Lightning Source International, IngramSpark, and CreateSpace are all print on demand (POD) printers as well as distributors. Not only are they able to print your book, but they can distribute it to wholesalers such as Ingram. Ingram, just like Baker and Taylor, is one of the largest book wholesalers in the world and is responsible for making your book available to retailers. Both Lightning Source International (LSI) and IngramSpark (IS) are owned by Ingram whereas CreateSpace (CS) is owned by Amazon.
Reasons Why Publishers Should Use Lightning Source
Bookstores usually won’t order books through CS because they aren’t returnable. So what makes them so popular? Well, CS is primarily used by self-publishing authors because they are cheaper and easier to use. CS will issue you one of their own ISBN numbers so that you can publish the book under your own name making it more affordable and less time-consuming for the author. The only downside is that CS will list their name as the publisher which will automatically deter bookstores from carrying the book because it sends a message that you are a self-publisher and bookstores don’t like to work with self-publishers.
Note: LSI and IS are probably better routes to take due to their higher print quality, the option for returns, and their wide distribution channels since CS only distributes to Amazon (unless you sign up for their expanded distribution channel) and LSI distributes to Amazon, BN.COM, Books-A-Million, and many others.
Now, if you’ve narrowed it down to LSI and IS, keep in mind that LSI doesn’t accept self-publishing authors and therefore directs them to IS. If you like the benefits of LSI, but are not willing to start your own publishing company (LLC, purchasing ISBN’s, dba, etc), then go with IS. I’ve worked with LSI and IS and their interface is similar although IS is slightly easier and cheaper. Another major difference is their distribution for print versus digital. LSI has a better distribution channel for paperbacks and hardcovers, but IS is better for eBooks. Also, LSI have more print and binding options than IS.
Lightning Source or IngramSpark?
One of the drawbacks with LSI is that Amazon occasionally lists their books as ‘temporarily out of stock’ which is bad for business. Some authors have chosen CS just to avoid stocking issues.
A FEW MORE THINGS TO CONSIDER
Going with LSI doesn’t guarantee that your book will be carried by bookstores. It only increases your chances especially if you offer a 40% or higher discount. You would still need to call every bookstore one by one and encourage them to purchase your book. Also, you must have a strong author presence online and in your community, regardless of the route you take.
Ways to Publish Your Book