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More on the NEW Business of Self Publishing


How to Publish Your Books With Online Book Marketing and Print on Demand by Lightning Source

Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

CreateSpace uses it. Lulu.com uses it. So do AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and almost every other self publishing company in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

What is it? Lightning Source, the printer and distributor at the heart of the “print on demand” industry. For the work those companies can’t handle themselves, it’s Lightning they most often depend on.

So, why pay a middleman? In this follow‑up to his groundbreaking book Aiming at Amazon, Aaron Shepard explores how to double your profit by working directly with Lightning. If you’re serious about making money with POD publishing, this book can show you the way.

Aaron Shepard is a foremost proponent of the new business of profitable self publishing, which he has practiced and helped develop since 1998. Unlike most authorities on self publishing, he makes the bulk of his living from his self-published books—not from consulting, speaking, freelance writing, or selling publishing services. In a parallel life, Aaron is an award-winning children’s author with numerous books from publishers large and small.

Shepard Publications

Paperback ~ 2010

Note: This book was last updated in 2010.
Partial updates are on this Web site.

The following links may earn commissions for this site.

Reviews and Comments

“Aaron Shepard is the undisputed expert at earning profit from POD. Here are the step-by-step instructions for setting up your own publishing operation and optimizing the financial benefits. Following his steps, you will earn two or three times as much per book.”—Bruce Batchelor, author, Book Marketing DeMystified, and founder and former CEO, Trafford Publishing

“A graduate course and definitive guide for advanced POD publishing.”—Morris Rosenthal, author, Print-on-Demand Book Publishing

“A tremendous amount of information that will benefit an author who self publishes not only through Lightning Source but by any other method.”—Kevin Sivils, author, Self-Publishing with Amazon’s CreateSpace

“Remarkably thorough and readable.”—Jonathan LeBlanc Roberts, Breton Bay Publishing

“I wish I had read a book like this before I started publishing.”—Brandon Simpson, Small Town Press

“Invaluable advice for any small press or independent publishing firm.”—Max Scratchmann, Poison Pixie Publishing

“Could not be more timely or helpful. What a wealth of information . . . and not just what to do, but HOW.”—Malcolm Dell, Elbow Grease Publishing

“Aaron Shepard is exceptional in his ability to keep up with the ever-changing minutiae of the world of self publishing via POD. I wouldn’t want to publish without this book within reach.”—John Culleton, Wexford Press

“Don’t go into publishing without it.”—Grace Bridges, Splashdown Books

“Another gold mine of information from Aaron Shepard. Absolutely required reading for any self publisher.”—Christy Pinheiro, author, The Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit!

“Lots of valuable, easy-to-understand information. I will recommend this highly to my self-publishing clients as a reference for their many questions. Even after more than a decade in the business, I learned a few things from this book.”—Jamie Saloff, Saloff Enterprises

“Indispensable if you are considering printing your book POD. Covers every aspect of the process in depth.”—Norma Lehmeier Hartie, Lingham Press

“After Aaron’s Aiming at Amazon and Perfect Pages, his new book completes the tool belt allowing small press entrepreneurs to succeed. Learn the elements essential to flourishing as a publisher—and not just any kind—a profitable one!”—T.D. Hollowell, Undiscovered Press

“Required reading for anyone who wants to publish independently while maximizing their profits. The publishing industry insights, step-by-step instructions, examples, resources and practical advice are a gold mine for authors.”—Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer

“Covers all you need to know about self publishing with POD so you can bypass the beginner’s mistakes and get to the good bits!”—Jennifer Stewart, Write101.com

“Everything you need to know to work with Lightning Source is contained in this book.”—Zoe Winter, Indie Books Journal (blog of IndieReader.com), Apr. 12, 2010

“Clearly written and very nicely organized. . . . Aaron Shepard uses his own experience and expertise in the field to help others not only get their material out there but be profitable. A choice and very highly recommended read for anyone considering print on demand as a publishing option.”—The Midwest Book Review, June 2010

“Well balanced. . . . Knowledge is power, and this book definitely has a lot of power behind it.”—Cheryl Anne Gardner, POD People, June 2, 2010

“Will definitely save you time and money.”—Susan Penn, The Creative Penn, July 14, 2010


About This Book

Review the Rules

1 ~ Learning About Lightning

Get the Facts

Lightning Source Partners

Get the Connection

Get the Advantage

Get Access

The Espresso Book Machine

2 ~ Becoming a Publisher

Adopt a Name

Obtain ISBNs

Set Up for Business

Real Self Publishing?

