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This is a reply to a specific email question I got, but I thought I reproduce it here for general consuption.


The whole question of capital investment makes POD the only sane way to go...especially at first... if you want print books.  Which I'd suggest you do.  You also want ebooks to go with them, offer your book in several formats, find out where the action is.

I'll suggest two courses of action.
Plan A
1.  Start accounts on,  CreateSpace and LIghtningSource.  It's free, and you learn a lot just by being there.  Get your MS as clean as possible.  Use a good font like Garamond or Accord or Goudy, not TNR   Justify the type  12 pt single space.  Set your page to 6x9 (or whatever size you want your book) not 8 1/2 x 11.  Set margins of .4 or /5 all around.  Go through, pick up widows, orphans, etc.  Have a title page with copyright data on back, start book (maybe even all chapters on right hand page)   Have two sections, one for MS and a previous one with no page number for your title, info page and TOC is you have one.
Now print it as a PDF.  Or use OpenOffice in the first place and export as PDF. 
Upload to your book at Lulu.  If you have a cover, fine, if not use one of theirs.  Push the button.  Keep it private, not published. Order a copy and trip out on it, then start editing it, You can carry it around with you.  I go through in black pen, then blue, then red.  Make corrections on your MS, new PDF.
How much did the book cost?  And shipping?  Can you live with that?   Do you like what they do with ebooks?
2.  Do it with CreateSpace.  You want to have your cover together by now and it's a little trickier, but not rocket science.  Go ahead and spring for the $10 ISBN -- think HARD about the "publisher name" because it might be something you stick with for a long time.  See what it costs you with their calculator.   If you start publishing, the $50 "pro pack" is worth it if you sell more than like 10 copies, and can be added later.   This is a viable publishing posture right there, far as I'm concerned.  You should be getting books for around $4 on pro plan,  six without.  You can do the whole amazon, sales channel thing, or you can just sell off a website.   Use a PayPal button, order to their addresses from CreateSpace or get a dozen or half dozen books and mail them yourself.  See if you can get some reviews.  etc.
3. Start working on LSI account.  If you want to start up there, it'll run you about $200, almost half of that for your ISBN from Bowkers.  But at that point you'll be set up as a pro publisher with rock-bottom unit price available, on amazon and every other online store, available for order from bookstores everywhere.
This may seem complicated, but it's giving you a ramp-up of learning curve and hands-on experience.  You could skip Lulu if you wanted to, but it's an easy way to get a proof copy and you won't lock into a ISBN or cover, can be editing while developing cover, etc.

Plan B
Go straight to LSI.  You're working, you can swing $200.  You'll pay it back with like 20 sales of your own, 30 or so of amazon.   And you'll be in the publishing business.  You will also be positioned to start publishing other people.  Especially if you have gotten the skills to turn out really good copies on LSI.  You night be good at it.  But ten ISBN's for $250 and start cranking out books, paying royalties.  Could be a second career.  Or, of course, not.
And LSI will switch you over to more profitable offset if you start making those kind of numbers.  (Meaning--you risk far all of this is pay as you go)

You can create ebooks on CreateSpace, or just go to SmashWords, or learn how to do them yourself.  Once you have a clean MS, it's not that hard.  All conversions and such an be learned from

Talking ZERO costs to produce and ship.   You could take on other writers as ebooks first, go to POD if it's warranted.

I'm sure that's enough to think about for now.  FIrst thing you should do, in my book, is start accounts on Lulu and Createspace and start getting your hands on.

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Replies to This Discussion

I have already published but this is great information.  It fills in the blanks- Thank You.

All helpful tips Linton, 


I would like to suggest a plan C, or step 2 to your plan actually.


If you want to get your feet wet with Self Publishing, LULU is a great option for printing 10-20 books.  You will learn a lot from this experience.  LULU provides professional service with great quality.  Agreed.


But what if you plan on selling more than 20 books?


You can continue to print on demmand until you run out of time and money..... or

You can find a printer who works with self publishers.  like Crown Media & Printing, Inc


  We have factories in China and US, and understand that to make a profit as an Author, you need affordable pricing on your books.  We print both digitally (10-500 books) and (offset 500+).


       "To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate."

        ~ John Glenn, astronaut, U.S. senator

Actually, there really isn't any limit to how many books it makes sense to sell off a CreateSpace account.

And, as mentioned, there's a time when it might make sense to move from POD to offset.  But it sure as hell isn't 20 copies.  Or a hundred copies.


There is generally a roll-off between the processes, and it's generally around 1000 (very loose number).  If you need less than that (or have no idea how many you will sell) go POD and order a few at a time as makes sense, in order to keep down your capital outlay.

Over that number, or 1500 or whatever, you want to order as many as you can afford because every one but the first one is costing you peanuts.  (Problem is...that first one is costing your thousands of dollars)


It's kind of like,  "It costs $100 a night for hotel room, but a whole house only costs $20 a night."  Trouble is, the first night in the house costs you a quarter million bucks or whatever.


Offset is a valuable tool, but not for beginners.

But I notice that  Crown Media also offers digital.

So maybe a helpful nugget might be...


I can get a 297 page, 6x9 glossy cover book from CreateSpace for $4.20 with their Pro Plan (costs %40 up front) or about $6.30 with no upfront payment.

I can get the same book out of LightningSource for around three bucks a copy.


So what sort of prices would Crown offer to compare?

I like your analogy, but my logic tells me it makes sense to buy a house and not live out of a hotel. 


Offset is for Any Author who plans on printing more than 500 copies. 


That depends on the quanitity.  We are most competitive at 1K and up. 

We offer digital printing for promo copies or for customers who need a small amount in a hurry


Crown media has no "Plans" or "Programs"   AKA no hidden costs and you retain all rights


We simply print your book and ship it to you.  


AUTHORS PLEASE READ Stefhen's story below, this is not uncommon. 

Form your own Publishing Company and print yourself  - that is self publishing

Stephen, I hope you were able to  get your rights back with minimal losses. 


Nothing against Create Space or Lulu, in fact if you are printing 10-20 copies of a book for friends and family members, I would recommend them.  They are just not suited for Authors with bigger plans


dont quite understand your statement, "hope you were able to get your rights back with minimal loss." why would there be a problem? I own the imprint Kimama Press. and I dont print my books myself, they are printed by create space and lightning source. i think authors with big plans should take my route, sell foreign rights to their titles, that way their titles can attract a larger publisher. Had i not written and published this book, and printed it through create space and lightning source, simon and schuster wouldntve contacted me to republish.

and lastly, in my seminars, I try to get people to avoid using the term self-publishing and replace it with independent publishing. I am an independent publisher and as a result of publishing my own book, others have approached me to publish their manuscripts. most recently, Act or Die by Rick Edelstein, which Im working on selling to a republisher.

i did just that two years ago with my book, Black Passenger Yellow Cabs: A Memoir of Exile and Excess in Japan. after a ton of research, i flew from japan to cali, formed my own imprint, got my own isbn and bar code, used create space to print it, then later used lightning source also. after publishing the book, I was contacted by Simon and Schuster to republish the book. Id advise staying the fffffffffffffffffffflock away from subsidized self-publishers like lulu, iUniverse and the like. there could be problems with ownership of the manuscript, if a larger publishe wants to republish. simply form your own LLC or DBA (doing business as).

I've never had any problems with Lulu, but I only use them for ebooks, not for physical printed books.  Also, I don't use their ISBNs.  There should not be a problem if you own all the rights. 

Thanks Linton for the great advice. I have yet to publish anything and I definitely find these tips quite thought provoking.
I use CreateSpace Pro-Plan since it gets me directly on Amazon and into Ingram and Lightning Source. I slip in right behind the path my publisher laid with my first book. I link my books as a series on Amazon. The design and print quality is such a good match no one can tell the different - only the imprint name changed.

Regarding hotel vs house...  It's often easier to come up with $60 and $600,000 bucks.

Short run is the wisest course for small publishers, and for newbies.  

Thanks. I opted for the Free ISBN.


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