Monday, March 16, 2009

Lulu vs. CreateSpace: Which Is More Economical For The DIY Author?

At the risk of coming off as some kind of Amazon shill, I'm afraid I've just got to blog about one of their services again: CreateSpace. I feel this is necessary because I keep seeing tweets, posts and Facebook notes from indie authors--especially authors outside the US---who intend to go through Lulu based in part on a belief that Lulu is the most economical choice for the services offered, and in many, many cases, this is simply not true.

Still, don't take this post as a slam against Lulu, because Lulu may yet be the better choice for some authors and publishers. With CS, you deliver a print-ready manuscript file and cover art file, and CS prints your book---end of story. With CS there is no quality control, no one is checking your content for errors, nor even ensuring that you haven't inadvertently left editing marks in your manuscript file. You must be willing to either do all the tasks involved in bringing your book to print by yourself, or hire out for them as needed.

UPDATE, 9/30/09 - Createspace now offers publishing packages with added pro services for additional fees, but such packages are optional and you can still opt to use CS strictly as a printing/binding service.

Lulu, on the other hand, offers author service packages for authors and publishers who don't intend to go it alone. Those of you who do intend to go it alone, read on. Note that prices quoted herein are accurate as of this writing, but subject to change going forward.

I've spent considerable time wading through the terms, services, help and FAQ pages at both CreateSpace and Lulu, among other places, and here's what I've found.

Lulu - Published By You, Or Published By Lulu

If you go through Lulu, you can choose 'Published by You' or 'Published by Lulu'.

With PbY (US$99.99 if you're in the US, Germany or Netherlands and $137.84 if you're in the UK or Ireland), you retain all publication rights to your book and automatically get Lulu's Expanded Distribution Service thrown in, which will list your published book with book stocking catalogs used by international booksellers and libraries.

With PbL (free), you grant Lulu exclusive publication rights to your ms and must pay $49.95 extra for the Expanded Distribution Service if you want it. While Lulu's site isn't terribly clear on the ramifications of this, I would take it to mean that you cannot publish the same edition of the same book elsewhere (i.e., publish through Lulu for international orders and through CreateSpace for US orders), and it may also mean you must return to Lulu if/when you want to publish new editions of the same book. Here's the relevant licensing agreement.

***4/24/09 - update...the word "exclusive" no longer appears in Lulu's PbY agreement; however, if you read through the numbered items in the agreement, they seem to grant Lulu a de facto exclusive publication right anyway. Like I said, the verbiage isn't completely clear on what rights you are and aren't signing over to Lulu. Compare to this, from CreateSpace's user agreement, under the heading of Ownership:

Subject to the licenses set forth in this Section 6 and the following sentence, and as between the parties, you own all right, title and interest in and to the Content, including all patent, copyright, trademark, service mark, mask work, moral right, trade secret or other intellectual property or proprietary right (collectively, "Intellectual Property Rights") therein.

The stuff in Section 6 pertains to licensing rights allowing CS to set your book up for Amazon listings, search inside the book, etc., and earlier in the agreement CS refers to itself as a Seller of your content, but never refers to itself as the "publisher" the way Lulu does. Here's a link to the full CS agreement. If you are seriously considering working with Lulu, I'd suggest you contact them directly and get more specific information in writing before deciding one way or the other.***

In fairness, I'll say that if you accept CreateSpace's free ISBN, CreateSpace remains the registered owner of that ISBN, which means you will not be able to list your book with catalogs like Bowker's and Nielsen's because only the registered ISBN owner is allowed to do so. However, YOU still retain all rights to the material, you are not asked to grant exclusive publication rights to CS, and the matter of registered ISBN ownership isn't as big a deal for most individual indie authors as some scaremongers make it out to be.

If you're in the UK or Ireland, you must agree to this, separate terms of service for the PbY service. Note that it says you will be required to accept an assigned block of 10 ISBNs from Lulu. However, even if you opt for the free PbL service, you still must pay the Expanded Distribution Service fee of $49.95 to get your book listed in international book catalogs. Confused yet? Let's take a look at a recap of these pricing options.

US/German/Netherlands authors/publishers:
PbY option = US$99.99
Expanded Distribution for PbY option = included in PbY option
PbL option = no charge
Expanded Distribution for PbL option = US$49.95
no requirement to sign the Ireland/UK terms of service

UK/Ireland authors/publishers:
PbY option = US$137.84
Expanded Distribution for PbY option = included in PbY option
PbL option = no charge
Expanded Distribution for PbL option = US$49.95
must sign the Ireland/UK terms of service

See Lulu's chart comparing the distribution options.

