited your article and have been very encouraged that you managed to get your books into Waterstones even without offering a 55% discount (impossible for me, without losing 17p per copy). I feel emboldened to give it a try!
So many many thanks. You’re a star.
Thanks, Tracey – and all the very best with it! And don’t forget the main way to sell books is going into schools so make contact with yours locally. I talk about how I do this in my interview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo (focus is on picture books but message on sales holds true for all kids’ books). Also check out my interview with Joanna Penn on the interviews tab… Good luck! Karen
Hi Meg – while you could do this I wouldn’t recommend it as you will have two instances of the same book with different ISBNs and the general consensus is that this is confusing and not professional. Once you launch your Ingram Spark copy that instance of the book would also show up on Amazon pages – including the US/UK ones as far as I understand and this could cause confusion. (In practice it’s likely that CS would ensure that they fulfill the orders — but I don’t see how their systems would surpess the IS copy from appearing as their systems would view it as a different book.)
Why not just use the same ISBN for both? (and opt out of CS’s expanded distrubution). It won’t cost you any more and your book uploaded to CS using your own ISBN will always show in stock on Amazon.
Best of luck and let us know what you decide and how you get on!
Joanna Penn recommended I check out your stuff on ISBNs/POD. Informative post – thank you! I just have a quick question. I would like to publish an adult colouring book on CS for Amazon distribution and then IngramS for brick-and-mortar distribution, but am a little unsure on ISBNs. Would is be acceptable to publish on CS using their free ISBN, and therefore because I wouldn’t be using their expanded distribution program, separately publish on IngramS at a later date using a purchased ISBN from them?
Your feedback would be very gratefully aprpeciated! I can’t seem to find any answers and am unsure of the best way forward.
Thanks for your prompt reply Karen! This is all very helpful. I’ve spoken to a few people at Create Space after receiving your reply – they have confirmed that the 5 reviews the book has received will not be deleted and will be linked to the new book after I retire the first title and upload the second one – phew!!
Firstly, I can’t thank you enough for setting up this blog. I’m a brand new author and have just published my first picture book called Dev and Ollie – Kite Crazy. And I have referred to your blog endless number of times for guidance.
Unfortunately, I’ve gone wrong with ISBNs and distribution channels. I opted for the free ISBN from CS and only much later I read your page about CS – EDC vs LS. Now I’m stuck with a CS ISBN. I really want to use LS for UK distribution. I have purchased a new ISBN too but I was told by CS that once I’ve opted for their free ISBN, I can’t change that. Is having two different ISBNs for the same book a taboo or have their been instances when people have done that and gotten away with it? Thanks again in advance! Shweta
Hi Shweta – having two ISBNs for the same book could be confusing so best avoided if possible.
As far as I can see you have two options.
Option 1) Ask CS to remove you from the Expanded Distribution Channel without mentioning that you’re planning to use your own ISBN for other channels – then use your own ISBN with LS or Ingram Spark. By taking yourself out of EDC there will at least be no title clash with the Ingram Data feed on stores outside Amazon. However there are two potential issues: (a) it could take a while for your old record to be removed; so still potential for confusion with bookshops etc seeing 2 instances. (b) There is still a chance that the instance with your own ISNB will appear on the Amazon pages because they will receive the Ingram Data feed – albeit someone at the Alliance of Independent Authors has said that if you have a CS edition Amazon won’t list any other edition… but I can’t be sure about that.
Option 2) [which feels safer to me…] You’ll need to de-list your book entirely from Amazon and start again with a new project using your own ISBN. This time just use CS for Amazon distribution – ie exclude EDC. Then use LS or Ingram Spark for everything else. Of course at upload be sure to change your title page and cover page to reflect the revised ISBN. And remember the *cover file* specs are slightly different for CS and LS/IS – the spine width varies very slightly. (Having to spec two covers is a pain but, remember, the upside of still using CS for your Amazon listings is that your book won’t ever show as ‘Out of Stock’.) If you’ve not made any Amazon sales etc yet and it’s early days it may not be a big deal that you are de-listing – but it could take a while for the record to come off their systems – and the systems in the EDC – as I said earlier. (I have six weeks in my head as being a likely time-frame for this thinking back to blog posts from a few years ago…) Another thought, raised by my ALLi colleague is that if you already have reviews you could ask them if they would be willing to put them on the new edition when that goes live – I guess they can only say no….
But on the main point, I don’t believe that they can refuse to de-list the book!
I hope this helps – but suggest you contact LS or Ingram Spark to double check this would all be fine.
Hi Karen a great site and thanks for sharing what you know with everyone 🙂 x
I have just finished writing my book and I want to use CreateSpace for print on demand with Amazon uk and i also want to publish as an eBook on amazon. I really dont know what to do next where to start as I have my book unformatted in a word doc without any images as yet so i don’t know how many pages or what is the best book size to print in. Do people just look at books on the shelf and pick a size they like and go for it that way? Is it best to set up the ebook first or the print book? does it matter what order and is the ISBN affected as I read somewhere you dont need an ISBN for ebooks… hope you can help 🙂 kind regards andrea
David – in addition to Karen’s comments, a consensus amongst indie publishers is that printing colour books through CS in terms of colour render, paper and binding quality is okay but not as high as you may want or could get elsewhere. I would agree with that and the quality of colour print in terms of those parameters through Ingram (Ingram Spark or Lightning Source) is better. I have just printed a large, image laden, art book using LS and am very pleased with the overall quality as are customers. Apart from the usual premium 4-colour, Ingram also offers a much cheaper, standard colour option using super-ink jet technology and with their 70lb white paper is excellent. This may suit. However as Karen indicates, if you are looking to bulk order, there are good UK and European book printers with a wider choice of materials, options as well as POD and distribution. You may wish to explore CPI who have vast experience and high quality and may provide with you the flexibility you have been seeking with CS but at better quality and a good price.
Many thanks, creativpubtalk, it’s good to have other feedback on relative quality. CPI looks like an interesting option and could be good for our European ventures.
Hi Karen, great blog and very comprehensive advice. I must admit I haven’t read through the huge number of comments above in detail so I might well have missed some info on my question. However, here it is. I don’t think in your main article you address quality in print-on-demand books. There are two issues here – printing quality and binding quality. My wife Gail has now self-published five children’s books that she has written and illustrated. Her main conduit for sales, like yours I suspect, is through schools, in her case in several parts of the world where she has now entertained over 20,000 children in the last four years. For each of her books we have chosen to underwrite the cost of printing 1000 books a time, firstly at an excellent printer in Hong Kong, and more recently in Bangkok. To cover the bases and widen the possible sales, four of the books are also available as print-on-demand books from CreateSpace and although the print quality in terms of overall colour rendition is not bad when compared to the copies from our printers (it’s not as good, but it’s acceptable), the paper is thinner and the binding is frankly very second rate. The books are all 26-40 pages long and we’ve found that the CreateSpace versions literally fall apart after a few readings. Children’s books are meant to be read over and over again and therefore must be durable, which CS’s are not. It’s all in the binding – CS do not print in the normal four pages formed from a larger sheet folded style of commercial printers (there must be a technical term to cover that!), rather each page seems to be separate and then glued rather insubstantially. The card for the covers is also not really thick enough and so the covers curl easily. I have written to CS about these issues but I haven’t received any satisfactory answers.
I wonder what your experience is on this issue and whether Ingram’s product is any better. Lulu and Blurb have great products – I’ve used Blurb for photo books – but they are both prohibitively expensive for large volumes of children’s books. I should be very grateful for your comments and thoughts.
btw, I found you and the blog through my membership of ALLi which I follow and greatly appreciate with respect to my own writing and publishing efforts.
Hi David – many thanks for your feedback. If you read my page you will see that I talk about paper and colour quality there. I’ve not covered binding because in my experience I’ve not had any problems. Of course your solution requires big outlays upfront which most early self-publishers will want to avoid. But if they have budget and are serious about getting out and into schools to shift their books then your additional information sounds like another good reason to consider ordering in volume upfront from overseas (or in the UK). I did get quotes from China at the London Book Fair and I think I say somewhere in my thread in the picture book page that in the end, based on the fact that I’ve now sold almost 500 copies of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep, I could have saved by ordering them all upfront. But for me I had no idea how many I would sell… But by ordering outside of CS I at least got a thicker cover and the ‘satin’ paper finish.. Thanks again for your comments and welcome to ALLi! 🙂
Many thanks, Karen. I’m going to look further at relative costs, get some quotes and then write a blog about it – but don’t hold your breath, it’ll probably be a few months coming.
Look forward to it, David. I won’t hold my breath. Just look at how often I blog! At the outset I went for ‘less is more’! But I do try to update pages as things change….
I am a wiser man, and will keep the day job!
what you have said makes sense
I will give IS a call to confirm
I was hoping that you (or one of the other thread contributors) may be able to check what I have written here to see if I have made a mistaken assumption.
I have a Paperback Novel (Emergence)
It is ~400 Pages (5by8 inches) and a Print on Demand title with IngramSpark
ISBN – 978-0-9930779-0-6
I have just sent off the Gardners Waterstones Trading Application Form – stating I will do a 45% Discount (I was advised that this is the minimum.)
My cover price is £8.99
So if Waterstones “place an order” … perhaps via a Customer Walk-In Request.
Then I am not sure what happens:
a) Do they send the order to Gardners, who send it to me, and then I send a copy of the book to the Gardners warehouse?
b) Do they send a POD order to IngramSpark for direct fulfillment to the Gardners warehouse?
If (a), then the numbers are difficult…
If I have no inventory at home
IngramSpark will charge me £7.69 for a single print run copy sent to the UK
So I lose out £7.69 – (£8.99*55%)
If I have books in my garage … I can order ~50/100 from IngramSpark (carrying the inventory risk myself)… a bulk order like that will cost me £4.50 per unit… but then Waterstones will only pay £8.99*55% = £4.94 – and it will cost me ~£1.50 to send the book to Gardners Warehouse
If (b) … then I am not sure how it works either – but Amazon order my POD from IngramSpark and I do make 30p per copy … so either (i) Amazon are not taking much of a percentage off the £8.99, or (ii) Amazon have a bulk-arrangement with IngramSpark to avoid all the extra (handling costs / per unit costs)
Anyway… if someone knows the Maths/Economics then please drop me a line here
(p.s. Even after two months of various whining – by me – my Paperback is still listed on Amazon as Out of Stock — even though it is a Print on Demand title at IngramSpark)
My gut reaction is/was that you don’t need to complete that Gardners’ form because if a customer requested your book in Waterstones they would see it on their systems (due to the IS data feed via Ingram) and could order it for them – and Ingram Spark would fulful that order for you. ie scenario b) above.
Waterstones (just like Amazon) has different ways they can get it via POD – either via Gardners or direct from Ingram Spark or via another wholesaler (who would also have it listed due to the Ingram feed and would get it from IS). Waterstones would go for whichever route is cheapest for them (and that won’t necessarily be via Gardners but might be). But if they go via Gardners, the latter would be able to order the title from Ingram Spark.
I think the form that you are talking about is if you want Gardners to hold stocks of your book in their warehouse (so it’s no longer a POD order), and I don’t think you want to get into that unless you are sure that you will sell them in numbers, because you would indeed need to supply your own stock and could end up with returns. I may have this wrong but I did check with a contact I have at IS and this is what he said to me. In short it works per b) above and you would then get the royalty that you have already set up with IS and they would take care of everything.
I hope that helps – if in doubt call the IS helpline (I assume there is one!)
I called lightning source UK only yesterday about a similar issue.
I had to ask them what details to put on my ISBN form when I fill out the distributor details for my print books. They told me that Lightning Source UK are the “representative” and the distributor can simply be put down as Bertrams and Gardners; Nielsen will know who they are and fill in the details accordingly.
Orders should then go through via Bertrams or Gardners depending on the retailer, and Lightning Source will fulfil the order on demand. I don’t think Gardners keep stock of it when it’s a POD title – which is not to say that they wouldn’t order excess copies at their discretion if the demand was high enough.
Thanks – I may call them to understand more tomorrow. Especially as they seem to have changed the name of the service I use to Title Editor! The orders service I find a bit odd but useful for me to know. Thanks for the link etc 🙂
Thanks for clarifying. What’s also been mentioned about Nielsen – from what I can tell (having recently acquired ISBNs from them) they do have a service via which they will send you orders. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but they give some kind of report. This is only useful if you’ve not specified a distributor for a specific ISBN and intend to buy direct from IS and then ship yourself.
Thanks, Deane. Nielsen sending orders is wholly new to me I must say… reports is possible I guess (though I have never had any reports from them – my sales reports come from LS…) I’ll need to check that out when I get a spare second!
It looks like it’s part of the title editor application:
At the bottom, it’s called online order collection. I’m not certain whether it’s something you automatically get when registering for title editor. I’m still waiting for access to that.
Hi, Karen, I have agreed to have my book published via Kindle, but baulked at the low royalties being paid by Amazon on the paperback: 24p on £7.99, 64p on £8.99 and £1.04 on £9.99.This seems a poor reward for the effort. At least the Kindle offer was reasonable at 70% royalty. If I have this wrong, can you put me right. I’ve used PublishNation who use print on demand LULU to supply Amazon. I appreciate Amazon has a great distribution system, but the numbers don’t add up. Help, I am a novice at this. Great column.
