The image is meaningless fill. I received this comment from Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL. I’ve been wanting a guest posting on this for a while, so I am appropriating his comments for that purpose. I’ve never dealt with LS. I never have the budget. But it is definitely the pros’ choice.
Lightning Source is the print-on-demand supplier for the traditional publishers.
Many authors find it very difficult to deal with, but Mike, like me, has many years of printing experience before this latest option. Here are his comments:
I’m actually surprised that some call dealing with LightningSource difficult. It may be because I’ve been dealing with them for almost 14 years, but I find their website easier to use than Amazon’s or the quirky iTunes Author upload app for Apple’s iBookstore. It’s just a simple series of webpages with two browse to upload windows. Having to select two files that way, rather than drag and drop, is hardly rocket science. So unless you’re very technologically challenged, don’t let LightningSource’s UI discourage you. It may be old fashioned, but it works fine.
The one negative with LightningSource is, as I mentioned, the clumsiness of the revision process. Their primary customers are traditional publishers who regard revisions like most people regard a root canal–something only to be done when absolutely necessary. I’m more New School. I’ve found that, as much as I may try to get a book right before releasing it, a few months later I have some changes I’d like to make. LightningSource doesn’t make revisions easy or painless. A book will typically be unavailable for sale for a week or more. I’ve tried to explain to them a better way to handle revisions but have gotten nowhere. Like I said, their primary clients are traditional publishers.
If you know how to get a book right the first time, then I’d suggest going to the added trouble of going with LightningSource. With IngramSpark, you’ll aways be a self-publishing author, limited in ways that Ingram feels is best. With LightningSource, you’ll be playing with the big boys, such as Oxford University Press, and getting the same respect (and wide options) they get, including setting your discount.
One critical factor may be how you’re generating the interior and cover files you send in. I’ve always used Adobe products. Originally I used FrameMaker for the interior and Photoshop for the covers. Now I use InDesign for both. Sticking with the gold standard, I’ve never had a lick of trouble with the files I’ve sent in.
But there’s a steep learning and price curve with InDesign that may intimidate many, although CreativeCloud makes that cost per-month rather than a huge first-time cost. Apparently, some have been trying to make Word do for books and are running into problems getting their printing right. At roughly $80 a try, that can get expensive fast. [David: this is the norm with Word. It really cannot do professional books for print or ePUB.] One option is to go with Spark. Apparently the revision process there is cheaper and simpler. [David: but they still require your own ISBN and the rest of it.]
The other option is what I’ve decided to do, which is go first with Amazon’s CreateSpace. As much as that big gorilla’s behavior bothers me, it does seem less hassle to go first with it. LightningSource charges me a bargain $25 total for my initial upload, which is quite reasonable, but revisions are $40 for either an interior or a cover. That’s getting into real money. With Lightning, I don’t want to revise.
Amazon’s CreateSpace charges me nothing for the initial upload or revisions. It also offers a better deal on proofs. Since I don’t live that far from where CreateSpace prints in SC, I can get five proof copies in about three days. [David: Once you get used to them, the digital proofs are accurate and instant.] LightningSource charges $30 for a single proof that may arrive in two days (one day to print, one day to overnight). If I go first with CreateSpace, I can check those proofs (especially important for covers) and have a extra few days to spot problems, I can then revise my CreateSpace version (at no cost) and send LightningSource what I know to be the absolutely final revision.
That also makes sense market wise. Getting on Amazon quickly means a book can potentially get noticed quickly. Getting to Ingram via LightningSource isn’t that big a deal, since demand from bookstores can take weeks or months to develop anyway.
There’s another factor. LightningSource does an excellent job with covers. It has spoiled me by getting them within perhaps 1/16 of an inch consistently. CreateSpace seems to have a problem in that area. In my last order from them, the cover alignment varied about 1/4 inch for copies printed at the same time. I can adjust for that by making the cover more robust (particularly at the spine). But paradoxically, since CreateSpace is more likely to get that cover wrong, it helps to proof its version rather than Lightning’s.
Hope that helps.
For those who’d like to see what my books look like, here’s the latest.
You can get samples of each. Both illustrate what can be done with ePub generated by InDesign with just a few minor tweaks to the file used for the print version. For instance, getting InDesign to switch from B&W pictures for the print version to color ones for the digital version only takes about 30 seconds. Simply tell InDesign to find the image links in a different folder. I use Photoshop to get the best possible color to B&W conversion, another reason to go with Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
InDesign is still not quite the product it needs to be. But when I lived in Seattle, I talked to Adobe’s InDesign team and I’m quite impressed with the direction they intend to take InDesign. As the book market become mixed print/digital, with both required for a successful product, the ability to create high quality versions in both formats without a lot of hassle is going to become very important.
It’d be particularly great to have a product that knows how to play by each retailer’s rules. Apple is very generous with image sizes. Each can be up to 3 meg in size Unless it has changed recently, Amazon, with their ugly but cheap attitude toward ebooks, demands that each image be under 127 K. As a result, I wasted quite a bit of time for my last book raising the compression of images to get them to fit under Amazon’s limits. With some 50 pictures to deal with, that was a lot of time. It’d be great if InDesign would handle that sort of detail for me.
It’d be even better is Amazon would behave like the rest of the industry, adopting standards. I sent them ePub for my latest two books because I’ve heard that’s the only way the major publishers will supply Amazon with ebooks and decided to join that exclusive club. I didn’t want to deal with any hassles that might result from the fact that Amazon is very laggardly at revising the Kindle plug-in for InDesign. [David: they do very well converting the ePUBs from InDesign CC.]
We’re still in the high-hassle days from the changes when it comes to publishing, either totally digital or digital to POD. I’ll be delighted to see that era pass and choice such as LightningSource v. IngramSpark matter less. [David: It took nearly 20 years for commercial printing to settle down. Digital books weren’t really available until Y2K or so.]
–Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL