Why is Cool Gus Publishing switching from Lightning Source to CreateSpace?

In my last post I mentioned that Bob and I decided to switch our POD (Print on Demand) needs from Lightning Source to CreateSpace. Many readers here at Write It Forward requested an explanation on why?

Warning: This blog post gave Bob a killer headache…

First, lets compare the finances:


  • $75.00 Upload fee for Cover/Interior
  • $12.00 US Distribution (a year)
  • $12.00 UK Distribution (a year)
  • $30.00 Proof
  • Change your files it will cost $40.00 per Interior and $40.00 per Cover
  • $1.50 Shipping and Handling charge per order
  • must provide own ISBN

****No services provided on cover, editing, or anything else that goes into the making of a book


  • FREE self-service (there are services you can pay for, but the basic upload is free)
  • $25.00 Expanded Distribution (one time fee)
  • A proof is the cost of printing plus shipping.
  • Can use CreateSpace ISBN for free

****There are many services that CreateSpace offers from building your book, editing and cover design that are all at the author’s expense, but they are not required at all

The distribution is not getting your book in actual stores, but making them available so if someone wanted to order it from Barnes and Noble they could.

Another thing to consider is that Amazon’s free service gets you on Amazon and Amazon UK for free. The Expanded makes your book available other places. The only negative about the Expanded is because of wholesaling you might need to price your book a little higher to make a profit.

So, on the outside, it appears that because of costs that is why we are switching. But it’s not.

Now let’s take a look at some other differences between LSI and CreateSpace:

First, LSI (Lightning Source) and CreateSpace are really two different types of services. Lightning Source is geared more toward the small publisher and has two primary purposes. The first being the Print on Demand technology to create a book and distribution (of information) into the Ingram system.

When we first started with LSI they wanted only those who were gong to have a certain number of books a year, otherwise they suggested other self-service sites such as Author Solutions or LuLu. I just searched the website and I can’t find that statement anymore, but they are still geared toward the small publisher, not the self-published author.

CreateSpace is a self-publishing service.

The second part of LSI is an ebook fulfillment service that allows publishers to push their ebooks into bookstores that Lightning Source is partnered with. This system works much like the print book. The publisher provides the eBook, metadata, cover, etc. and then Lightning Source pushes the information to the proper channels who then loads the information on their sites and makes your eBook available for sale. Since we have not used this service for a while now, I don’t have a complete listing, but I do know it pushes to Kobo, Disesel, All Romance and for a fee it can push the information to the iBookstore.

We stopped using this service with LSI because of pricing issues (same reason we stopped using Smashwords).  When you make a change it takes weeks for it to show up. We removed our eBooks from LSI nearly a year ago and I’m still seeing them available on sites that I’ve loaded myself, causing confusion. The information is coming from Ingram and its old and incorrect information. I’ve requested, yet again, for the information to be removed from the system. This is in part a problem with LSI and with the Ingram system. Too many fingers in the pot.

The eBook issue was not why we stopped using LSI, but it was just one of many things that made us rethink our business plan.

CreateSpace does not provide any digital services or distribution. They simply send you over to KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing).

So far, I have not given you the real reason we switched. Well, here we go…

Business is made up of people and people like connections, even us introverts. We talked a few months ago about switching and decided that we were fine right where we were. Then we talked about just putting new books at CreateSpace and I started doing some research. Then we went to BEA and I meet three lovely women who work for CreateSpace.

I spoke with one, asking questions. What impressed me was the moment I asked a question she didn’t know the answer to, she went and found someone else. Who then introduced me to someone else. While Bob chatted it up with a few gentleman at KDP, I talked with the people at CreateSpace.

When I got home, I began the process of really comparing the services and writing out the pros and cons. The people at CreateSpace connected with two team members, Karen and John, and we began discussing what books we’d bring over and how we’d go about doing it. Karen even went as far as to explain the positives of us staying at LSI. She pointed out a few negatives I hadn’t thought about, like having to pull from Ingram, then push the titles back through CreateSpace could cause the books to disappear for a short time. However, since we’ve been making some adjustments to covers and interior and the way CreateSpace is willing to work with us, having a short lull will be okay.