Hi William – the royalty will depend on your page count, paper type and book size so I don’t know if your figures are correct or not. I assume you have entered these correctly into their royalty calculator? How many pages is it? (Are you in the UK? And did you opt out of Expanded Distribution when checking the royalties? The royalties for that are much lower than for Amazon.com and Amazon EU)
Hi Karen – my book has just been released into the Amazon system on Kindle today using a company called PublishNation here in the UK. They offer a very reasonable service to do both Kindle and paperback, but the paperback for Amazon is via Lulu (print on demand). The book is 274 pages. PublishNation confirms that the royalty on a £7.99 price for my paperback on Amazon would be 24p – equivalent to three per cent. I thought this a bit mean. Is this a trade norm? I have not been quoted for Expanded Distribution. I acknowledge the distribution powers of Amazon. Is this the best option for my paperback?
I use IngramSpark for my Paperback “Emergence” (which is then sole through Amazon) – I sell at £8.99 and think I get about 35p per title sold.
Anything that is Print on Demand will be similar – the Retailer takes 50% and the Printer takes most of what is left.
If I got a bulk print run using IgramSpark I could get the per unit price to £4.20 and then I could see it myself (posting out of my garage) at £1.50 per package … so I would make ~£3.20 per book sold … but Amazon retail webpage is a bit more widespread than mine (www.nickmlloyd.com)
So – my view – 24p is about right for POD.
eBooks I get ~£1.20 per sale
I have found this to be an excellent help!
I went into self publishing rather blind and published my children’s book through CS with their ISBN and with expanded distribution. I have now come to realise that UK bookstores and retailers need a Nielsen ISBN so I have purchased this and I am now looked to hopefully use Ingram Spark (Lightning Source).
Could you clarify something for me please?
If I receive an order through Nielsen can I use IS to print on demand? Also if I received an order through IS how does that work with regards to royalties? I read about publisher compensation on IS, is that the same?
Hi Lee – you won’t get orders via Nielsen; they are not a book marketing centre – they just provide ISBNs, data feeds to booksellers (who order from wholesalers and other suppliers like Ingram Spark) and they also produce industry stats for the publishing industry and journalists etc on book sales – they get these stats from the bar code scans.
If you want consumers to be able to order your books from UK bookshops you need to 1) Ask CS to remove you from Expanded Distribution so that the CS instance of your book doesn’t keep appearing on the data feeds that booksellers receive (at the moment they will see that CS is your distributor and they won’t order due to the Amazon connection) – I gather this can take a while and you may need to keep chasing them to make sure the record is removed. 2) Once you are clear of CS’s Expanded Distribution sign up with Ingram Spark with your non-CS ISBN (which will involve submitting your files to them, with a slightly different spec for the cover, entering your book info etc as you did with CS. Once this is done your IS record will appear on UK bookshops’ data feeds and then if anyone wants to order your book, IS will fulfil that order for you automatically and pay you a royalty on the sale. This is the ‘short’ version – you need to have a good read of the IS website to understand this whole process and call their helpline if you have any question – it is a bit confusing. Also read the comments above (some might be near the end of this thread) about extricating yourself from CS’s expanded distribution. And allow time for that to happen.
Hope that helps. I’ve not used IS myself but it’s the one to go with these days if just starting out. Karen
Hi Karen, as far as I know you can use the same ISBN for both IS and CS – as long as you opt out of expanded distribution on CS. If you have a separate ISBN for both services (this is assuming you are purchasing your ISBNS) then multiple ISBNs will be listed against that book. Apparently, Amazon will source direct from IS if for some reason it cannot be done through CS (although AFAIK, CS uses IS for printing). See this page: http://www.trainingauthors.com/publishing/self-publishing-print-books/ under option #4. I have also read it on other blogs by people using a mixture of services. This is how I intend to pursue print sales. Using CS so that they always show as in stock, and IS for retailers. The advantage with using one ISBN is that the publisher name is the same and I only now have to produce two proofs – one for hardback and one for paperback.
What you say is right Deane – you can use the same ISBN for both CS and IS (For each of my print books I only have one ISBN which I use on both CS and Lightning Source, which is the same thing…and I do it to prevent out of stock issues on Amazon as you describe and I’ve talked about this extensively on this blog) The trouble is that Lee has (I believe) already has published on Amazon with a free CS ISBN and I’m 99% sure that IS won’t accept it. So the options are to de-list it altogether with CS and start again just using the one ISBN or publish with IS separately using another (non-CS) ISBN… I have a feeling if Lee does the latter that Amazon will make a point of fulfilling any Amazon orders that come through. But Lee why not check with Ingram Spark to see whether what I say is right about them not accepting a CS ISBN…. ? Hmm – but even if they do, UK book shops won’t order, so you are back to square one… In which case de-listing or using a separate ISBN with IS are your two options… Thanks for the reminder there, Deane. I had assumed that Lee will have read what I have already said about ideally just using the one ISBN…
Regarding apple devices and Kindle – yes you can get the Kindle App – this gave me some hope and expectation – but don’t Apple make it difficult to buy through the app? I just think trying to do things across so many platforms is just too much of a pain. I wish it were easier but its not.
Yes I do agree that Apple make buying books a pain! I wish we could all just browse the books on our usual browsers! I am sure this explains their relatively low sales compared with Amazon… perhaps the penny will drop with them one of these days!
This is so useful. I was getting boggled by all the various information online but you’ve made things make sense! Many thanks, Joanna
Glad it’s been of help, Joanna 🙂
I registered for IngramSpark a hew weeks ago, but their publisher compensation calculator doesn’t show a fixed percentage. Do you only find out that the percentage range is limited once you upload the book, because there was no difference betwen the LS and IS calculator prices.
Hi Deane – I’m afraid that I don’t use Ingram Spark myself. But having just looked at their calculator I see what you mean. I think I heard something about them introducing more flexible options for discounts and perhaps this is the case and has recently happened – having just looked at their website blurb I see it says as follows:
” When your books are sold through our distribution network, you are paid:
Printed (POD) Title — Dependent upon your wholesale discount, you will receive between 45-70% minus print costs (some markets may vary)
E-book Title — 40% of List and Agency Price, with Kindle opt-in; 45% without.”
I’m sure if you call their helpline they will be able to explain? Please do leave a note here if you find out. In the meantime I’ll ask via the Alliance of Independent Authors and leave a note here once I hear more. In haste! Happy Christmas/New Year! Karen
Hi, Karen. It seems like there are still brackets, as you said. It depends on your market and distribution options. Apple’s eBook/iBook pricings are incredibly limiting, specifying that the price must end in .99 and be less than or equal to the retail price. This means that if you list on Amazon as well, Amazon’s requirement to be equal or less than the lowest other listing will force you to price even lower. Given that my book has been initially listed at £3.75, if I put it on iBooks, I’d have to price it at £2.99 (and therefore also on Amazon) and drop into the 35% royalty bracket.
I’m not going to publish to iBooks – and not lose sleep over it – since anyone with an apple device could get it using Kindle anyway.
Just wanted to give people an update…
(I am POD using IngramSpark; and Amazon KDP for the eBook)
After a few weeks of Amazon showing “1 Week Delivery”, both of my book formats (Paperback and Hardcover), they have now reverted on Amazon.co.uk to “Temporarily Out of Stock”
… so frustrating… I am chasing up via Amazon Author Central
Given this feels like a tactic from Amazon to move us onto CreateSpace I am very reticent to be bullied.
anyway… happy holidays to everyone
I feel your pain, Nick! It was very frustrating to see my UK print titles go out of stock for five days in the lead up to Black Friday – especially when they sell consistently (if not in huge numbers) throughout the year. And I do agree about not liking to feel forced into choices by CS, but I suppose if it hadn’t been for CS I would never have turned to self-publishing. So while I can’t say I agree with their tactics I will be switching to use their Amazon.com and Amazon EU channels (but not Expanded Distribution) for all of my books from the new year and sticking with LS for all other distribution.
For anyone who hasn’t read the full detail above, the reason The Secret Lake and Eeek! are currently supplied by LS is that the UK channel for Amazon didn’t exist when they came out – hence I used LS. But but my last latest stock issue with The Secret Lake and Eeek! here in the UK has convinced me it’s not worth it. LS can continue to do a great job in all other channels for me both here in the UK and worldwide. With Henry Haynes and The Great Escape I use both Amazon channels already and it’s good not to have to worry about stock issues! K
I am going to have one more go at speaking to IngramSpark (there is no-one to speak to at Amazon.co.uk Author Programme and all their responses to my emails clearly came straight from a cut’n’paste “answers” from a very basic workflow); so I will try to see if my “publishers” can do anything to rectify the situation.
As before, I will keep you all posted.
Molly – I fully support Karen’s great advice and recommendations of excellent outsourcing. Given your media degree and Photoshop experience, you may definitely want to have a go yourself first, I find creating the complete book as much fun as writing and I do all my own formatting and cover design now.
I mentioned Serif PagePlus on an earlier post for print formatting and PdF commercial print creation. The latest X8 version is a very powerful piece of software and also incorporates a lot of Photoshop style image editing facilities as well as exporting options for eBooks both ePub3 for children’s books and mobi files for Kindle. You can import image files, PdF and Word. Alternative for eBook formatting is the free Calibre software, which having had so much improvement upgrading over the years produces excellent quality direct from Word.
For book cover creation for beginners I can recommend BookCoverPro software which is professionally designed for non-designers and designers alike – it functions using image layering like Photoshop but creates a template to work with according to page size and bleed – the template is fully compatible for uploading to both CS and LS. You can design up your image in PagePlus and then finish the cover in BookCoverPro. Also exports an eBook cover too as a JPEG or TIFF.
I actually have a lot of experience with Calibre too so I’m not too daunted by all the formatting to be honest! I will definitely look into the other programs you mentioned though to see if they help (I’m sure they will!) I definitely want to have a go at designing my cover myself. I’ve already made a mock up which I’ve shown a few (very honest…brutally so) people I know and they were all saying how amazing it is and how it fits my book perfectly so I suppose I’m better at this than I was giving myself credit for. I do hope I end up loving all the formatting as much as you do! To be fair, I am really excited about seeing how it looks as a proper book so I’m sure I will!
I’ve heard the Calibre is good for eBook formatting so you may be okay with it – but the idea sends me into a headspin! Otherwise Srivener. Sounds as you have your cover nailed. Of course remember that it (and the title/your name) need to work as a thumbnail – but I’m sure you’ve thought of that 🙂 Best of luck!
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I actually read about IngramSpark shortly after posting my comment this morning and I agree, that definitely seems the route for me to take as I will admit, I was somewhat daunted by how complex Lightening Source sounds. I think using both IS and CS will be the ideal combination for me.
Looked into Nielsen as well and I’m happy with how to do that and finally feel like I’m starting to grasp what lies ahead! I only have two more questions if you’re willing to humor me: when you say about formatting errors, does that mean the CS template has problems? What I mean is will the book not show up in print/ebook as it shows up on the template? How much did getting it looked at set you back if you don’t mind me asking? Also, I have a degree in media and extensively used photoshop while still in school so I was planning on just designing my cover myself. Would you still recommend having a professional do it regardless of my own experience? If so, do you know anyone you can recommend and what sort of costs would I be looking at? I’m afraid of being heavily out of pocket before even getting out there!
I know it’s not an easy route into bookstores—that’s more of a dream for down the road. I Just want to make sure the steps I take now leave that as an option in the future. Thanks again for your reply, you and your blog have been so informative for me!
Formatting for eBooks and print are entirely different matters. With print what you see on the PDF is exactly what you get back in the printed book so as long as you are happy with that then you are okay.
But eBook files are another world entirely and not for the faint of heart…I wrote a blog post on my nightmare trying to format my ebook myself – check it out. Unless you are an HTML guru I’d outsource it for sure. Try eBook Partnership here in the UK – they are really good and reasonable. Tell them I recommended them! (I don’t get any commission…!)
The CS templates for print are fine – but I had issues with page numbering doing funny things in the end section because Word had introduced some bugs I couldn’t see. If you think yours looks fine that is fine… But if you are unsure Doug at Lighthouse24.com will give you an honest quote (tell him I referred you if you do ask him – he’s in Texas but that’s fine…). If he looks over the file and it’s all fine it can be as little as $10 – but if he finds issues and has to rework it then at least it’s money well spent. But he will tell you… minor tweaks may be $20-$30 or so.
See one of the most recent comments above about embedding fonts though – CS tends to accept files more readily than LS or IS due to embedding fonts issues etc. This is why I mentioned it..
Best of luck.
PS – Re your book cover – I’d suggest you try designing it if you are very confident and then getting feedback. The alliance of independent authors is great for this – we have a closed FB page where people often post their covers (most of which they use a professional for, but a few do their own…) They / we will also be able to recommend cover designers if you think you need one. We have a directory of providers that are all vetted and trusted within the group – or just google to find recommendations from other authors…
I hope this helps.
I’m a first time author and in the new year, I’m planning on self-publishing my book after numerous rejections from the “traditional” route. Nothing worse than getting interest but essentially being told it won’t sell because I’m a nobody! Anyways, I wanted to tell you that your blog has been SO helpful to me. I know so little about the whole process and your post is so informative and has told me so much about what to expect. I love the idea of using CS strictly for Amazon US and then using Lightening Source for UK distribution and everywhere else in the US (mainly because I’m determined to one day see my book in Waterstones!) I do have a question which I’m hoping you can clear up. Does LS take the ISBN that you get for free when you sign up using CS or is this something I would have to buy? I also know that with CS you can set Amazon as your publisher on the details page but how does this translate to LS? I’m just unsure what to do about the whole publisher/imprint bit and ISBN and I’m having a bit of trouble finding the exact sort of information I’m after. Any help you can provide for this newbie would be greatly appreciated!