Plug Into Lightning

Request Listings

Access Wholesalers

Stake Your Claims

About Google Books

3 ~ Working with Lightning

Understand the Model

Setting Up Sales

Consider Capabilities

How to Spell Lightning

Use the Site

Work with Reps

The Ingram Companies

4 ~ Dealing with Data

Gather Your Info

Assign Your ISBN

Set the Year

Guide Booksellers

Assist Librarians

LC Subject Headings

Reveal Your Content

Create Your Images

5 ~ Going to Market

Choose a Pub Date

Set a Discount

Set a Price

Aaron’s POD Price Chart

Refuse Returns

6 ~ Preparing Your Files

Prepare Your Pages

A Better Reprint

Prepare Your Cover

Ink Limits and Images

Cope with Color

7 ~ Launching Your Book

Upload to Lightning

Avoiding a Proof

Submit Your Listings

Check In on Wholesalers

Check In on Amazon

Prelisting on Amazon

Check Other Booksellers

Moving to Lightning

8 ~ Spreading the Word

Show Up Online

Get Reviews

Taking It Easy

9 ~ Looking at Legalities

Consider Copyright

Make a Deposit

Why This Book Has No Checklist

10 ~ Minding Your Business

Watch Your Sales

Sales Trivia

Handle Other Sellers

Sell Foreign Rights

11 ~ Facing the Future

Consider Revision

Consider Price Changes

Adding Distribution Options

Consider Double Sourcing

Turn Down Buyouts

Publish More Books

Aging on Amazon


Where to Get Help

iPage Publisher Accounts

Working with BowkerLink

Learning About TextStream

The Stigma of POD

Sample Text

About This Book

This book is both new and not new. It grew out of my earlier book, Aiming at Amazon, and some of the material you’ll read here was once part of that other book.

Aiming at Amazon outlined the new business of self publishing, based on producing and distributing books through print on demand and marketing those books through online booksellers, especially Amazon.com. When the book first came out, there was only one way for a self publisher to profitably approach Amazon—through the POD provider called Lightning Source. So, I treated the two as inseparable elements of my model.

Less than two years later, when the book came up for revision, things had changed. Amazon’s own POD offerings had evolved, and its CreateSpace had become a viable alternative for self publishers. Lightning was still the more profitable choice, but CreateSpace, with its greater ease and convenience, was better suited to many beginners. At the same time, I had about three times as much to say about Amazon marketing.

So, the second version of Aiming at Amazon focused more on Amazon itself, and I saved most of my remaining content for a second volume to be focused on Lightning Source.

This is that second volume. And like my writing on Amazon marketing, this material too has about tripled in bulk. I’ve gone into much greater detail about how Lightning works and how to work with it, as well as about other services important to Lightning publishers.

I believe I’ve been fair and balanced in my discussion of Lightning, but there’s no question you’ll find praise and admiration for it in these pages. So, let me make clear that I have no official connection to Lightning except as a publisher client. This book is not sponsored by Lightning, and I have neither sought nor received its endorsement.

Instead, it is based on my own experience with Lightning, which goes back to 1998—only about a year after the company’s founding, when it was still called Lightning Print. I was among the first self publishers to work with the company, or even to know about it. Since then, I’ve published almost two dozen books through Lightning. And though I’ve worked also with BookSurge, CreateSpace, and Replica Books (now TextStream), sales through Lightning provide the bulk of my income today.

Despite growing competition, daunting requirements, and burdensome procedures, Lightning Source remains the prime choice for most modern self publishers determined to maximize profit. If you wish to make a living or earn significant income from your publishing, and if you’re capable of clearing the hurdles, then Lightning is your best bet for reaching your goals.

Of course, not all Lightning publishers make money, but many do, and our ranks are growing. For a very rough idea of what’s possible, here are the results of a 2008 poll of Yahoo’s pod_publishers group—a gathering point for Lightning publishers worldwide—with 28 members responding. Dollar amounts are average monthly profit from POD sales, given in U.S. dollars.

29% ~ $0–$100
29% ~ $100–$1,000
25% ~ $1,000–$5,000
11% ~ $5,000–$10,000
4% ~ $10,000–$50,000
4% ~ $50,000–$100,000
0% ~ Over $100,000

The respondents most successful with Lightning would have published multiple titles in nonfiction—reflecting a truth about self publishing in general. Fiction by an unknown author is almost always a harder sell.

Though this book is about publishing for profit, I do not consider profit a sufficient reason to publish a book. For me, publishing is a personal process, almost a sacred one—the sharing of worthwhile ideas, helpful information, useful techniques, resources for understanding, and hopefully at times a touch of delight—all from mind to mind, for the betterment of both reader and writer. Yes, profit is important to me, but mainly as a way to enable this process—it allows me to keep publishing.

There are many motives for publishing, and I know this book will be used in support of them all. But if, like me, you see publishing not only as a source of personal enrichment but also as a form of service, then this book has been written for you.

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