2-9 Get a Book Printed

Book printers take a typeset manuscript and designed cover and create multiple copies in a professional and cost effective way. It is important to have a basic understanding of this somewhat complex process to be able to make good decisions for each book. There are two ways most books are printed, with an offset printer or with a digital printer.

You can help the author find a printer or help the author find a publishing services company to coordinate this aspect of the work.

Offset Versus Digital Printing

When determining which printer is right for your author, keep in mind whether the book is standard and a good choice for digital printing, or somewhat nonstandard and a better candidate for offset printing.

Offset printing, the traditional process, is still more cost effective for quantities of 750 or 1,000 and up. New authors should do a first run of a book with a small quantity – like 200 or even fewer, and only use the offset process and print higher quantities if you have orders of that size.

You must use offset printing if the book fits any of these criteria:
• Hardcover
• Non-standard trim size
• Larger print runs (500-750 and over)
• Color interior
• Detailed photos or illustrations

Digital printing is like doing a photocopy of your book in many ways, but a much higher quality process. Most authors start with digital printing, which allows for printing of a minimum number of copies when the book is first out, and then go to offset printing which is more cost-effective for a larger quantities of books.

Although POD “publishers” such as AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris and GreenLeaf have gained popularity, it is not recommended to use them for book printing. Their work quality is not comparable to what you can do more cost-effectively by finding freelance cover and interior designers. The industry recognizes that they are responsible for some poor books and you do not want to be associated with them and have to deal with that reputation. Many of these companies use LightningSource.com to print their books, so makes more sense for the author to go there directly and save the middleman expense.

Sources of Printing

Soft Cover

One of the best printers for the author of a soft cover book that is a standard trim size and has a black and white interior is LightningSource.com. (and  its sister smaller printer IngramSpark.com).

Hard Cover

If the author has a hard cover book, it is highly recommended that you find a printer who is known for their work with hard cover books. Just any printer can’t do hard cover books and if you sent the book to a local printer they will probably subcontract it out to a major book printer and you will end up just paying extra fees. Again, the printers you see on the screen are well-known and reasonably priced. Because printing quotes vary widely by the printer and even whether the printer is currently busy or is in a slow period and really wants the business, it is recommended that you get at least two quotes from printers before selecting one.

Getting a Quote from a Printer

You will need to provide certain information for a printer so the printer can give you and the author an estimate of what it will cost to print the book. This will include:
• Quantity to print
• Trim size
• Page count
• Binding
• Type of paper
• Ink colors
• Cover coating
• Dust jacket (hard cover only)
• Deadline/delivery instructions

Because there is so much technical detail involved, it is better if you can have your cover and interior designer coordinate the process with the printer. It is well worth it to pay for this coordination unless you have experience in working with printers.

If the author chooses a standard trim size, the printing process will be much less expensive. The printer will need to know whether this is a hard cover or soft cover book and what type of binding you want to use.

Books are generally printed on a white or cream colored 60 pound paper. Some authors would like to use recycled paper but these can add tremendously to the book’s cost. If the author is adding color to the interior, then the printer will need to know exactly what color ink is to be used.

Certain illustrations and photographs may require special handling, so how these are handled will be important to the printer. Other special treatments might be to adhere a CD cover to the back inside cover of a book to hold a CD.

The dust jacket is that cover that comes on many hard cover book that can be removed but has a cover illustration on the front and flaps in the front and back that hold the jacket to the book and give information about the book and about the author. This has to be printed separately.

Most offset printers will require at least a 50% deposit to start the job.

Preparing a Manuscript for Printing as Part of the Self Publishing Process

Formatting a page for printing involves taking the manuscript using a special design and typesetting software, such as InDesign to make the type and the pages look like you see in a finished book on a shelf. It involves selecting from a wide range of type styles and sizes and deciding on margins (should create adequate thumb space to easily read without moving your thumbs to get to the type and enough margin on the inside to keep from having to open the book really wide to read it) as a start.

Page design is all about readability and special typesetting software allows for the manipulation of the space between word and the space between lines, special word hyphenation rules and much more. Pages should be designed with the goal of the book in mind and sometimes there are many tables, charts, illustrations and call outs (excerpts from the text separated by font type or other graphic) that have to be placed to create a balanced-looking page.

More publishers are now using simpler formats so that they will easily translate to Kindle and other ebook readers since Kindle doesn’t yet allow for illustrations.

Word processing software does not allow for the flexibility to properly lay out a page, so it should not be used for book design. Many printers will not accept manuscripts in Word.

When an author asks if you can prepare a manuscript, make sure to ask the right questions to determine if they want it ready for submission to a publisher who will then design the manuscript or if they need someone to design the page format and typeset for printing.

If the author needs help with the 2nd, find a design and typesetting expert who become part of your professional team.