All the best x
Hi Molly – good timing. I’ve *just* updated this page – see the red text entries throughout. In short I think you should do as follows (1) Buy your own ISBNs from Nielsen as you are keen to try to get into bookshops (2) Start with CS and select their Amazon.com and Amazon Eu/UK channels (but *not* their Extended Distribution Channel) – I explain why in the red text additional posts above but in short you will avoid out of stock issues on Amazon and then (3) sign up with Ingram Spark using the same ISBN. The reason I say Ingram Spark and not LS is that, as I explain above in my update, LS has far less hand-holding and is (I gather from others) much less receptive to signing up single authors now that Ingram Spark is here. Be sure to use a professional editor etc etc and when you are sure you are ready to go, get your files checked for fomatting errors before upload – I use Doug at Lighthouse24.com. And do use a professional to create your cover….
NB Don’t allow returns on your books – this will be given as a YES/No option at upload. And just be aware that getting into bookshops is hard work – you need to contact the booksellers and persuade them to stock you. And even if you succeed customers will only know you are there if you have promoted yourself eg via book signings etc or local press… ! Not trying to put you off but just make sure you’ve read my marketing section too 🙂
Yes – I’ve done the same as Lorna and used Adobe Acrobat on a free trial to create a compliant PdF – but baulked at the cost when the month ran out. Serif PagePlus does everything InDesign, Quark and Acrobat do, and is so cheap and easy then you have your own copy forever. I forgot to add on my last post, the reason Maria’s CreateSpace template worked is that CS is not so fussy about receiving a PdF which is truly compliant to the X-1A standard and seem to automatically convert what you submit themselves, same reason they accept RGB colour covers too. Unfortunately LS is very rigid on this issue and files must be X-1A compliant.
Personally, I downloaded the free trials available. Quark & InDesign are both relatively intuitive (although InDesign slightly more fool-proof) & you need to make sure you download the full version of Adobe acrobet too, so that you can do the full pre-flight checks recommended on Lightning Source’s website. That is also available as a free trial. Only for 1 month
Quick comment on embedded files for diggingupthefuture and anyone else with this problem. I suspect the issue may be that you are not uploading your final PdF inner or cover files to Ingram Spark (or Lightning Source) to their required commercial print standard which needs embedded fonts, image flattening and the CMYK colour scheme. You need to save your files to the PdFX-1A standard which will do all this. This can be a problem for indie writers or publishers who don’t want to splash out on hugely expensive Adobe Acrobat software or InDesign. Instead an excellent alternative to both and a tenth of the cost is Serif PagePlus, now on Version X8 but you can still buy X7 online at a very cheap sale price. (I actually use X6) Input your original PdF file direct into PagePlus then output as a new PdF but with settings on X-1A. Then upload to Ingram.
I use PagePlus as a perfect alternative to InDesign for typesetting colour books with images for print, using the Lightning Source basic colour print option which is excellent and in conjunction with Kindle Comic Creator to produce the corresponding fixed format colour eBooks.
Karen and I are relatively long in the tooth now with LS before Ingram Spark came into being – so established small press and self-publishing LS customers have just been allowed to continue with their agreements without needing to transfer to Ingram Spark – now new indie publishers don’t have the choice as LS is being targeted only to traditional medium to large publishers.
Thanks for the further insights here…. For info for Maria Brigit earlier – I always get my PDFs checked by Doug at Lighthouse24.com (ie I do most of the formatting but he does all the final checks and then saves it using the PdFX-1A standard mentioned in the thread here…). I decided very early in the day it was worth paying someone to do those final checks…! I’m not that tecchy!
Thanks that’s great…I will follow this route and post my experience.
Thanks for great info. I’ve spent numerous hours trying to resolve embedded fonts issue when trying to upload my physical and e-book to Ingram Spark. Please, please, as a warning to any other Indie author trying to use Create Space template to upload their previously published (successfully) book to Ingram Spark, read my experience as each upload to Ingram costs money.
I know Karen, reading your great article, that you used the create space template and your book to upload with success to Lightening Source but believe me, Ingram Spark are different. Otherwise, all the information you provided in your article is really, really useful especially as someone living outside USA as I do (Ireland). Like yourself, I believe starting out and learning the ropes from Create Space is really useful, but using POD and distribution elsewhere is definately the next step – using both Amazon and other POD/distribution. I would suggest Kindle and Smashwords for ebooks. Smashwords distribution is fantastic and if you have a free ebook to promote other stuff – they will do it for you with great distribution to Barnes & Noble, KOBO, I-Tunes (e-tunes) etc. Kindle won’t let you upload an ebook for free. (But I use both). One more thing – using the exterior template (cover) on Ingram is important as when you enter your IBSN number for the book, it will generate the barcode in the pdf file which they send by email to you and you can work on this.
So returning to the embedded font issue using create space template. Unfortunately, in my case, Ingram would not accept my files (made on Create Space) because some fonts were not embedded. At first, I thought that the issue was my own. But after checking, double checking, on and on -eliminating all the possible causes, the pdf file and checking embedding fonts, low and behold, the issue lay in using the template from Create space and any of my text that . created in it. I tested it over and over again by using my own formatted word file and copying text only (special paste with no formatting) into the clean file. I even used a Create Space file and wrote directly into it and checked the embed fonts in file when saving and saving in pdf I checked if fonts were embedded and Times Roman was not. THis is enough to fail to embed fonts when uploading your file to Ingram. THis is a consistent problem if using create space templates. I didn’t even have that font in my document. So for anyone else who might be thinking of using create space template, please (because it costs money to upload new files) check this before uploading. Personally, now having had to reformat my entire manuscript in my own format, I would advice anyone writing their book to do the same from the get go, if thinking of using Ingram. No new authors can get into Lightning these days anyway, so if you want to do POD beyond Create Space, this is my advice. The good news is that once you do your own template, you can use it for any POD company (even your local printers) because they all demand embedded fonts. I hope this helps save someone else from spending massive amount of time scratching my head and not knowing how to resolve somethng and a good deal of money on unsuccessful unloads to Ingram. Cheers Maria Brigit
Hi Maria – just to say see my reply on embedded fonts in the thread left by creativepubbtalk a bit earlier…. And thank you for sharing this info. For anyone else reading here see that post and my reply for more info… K
PS I’ve heard that Draft2Digital is also very good for wider eBook distribution as an alternative to Smashwords and apparently has a very good user interface. But remember the moment you outsource your distribution you lose control so it may take longer to change your prices etc if you want to run a promotion – because you have to rely on a third party to ensure that happens on all the sites they distribute to for you. As I don’t do this I can’t comment on whether this causes issues, but I do often see people complain about it. Personally for eBooks I updload direct to KDP, Apple, Kobo and (coming soon) Nook. That suits me for now. But then again the children’s book market is very different and very few kids download themselves…so I tend to stick with the main sites their parents are likely to be using.. But this is going off-topic for a thread which is meant to be about print on demand! K
I am just about to publish my non- fiction SEEKING JOHN CAMPBELL and am taking much of your advice in the original blog. I am uploaded with CS and IS but an holding back on approval .
I then decided to read down through the comments to the blog to see if anything has changed and I see that the problem with IS and amazon.co.uk still exists and that you have now switched on CS for uk.
I am a bit confused about something in your blog that doesn’t seem to tally with your latest comment. I.e you said originally that if you use CS for amazon uk it will preclude you from being available in uk bookstores. Yet you are now turning on CS .
Does this mean that because IS is an all or nothing option CS and IS compete for amazon.co.uk and CS always wins. Are there any problems with this providing same isbn used? Should CS be uploaded first?
Hi John – on phone and out so quick reply for now. You are fine to use CS in USA and UK but *don’t* opt for the Expanded Distribution Channel with CS – if you do that you won’t be able to use the same ISBN with Ingram Spark AND the records would show bookshops that CS is your distributor and that is what turns them off. When I first self published CS didn’t have a UK channel and that is why my first 2 titles are not with them. I recently had out of stock issues with Amazon UK so will prob turn that channel on for them too via CS in the new year. But LS will remain my main distributor outside of Amazon. Does this make sense? Do leave another question if not! K
ps sorry about all the typos above – in transit! In short CS fine for USA and UK etc but don’t select their Extended Distribution Channel. I’d probably upload to CS first. CS will then fulfil your Anazon orders and there will be no out if stick issues. IS will get you listed on all other stores and fulfil those orders.
Phew! I’m reading your comprehensive blog about self publishing. It looks as though I shall shortly be going down that route, and your words are very helpful. Thank you.
Glad it’s of help 🙂
Given this Blog is so content-rich (nice work Karen!) I thought I’d leave my latest experiences for people’s references – with a few bits of advice/warnings.
Just to give my experience to the crowd here.
I have recently (Nov 2014) self-published a SciFi novel using IngramSpark and Amazon KDP.
(Nick M Lloyd – Emergence)
I chose IngramSpark purely on the basis that they offered Hardcovers – unavailable through CreateSpace. – Decision Made
– IngramSpark final products are very decent quality, perhaps a shade under what you find from “big name” publishers – but very decent
– IngramSpark customer service are very friendly but don’t ‘hand hold’; I submitted a few “duff” files through my own error and didn’t get much in the way of proactive support – but when I pressed them, they helped
– IngramSpark “review times” – i.e. the time it takes for them to build a “book block” from the submitted internal and external files is 3 or 4 days – this feels too long for the impatient author; I have no direct experience of CreateSpace but I think they are quicker
– I used Amazon KDP for my eBook – it was a breeze – quick-easy and great control via the Author Dashboard – top notch service
then I made a mistake
– I mistakenly decided to offer my eBook via other readers (Nook, Kobo, etc.) I just wanted maximum coverage – this meant I also distributed an ePub file using IngramSpark – MISTAKE – I got zero sales and was excluded from Kindle Select — it got worse… on my day of publish (picking £2.99 for Kindle) the web site for Nook immediately discounted my book (Day 1!) and so Amazon price-matched and my book has been £1.53 ever since … I have no idea if this was Nook being disruptive … but it was a pain for me … I have not yet resolved it … Kindle Apps are available on Android, Apple, PC etc. so there is no reason to publish anywhere other than Amazon KDP – unless you are making a statement against the monopoly
… which brings me onto Amazon.co.uk … I do not feel like I have been treated on the same level as CreateSpace authors… my book (published a month ago) is still showing a 3-5 weeks (Paper) and Out of Stock (Hardback) … it is a Print-On-Demand product and Ingram fulfill orders in ~48hrs – so Amazon are clearly being slow here – I am trying to resolve this via Karen’s advice on “Amazon Author Programme”
…noting (the above issues about 3-5 weeks delivery time) is an Amazon.co.uk issue – the orders placed on Amazon.com (to US addresses) were fulfilled in 6 days (even over the Thanksgiving Break).
Indie authors need to stick together so I am happy to share more
Thanks for this, Nick – it’s really useful to share this type of info. Interesting points you make about placing your eBook on other stores and then being penalised by Amazon when one of the others discounts. Interestingly (and I think I have this right) on *print* if Amazon chooses to discount your book to price match (or for any other reason), you still get a royalty based on your original chosen retail price. But I’m assuming that’s not the case with KDP? Because it’s never happened to me I’ve not had cause to check this, but I have seen others complain about it. I will double check as I was on the verge of uploading The Secret Lake to Nook (it’s already on iBooks and Kobo and I’ve not had any discounting issues…)…
On the ‘Out of stock’ issue – when I first self-published The Secret Lake and Eeek!The Runaway Alien there was no such thing as a UK / EU channel on Amazon Createspace, so I went with CreateSpace for Amazon.com listing and distribution as it was free and easy, but did *not* select CS’s Expanded Distribution Chanel, and instead went with Lightning Source UK for everything else (included expanded distibution using the Ingram feed). This in effect means that CS fufils my US Amazon orders and LS is ‘meant’ to fulfil the Amazon UK orders – with Amazon periodically buying in small amounts of stock from them. Most of the time this works OK as UK sales of both books are consistent enough that Amazon UK seems to get stock in to serve orders. But occasionally – such as now in the busy run-up to Christmas – they show these two books as temporarily out of stock. This is very frustrating at such good (potential) sales times. I have therefore finally decided that I shall *switch on* the Amazon EU/UK sales channel within CS to avoid these sorts of messages in future as they always come at the worst time. But this will only work because I have the same ISBN for the LS instance and the CS instance of these books. And because I don’t use CS’s Expanded Distribution it means that my books will still be available for UK bookshops to order via the Ingram feed with orders fulfilled by Lightning Source…
Interesting that you say that Amazon.com was relatively so much better fulfilling your orders even those are via Ingram Spark…
Good luck with the Author Central querying, but just to warn you that you may find you get standard responses – which is what I have had in recent days complaining about the sudden appearance of out of stock…!
I have found CreateSpace OK. I have also tried LULU biut they ae tricky. There are issues with all these people and I guess all would be OK if we could find an agent or publisher.
I agree that I would like a better cover creator for CreateSpace
I’ve been in touch with you before but thought others may be interested in my recent experiences with print on demand. Having read through every page of this blog a few months back I eventually did a similar thing to yourself – use both createspace and Ingram to print and distribute my first picture book. We went to Createspace for Amazon sales and Ingram purely for direct sales as I will be selling through schools also. When we approved the online digital proof at createspace, the title goes live within a few days which then allows you to purchase your own book direct from Amazon and gain a little back in the form of commission – it’s far quicker this way. The colours on this first print were way too dark which we corrected in a revised submission the following day, however more worryingly is the fact that the full colour pages with bleed had white edges along the bottom! Apparently, this was a one off and not typical. We then ordered a second copy to check out the improvements and this copy looked as if it had been trimmed with a chainsaw! Awful finish on both the front and back covers. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt again shall we? Some friends very kindly ordered one the same day and although this all looked fine, upon closer inspection we noticed the images had been enlarged way beyond the bleed limits and was now losing a noticeable amount of my artwork that, well… after all the blood and sweat poured over this thing I kinda want people to see it all! That’s 0 from 3 from my point of view. Ingram sent one copy to date, but it was stunning in every way. I’ve now decided to pull out from Createspace as their printers in U.K (Amazon in Marston Gate) just don’t have the quality standards I expect and I don’t want my customers receiving books of that standard.