Cost did come into play when we changed covers for the Atlantis Series and some other books like Chasing the Ghost. These would cost up to $80.00 per book to make the changes, but that really isn’t a large expense. The bigger issue then became ease and something that my father taught me a long time ago when it came to business:

Customer Relationships and Service.

The bottom line for us came down to customer service AND ease of the system. LSI is a bit clunky and if you don’t know what you are doing with formatting a book, cover, etc., you are bound to make a mistake. I made a few the first time around. CreateSpace gives you templates (for free) for both interior and exterior so your book looks professional. They also have a cover tool. I have not used it since I’m an InDesign junky, but I’ve played with it and for the novice user, its pretty good, but my big caveat is most of us are not cover artists and always best to hire a professional.

Between talking with my team to wargame the best course of action, the ease of their on-line system was the deal closer. They have this 360 digital proof that shows you the cover and how it wraps around the book, well that right there sold me. Their entire system is very easy to use and while I just created more work for myself as we are going to transfer ALL of our books, I highly recommend CreateSpace.

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on June 28, 2012, in Cool Gus Publishing, Publishing, Publishing Options and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Great comparison, Jen. I’ve recently decided to go with Create Space, too. If it’s okay, I’d like to share your post with our readers at See Jane Publish :)

  2. Jen,
    Excellent description of CreateSpace. Price does not drive my purchasing, but ease of use and customer service do.

  3. Not self publishing, yet. Not sure when I’ll do so, but I love the fact that you are sharing all this info with the rest of us. Thanks for letting us into your decision making process. If (when) I do get to the self-publishing portion of my professional life, articles like this will help tremendously. Keep up the good work and best of luck on the switch!

  4. Very, very informative. I’m still with LS, but have been contemplating a change. Thanks for the goldmine of information.

    • I do think LSI has a lot to offer and I’ve been very happy overall with their service. It was just the right time to make a change for our current goals and needs.

  5. Very informative, as always. But could you please clarify the problem with Ingram? I had thought listing with Ingram was a desirable thing, now I’m not sure.

    • It is a good thing, but it isn’t be all end all. We will be listing with Ingram with expanded distribution. The reality is the majority of our sales are eBooks, not print books, so the print is not our focus.

  6. Great comparison. I have used Createspace to self-publish in the past and found them to be extremely helpful and friendly. The one time I had a problem with an order, customer service immediately corrected the mistake. I met some of their reps at a book fair in Charleston; they were not only friendly, but asked me how long I’d been using the service and if there where any areas I thought needed improvement.

  7. I’m curious. Why did CGP decide against Smashwords?

    • In a word: Control. Control of the file that is created. I’m not fond of Word as a source document and I’ve seen a few small issues with the meatgrinder. There is also the issue of pricing. When I wanted to change a price I’d have to wait weeks to change it on Amazon because the way the system works at Smashwords it could take up to 6 weeks before other sites would change the price and Amazon will always price match. I’m still seeing many authors complain about this issue. It isn’t necessarily the fault of Smashwords. I had this problem using LSI to distribute eBooks. But when I want to run a short sale, I don’t want to have to be at the mercy of a system I can’t control. By loading directly to many of these sites, I can change prices within a couple of days. Not weeks. I think Smashwords is a good service for many. I’m not knocking it, its just not a service that works for Cool Gus Publishing.

  8. Thanks very much (and please apologize to Bob for the headache). I will likely keep the books with LSI that I already have there, but go to CreateSpace for new titles. Cost is a definite factor there.

    I am correct in believing that Expanded Distribution with CS will get you into Ingram, right? The problem is just that pulling from one printer and going to another may drop you from the system for a temporary space.

