On selecting a self-publishing printer

Despite the success of the Kindle and the iPad, many people still prefer the old-fashioned print book.

Like me. I have a Kindle and yet I still buy print books. Partly out of habit. Partly because many of the books I buy are reference and tutorial books. I have a book on programming (don’t ask) and I’m constantly paging through it as I sit at the computer, yanking out what’s left of my hair. Kindles just aren’t conducive to scanning large chunks of code.

But I digress.

I published The Tourist Trail in print not just because I knew readers wanted a print version, but because reviewers wanted a print version.

And whatever reviewers want reviewers will get.

So I wanted to briefly share a little about the printer I selected. It wasn’t an easy decision because it’s easy to find fellow authors who love or hate whichever printer you ultimately select.

Out of more than a dozen printers, I narrowed my list down the following:

I selected Lightning Source. It was a good decision. The quality of the book is quite good (and Lightning Source just announced support for matte covers, which I am now testing out — a topic for a later post).

I primarily selected Lightning Source was because it is owned by Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor. So by going with Lightning Source I was confident that bookstores would have no trouble getting my book. And, of course, Lightning Source also works with Amazon and other online vendors. Lightning Source also does printing work for

Some people have said that Lightning Source is more expensive than CreateSpace, but I didn’t find this to be the case. I found Lightning Source to be the best overall value of the three. Lightning Source does charge more in set-up costs but the per-unit printing costs were better.

But there is a huge caveat with Lightning Source — you need to know a lot about book production. There is not much in the way of hand holding. Lightning Source expects you to provide a print-ready PDF, preferably output from Adobe InDesign. If all this sounds like a foreign language to you, then you might want to use Lulu or CreateSpace — or hire a book designer who can do this for you.

I recommend working with a professional designer. My feeling here is that a self-published book shouldn’t look self-published. I can tell when a book has been more or less just exported out of Word. The fonts sometimes look blurry, the page alignments are off, the columns are too wide (or too narrow). I could go on.

My best advice is not to rush into it. Spend some time on user forums such as this one on Lulu. Ask questions. Ask other self-published authors what they’ve learned along the way. And be prepared to do a bit of learning yourself.

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