My query for you Karen if you can be so kind to answer it for me is.. How are you selling your books on Amazon without createspace uk channels and without Amazon hindering your Ingram expanded distribution listings (Amazon state that there is an 11 -13 day wait for my title ordered through Ingram!) Are the copies (say Ferdinand Fox) you sell on Amazon from Ingram/LS and stocked by Amazon using the fulfillment centres? I’ve worked out that you can make a similar amount of profit doing it this way compared to using createspace in the UK. If so, is this arrangement good for you, any problems?
Please keep up the good work, you are a huge help to all us indy publishers – I’m sure you’ll be a dame one day!
I’m all signed up to Lightning Source & Createspace & just wanted to check a couple of things with you, if that’s ok. What options did you select with Lightning Source, so that they know I’m using Createspace for Amazon.com (& nothing else). Also, should I allow returns? Will bookshops even consider stocking my book, if I don’t?
Hi Lorna – you don’t select any option. Because Amazon controls its own site it will by default display its own instance of your book as the top search result on Amazon.com and it will fulfill those orders itself. The book will always show as being in stock too…(whereas you may have a period with LS books showing as out of stock…)
I don’t recommend allowing returns via LS as it could prove costly. And even if you did, the reality is that most bookshops probably won’t stock your book unless you hit the big time, or strike up a relationship with them (and they like it, of course!…) and this usually only works with local bookshops, which you can supply yourself (and allow returns from) using your own LS supplies…. However if a customer comes in and asks for your book the bookshop can and will order it as a print on demand item…
I hope this helps…
Thanks Karen, yes, I was really only thinking in terms of local shops! I didn’t want to risk putting them off! I didn’t realise they’d take stock directly from me. Thanks again 🙂
Hello Karen, i just found your blog, thank you for having the time to help other first time publishers, is very nice of you 🙂
I have been working on my manuscript for over 3 years, my book is a memoir, about my life since i was born with health issues, i first wanted to publish with authorhouse until i found out they are a vanity publishing company, so i looked elsewhere and by some people’s recommendations i decided to look into self publishing with Amazon create space, for many reasons main one is because i want to be in full control of what i want to do, i have a vision on how the book suppose to look, and be.
My worry is that my book is very personal and i will also be including poetry in song formats, (written lyrics) do you think all this is possible with Amazon create space? and do you know where i can find a direct number to call? I am based in England, London.
Hi Sebey – sorry for the delayed reply – I had just gone away when you left this. Basically you can publish whatever you want via CreateSpace – as long as it’s words on paper it will work. But the file you upload to them needs to be well laid out and in an acceptable format. You can do this yourself using their Word templates as I describe above – or look for a formatter to do this for you. But before you do any of this do make sure that you find an editor to read your manuscript and check for grammar/flow etc – that needs to come first if you want to be sure of producing something of professional standard. Joanna Penn recently did a useful blog post on this…. Even though she is mostly talking about fiction here, it’s the same principle http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/07/14/how-to-find-the-right-editor/ Once you are happy with your manuscript and are sure it’s ready to go you can look for formatters using the CreateSpace community (which is free to use) – I personally use Doug at Lighthouse24.com He’s based in Texas and I’m in London, UK – but it’s never been a problem.
Best of luck with it!
Thank you so much for the reply, I am also based in UK, London.
I have a few questions
were you happy with the book print quality? from createspace?
Yes i am aware that i will need a proofreader, just to make sure is in within standard level. my other question and concern is, i recently have stumbled across someone’s blog, he had used createspace and wasn’t happy with the quality of the book, he said that it didn’t look like a professional book print, would look like, this is very concerning to me as my main worry is that the book print looks professional.
I noticed that you have published a few books with createspace if i’m not mistaken, so i thought i would purchase one of your books for my 7 year old son, i saw one on amazon that i think he will love the story. this will also give me an idea of the quality of the book print. 🙂
Hi again Sebey – In fact I use both CreateSpace (CS) and Lightening Source (LS). For The Secret Lake and Eeek! The Runaway Alien I used CS for the Amazon.com market – but LS for the UK copies, including those sold on Amazon.com. The quality of both is fine – though I slightly prefer the interior paper colour with Lightening Source for cream paper (it’s less yellow than the CS equivalent). In the early days I also found that the covers with CS weren’t as vibrant in colour as the LS covers – but nothing that a reader would notice. My very latest book ‘Henry Haynes and the Great Escape’ is produced by CreateSpace for both Amazon UK and Amazon.com – and I have opted for white paper for this version as the cream paper looked far too yellow for a chapter book with wide line spacing and black and white illustrations…. So if you’ve ordered Henry Haynes you will be seeing a CS book with bright white interior paper (which you wouldn’t be using)… Equally if you’ve ordered Eeek! it’s possible that you will get either an LS book or a CS printed one as Amazon has recently started printing some of my UK books themselves using the files I supplied for Amazon.com If you have ordered Eeek!, the way you can check who printed it is to look at the back of the book when it arrives. If it’s LS it will say ‘Printed by Lightening Source in the UK’. If it’s via CS it will state another printer based in the UK – not LS! I hope this doesn’t confuse things too much! One last tip – I would recommend supplying a CMYK file to CreateSpace for the print cover rather than RGB – they accept both but I reckon the cover still looks better if you supply CMYK, which I did for Henry Haynes and the Great Escape. With that book I don’t notice any difference in vibrancy when comparing it to the LS printed version which I use for my school and shop supplies. CS has recently introduce matte covers by the way, which everyone seems very happy about. One last thing – I recently ordered ‘Life Form Three’ by fellow Indie Author, Roz Morris, and that is printed by CS with a matte cover and cream paper and looks very professional…. Hope this all helps! 🙂
Hi Karen, Just wanted to say a huge thanks from me too – this blog has been invaluable in the maze that is self-publishing print on demand!
I published my first book on KDP 2 months ago and have been asked for a print version by a few people so I’m keen to progress this. I don’t know how bothered I am about getting it in to bookshops as my book is pretty brain-dead easy reading chicklit that I can’t make pay for itself on the POD model with a 45% or more cut from the distributors – nobody will pay enough money for it to be worth the upfront cost. I now realise why printed books are so expensive though!
Interesting point about ordering your own books as samples – that’s good to know and we already have Prime so it’ll be worth a shot. I’m assuming that if I take a CS ISBN that in the future if I want to go elsewhere I’ll have to buy another as it’ll be theirs to keep if/when I leave the programme?
Thanks again, great blog that I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Hi Nicola – yes I think a CS ISBN isn’t transferable, but check with them. I own my own ISBNs so can’t claim to be an expert. But that sounds right. Really glad you’ve found the blog useful. Best of luck with your print copies!
Thanks for that, Karen. I hadn’t thought about Amazon Prime – will look into it. Actually, the reason I wanted to know how long Lightning Source take from a book being uploaded to it being available to buy, is because I thought it would be much easier to buy in bulk from Lightning Source, than to send for them from America. (My book is already on Amazon) Which is why I wondered how long the process took from upload to being available! Thanks again.
I’m thinking of using Lightning Source UK and I wondered if you knew how long it takes from the time you upload your file, until the book is available to buy. Their FAQ only say that you will find out during the submission process. But it would be good to have some idea!
I assume your question relates to how soon it will appear on Amazon? It’s a while since I’ve done this but from recollection it normally appears there within a week or so even though they say it may take longer. However I think that they cover themselves by saying it can take up to three weeks. One thing to be aware of is that once the book appears you may find that it shows as ‘out of stock’ and delivery time is 1-3 weeks. This is really frustrating and you may find yourself having to email Amazon (via Author Central) to ask them to get this changed; and that change may not happen quickly – it’s so unpredictable and I think depends on orders they receive. I’ve written about this quite a bit and it only happens to books published via Lightening Source (not books published by CreateSpace, which always show in stock). If you are in the UK and only intend selling from Amazon I’d recommend using CreateSpace and then select their Amazon UK distribution option – but if you want to try to get your books into UK bookshops or to order large numbers for yourself for school events etc then LS does make more sense. However, if you’re only thinking of ordering small stock quantities for your own needs then another workaround I’ve recently heard that some people use is to publish via CreateSpace (including the UK option if you’re here) and then to join Amazon Prime and then place an order of, say, 10 copies or however many you need (though be aware they may try to limit the number you order – I don’t know if there is a limit….). The delivery is free and next day with Amazon Prime and you soon earn back your $49 Amazon Prime joining fee in saved printing/delivery costs against what you’d have paid for a bulk order as a publisher. (But do check the joining fee as I know it’s due to go up soon.) You also get a royalty on those sales which helps even out the cost of getting the book to what it might have cost if ordering via LS (or indeed compared with trying to order in bulk from the US). I’ve not had time to stop and do the figures on this but it may be worth thinking about if you only expect to order your book in 10s or so at a time for events/review copies etc. I hope this helps rather than confuses! Karen
Yikes! I just spent a lot of time and trouble “persuading” Lightning Source to “allow” me to use their services rather than being “forced” over to Ingram Spark. After some back and forth, I was granted entry into LS. My reason for using LS (rather than Ingram Spark or Create Space) was two-fold. First, I wanted to have the power to set a short-discount. My book is a 32 page children’s picture book. Most of what I have read from self-publishing blogs/posts is that expecting a large bookstore to stock my book is a fantasy. So, I figured a 20% discount gave me a better profit per sale than CS or IS. LS also had a better printing price and lower shipping rates than CS. My second reason for choosing LS is that my illustrator is based in the UK. LS seemed to have a better foothold in the UK and Europe, so I thought it might be to the illustrator’s advantage to have that benefit. After reading several blogs and posts, I am afraid I made the wrong choice. Perhaps sticking with CS is the way to go for listing paperbacks with Amazon. However, CS does not offer distribution for hardcover. So, I’ll have to choose either LS or IS for the hardcover version.
Has anyone used CS for paperback and either LS or IS for hardcover? If so, I’d be grateful for your insight. I wonder if the “out of stock” issue with LS/IS holds true for hardcover considering CS does not offer distribution for those books.
Thanks to you all for sharing your experiences. I appreciate it so much!
I’m afraid I’m seeing Create Space/ Amazon conspiracy written all over this now… LS have just told me that the Amazon ordering system in the UK is now trying to get my book from Create Space not LS… even though I have not selected the UK distribution option on Create Space and it is available on LS. Having heard that, I was just wondering if it matters what order you do your launch in. I launched the Create Space version in the US first and then the LS here (just because one was ready before the other). I’m wondering what others have done. Perhaps it would be better to launch LS first so that it is up and running on the Amazon UK system before you launch through CS? Then perhaps the CS system will not try and load up onto Amazon UK because the LS version would already be there? Or am I just over thinking this massively!!
My pleasure. The PR approach is a bit mischievous but it’s the tactic I used way back when I first launched and my book was appearing out of stock when I had lined up a marketing campaign and so I felt very hard done by. . But that was in the days when it wasn’t common knowledge that this was an issue – it’s kind of common knowledge now and so people are able to plan for it. They did then put me in touch with someone in the UK who put me in touch with Author Central who sorted it out and that’s the reason I suggest Author Central always as the first port of call. But it may take a few comings and goings to get them to take note. I wouldn’t advocate the PR route as a matter of course unless there is a serious issue and all other routes have been exhausted!
Thanks so much for this Karen. I’ll definitely join the Alliance and see if I can get hold of an Amazon PR person as well. I’m rapidly concluding (rather to my frustration really) that Create Space everywhere may be the answer for this book. Perhaps a second could be more widely available through LS/ Gardners etc. but I’m in danger of losing sales over this at a crucial point.
Thanks so much again for your fantastic site.
Hi Caroline – I’m really sorry to hear about your experience and I completely understand the frustration of trying to get an answer out of Amazon UK. Are you a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors? If so we do have an ‘in’ to Amazon’s worldwide rep – albeit this feels a more localised issue – but he may be able to find out who you should be talking to – or to get them to talk to you! Follow the link on my site above to find out more – I’d highly recommend becoming a member for all of the mutual help and support they offer, as well as discounts to events etc – and their great closed FB page where you could share this sort of stuff. The other suggestion I have is to try to track down the PR office of Amazon UK if you really think that orders of yours are locked in the system and you can’t get a response from the team in Ireland. In other words put on your ‘freelance journalist’ hat briefly and suggest that their poor customer service is affecting your business and do they have a suggestion/response. I hope this helps – please do let me know by leaving a comment below. BTW do have a read of my response to Francois earlier up the thread and Roger Baldwin’s responses…where I’m saying for those not hell bent on getting into Gardners that using CS for the UK feels the least hassle these days…
Hi Karen – Firstly thanks for such a great site – so useful.
But I just wanted to add something here about my experiences setting up to sell my new novel using Create Space and LS. I very much liked the idea of using both so that I could get presence in UK bookstores etc and all was fine in terms of set up. I used my experience preparing it on CS and to be honest LS was not as hard as I thought it might be. But now it is feeling as if it was the wrong decision because Amazon is proving to be so difficult to deal with here in the UK. And I wanted to mention it because I think it is due to my not having listed here using Create Space.
Briefly… my book appeared on the Amazon UK site with a 1-3 week availability once LS had sent out their feed (and instant availability in the US because I was using CS!) I had read here and in several other places that this could happen. I started an author account and tried to ask them about it.
In trying to get to the bottom of this, I unearthed an error in the data feed about my book from Nielsen. So quickly the issue became not the 1-3 week wait, but the fact that Nielsen data was interfering with the data coming from LS and Amazon were taking orders but sending them nowhere.