    • There will be a disruption in Ingram when the switch is made. We’re working on a way to make that as short as possible, but it appears it is unavoidable. With that said, the majority of our print books are sold either through Amazon, or through hand sales and our website.

  9. Thanks for all of this, Jen. I just did my first ever Create Space paperback and I was very, very impressed with everything about the process and their system. But I was especially impressed with the finished product. My book looks as good as any trade paperback I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been in the biz a while). I’m glad to know I made the right decision. No buyer’s remorse here!

  10. Jen, thanks for filling us in! I’ve been very happy with LS, but I am a professional graphic designer, so I’m comfortable with the technical aspects, whereas I know a lot of authors wouldn’t be. The main reason I chose them is because of the ability to set the discount amount (retailer take). My book is 360 pages, and I wanted to price it comparably to one from a NY pub at $13.95. The short discount enables me to make over $5/book sold through distribution, where with CreateSpace I’d make a whopping $.41 on anything sold anywhere besides Amazon.

    But the setup fees are a big issue too. Like CG Pub, most of my paperbacks are hand-sold, which pretty much negates the royalty advantage, so I’m going to try CreateSpace for my next paperback.

  11. Yes I agree with most of the comments here. Jen thanks for the detailed report. There’s been a lot of talk lately across a lot of different forums and the consensus seems to be positive about CreateSpace.
    Yvette Carol

  12. Excellent post, Jen.. Thank you very much for such a detailed and clear recounting of your experience and reasoning.

  13. Thanks for being so generous with the info, Jen. It helps all of us consider our own situation.

    Sadly, for those of us at the far reaches of the galaxy (eg, Australia) the shipping is the killer when it comes to CreateSpace. It can easily cost much more than the book itself.

    LS now has a branch in Australia, which means lower shipping for us and distribution to the big online Aussie bookstores. This definitely gives LS the advantage for a book that will have a mostly Aussie audience, and so that’s what I’m pursuing for a book I’m currently working on for a client.

    But for an international book for release later in the year, I have a half-formed scheme in my mind to put it on both LS (for Aussie sales) and CS (for global sales). This may turn out to be a very bad idea, but time will tell. ;-)

    • You bring up an interesting point with the Aussie sales. When Bob went to Australia to speak at RWA it was awesome to have that available to us to ship his books over there (via the Australia LS branch). Something I need to consider still.

  14. Jen, I wondered about your statement that CS offers no distribution. I checked with my own account to verify that my books with CS are distributed for print orders by both Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Here is what they sent to me:
    “When you enroll your title in the Bookstores & Online Retailers or Libraries & Academic Institutions channels, CreateSpace provides your book’s information to third-party distributors Ingram and Baker and Taylor, respectively. These distributors make your title available to purchase through their channels, but the decision to buy your book lies solely with individual retailers, libraries, or academic institutions.”

    • Richard–I don’t believe I ever said that CS doesn’t offer distribution. You can pay the 25$ which gets you the expanded distribution in Ingram and Baker and Taylor, or you can not do the expanded and just use Amazon and their channels which I believe is UK Amazon. I wouldn’t be switching if there wasn’t the ability to get the distribution into the channels I want to sell my author’s books.

  15. If someone reads all the above and fundamentally does not understand all the basic concepts of the Ingram/ lightening source, create space, could you recommend a site or book for an attention deficit, ” thinking of publishing” writer.

    • I’m not sure there is one site I could direct someone too. I would suggest going to each site and reading up on them. To try to break it down simply:

      Ingram distributes Metadata to bookstores making the book “available” in on-line bookstores or for a customer to order through a physical store. Lightning Source is a partner with Ingram and they provide the information through the publisher and the publisher provides Lightning source with the files requires to make a Print on Demand book. So Lightning Source also provides the printing.

      CreateSpace does the same as Lightning Source.