What Does Lulu's Distribution Service Promise To Deliver - Or Not?

So maybe you're willing to fork over the extra money for international distribution, but here's the zinger. Right in its terms, Lulu says:

"The decision to list a book is up to the individual retailer. Published By You and Published By Lulu distribution services gets your book listed with the distributor used by major retailers like Amazon. This means major booksellers will have the option and ability to list your book as available for sale, which they did not have before. In our experience, Amazon will almost always list a book for sale once they have access to it through the wholesaler.Then again, when you purchase a distribution service, it can take 6 to 8 weeks for your book to hit an online bookshelf. This is because most booksellers only update their database with new listings once a month."

In other words, while they will get your book into the major distributor catalogs, Lulu does not guarantee your book will be listed on Amazon or anywhere else. The catalogs Lulu lists with are Bowker (for US + int'l.) and Nielsen (for UK). I don't doubt that "Amazon will almost always list a book for sale once they have access to it," but I don't know that "almost always" is worth paying a fee for.

As it turns out, you can register to add your own listings to these services FOR FREE, but only if you are the publisher of record. That means that whether you publish thru Lulu or CS, if you want to be able to add your catalog listings (which accomplishes the exact same thing Lulu says they'll do for you with their 'expanded distribution service'), you must purchase your own ISBNs from Bowker, and possibly your own barcodes as well.

Bowker offers a package deal where you can get your own ISBN + barcode + Bowker catalog listing starting at US$150. That's $50 more than the $99.99 US Published by You option at Lulu, and $12.16 more than the UK/Ireland Published By You option at Lulu.

One advantage of listing your books through Bowkers and Nielsen, whether you do it yourself or let Lulu do it for you, is that doing so makes your books available for order through any retailer, bookstore or library. Personally, I don't feel indie books receive enough bookstore or library orders to make this worthwhile, but if your motivation is to make your book available to be listed on, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble online and even Borders online, it's probably worth the expense.

In contrast, if you opt for the Premium package at CS (US$39, a one-time fee that keeps your per-copy production costs permanently lowered), plus the Bowker ISBN + barcode package (US$150), you'll be out up to US$89 more than if you'd gone with Lulu under PbY. However, you won't have been required to sign that UK/Ireland terms of use, and your book will have all the same international listing opportunities as if you'd gone w/ Lulu's PbY service.

At this point you may be thinking Lulu still looks like the most sensible option, even with the UK/Ireland terms of service, but you haven't taken per-copy production costs into account, and that's where Lulu really fails.

Per-Copy Production Costs Are The Bottom Line

Taking one of my own CS books as an example, a 346pp, perfect-bound, 6x9, black and white trade paperback with full color cover, with CS's Premium service my per-copy production cost is $5. That means I pay $5 per copy to buy author copies. The same book thru Lulu will run me $11.46 in production costs per copy, and $11.46 to buy each author copy.

Mainstream trade paperbacks of these approximate dimensions sell for US$14-16 in stores. Given that the bookseller's take is a standard 40% wherever you sell, online or brick-and-mortar, if I want to price my book right in the middle of that range ($15) the bookseller's take is $6. Just to break even, I'd have to raise the retail price on my Lulu book to just over $19, $20 or more if I'd like to make at least $1 profit per copy.

The CS book, by comparison, can remain priced at $15 per copy and I'll still earn $4 per copy in net profit/royalty. In fact, I can price my book at the lower end of the scale, at $14 (which in fact, I do) and still earn $3 per copy in net profit. That's a royalty of 21.4%, which is a damn sight better than mainstream authors get.

But what about that total expenditure of $189 you'd have to absorb ($150 to Bowker + $39 to CS for the Premium package), or the $100 ($138 in the UK) you'd spend on Lulu's Published By You program? Assuming you price your Lulu book at $20, you'd have to sell 100 - 138 copies before you break even. You wouldn't clear your first dollar of real profit on your Lulu book till copy #101 - 139 sells. However, if you've published through CS you can make back most of your upfront investment in author copies.

Recall that Lulu's author copies for this book are $11.46 each, and CS's are $5. You save $6.46 per author copy by publishing through CS. If you plan to order 25 author copies (for friends, family, hand-selling, and sending to reviewers), you'll save 25 x $6.46, or $161.50, right there. This leaves you with about $28 to recoup, which means if you'd have to sell 7 copies of a $15 book to break even and 10 copies of a $14 book to break even. Given that your CS book is priced so much lower than your Lulu book, it will be much easier to make those sales than if you'd gone through Lulu.