Great Printers for the New Author

Lightning Source

Lightning Source Overview

Lightning Source Inc. (www.lightningsource.com) is a good printer choice for the self-published author who wants to manage the process himself or herself. This printer is owned by Ingram, the world’s largest book distributor, and because of this, it offers the new, smaller publisher more than any other printer can. It can do both POD and offset printing, and it guarantees immediate turn-around in book production, which is essential in doing business with Amazon.com.

Please note that Lightning Source is a printer, and just a printer. They do not do any typesetting or get the ISBN or any of the other things that you can do for the author. And as “just a printer”, they also do not take any of the author’s rights or profits as you may find with POD publishers.

Lightning Source as Printer

Lightning Source has printed more than 50 million books. It is used as a short run printer by all the major publishers, so their work is very high quality. It uses a high quality, acid-free, book-grade of opaque paper stock. Depending on your book size, books are printed on either a 55# natural shade opaque or 50# white. Paperback covers are printed on a bright white 90# cover stock.

Lightning Source has printing facilities in the US, UK, Germany and Spain and is planning expansion to Australia and other parts of the world.

Lightning Source as Book Distributor

Lightning Source can be what is called the direct distributor – meaning you buy the books you need directly from them AND they become the wholesale distributor, meaning that Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble buy through them as well.

We will discuss more about distribution and what it means in a later session, but know that distribution is what stands between the author’s book and getting retail sales, meaning sales in physical stores and online retailers like Amazon.

While most self published books are not available in book stores, printing with Lightning Source will get the book into the bookstore computer catalog, which means that someone who comes to a Barnes and Noble to find a copy of your book might not find it on the shelf, but the bookstore can order it for them.

Another important element to the Lightning Source service is that you also get onto the Baker & Taylor distribution list, meaning libraries can order your book. Most public and academic libraries use Baker & Taylor to order all of their books.

Finally, Lightning Source will get the book on a number of online retailers, such as Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.

You can see listed there the places that use them as a distributor. You will notice this is not only in the US, it is also in the UK.

A huge benefit of Lightning Source is the inexpensive fees for set up and continuing distribution. It only costs $75 to upload a cover and interior of a book to list the book on Lightning Source and ongoing distribution is $12 per year. They keep all the records that you can access on line and they pay within 90 days of a sale, which is standard or a little bit better than standard for the industry.

Lightning Source Manages Sales Through Amazon and Other Retailers

Lightning Source is also managing the sales of the book, so in a somewhat complicated arrangement, the author/publisher sets both the retail and the discount percentage off of retail for being on Amazon.com or other places. When Amazon sells a book, Lightning Source pays you, the publisher directly. The payment will be the retail price minus the wholesale discount, for Amazon this will be 55%, so the author/publisher will receive 45% of the retail price of the book, minus the actual printing cost.


“Lightning Source prints, manufactures, and ships all IngramSpark print titles, fulfilling orders placed through any of the 38,000 retail and library partners around the world. IngramSpark also feeds book data into the CoreSource platform so e-books can be listed on major online retail sites, including iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kindle. By creating a streamlined platform connecting Ingram’s current services, IngramSpark has become the perfect tool for small publishers.” Sign up is fee. (Quote from their site.)

What is IngramSpark?

IngramSpark is a smaller printer  It’s an easy-to-use, online publishing tool that provides publishers with simple and affordable access to Ingram’s global distribution network for print and e-book content.

What are the differences between IngramSpark and Lightning Source?

The same functionality exists with both IngramSpark and Lightning Source. Both systems offer the same trim sizes and binding types, and print charges are the same for both. IngramSpark is designed and priced as a self-service model with slightly reduced pricing for title set up. IngramSpark customers do not have an assigned Ingram representative, and are instead supported by a team. With Lightning Source, a publisher can set a range of trade discounts on their titles, whereas in IngramSpark, a trade discount of 55% is automatically applied, which gives a book the best chance to sell in the marketplace.

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

KDP (kdp.amazon.com) is owned by Amazon, the world’s largest online bookstore. KDP was originally established for direct publishing of Kindle eBooks. Amazon had a separate program, Create Space, for publishing paperback books. The two programs have been combined under KDP. If you author doesn’t care about selling in retail bookstores, the advantage of Create Space is that you can increase your profits from your Amazon sales.

The Best of Both Worlds

There is no reason you cannot set up the book to be printed at both Lightning Source and KDP. Set up is very inexpensive for both and your book designer should know how to work with both. You can print through KDP for Amazon sales and print through Lightning Source or Ingram Spark for any possible bookstore or large volume sales. When you set up accounts with both, they each only print when an order comes in (and they can complete the order overnight).

When an order comes in to either, the dollars go to the printer who deducts the cost of printing and the author gets the profits left, without having to pay for the printing up front.

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