  16. Great post. I love how you break it down and are clear that this is what is best for your company and not necessarily best for everyone. I am sharing this around as a number of people have been asking about the difference between the 2 on some groups I’m on and I did not have a handy “compare” chart.

  17. Thank you for answering. I do understand that reasoning. Many of my friends who use LS have pointed out that the profit margin per book with LS is the reason they are staying with them. Does that bother you guys at all that you will be making less per book?

    Personally, like you, my focus is not on print and my push will not be to make into bookstores, other than local.

    • We actually are NOT making less per book for those books sold through Amazon Channels. The only place we make less is on those books sold through the extended channels because it is a deeper discount for the retailers. Print is a small portion of our sales and we sell the most in Non-Fiction through hand sales. Once I get a couple of months through CreateSpace, I’ll be able to see where most of our sales are coming from since CS shows if the sale was from an Amazon site or from another site. LSI doesn’t give us that information.

      There are pros and cons of any decision. For us, the pros of switching outweighed the cons.

  18. One advantage of LSI that wasn’t mentioned (and the sole reason I use them) is that they allow you to set your discount %, as well as mark the book “returnable”. You can’t do this on Createspace. And for better or worse, most brick and mortar stores won’t stock your book unless it’s returnable and has a 55% discount (I think Createspace’s Extended Distribution sets it at 40%).

    • Matthew, you’re correct that marking a book as returnable is a risk. Luckily, the risk comes only when bookstores start ordering large numbers of copies, at which point it’s at least a risk that has a good chance of paying off! Personally, I’ve only had one return after selling hundreds of books through them, but maybe I’ve just been lucky?

      Regarding the shredding: you can choose whether you want them to shred them or ship them back to you (at your cost, of course). I just have them shredded, since it costs less and I don’t need a stockpile of books sitting around my house!

    • Hey there…I use LSI, and they have been great to work with. I do want to point out though that marking a POD book as returnable could be extremely risky. Publishers are responsible for the printing cost for each book returned, which could mean a LOT of money, depending on the number of returns. (1000 returns x $5 per book = $5,000.) Also, it is my understanding that LSI shreds the returned books, then prints and ships new ones to the publisher (while also charging for freight costs).

      This is something that wasn’t clear for me when I was navigating the decision on whether to make my book returnable. As 85% of books are now bought online (last statistic I read…I might be wrong), I chose not to make mine returnable, because it wasn’t worth the risk.

      That said, the power LSI has just seems to outdo CreateSpace. I’ve been very happy with them, and not just because I could give my book a matte cover (not a fan of glossy on paperbacks…). I did have a background in graphic design, however, which did help the process of file preparation/upload.

  19. Thanks for explaining the differences between CS and LS. Which makes more profit? I use Lightning Source POD. I was looking into Amazon fulfillment but I can’t get LS to use Amazon packing slips so I can’t use Amazon fulfillment unless I have the books shipped to my house first to insert the packing slip. Is it more profitable to have books POD at Create Space since they work directly with Amazon?

  20. I love working with CreateSpace–the customer service and user interface is unbeatable. Unfortunately, until CreateSpace starts to offer covers with a matte finish, I am sticking with LSI. In my genre, all the trade paperbacks are in matte finish, and the shiny laminate that CreateSpace offers just makes my skin crawl–awful. The overall print quality at LS is also better (and I’ve compared at least 50 books between CS and LS): less variability in margins and so on. I’m sure CS will get to that point eventually, and when they do, I will switch from Lightning Source.

  21. I love this post. Thank you for clarifying the difference between the two. I’m ready to publish and was debating whether to use both LS and CS.

  22. 6 months on and the same issues are still being discussed. :)

    I am also in Australia, and found CS shipping costs to be crippling. Another plus for LSI is that they pay directly into our Australian accounts without the hefty bank charges that the CS paper cheques incur. Oh and I do like the matte covers LSI does.

    As to Smashword’s meat grinder, one size fits all approach, it appears that you can now upload your own epub version onto Smashwords, and that should get rid of the horrid lack of formatting.