While it's true that Lulu offers production cost discounts on their POD books on a sliding scale based on how many books you order upfront, given that the whole point of going POD is not having to order a minimum quantity up front for hand-selling, such discounts aren't terribly relevant to the typical author seeking POD services.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent post, especially with all the actual numbers. You don't often see real-world examples to go by.

Having done both Lulu and CS (and LSI, for that matter), I have a few other notes:
1) Lulu can have insanely expensive shipping costs for both you and your customers (if you buy direct from them). For instance, to get a single copy of a 6x9 120-page book shipped across the border to Canada (to a major city), Lulu wants to charge $89. For a $12 book. CS's costs are in the $12 range for the same service. Lulu only lets you lower the price if you opt for a "it may never arrive, we can't promise anything" shipping service.
2) That said, CS only gets you listed in, not the international sites. So if your business plan depends on international sales, you need to find another option, or do some legwork to fulfill orders yourself.

Personally, I balance between CS and LSI, depending on the project. Lulu is a minefield of hidden costs.

April L. Hamilton said...

You're right about CS only automatically listing your book with Amazon in the US (if you've stated you want them to), which is why I mentioned the option of buying your own ISBN + barcode + Bowkers listing direct from Bowker, then also listing your book by yourself on Nielsen's (for free) after the book is published to make it available for listing on Amazon UK and, + available to *all* retail shops, booksellers and libraries.

Listings with Bowker & Nielsen are free, but you must be the ISBN owner of record to create the listings. That's why you have to buy the ISBN yourself, instead of accepting the free one from CS or Lulu.

Anonymous said...

Blargh, yes, sorry, I lost track of my own thought there. What I meant to say was that the listing process takes a long while (perhaps only for Canadians), so you need to build that time into your business plans (which you also covered).

I'll make sure to finish waking up before writing blog comments again :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this! That has always been my dilemma is which POD to go through and the bottom line costs. I don't expect to be a millionare but then again I don't want $1 royalties either. Seams like I am leaning ever more towards CS!

Marti said...

latest book printed through Lulu, then took the exact same PDF to CreateSpace and had it printed there, The quality is identical. I got the free CS ISBN (plus listing on Amazon) which saved me that expense at Lulu, plus the per-book print price is $5 cheaper. I would recommend CS to anyone considering POD.

Thanks for a very informative post!

Marti_L at Twitter

Unknown said...

I agree with everyone here who mentions CS only gets you listed on Amazon. However, this day and age, sometimes that is all you need if you are pursuing an online marketing campaign. My Kindle sales alone for my most recent book have surpassed any hard copies I sold through Lulu and I doubt the hard copies will ever catch up. You can read about my Lulu adventures in the POD Diary at

-Shannon Yarbrough

April L. Hamilton said...

Shannon -
Good point re: Kindle/ebooks; I publish all my stuff in trade paperback, Kindle, and multiple other ebook formats. However, since I price the Kindle and ebook editions much lower than the trade paperbacks, even though I sell more copies in Kindle/e formats, I've still earned the larger portion of my royalties to date on my trade paperbacks.

E said...

Really great post - I'll be hanging on to this as a reference to show authors who ask me about POD options! Now, if only I knew how to make a print-ready PDF....

April L. Hamilton said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Erin. Glad you've found this helpful. =')

April L. Hamilton said...

CJ & Marti -
Thanks to both of you too, for taking the time to read and comment. Considering how much time and effort it took me to boil the cost and rights comparison down into a single blog post, it's not surprising that many indie authors aren't clear on the bottom-line differences between CS and Lulu. I knew Lulu's per-copy production costs were higher, but the rights differences came as a bit of a shock to me when I researched this post.

Unknown said...

Great post. I am at the stage of picking between LULU and CS and maybe others for books that I hope to interest libraries and in. Your book IndieAuthor also was good though Kindle parts were complicated. I haven't figured out if using LULU how much exposure on AMAZON I would get, would I get the purchase button or not?? Thank you for helping so many of us. MNTJOHNSON@GMAIL.COM

Simbarashe said...