The error at Nielsen was relatively easily fixed but the problem is now that it is impossible to talk to anyone at Amazon about all the orders that were placed and are just sitting on their system. They also cannot confirm if they currently have the correct information abut my book and indeed I know that orders are still not reaching LS even though the information should be correct everywhere.
I raise this really as a warning to anyone going this route. It should have been straightforward but now that there is a problem with information about my book, I have found it impossible to find someone to deal with it. LS say that Amazon will eventually correct their information (but who knows when?). Amazon Author services say it is not in their remit to check information about a title other than name of author, publisher etc. Amazon customer services send you back to author services. Amazon head office either puts you through to customer services or to a phone number that just rings and rings and then cuts you off! I tried a web chat this morning and again in the end, the guy cut off the connection because I kept asking him not to transfer the issue to author services but to someone who deals with orders.
So my advice would be – be careful using LS to supply Amazon. If something in or out of your control goes wrong, then it is almost impossible to fix it. I just want to be getting on with writing the sequel to my book and I am spending all day trying to find telephone numbers for Amazon in Ireland (where they keep all the data and apparently have no telephones!) or checking to see if any orders have yet come through to LS (they haven’t!). And the constant refrain from Author Services – ‘if you would like to have your book available more quickly, you could use Create Space.’
I feel that this says it all. If you chose to go with LS you better hope that nothing goes wrong with the listing on Amazon, because there will be no-one to sort it out if it does…
PS. If anyone out there has any information on how to actually get hold of someone at Amazon who could really help, then I’d love to know!
Hi Karen, we were in contact a while ago about book writing. I am now taking my children’s book forward and your blog is extremely useful. Thanks so much for making all the information available, it’s such a minefield and you make sense of it all! I am in the process of looking at costs and Ingram sparks seem very competitive (I think it’s the new version of lightening source for independant publishers). I am debating with myself about the paper quality and like you would like to go for silk paper if possible. I am going to speak to a local printers soon to see if they can offer silk paper. I have trawled the internet for a POD offering silk paper and the ones that do seem to have very complicated procedures and high costs. I was wondering if anyone on this thread had found a printers offering silk paper at reasonable costs with simple set up procedures?
Hi Catherine – As you will have seen in my reply to Clare above, I used Headley Brothers in Ashford, Kent. But the per unit costs are still high so you will really only make a decent return if selling your books direct – eg to schools. Once you have to offer a discount via bookshops the profit margins get squeezed…just to be aware!
Thanks karen I meant to say printers with silk paper who offer their services online like CS and LS. No one Lhasa mentioned anything in this thread so I am presuming there aren’t any. I will see how I get on with my local printers. Thanks again Catherine
No – I don’t know of any services that offer that finish via this method – that was/is part of the reason I posted about my experience; the biggest learning curve I have found is that you can’t get silk finish via print on demand companies like CS and LS (even though the quality of the paper finish is very good with them if you go for colour…)
Thanks. Very detailed and helpful.
I discovered your website today whilst doing a bit of research into self-publishing a children’s picture book. I am planning a couple of picture books and am midway through my project.
They are written but before I illustrate them, I want to find out the best size to go for to produce a picture book. I have delved through my 6-year-old’s picture books and find they all differ slightly. One US firm (www.selfpublishing.com) suggested 8 x 10″, which is the standard in the US. But I am assuming the size of paper depends on each individual printer, and what size they can offer. Any advice?
Secondly, in your blog about finding a print firm who could produce small print runs on silk paper, please could you tell me which firm you used? Was it a local one?
I am getting a few quotes together now and going around in circles as every quote I receive varies dramatically. One printer quoted £850 for 100 copies, full colour and printed on A4. Another online POD firm quoted £350 for 100 copies (although this was based on low-quality colour).
Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
First in response to which paper size to go with – you are right that this will depend on which print supplier you decide to go with (albeit most will offer the most common sizes I am guessing…but not all, eg Lulu is very restrictive from recollection). So if you start off with a ballpark idea of size, based on your research of picture books – as you have done – this will give you a starting point. You can then look at your potential print suppliers and see what sizes they do – and then weigh up costs etc. If the most cost effective/suitable printer for your needs happens not to offer your preferred exact size you can then decide whether to compromise and pick a size that is very close to what you had in mind. I have talked about this on my other post Selfpublishing a Children’s Picture Book
For info, I chose 8 x 10 (ie 8″ wide by 10″ high) after looking at a number of UK library books and it’s fine. That said it looks a little smaller than most of the picture books sitting in my local bookshop and Waterstones, so can get lost in amongst them on the shelves. But if your main distribution is via school events (which to be honest is the best way to make any money) then this is not an issue. Should you want to go larger though and opt for (non-silk finish) Print on Demand, then both CreateSpace and Lightening Source UK offer size 8.5 x 11. I must have looked at this and decided against it when initially choosing size (when I had assumed that POD would come with a silk interior finish) – possibly because it felt a bit wide, I’m not sure! Or it may have been to do with cost and the effect on profit which is very low via POD – around 60p per book in my case (you can work this out using each site’s royalty calculator).
In response to your next question, I used Headley Brothers in Ashford, Kent for my short run, after a recommendation from someone who works in print. However the figures on my blog post aren’t quite right (I realised this when I had to recheck them for an interview I did this Thursday with Joanna Penn.) It turns out that I had erroneously left off the delivery charge from my calculations, so that first run of 100 books worked out at £3.91 per book – ie £391 for 100 with good quality colour and silk interior pages. Even at this high price, if selling direct at school events with a £6.99 RRP (or even when discounting to £5.99) I can still make a profit – and without the worry of sitting on a huge stock. That said, I did end up having to order a further 100 and then more again (!) due to more school events and three Waterstones signings that I had scheduled. At that point I bit the bullet and ordered 300 – and in the end my overall unit cost has worked out at £3.35 for a total of 500 books. Had I known upfront that I was going to be ordering 500 in all I could have saved money by ordering them in one go – or even trying to find an offset price for 500. But I wasn’t prepared to take the risk in those early days. As it stands I still have just under 300 left – but Waterstones have just asked me to do another event with them and I have more school events planned for this year so I know that I will get through them eventually as I can sell them alongside my other two books at school visits (which is a cost effective use of my time). I’d definitely not order no more than 100 to start with though – as you need to be sure you can sell them – overall sales of picture books are notoriously low, and especially for unknown/self-published authors. Re low quality colour, I wouldn’t go for it personally – it’s all about your book looking as professional as it can be. But it depends what that low quality looks like – get a sample and then if you think it looks okay and the price is right, ask them for a free sample using your book. Headley were able to supply me with a free proof which surprised me, but digital printing is much cheaper to set up than offset printing and I think they knew there was a good chance I would place the order. LS also offers ‘standard colour’ – which is cheaper than their premium colour option – but then you wouldn’t get the silk finish pages.
I hope this helps. For anyone else reading here, please see my other post on self-publishing a picture book
Francois – I would just like to endorse the very sensible suggestions Karen has made and add a little more information from my own recent research on CS versus LS. At the moment all my paperback books are printed via LS-UK and also LS-US. One of the problems all we indie writers and publishers face is keeping up with changing developments in the digital publishing world, apart from social media marketing distractions when what we really want to do is to get on and write! Karen and I both started the print routes as UK indie author/pubbers a while back when LS had definite advantages for UK based writers in terms of book quality, global distribution and royalties over the US focussed CS. However with the growth in self publishing and Amazon’s continuing growing domination of the book selling markets and expansion, CS has raised its game considerably of late.
If, like me, you write fiction you will want a matt cover not glossy, which LS has offered for a long time but now I see that CS also provides the same with quality decidedly improved and I believe up to LS standard now, especially as LS prints UK and European distributed CS books anyway. CS has an amazingly good and helpful supporting infrastructure for interior and cover file preparation and upload. LS remains tricky for a newcomer, with much less online support. For someone like me who learned the hard way using LS, then CS is now a doddle to navigate through. The expanded distribution service of CS is definitely far better than it was and now free. LS charges per book per year for global distribution but is more comprehensive outside of the US and Europe, if that is important. Yes, you can wholesale at 25% through LS rather than the imposed 40% through CS but your LS books will only be available through online bookshops at that rate. I’m not sure now how the perceived favoured status of CS with Amazon versus LS fares these days. One advantage of LS-UK for a UK author, as Karen points out, is if you want to order your own books. CS still, unfortunately, persists in printing and shipping UK author orders from the US. However with rising UK postage and the fact that print costs in the US are considerably less, the gap has narrowed, as also in theory has the time scale to get your books.
I’ve just successfully written and published a ghost story for the NaNoWriMo2013 competition and have just done some calculations for a print version of Mauveine as I am now more intrigued about the benefits of CS. At 40% wholesale, royalty returns from LS and CS are identical, and I can now have my matt cover from CS. There is no file set up cost for CS which will cost around £42 plus VAT for LS. No cost for extended distribution for CS and an immediate location on Amazon US and Europe. And if I want to order 10 books to tout around local bookshops the cost for LS on around 5 days UK shipping would be £38.20 and on 8 day expedited shipping from the US with CS would be £40.98 so LS has a little bit of an edge but not much.
Now, if I was new to self publishing, CS would definitely be hard to resist as there is so much help to get your print book up there and out to a global marketplace. Finally, having a print version of your book alongside an eBook is a definite aid to reader professionalism and overall sales, especially on Amazon, even if the print versions don’t sell so much. Hope this helps too.
Roy – thanks for adding to this. Really useful detail here for anyone wanting to decide what to do. I’m bringing out a new children’s book in the New Year and will be starting out just with CS and most likely continuing that way – provided the cost to order my own stocks is not much more that it would be via LS. I’ve not done those sums yet but will update this blog post when this time comes.
Hi Karen – just wanted to add an update to the CreateSpace versus Lightning Source musings above. I published Mauveine in the end using CS for the first time. My cover templates with bleed, writing space etc are designed for LS but they and the PDF conversions for cover and inner worked fine and went through first time with CS, except CS uses slightly thicker crème paper so the spine was a tiny tad wider, something to watch, use the CS spine calculator. The process, approval and appearance on Amazon was easy and very quick.
Yes – your own UK copies are still printed in the US, but using 8 day expedited post a box full arrived in seven days and that was over the Xmas period. Overall cost including postage over the same sized order via LS was only slightly more, as US print costs are cheaper. I am pleased with the quality of the bind, paper, print and matt cover, definitely as good as LS and certainly improved from the early days. Now must get some book signings sorted!
Hi Francois – I’m so sorry for not replying after all! I was very busy and it completely fell off my radar. The short answer is just go with CreateSpace and opt for UK distribution as well as EDC (which is now free). Your UK books will be printed here when ordered from Amazon and will always show in stock on Amazon UK. I would only recommend going with LS UK as well if you are serious about trying to get Gardners wholesalers to stock your book to enable it to be quickly ordered by UK bookshops nationwide – but the % discounts they want these days are so much higher than when I started out I don’t think it worth it. The numbers of times customers are likely to walk into bookshops across the UK to order your book are likely to be very low anyway – and it will (as I lately understand it) be possible for bookshops to order a copy if a customer is desperate as it will eventually show on their data feed. However it will be print on demand and will take a time to arrive. But I suspect from what you say your main sales channels will be Amazon. The only advantage of using LS in this case would be that it’s quick and easy to order stocks for yourself that you can take to local bookshops. But I’d start out with CS and see how your sales go to start with. I’m a bit out of the loop on the cost-per-book if ordering in stocks direct for yourself from CS and last time I read comments on this I think it said they had to ship from the USA but I’d suggest emailing CS to ask about that as it seems daft given that they now print here in the UK too. I hope this helps but leave a comment if you have any other questions and I’ll try to reply more promptly! Karen
Hi Francois – just picked this up – I will leave a reply here for you tomorrow or Saturday as I have a few things to clear first! Karen
Hi Karen I desperately hope you can help me I am very new to the world of publishing. I have a completed manuscript. As I am based in the UK I am unsure which is best or if both LS and CS are best. Sometimes reading the comments and posts make sense sometimes they don’t but that is because I am very green to all this.
I want to have both a paper back and an ebook. I want both to be available on amazon US and UK and would love paper backs in places like Barnes and Nobles and Waterstones though being based in the UK and a first time author I am less concerned at present with B&N. I guess what I don’t know is how would I manage both accounts. If I sign up to CS should I use that to only distribute to the US and LS to only distribute to the UK because of CS shipping fees. Also when concerning ebooks does it matter which one I use? I want to be able to have royalties paid in GBP will that be an issue if using CS? i don’t quite know the strategy to enable my manuscript to be available for distribution in the US by a US printer and in the UK by a UK printer avoiding unnecessary costs while being available on all amazon platforms. I hate to sound slow example of a scenario i can’t get my head around. If i sign up for both and opt not to use CS EDC does that mean that book will only be distributed in the US leaving me free to use LS for UK distribution ie if my book was purchased on Amazon UK its going through LS and on Amazon US through CS and when concerning ebooks the same principle
sorry to be a bother
Ah – I see. Doug also helped me get Eeek! onto Kindle with black and white illustrations and it’s worked very well (though I don’t sell anything like the number on Kindle as I do for The Secret Lake – a boy thing maybe?). Lovely if you could spread the word re the app! 🙂 Can you email me a link to your book and I’ll check it out! K
Thanks for such a quick reply. The illustrations are B&W. I published on Kindle although I’d looked at others but by the time I’d been through the decisions I wanted to simplify it all! Local waterstone’s wouldn’t buy directly from me, Maybe there’s been a change but they have ordered from Gardeners which is such a pity!