  23. Jen; There’s a lot of discussion going around on many other writing/marketing sites. My four books are with CS, and it was primarily the cost comparison that did cemented the deal for me, but your reflections on their level of customer service has been my experience, too. I’m very happy so far. One of the niche fiction coop sites I belong to, Historical Fiction Authors’ Co-op, has seen this very discussion come up this week, and I’m going to post a link to your discussion here for them. Thanks again, for walking the path ahead of the rest of us and letting us know where the rocks and roots are!

  24. I am poring over this information with such gratitude! I know I’m like six months late, but…I am a Createspace Author and actually do have a headache from the wholesaler issues I am dealing with. Here are my outstanding questions:

    1) can I keep my Amazon.com/Kindle arrangement with Createspace and still print with LSI for bookstore orders?

    2) Regarding library sales: I have my own ISBN number and for some reason Createspace will not allow me to distribute to libraries with my own ISBN number. Right now Baker & Taylor is telling me that I’ve got to fulfill the orders myself. While this arrangement may actually give me a bigger royalty, what a pain to have to ship my own books to B&T!

    3) Will Createspace “drop ship” to B&T” without my going through their distribution channel?

    4). And, yes, last question: what’s with the shiny CS covers? Why can’t they use matte paper? It’s horrible. But I agree that everyone I’ve dealt with has been LOVELY!

    Thanks, anyone who is listening!

  25. bats666Paul Adams

    Same issue with Oz. Shipping costs and times to Oz are not good ($10.50 per book and one month respectively). Would like to use LS but set up costs for the lone author are high. Set up also looks much more complicated, altho the CS gloss cover sounds vile! Still looking for LS shipping costs within Oz.

  26. Dated post, I know. But the trend is revising especially as CS/Amazon outsources more of its printing to third party printers and quality goes down him. I had been hearing rumors, but din’t change myself until my last proof with CS literally fell apart while reviewing it. Yes LSI cost more money up from but you have more control and flexibility. on a 15 dollar book I would make about 10 on each sales in person or through my site. On Amazon 4 and change. on B&N online only a dollar and change. Pissed me off that I had no control over retail discount and I sold a lot of books through B&N online cutting majorly into my profits. Had I gone though LSI I would have made a LOT more and broken even, quicker. Plus the print quality on LSI even compared to CS prints done in house, is far superior. I have done side by side comparison between the same book on my children’s series and the differences and vibrancy of the color and fine details of the images was amazing. Not to mention a tighter binding.

  27. This post was a huge help! Thanks so much.

  28. I’m in the process of formatting my first book for POD and have decided that LS is the better option, mainly because I live in Oz and the shipping cost & mailing time will be better for Oz buyers. An ISBN at $8.50 a piece is no major expense and I hope to recoup the higher start up costs fairly quickly on the better royalties.
    Better print & cover quality is also a factor.
    LS formatting almost put me off. It’s complicated compared with CS. But, I contacted another author who is using LS and am using the same person’s formatter to format for me ($100 + $30 for the cover). For me, this is a minor expense considering the grief I am saving myself!
    LS do not suffer fools gladly when it comes to correct formatting. It has to be right or they will drop you as a publisher.

  29. I know this post is years old now, but may I ask HOW you removed your titles from LSI? I have been trying to remove my one and only title (I have multiple titles published through CreateSpace and KDP and have weighed and measured and compared and have made the decision to pull out of LSI altogether) but can find NOTHING on the site (and yours was what came up on Google search) on how to remove or unpublish a title. I already have a digital version through KDP of this book, so am not at all concerned with the print copy disappearing for a while, and in fact, will be publishing a whole new edition through CreateSpace.

    I’ve written to LSI but have not heard back from them – I’ll call them as well, but I was hoping I could just do it and be done.


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  1. Pingback: Bits And Pieces ….by Susan Lute « See Jane Publish

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