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Lightning Source Distribution

There are two main book wholesalers: Ingrams and Baker & Taylor. If you have your book available in these two places, then it’ll be available virtually everywhere books are sold.

Baker & Taylor have a partnership program for small publishing houses. It’s costs around $300 to sign up for it; however, if you go through Lightning Source, your book will be available in both Ingrams and Baker & Taylor. So don’t do this unless you choose not to go with Lightning Source for printing and distribution.

Lightning Source (LSI) is the “distribution arm” of Ingrams, the largest book wholesaler in the nation. The cool thing about Lighting Source is that’s it’s more than a distributor. It’s a printer and distributor rolled into one, and it is the “self-publisher’s” (or micro/indie publisher’s) best friend.

After you have set up your business and gotten your ISBN #s, etc, you’ll want to set up a publisher’s account with Lightning Source. It costs less than $300.

Once you have your assigned LSI team, you can submit a new title, which costs about $125. Via LSI, you can download templates for your artist/cover designer to use for the exterior PDF files of your book. The cover template will include a barcode, so don’t buy one from Bowker. You can even choose whether or not to have the price coded into the barcode, and it’s all for free. Once these templates have been filled with your content, this is what you’ll upload to Lightning Source. $40 for each upload (part of the $125 set up fee, but it will cost $40 for each subsequent upload if you make changes to the interior or cover). Then order a proof ($30 paperback, $35 hardcover) to be send FedEx straight to your door. If everything looks good in the proof, you’re set!

Several times a year, LSI offers “Free Title Setup” promotions, where they waive the set up fees if you purchase at least 50 copies before a certain date. You can save even more money this way. Keep your eye out for these.
Choose to have your book available direct-to-publisher only, meaning that you can order them but they won’t be available online, or for just $12 a year, it will be in the Lightning Source distribution system. Then your book will be available wherever books are sold, because they’re now in both Ingrams & Baker & Taylor’s system. By choosing this option, your titles are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Independent Bookstores, etc.
Reality Check: Being available doesn’t mean bookstores like Barnes & Noble will carry your books on the shelf. That’s a whole different ballgame. Being available means that bookstores can type in the author’s name, ISBN #, and/or book title in their system, and it will be available to order for the inquiring customer. It’s still up to you to get the customers in the store asking for it.

However, via LSI’s distribution, your titles are automatically available from and Barnes& online. More and more people are buying books online.

One of the other great things about Lightning Source is that they are a POD (Print On-Demand) printer, which means your book isn’t printed until it’s ordered. This is a HUGE thing in today’s market. I’m a lifelong environmentalist, so this makes perfect sense to me.

Even some Big Boys are in trouble because of the excessive book printing (100,000+ print runs) vs. bookstore returns. Not to mention warehouse space costs, etc. Ultimately, books get thrown away (not even recycled in many cases), so POD is a no-brainer for me.

With LSI, they’re printed and shipped as they’re ordered within 24 hours.

They’re never unavailable through Amazon or any other bookseller, which as I mentioned before happened to us with our first indie publisher. In the middle of a nationwide book tour, and our books were unavailable. Not good. Never again will I be in the middle of a huge promotional push and have my books unavailable. Although “selling out” looks really good in a press release, but what it really means is loss of potential sales.

People are impulse buyers. Only a small percentage will come back to buy something that wasn’t there when they wanted it. Make sure your book is always available for your potential readers.

As a micro/indie publisher, Lightning Source is the way to go.

Reality Check: Having your book available wherever books are sold is not the same thing as bookstores stocking your books. I know I just said this, but it is important enough to repeat.

Every major chain has their own submission process, but I’m going to focus on Barnes & Noble. It’s by far my favorite of the large chain stores, both as a consumer and as an author. They have been pretty great to us for signings, and they normally give you a free Starbucks during your author signing. Can’t beat a free mocha!
First thing you simply must do if you want ANY bookstore to carry your book is to make your book RETURNABLE.

This sucks. I know. But it’s currently part of the rules of this ridiculous game. Again, it’s part of the reason why even the Big Boys are in dire straights right now. Everything is returnable back to the publisher. Think if you had 100,000 copies printed and only 25,000 copies sold. Everything else was returned. That’s a lot of returns. That’s a lot of lost money.


What do you think of the Print On Demand (POD) printing model?
How do you see this differing from the POD (formerly known as Vanity) publishers?

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