I don’t have an Ipad but I’m happy to spread the word, I am so impressed with all your techie knowledge! S
I’ve been rereading all your helpful info about self-publishing and would like to add some comments that might help others. After much indecision, I went with Doug at Lighthouse 24 to do the layout of my book and working with a children’s book illustrator, Doug helped enormously in the matters of scanning and sending him the illustrations. He advised me on the font and all matters pertaining to the book production. I’ve used LS, to publish and after some delay, the book appeared on Amazon. Also an E-book formulated by Doug for me. I recommend him to anyone, lovely, courteous, knowledgeable and hugely reasonable! As for marketing, very difficult to get into Waterstones, but after a little spat with an area manager, ithe book is now in one Central M/c storeI But selling well in local bookshops, and have sold several hundred copies, giving talks in schools and to groups. To my delight, the RNIB will make a large print, and eventually a new Unified Braille copy of the book. (This happened because I supported a local protest against a library being shut and met a local journalist etc)
Have been far less successful selling through Amazon, and I admire your successful distribution with this. I shall follow you in offering a higher discount, especially in US. Clearly, I need to focus on offers and on Goodreads now. I shall probably use CS for my book sequel…easier I think.
I found Lighthouse 24 through your blog, so many thanks once again.
Hi Sue – I’m so glad that you found Doug and Lighthouse 24 [http://www.lighthouse24.com/ ]so good and reasonable – I think he is brilliant. Out of interest, did you publish the picture book on Kindle or in another eBook format? (I’m interested to know if you have used colour pictures for the eBook..) Like you I find that large numbers of my sales come from school visits – and this in turn affects local shop sales. I’m sorry that you found it hard to get into Waterstones. They have certainly moved the goalposts since I started out on this journey. However my experience is that if they like the book and you offer a good discount you do have a chance of getting in. It seems that the best way to do it is to offer to sell direct from your own stock rather than via Gardners – you and they are likely to make more money! You may be interested to know that I’ve just launched an iPad app of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep! If you happen to have an iPad you can download it here: https://itunes.apple.com/app/ferdinand-foxs-big-sleep-interactive/id672933239 and it’s free for a limited period. Please do check it out and leave a review / rating if you enjoy it, to help spread the word. Or please pass the link on to friends/neighbours. I’m not promoting it heavily yet as there are a couple of links inside it on the parents’ page that are broken (the ones that parents can use to link to the app store to rate it or share it on Twitter) – they are in a queue at Apple to be fixed at the moment. But you/anyone can still rate the app direct from the app store.
Great article, thank you for posting. I see it was posted quite some time ago, I’m having trouble deciding between the two and think I’ll use both, providing I can use the same ISBN
Thanks for your reply Karen, I will email you and yes I ordered it from amazon.
Best wishe Catherine
Thanks so much for the info its very useful. I bought your Ferdinand book to have a look at what a self published book looks like. Its a lovely book and my son loves the story! You said had it printed from another source and not from lightening source but it has the lightening source/ well said press logos on. do lightening source still distribute your book then? We would want the sticky finger paper so will need to speak to some local printers if LS don’t supply it. We are aiming for a mostly local market but having the book on amazon and in the most desirable format would be of great benefit. Thanks on advance for your advice.
Hi Catherine – sorry not to have replied to your previous post.
It sounds as if LS has supplied the book with the very-good-quality-but-not-silk-finish paper rather than Gardners supplying it (they hold the gloss finish stock…) Out of interest, did you order it from Amazon or via some other route? I’m puzzled as I thought Amazon was fulfilling the orders via Gardners, but maybe they are not. If you email me I will organise to send you a copy of the other one to enable you to see the quality – I have a few ‘spare’ that I rejected from the printer as they had chips on the front – so they made up the numbers with the next print run. You will find my email address if you click on the ‘Contact’ button above! I can then fill you in on printer details etc.
Hi Catherine – So sorry for my delayed reply – I’ve not been online that much the last few days. I’m afraid I’ve not yet had time to look into Ingram Spark so would hesitate at this stage to put my views here – however if you follow my blog you will get a notification when I do post comments on it.
Just one thing to be aware of with self-publishing children’s colour illustrated books – you will not get silk finish paper; rather just a good quality white paper if using Lightening Source. This led me to source printing externally for Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep up front as I felt that the book would not sit well beside the competition in bookshops, where most children’s colour picture books use this heavier “sticky-finger-proof” paper. I also felt that not having this finish would make it harder to persuade bookseller to stock it, even on consignment.
However sourcing upfront with this type of paper has made the unit cost very high, as I didn’t want to commit to a large print run. This in turn means it’s really only feasible to make any money to speak of by either selling direct to bookshops (ie by passing wholesalers such as Gardners who want 50% or more discount), and/or by selling to direct schools at author events.
You might want to take this into consideration in your plans… ie be aware that (a) you will need to find an alternative print solution if you want silk finish interior paper and (b) the unit cost is likely to very high unless you’re prepared to commit to a print run of around 1500 copies…
I will post a blog piece on this in due course – just haven’t found the time yet!
Would love to know what you think of IngramSpark. My friend and I are in the early stages of working on a kids book and your website is absolutely brilliant. Very informative about the different options for print on demand. We are looking at all our different options for printing at the moment. The book will be illustrated using photos of the local area (and props!) and will have appeal to locals and tourists ( we live in a very popular tourist area) and it would be a bonus to get it on amazon. Best wishes Catherine
Very informative and useful. Thanks
Just wanted to let you know that your blog is very informative!
I already published a technical text book exactly the way you describe it here two years ago.
LS only first, then due to availability problems LS in Europe and CreateSpace in US.
I assume children books are very different, but reading your postings I was reassured by the fact that somebody is doing it the same way 😉
Just uploaded my second book tonight – still as exciting as the first time. This time going for CS only, after long time thinking about it. Initially I thought about having LS for Europ (I am German, but writing in English). Then decided for CS only since I am planing frequent updates every 6 months or so. Probably even without EDC since most techies buy online from Amazon anyway and EDC makes updates and price changes more difficult.
good luck for you and keep your good blog going!
Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you’ve found the blog informative.
I’d agree that going with CS only makes sense for you given that (a) they now distribute here in the UK too without requiring shipping from the USA as used to be the case – and (b) given that most of your audience buys online. My only reason not to go that route is that LS gives me a foothold into the databases of the UK physical bookstores and they can order direct from LS if customers come asking… (if I use CS for UK distribution I don’t get that…)
Good luck with the next one! It all continues to be very exciting, I agree!
I don’t post as often to this blog as I’d like to as I juggle my writing with my professional day job writing – but it’s a new year’s resolution to post more!
This post has been like gold to me! As a UK-based indie author with one eBook on Amazon, the response of my target audience has made me realise that I need to have a physical book available in addition to the eBook. CS makes sense, but I also appreciate all the reasons for using LS in parallel.
Thanks for all the useful info you’ve posted – it has saved me a huge amount of web-trawling and cemented my decision to go ahead with a paper book. 🙂
Glad you’ve found of it of use. Just one thing to be aware of is that I recently increased my discount to 45% on LS after chatting with a few booksellers – see what I have to say on this in the Marketing section – but it’s about the cut taken by the wholesalers who are the ones who supply the bookshops. The point being that if you offer, say, 45% via LS, then Gardners (which is the main suppler to the bookshops – that’s how they get hold of the book) will shave that discount down to, say 30% or less sometimes – and there comes a point at which the bookshops don’t think it worth their while ordering (unless a customer walks in and places an order). Also, getting books into Waterstones is very hard these days (though I’m okay still in SW London on the back of my sales and events). I will post on this separately shortly. However I know that Waterstones will sometimes support local authors directly – ie you order your stock from LS and then offer a direct discount to Waterstones at, say 40%, and cut out the wholesaler.
I like to think that I am on fairly good terms with the Darlington branch of Waterstones – might be worth trying to see if they’re willing to put a few of my paper books on their shelves.
Thanks for the updates on the discounts. It’s all a bit of a whirl at this stage, but hopefully it will become clearer once I begin the process with CS and LS. 😀
I understand the reasons for the discounts, it’s just that I will have to integrate what is an acceptable level of discount once I get more involved. 🙂
Karen, thank you so much. I will certainly check out the Alliance of Independent Authors. All of my previous books have been published in the traditional way, and I just have one title that I’d like to self-publish. I will reverse my comment now about not having much help from Lightning Source, as once my account was approved, I was delegated a Client Representative, who couldn’t have been more helpful. And you could be right about not putting the price on the back, I’ll give that more thought. Deciding how much to charge for the book has exercised has been a tricky one, am still vacillating!
Thanks a lot,
Karen, I’ve found your page extremely interesting. The thing that is bothering me most with LS is how much to charge for the book. I’m thinking of £7.99 but find the pricing scheduling so confusing with the additional charges, that I feel unsure about going ahead, especially as I intend to list the price on the back of the cover – I think it looks more professional that way. I can’t seem to get any help from LS, and I wonder if anyone on this site could help, as my indecision is delaying things.
Hi Margaret I decided against putting a price on the cover – I haven’t found that it stops my books getting accepted into bookshops…. and it means you can retain flexibility if you find that it doesn’t sell, for example. But that is up to you!
As far as working out the LS prices goes, I sat down with a calculator and then got my husband to check it for me!! I recall finding doing the sums a bit painful – but for someone with a mathematical brain it’s very simple!
I presume you have downloaded the paperwork that explains the cost? You need to refer to the no. of pages/page size etc
Last thing – if you are only thinking of selling online, Amazon now print in the UK – it’s much easier to go via them than LS and they offer lots of help along the way and, of course, have the royalty calculator… But if you want to try to get into local bookshops then LS is better – provided you are confident about doing your formatting (I now use LightHouse24 for this). LS apart, someone on the Alliance of Independent Authors closed Facebook page has just recommended http://www.completelynovel.com/ – I know nothing about them but it may be worth a look?
By the way I did mention to LS the other day that it would be helpful if they would put a cost calculator somewhere independently on their site so that we can work out costs/pricing more simply than referring to the paperwork. The more people who suggest that the better I reckon!
BTW if you are serious about self pub, check out the Alliance of Independent Authors (see link on the navigation bar at the top of this page)- they are great and have a really active and useful closed Facebook page where we swap know-how and experience…. All the best, Karen
Hi Karen, me again … also, when you uploaded the files that CS gave you to LS, were they 2 sheets to a page (mimicking the actual inside of the book) or were they 1 sheet on a page? So far, the Mockups I’ve received from CS are 2 sheets to a page (how they’d actually appear when printed in book). Would LS receive this 2-to-a-sheet printing, or would they expect me to upload a version that only had 1 sheet per page. Both CS and LS books would be of the same dimension (5.5 x 8.5). Thanks again! Bernard
I’m a first-time author, who is sort of learning a lot of this author stuff through on-the-job training. I’m trying to keep my mistakes to a minimum, which is not always easy. I bought my own ISBN for my book and established my own “publishing company” through buying a DBA (sole proprietorship). I did this in hopes of being able to be with Createspace and Lightning Source and keep the same ISBN for the same book and use at both companies (I like the finalized copy of LS’s book better). Anyhow, I’ll be approving my book cover soon as well as giving my final nod to its interior through Createspace. Would I be able to use the same pdf they give me for the cover and interior and upload to Lightning Source? Is this a given, or would I have to do even more conversion to satisfy LS’s spec requirements? Is there a way to test whether this pdf is okay? Do you have Createspace-to-LS conversion skills? How much would you charge for such an endeavor? If you don’t, do you know of anyone who could do this for a nominal fee? Thanks. Bernard
Just a bit more on Amazon.com. Regarding times to appear with UK printed LS books on Amazon.com, I found books appeared simultaneously on Amazon UK, Europe and US – probably because I signed an LS-US contract as well as an LS-UK one where my account is centrally managed from because my business and me are UK based. I also have an Amazon.com and UK account for physical purchases. Because I technically have a sub-account with LS-US, what I think happens is that books ordered in the US, either on Amazon.com or via a bookstore – route initially through LS-UK then autofeed over the internet to LS-US to be printed on demand for the US market and save shipping costs. I think the LS-Amazon politics last year have died a death and only seemed to affect people with very high sales. CreateSpace uses LS-UK for their EDC distribution in the UK and Europe so queering that pitch didn’t make good business sense I suspect.
Yes, I can see how margins will be tighter than simpler black and white novels as the print costs for childrens books, presumably with colour and images etc, must be greater. I haven’t explored colour printing or hardbacks yet with LS although they are offering improved technology now. The other issue around margins and setting a wholesale discount is the actual value of bookshop sales to your particular market niche. There is an increasingly strong argument, borne out by sales data, that with print fiction being in sharp decline then content is best now pursued as eBooks only – and forget about print altogether. There are vocal advocates of that approach – personally I still like the mixed model and the satisfaction of providing a print offer and handling the final physical product! The flexibility of print on demand at least provides that. Perhaps, in fiction, it will be the paperback that will disappear soon and that tailored hardbacks with ebooks will be sufficient for all tastes. It’s hard predicting the future here, so it is important to keep an eye on trends for your specific book area.
Actually my first two children’s book are black and white (one with B&W) illustrations. The margins are low partly because I chose to price them at £4.99 – so partly my own doing! I was keener to share the stories and make it more likely parents would buy than worry about the profit! My next book will be with full colour illustrations so will be interesting. I’ve just replied further to Sue on the CS/LS question BTW – I think/hope I have the info right – feel free to chip in if not.
Karen – you are right about CS – all custom orders do ship from the US to the UK which adds more cost and time delays which with LS you dont get. Is seems daft to me to have CS printed books shipped that way to the UK. If I bulk order a set of printed copies from LS for direct sales they are with me in two working days. Serif Software Products are excellent, well supported and far cheaper substitutes for expensive Adobe and just as powerful. Apart from PagePlus – which replaces Indesign, I can recommend PhotoPlus instead of Photoshop for cover image manipulation and also WebPlus for webpage design.