April, I'm a fan of the book you wrote on self publishing. I have a question that hasn't really been answered in any of the forums I've visited and it is this: If Lulu has a better ISBN purchase option and CS has a better royalty margin, why wouldn't an author register their book through Lulu via PBY, pay for the ISBN and expanded distro, and then take that ISBN to CS and upload it there for domestic Amazon US sales? That seems like it would be the most bang for an author's buck--paying less on the setup and getting more on the return?

April L. Hamilton said...

Simbarashe -
The PbY license agreement specifies you must continue to work with Lulu for distribution, catalog listings, etc. on your title, that Lulu will be the sole source of bibliographic data to be provided to Bowker and Nielsen, and that you agree to purchase at least one proof copy from Lulu. In effect, they're making the ISBN usable only if you follow through on publishing with Lulu. Here's a link to the PbY service agreement:

Anonymous said...

Great comparison.

Another thing to consider is that if you do need editing/other services, you can always step up from createspace to amazon's otherself publishing service, booksurge.

I myself have been very happy with createspace.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

April, you say there are two options with publishing with Lulu. Aren't there three? Reading their FAQ, there seems to be a "default free option", separate from Published By You and Published By Lulu. This is the one I use.

Stop me if I'm misunderstanding something, of course, and apologies for the mispost above.


April L. Hamilton said...

Graham -
I don't really consider the 'default free option' an option for indie authors at all, since there is no ISBN assignment (even if you buy your own) and the resulting book can only be sold through Lulu's own online store.

I guess it's OK if you're publishing something like a family cookbook or club memory book, where you can easily direct everyone in your family or group who would want to buy a copy to Lulu, but if you're publishing with a motive of making the book available for commercial sale just like any mainstream book, the 'default' option at Lulu isn't a good idea.

Owen said...

I'm glad that you admit to bias up front because you make some very big assumptions - essentially that amazon is the only viable marketplace for an independent or self publisher.

my experience is that amazon is one of the single worst outlets - in terms of return and in terms of sales.

the book I published a couple of years ago sold about 3% of total sales via Amazon - despite a push to sell it that way. And it sold over 50% direct (I sold it in other words). Since I made over 10 times as much money per copy when I sold them that was also a better deal. The last commenter made a very valid point - no ISBN - no cost.

You are arguing that you need the ISBN - but then are saying your sales are all going to be through amazon. IF that is the case, then createspace is indeed the way to go. But if you intend to sell direct it is a much closer thing.

In fact, the biggest advantage I can see of createspace over lulu is that it is happy to let you publish out of multiple sources - in other words I can use createspace for Amazon, AND use lightning source for bookstore etc fulfillment.

That is a big plus.

However amazon warns that taking this approach may lead to multiple listing detail pages on amazon.

April L. Hamilton said...

First off, why so angry?

You misunderstand me. I never said ISBNs were crucial, though I can see where it might seem like that's what I was trying to say based on the wording of my last response.

I mentioned ISBN in the same breath with Lulu because it's the lack of an ISBN that will make it difficult to get your book listed anywhere outside the Lulu store---not impossible, but difficult.

I don't doubt what you're saying about your personal experience with Amazon, but mine, and that of most other indie authors with whom I'm personally acquainted, has been different.

Some authors have better success hand-selling, and this is a topic I address in The Indie Author Guide. The sales channel that works best depends on the author, the book, and the market. There is no single right answer for every indie book or indie author.

I'm not sure why you're attacking this specific post, since it isn't even about sales channels. The post mentions sales channels to the extent your choice of publisher may impact your sales channel options, but that's it. The post is really *only* about which publisher is more economical in terms of using their printing services, and in certain cases there are good reasons for choosing a service or product that doesn't seem the most economical on its face.

Martin Bartloff said...

I'm very happy I found this blog. Since February 2009 I was under contract, or shall we say a mere promise to publish my book with an Indie publisher who's name I'd rather not mention. I will refer to my Indie publisher as EePress, how's that?

EePress treated me very nice and promised a contract ones revision to my YA novel were complete, which it was at the beginning of June of 09. I got my contract, which I never worried about previously, in the middle of June. upon closer examination the contract proved to be poor and devastating alike. Breaking even would have been an entire new goal. So I started asking questions, I guess questioning the need for a publisher all together. I was pretty down. To make a long story short, two weeks later I was turned down for several bogus reasons and there is no need to go into detail. If you like the entire story, email me.

Anyway, my editor still supports my vision and she directed me to Lulu because of the reputation Lulu has with people who never worried about self-publishing, like me.