Sue – I did choose 127X203 for cream paper – digits must have got in a muddle somewhere!
Helena – LS printed books do go into Bertram’s distribution list, I tested this out with my local indie bookshop. But if you set your wholesale discount too low the order from the bookshop gets ignored (also tested)! If you only want to sell through Amazon they accept as low as 20%, which LS allows but CS doesnt. The list of LS book distributors for the UK, US and Europe, which are automatically notified for listing through Ingrams, which LS belongs to, is fully comprehensive but if you want to ensure physical sale availability through every outlet via every distributor, the trade norm of a 55% discount will need to be set, which allows the bookstore and the distributor to take their normal cuts. The alternative for local indie bookshops is to offer to act as a wholesaler for your books, buy some stock directly printed at cost from LS, then sell, via the boot of your car, directly to the indie store at their normal discount – you will have to consider returns of course but is all workable to make a profit on typical book prices for say 100,000 word novels. This is also how to sell your LS books through your website too plus the postage of course. However, in the end I have to say, Amazon sales are a lot easier!
Roy – thanks for your useful input here! Interesting point on the 55% – I use 40% (but 55% in the USA). I’m not aware that it’s affected orders but it may explain why any orders have never been via Bertram’s – I’ll have to look into it.. The trouble is that with a children’s book the margin is already pretty tiny!
Firstly,thank you, Karen, for the answer to my question, sent a little while ago. Simply no problem with taking time to reply; I thought you were busy. I’m sure your are!
I’m really amazed by the generosity of so many people going along this same path, and have found great help in my rather halting journey through what I call, SelfPubLand.
Now I have another question, which is also for Roy:
why did you choose 133 x 203 (5.25 x8) size rather than the smaller, 127 x203 (5X8) when choosing creme paper for your books?
I am seriously considering following Karen’s way of selecting CS and then LS for publishing my children’s book and I’m sure you’ve both made that choice for good reason.
Thank you all for your comments and again, thanks to you, Karen, for setting up this most helpful blog.
Hi Sue – the reason I chose 5.25 x 8 is that I was worried that 5 x 8 might look too narrow and tall! It probably wouldn’t have, but I got very hung up on minutia! It’s a good size… and it’s one of the ones that both LS and CS do and which offers cream paper.
On choice of CS/LS the initial reason I stuck with CS in the USA but went for LS in the UK was that I had gone a long way down the CS route before realising that the Amazon UK books would have to be shipped from the USA. Once I realised that I investigated LS in the UK.
Things have now changed and if you use CS in the USA you can get on to Amazon UK and books ship within the UK. So on the one hand if I were starting today I might have considered just sticking with CS.
However, it’s through LS that you get on the data feeds for UK online and branch stores – see Roy’s note below dated 25 Sept – and you can also opt in to the USA, Australia etc channels via LS so get on to Amazon.com (and Barnes & Noble online stores etc etc) as well that way. (While CS’s Extended Distribution Channel (EDC) gets you onto the USA data feeds beyond Amazon.com, CS only pays a 40% royalty rate on those sales – compared with their usual 60% for non-EDC sales – and you still don’t get onto the UK distribution feeds, as far as I am aware. Therefore if you are aiming to get into UK bookstsores as well as to sell on Amazon, it makes sense to use LS for all of your wider distribution. Follow my link in the blog post to understand more about the EDC (Someone please correct me if I have this wrong!)
In short, if you are aiming to get on to the UK feeds, then there is no real need to use both CS and LS – you could just use LS in the UK and then opt for US distribution as well and find your book listed on Amazon.com in due course. My only reservation here is whether Amazon.com would resort to showing long lead times on delivery over there. There was a bit of politics going on between LS and Amazon at one stage and a lot of authors complaining that their LS title were showing as 3-weeks delivery time etc – I’m a bit behind and don’t know if that is still an issue. The other thought is that it takes up to 6 weeks for titles to appear in the USA whereas with CS it’s pretty much instant 🙂 I hope this doesn’t confuse things too much!
PS If you do end up using CS in the USA and LS here, you need to decide whether to use the same or different ISBNs. I checked this out with CS and was told that I could use the same ISBN in the UK with LS as with CS provided I had not previously signed the book up to their EDC (which I hadn’t) and so that is what I did. If you have different ISBNs with LS and CS there is the potential for the same copy of your book to compete with itself in the Amazon store I think (because the LS version will end up in the US data feed if you opt for US distribution via LS instead of via EDC – and will then appear on Amazon.com alongside the CS version).. I did a lot of reading up on this way back and also spoke to Nielsen’s here – but now forget the details. But the upshot I think is that because I only have one ISBN Amazon.com only shows one instance of my book and fulfills those orders via CreateSpace.
If I weren’t using CS then The Secret Lake would still be on Amazon.com but the US sales royalties would be fulfilled and royalties paid by LS instead of of via Amazon/CreateSpace.
Sorry if this is repetitive and confusing but hope it helps in some way! If you only want to sell via Amazon then just use CS!
‘Bookcoverpro’ that sounds interesting. I’ll have to have a look
This blog has been a lifesaver for me. The information you give is excellent.
I published my first romantic novel, The Englishman, on Amazon and Smashwords a few weeks ago. I’ve just dropped SW in favour of KDP Select so that I can run a five day free book promotion to boost sales. But I would like to follow this with the publication of a physical book as many of my readers have been asking for one, and I’d also like to do a book launch at my local bookshop. (I worked as a bookseller for a year which has helped with contacts.) I also wondered if LS distributes only to Gardeners in the UK? I know that many independent bookshops are so strapped for cash that they tend to order predominantly from Bertram’s who offer them better return quotas and discounts. Also, in our shop we’d never consider a book for stock if our discount was below 45%.
Secondly, how long would you say the process takes with LS if you already have a pdf format working on KIndle (and Smashwords which was a difficult one!)? My free book promotion on Amazon will begin on 08 October so I have three/four weeks to work with. And would you recommend a professional editor & illustrator for the cover? (I used both for The Englishman ebook – no illustrations inside the book)
I know you’re busy with your next book, and I’m very grateful for any advice. I have two other titles ready to go, and would like to get this one right to make the other two easier (in theory at least).
Helena – I am so sorry but I’ve just realised that I never replied to your post here! I am working full time at the moment so hastily approved this post from my BB and clean forgot to follow up that evening – and then life/work took over. I must have overlooked it when the subsequent post came in. I hope you have something sorted by now, but if not here are a couple of pointers.
1/ Here is what LS say on their website: “We send the data out to our Distribution partners (including leading distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and others).” However I have seen another blog that says they do include Bertram’s in the UK. I will check again and update this when I find out for sure – otherwise I’m sure you can just call to ask.
2/ I randomly chose 40% discount and since it didn’t seem to put off Waterstones I have stuck with it. Interestingly my local bookshops who take the books on consignment are happy with this amount – and one even insisted they only wanted 30%! (we settled half way at 35% as I wanted to offer them an incentive to want to promote it!) This said I may review my quoted discount rate with LS to see if the books get picked up more widely – most of my stocked items with WS have been due to my efforts to strike up relationships with booksellers who have then gone on to order from Gardners rather than them picking the books from their data feed.
3/ Regards time to prepare the file for LS if already on Kindle. If you use someone like Doug at Lighthouse 24 (see my page on Print on Demand for his contact details) he will give you a firm time. It depends on the book length etc. In my case I did all of the print book layout myself and then Doug checked it. For how to go about doing it yourself check out my section here on Word Formatting Tips. If I had to hazard a guess as to how long it took I would say a couple of weeks on and off for the 122 pages of The Secret Lake by the time I had worked out font/line spacing/ and then fiddled with spacing issues/kerning etc. For Eeek! it was quicker (maybe 4 or 5 days) but I would probably say ask Doug (or someone else) to quote to do it for you though – it may not be as much as you think and in the end when Doug checked my files there were a few things he needed to correct. But it depends on your budget.
4/ Re your cover – if you’re using a photo you may be okay (it looks like it from a quick look at the Kindle store) – just one thing is that on your thumbnail I can’t quite make out the sub-title. (And just for your info I can’t see anything when I click on the ‘look inside’ feature – not sure if that is because Amazon hadn’t enabled it yet?)
All the best,
Hi Roy – thanks for your kind comments!
Agree there is no particular benefit of using CS in the USA if using LS in the UK these days. However, the reason I have stuck with CS USA for now is that I was so grateful for the fabulous free support they provided when I knew absolutely nothing – and would have felt bad to dump them at the last minute once I was ready to go! Of course the reason I went hunting for a UK solution was that at the time I published The Secret Lake there was no UK-based printing from CS.
I love that with LS your books automatically go into the data feed for UK stores. l haven’t looked at this in any detail but I’m not sure that would happen if routing via CS into the UK – (but I may be wrong – it’s been a while since I read up on it all!) Another benefit of LS over CS in the UK is that (I believe I have this right) with CS you can’t place bulk orders to deliver to home or direct to clients – which you can do with LS (and I have done). I think I read that any custom orders ship from the USA – but I may have that wrong…
Thanks for those PDF tips…
I’m now working on my first children’s picture book!
I just want to say how really useful your site is as a great summary for reflection on issues, terminologies and challenges being faced by small indie publishers and self publishers. Having been pondering, as a UK based women’s fiction indie, for days and reading endless posts over the pros and cons of Lightning Source and CreateSpace for print on demand, especially now CS provides free Amazon UK/Europe presence, your explanations and experiences are just the job. Presently I use LS-UK for everything including Amazon.com, as they print in the US from their LS-US base. Given the greater flexibilities for discounting and lower shipping costs and the fact that CreateSpace uses LS anyway in the UK as a printer, I don’t see any benefits of CS, even for Amazon.com, except it is marginally cheaper on set up, and LS now offer free eProofing which works well. I would emphasise your point for fiction about trim size and cream paper. Typical UK paperback size is 129mmX198mm but you need to go to 127mmX203mm for cream. Although slightly larger your book sits fine alongside standard paperbacks. The other big issue for me is the cover quality, as LS provides a lovely professional matt finish, which I use, but CS only provides a glossy laminate which I hate for fiction.
You are right that LS is a slightly tougher challenge for a self publishing newcomer, but your tip to use the easy CS templates and CS help on PdF making for the interior formatting is excellent. I use Serif PagePlus for print PdF, although Word2007 onwards PdF conversion works fine for LS; you don’t need all the expensive and impenetrable Adobe software they recommend. Working out doing the cover initially in LS is certainly more of a challenge than CS, but I use a piece of great software called BookCoverPro, which is fabulously easy and professional for non-designers, and relatively inexpensive to buy online. Like the CS Cover Creator you can use ready templates or design your own using stock images. What I have discovered is that the software front, spine and rear cover set up matches the LS cover template guidelines, so a quick save (which it does to print PdF quality) and file upload to LS and job done with no rejection!
Hi Roy, I’ve just finished setting up my book on LS and agree that the cover was a bit of a problem – I ended up downloading a 30 day trial of the recommended Adobe programs (and a steep learning curve on how to do anything with them!). However, after your comments about using BookCoverPro, I will be looking into this option further!
My illustrator for my ‘Astro the Alien’ stories drew the images and then scanned them and emailed them to me.
So there is no great problem I think. I have also used Shutterstock (paid for!) for other images and covers. I used an on-line (free) photo editor (the name escapes me, but there are a number and you need to experiment) to put on text for the covers for my book ‘Space Opera, On the Shoulders of Giants).
Hope this helps/is of interest.
It’s interesting playing around with covers and illustrations, but its not what a writer might be good at! its a pity self publishers are not a bit more helpful with providing better generic covers and/or making the process easier.
Hi Sue – I am so sorry – I thought I had replied to this post from my phone soon after it came in, but now see that the comment isn’t here! I’ve been very busy with the day job, and should have double checked sooner….
In answer to your question, as far as I am aware, scanned images amount to the same thing as images created digitally. In fact, I’m sure most authors work on paper. It so happens that my author works directly into digital but I’m not sure how typical that is… He did all of the interior illustrations for Eeek but I drew Eeek for the front cover and the simple background using Microsoft Paint – and he then added shadows and made the alien hands and feet look better using MS Paint and Photoshop I think…! (I am not an illustrator!)
So, in short, your illustrator should be able to get his or her illustrations turned into digital images (jpegs etc) via scanning.
I hope this helps…. though it’s not my main area of expertise!
Thanks for this wonderful blog. I’ve followed this avidly – it’s so clear and explanatory.
As I’m going through the thickets of self-publishing, I return again and again to what you say. I have a question I’d like to ask you: I’m planning to publish a novel for 8-10 year olds, already written and much edited.
You have illustrations in your second published novel, Eeek! Did you find it necessary to employ a graphic designer to format/draw them with you? I am liaising with a children’s book illustrator I met through SCWBI and her work isn’t digital, she paints all the illustrations and they’re scanned in. Do you think this would be a problem for CreateSpace? I’m slowly learning about formatting – through your recommendation to Smashwords and I’ve followed your advice on layout. But I think images are beyond my learning powers!
I’ve also bought Eeek! both because I wanted to read it– a kind of thank you for your blog– and to learn from it. It is delightful! A real feel good read!
Very best wishes, Sue
Hi Joanne – nice to meet you! I’ve been meaning to update this page since CS introduced the new system but have been so busy with the ‘day’ (writing) job that I’ve not had time. It’s useful that you’ve ascertained that if you want to order your own copies they’d have to come from the US?? That sounds like madness to me! I recently had a mum discover Eeek! (one of my children’s books) via Google and she mailed me late on the Wednesday evening wanting 18 copies for party bags by Sunday in Sunderland. I didn’t think it would be possible but when I contacted LS the next morning they offered to bump the print job up the queue for a mere extra £3.50 or something… and the books were delivered by UPS to her home just after lunch on the Friday! So LS is good for drop shipping to your chosen address – not just to home.
The other advantage of going with LS is distribution into the bookstores. Both The Secret Lake and Eeek! are on the data feed put out by Ingrams and can be ordered by any UK bookshop via the wholesalers Gardners & Baker and Taylor, both of whom LS supplies to. (And indeed both are stocked by local Waterstones and bookshops). That would not be possible with CS, clearly – so anyone wanting to get their books into the UK bookstores needs to go direct with LS. I think I have this right…. I will blog about it shortly… I have been so busy with work recently I’ve been rather remiss!
I’m a bit of a latecomer to this post but I just want to say – where have you been, and why haven’t I found you before now!? I’ve been researching and stressing about the whole CS versus LS question for months, and – as I’m sure you know and have probably posted elsewhere on this site – CS have very recently changed their distribution to Amazon.co.uk. Now they will not only show books for sale on the UK site straight away, they have also scrapped the Extended Distribution to do so, and they actually use Lightning Source UK to print these books. So, those setting up a UK title with CreateSpace today will, in effect, be using LS to print their books. Minus the set-up charges and publisher-hoops.
But … I’m still (probably) going to go with LS in the UK. And the reason is simply postage costs (member copies, for your own sales, are still just now printed in the US) and the matt laminated cover that LS UK offer. Or, I might just go with CS and be done with it. OH! I still can’t decide. But you’ve cleared up so many niggling issues for me I just wanted to say Hi, and thank you. I’ll be looking around other posts and coming back for more.
PS I’m with you on the Kindle formatting nightmare and I used a programme called Jutoh, which only costs a one-off payment of £25 and is a kind of editor and ebook creator in one. It is brilliant, and I am sooo fussy with indents and paragraphs and all formatting generally. It was easy to master and I’m really happy with my Kindle version. Now for the paperback …
Hi Karen, a huge ‘thank you’ for this blog! I’ve been trawling around sites for ages and bought Aaron Shepard’s book in an effort to make a decision between LS and CS. Being in the UK seems to make quite a difference to which one you pick to work with, and your blog finally gave me a relevent answer!! So thanks again :0)
My pleasure, Sarah…. best of luck with your project! Karen
Karen, many thanks for this overview. I have artwork prepared for a 32-page plus cover picture book but ground myself to a halt when it came to weighing up the multitude of print-to-order publishers, particularly their byzantine distribution options. For decades I was happy at my drawing-board supplying content to the print publishing industry; now the landscape’s changed beyond recognition and I really appreciate clear, concise advice on how to navigate it.
Sorry for delayed reply – I’ve just started back at some work for the first time in a long time – a bit of a shock to the system! The kindle upload was a nightmare for me – got 99% there but little things (such as indents, chapter links) had bugs so in the end got help from someone who (luckily) didn’t charge as used me as a guinea pig to test her software. When I come to load Eeek! (my next book due out now in the new year) I will probably ask someone to format it for me.
Yes, I got The Richmond and Twickenham Times to review my book – as well as the local paper where I grew up. I really think that having the website helps – and helped me get into Waterstone’s as in all cases I could refer those on the end of the phone to it. But most of all latter was due to the book being on the wholesale data feed thanks to my relationship with Lightening Source.
I don’t have a direct sales button on the site – I must upgrade to WordPress’s Pro Plan so that I can have an Amazon affiliate link. (You may be able to have a paypal button too if upgrading to their Pro Plan – but not sure. I’m not interested in selling direct really as would prefer to have the stats with Waterstone’s and Amazon, even if I make less money. With children’s publishing you never make much in any event!)
Best of luck with your venture!
Hi Karen, Yes, Just been on the phone to Nielson and they gave me the same impression re rough estimate being ok… I went for what I expect to charge and as you say they very helpful, so if I need to adjust, it shoud be fine. Just had an awful weekend trying to upload on to kindle without losing my indents! Got there after a day-and-a-half but not fun!
Have you managed to get local papers to review your books? I’m trying mine, but no joy as yet. Thinking about marketing strategies – like your website – but you can’t get a paypal ‘pay’ button on wordpress can you? Thinking whether worth paying for a site,,,
Many thanks for you advice
Hi John – I had that prob too – when I bought my ISBN they asked for a price and I wasn’t decided (and told them so), and was led to believe I could put down a rough price. I thought this was just to tick a box but it was only much later I found it had already fed into data feeds etc and was actually appearing on Amazon (who seem to pick up feeds from Nielsen – even if the book isn’t yet available to order) and was £1 less than the price I finally went with with LS. LS told me that as soon as the book became available to order it would show the price I had set with them – which it did. But I think I did have to call Nielsen and ask them to change it at their end too…
If I were you I’d try to decide your price now rather than later on – just to avoid yourself any confusion.
Re USA/UK price, the retail price Nielsen quotes is for the UK edition as far as I understand – eg I can change my price at any time via LS here in the UK without necessarily changing it in the USA. And I did ask Amazon.com / CS if the price of my book over there had to be in any way linked to the US price and they said no.
Since publication I have not changed my book’s retail price (which I would do via LS) so yet so not sure if I would also need to call Neilsen to say that I had changed the price. If in doubt about that suggest you call Nielesen with any questions – they are really helpful.
The Secret Lake has the same ISBN in the UK and USA.
Not sure if this helps! It’s a bit confusing, I know – but ask away at Nielsen if you need to…
Thanks Karen. Am liaising with a graphic designer in the US at the moment she has quoted $35 per hr, which seems to be the going rate. Hope you don’t mind, I have another question for you! I’m just applying for my isbn number – the form asks for price on publication, but I don’t know yet what lightning source print costs will be. (Only just registered) My creativespace edition was $14.00, but £7.99 seems to be the price of fiction such as mine in the Uk. If I put a figure in, will it become associated with the isbn? Just concerned I might encounter probs changing the price…
Thanks Karen. Yeah, my local Waterstones interested in a signing event, but need to get my LS edition up and running. Can I ask: what sort of ball park figure should I be paying for a bookcover designed LS ready? Any ideas?
Hi John – take a look at my reply to Brian further down the thread…. hope this helps. This assumes you have a design already that you created using CreateSpace and just need it moving on to the CS template – mind you I would check the copyright issues on that first. Brian – take note! If you don’t already have a design then it will depend on the complexity needed for your book cover and the illustrator you find whose style you like…. And that is a matter of looking on things like elance or illustrator association sites. Or perhaps try an art college student? I tended to look in my genre – ie children’s illustrators
No – Waterstone’s (and other independent bookshops) orders from Gardners (wholesalers) who are on the LS distribution feed. I’m pretty sure the only reason these stores considered ordering it when I contacted them is that I offer a 40% discount to the wholesalers. My contract with LS in no returns.
Gardners is now stocking the book itself on a no return basis – but just in small numbers – which means that if a bookshop orders it they will get the order more quickly. I had found that when Waterstone’s branches were ordering it was taking a while to get to them – I think that was as much to do with Waterstone’s own rather longwinded ordering system as anything, but a little bit of it was to do with that fact that it is a Print on Demand title which meant that Gardners was only ordering it if they got an order. The Waterstone’s branches that have taken it are pretty local to me (mostly west/sw London) and did so after I contacted them about it. The story set in Notting Hill etc – and the lake inspired by Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park – so there is a ‘local’ angle for the stores who have it… It may be worth trying your local Waterstone’s to start with…and go from there… But make sure you have a faultless print copy to start with! Best of luck! Karen
Hi Karen. I hope you are staying well. Thanks for your excellent article, which was exactly the reassurance I wanted that my initial plan was OK (!) – but if you are able to help me understand one all-important aspect a little better please, I’d be grateful? I previously self-published various books through Createspace (before it was absorbed by KDP) and was really pleased with the outcome. I have now though completed a book I wnat to get onto the high street too, and had planned to do as you suggested – ie publish print (and ebook versions) on KDP (not extended distribution), using independently purchased ISBN numbers, and then separately through Ingram or Lulu to access Waterstones etc. Some sources I’ve posted below (including Waterstoens themselves) imply that you need to have to set up (even if in name only) as a publisher and have pre-printed batches of stock (through a company like Clays) in order for a wholesaler like Gardners to be able to supply Waterstones. These conflicting opinions have thrown me a little. Obviusly you’ve made it work – any other ideas why that might be? Many thanks, Howard.
Great blog Karen, very informative. I’m with cs at the moment (with all the probs of availabilty and delivery costs in uk) and think lightening source probably best option for uk distribution. Did you say Waterstones were ordering from lightening source? I’ve been led to believe they will only stock on a sale or return basis – have I got that wrong? Woud help enormously to have Waterstones as possible outlet.
Glad the confusion was clarified! Re paper colour – it’s for fiction that I think it looks ‘self published’ – not so much for non-fiction.
Regards getting adjustments to adapt the cover for the LS cover template – since you have the design already I don’t think the cost should be huge – just whatever the hourly rate would be for someone who knows how to use Indesign or Photoshop I think… . I’m not at all technical, but I don’t suppose it would take more than an hour or so of someone’s time if they just have to transpose the same design onto a new template that has a slight variation. But I guess you could get a quote up front.
They would need to download the cover generator template here: http://www1.lightningsource.com/covergenerator.aspx and follow the instructions in the file creation guide http://www1.lightningsource.com/ops/files/pod/LSI_FileCreationGuide.pdf . From recollection the main difference is that LS require the file saved as CMYK colour whereas CS accepts Adobe RGB format…
You could get a quote from elance.com for example or just google in the UK.
I hope this helps – NB you need your own ISBN to deal with Lightening Source…. If you used your own (not a CS one) with CS you can use the same one provided you haven’t previously selected the EDC. Or you can use a new one…which may be tidier – ie it can be for the UK edition so to speak – however, according to the various conversations I’ve had it isn’t necessary so I’ve stuck with the same ISBN for both my CS version in the USA and my UK version here on Amazon UK.
Thanks so much for your advice! You have a great blog – and you’re more expert than you you give yourself credit for.
I’m sorry – I should have written Lightning Source, not Smashwords – it must have been that extra glass of suavignon blanc! I apologise.
By the way, I started a thread on the CS community about paper colour after reading your comment about white paper being a give-away that the book is self published. I’m alarmed because I chose white with CS and if I change paper color it will mean a change in the book thickness, affecting the cover, etc.
Thanks a lot,
Thanks for your very informative blog. I’ve started with CS – a historical novel which is set in Southern Africa in 1890-1902, so is more likely to appeal to Brits and expats, such as South Africans and Rhodesians, than to Americans. I was thinking of using the Smashwords system and can presumably upload the interior file created by CS (they did it for me because I didn’t have the time or expertise to do it myself). However, I’m concerned about the caveats you mentioned about the cover. I sumitted a JPEG image and some back cover text to CS and they made a very simple cover design. If I uploaded this to Smashwords and it didn’t work would it be costly to get help for adjustments?
I’m just here very briefly, but I think you may be confusing two thngs? Smashwords is for ebook distribution – not print on demand, which is what I was talking about. And in the UK I have used Lightening Source for this – and the interior file I used for CS worked for that . Your CS file for print on demand definitely won’t work for upload to Smashwords for ebooks. If you want to understand the format needed for Smashwords read my section on ebooks and (more importantly) the Smashwords Style Guide which I have provided a link to. I know that CS offers a service to format your file for Kindle, but I don’t know whether that would pass the Smashwords upload test as I’ve not yet looked into it…but I have a feeling it wouldn’t as Smashwords converts the files to ePub as well as Kindle format as far as I know…and I think they only take Word documents at upload…(but again I may be wrong about that…it’s a while since I checked…)
Sorry I can’t stop just now. But I’ll look again tomorrow, in case I have misunderstood your comment.
Having taken an opportunity to look into Lightening Source I do wonder if it will work for me – its charges are a bit off putting but its lack of a cover creator is a bit off putting, and if its amazon.uk listings are problematical then i wonder if I have the time and energy for it. Having said that – for my sci-fi story, I did use a nice clip art images and an on-line photo editor for the text.
LULU has worked OK for me but does not seem to get you into amazon.
I think that once you have paid the first $39 for extended distribution then the following years are a lot cheaper. (I will have to recheck!)
Hi Trevor – I agree the charges are offputting – and that lack of cover creator – so it’s definitely not for everyone….On top of that, it is free to amend an interior file with CS, but not with Lightening Source.LULU didn’t offer the page size I needed so I didn’t really look into it. Off the top of my head I have a feeling that the $39 may bean annual fee for ECD but can’t be sure….it will be on the site though…
Thanks for taking the trouble to reply.
I have looked back at CS and Pro Plan is $39 for first year and $5 thereafter. Plus it is cheaper to purchase your own books. Typically instead of $4.50 it would be $2.65. So – provided you can actually sell some books (!) – its a worthwhile consideration. Having said all that the postage from the USA does make it a close call as to where to order your own books from. I find it strange that there is this difference in page sizes, I have to put up with it have two Word files to cover it.
I am afraid I have done quite a bit of amending of interior files so that is where I like CS and LULU.
LULU now doing ebooks which suit iPad format makes it useful as an adjunct to Kindle, but marketing is still an issue.
My pleasure, Joe – it’s all as much for my own benefit as everyone else’s, as I’m bound to forget a few things! I’m busy marketing at the moment so have my next hat on! Karen
Karen – this is very clear and covers most of the points. Thanks very much for doing the research and saving yours truly hours and hours of work! The e-publishing scene is a tangled jungle, but yours is the first blog/website I’ve found which is specifically about e-publishing a children”s book. So, thanks again. FYI, I found you through the Writers’ Advisory Centre webpages.