I was very confused by the two Lulu options, while I immediately suspected PBL was a way getting a piece of the pie for Lulu, I did get hooked by words like "Channels," and "Distribution."

Reading this entire blog including comments, I think I CS sounds a lot better, but I'm clueless as far as converting to PDF. One of you mentioned using Lulu's templates and carrying them over to CS. My cover art is complete and fitting the Lulu Template, but changing my manuscript from MW to PDF gives me the chills. Can I get pointers with this problem please?

--Martin (

CNU said...

Sorry I'm going to ask a 'Noob' question, but do I purchase the ISBN from Bowker first then upload with them with the ISBN in hand, slap in on the back cover using photoshop then get the proof copy?

Also do I have to upload a picture of the cover to Bowker? How do they know what book they are granting a number to is it merely by title or what? Is there a separate uploading process for Bowker?

Anybody that can answer this please do tell.



Unknown said...


Things must have changed with Lulu in the past year because I self published a small book last year and don't recall any of these issues surfacing ...and I'm a pretty astute reader of fine print when I'm first getting involved in new endeavours.

However, this post has certainly opened my eyes to things to consider.

One point Canadian self publishing authors s/b aware of. Through the federal government we can get ISBN numbers for free! Check out this link:

One thing that surprised me about Lulu was that when my book arrived it had a bar code on it. A friend bought one for himself for approx $50 Cdn. That was a nice treat.

In terms of PDF, I'm a Mac user who creates documents in Microsoft Word. I simply choose Print and then the PDF option that appears in the bottom left hand corner of the Print screen. - Bob's your uncle.

When I used a PC I had invested in an Adobe product that created pdfs but that has been unnecessary since my shift to a Mac platform.

Right now my challenge is to figure out how to create my e-book covers in 3D in Photoshop Elements for marketing purposes. Wish me luck!

Gwen McCauley

Tannis Calder said...

I'm a Canadian children's book author and have used lulu in the past, but am now considering CreateSpace. It seems to me after a lot of leg work on the internet, that although CS seems to be cheeper per book, authour copies have a considerably higher shipping cost to canada, so unless you are ordering more than 100 copies, it seems more economical to go with lulu. Lulu also provides a free preview of your book online without actually purchasing a physical copy (This is particulary important when dealing with full colour pages with images that need to be formated just right). CS makes you order a proof. I wouldn't mind ordering a proof, but the actual book costs only 6.55 and the shipping is $28!!! That can get costly, and time consuming if you need to make a few alterations.

another important piec of info is that ISBN #'s are free for Canadians, no need to pay for them! My black and white Lulu books have been posted on Amazon for free - just selected distrbute to online book stores on the mylulu page. all that said, Amazon raised the perbook cost. Just for that reason, I am considering using CS for cheaper amazon prices.... but why won't the post it on

Katharina Gerlach said...

There is a free online source where you can convert your ISBN into a Barcode. You save it and slap it on your cover (in one of the many design programs). Easy and free.

heatblast said...

can an asian publish through any of the two websites?
i'm worried that both of them might by some kind of a scam, you know, when they don't actually pay you full, so can anyone tell which one is better?

April L. Hamilton said...

Okay, group...sorry I've been so slow to respond to your comments...I was prepping for a conference talk, submitting proposals for another conference, running Publetariat, launching the Publetariat Vault...yeah, lots of plates to keep spinning! Anyhoo -

Martin - you can use primopdf, a free utility that's totally legal and legit, and can be accessed here:

CNV - Bowker just sells ISBNs and barcodes, they don't need to see any of your book's content or its cover.

Gwen - good luck with your cover. I use MS Digital Image Pro 10 to design mine. It has the word "Pro" in the name, but it's actually a consumer-level graphics and photo editor program.

tannis & Cat - thanks for the tip for Canadians.

heatblast - you can publish through either CS or Lulu if you like, but the shipping costs on your proof and author copies will be high. Also, publishing thru CS won't automatically grant you international exposure on Amazon, your book will only be listed on the main, U.S. site. Lulu offers an international distribution option, but you must pay extra for it.

Unknown said...

I would like to confirm a few questions.

I paid the first fee for a self-publishing company (AH) but then learned quickly about all the extra fees involved. At that point I decided to finish my book, researched everywhere for everything about writing (traditional versus self-pub, which company is the right company) along with all the other tasks that go along with completing a book.

I'm at the finat stages of editing and plan to publish within the next month or two. I am blogging, facebook, twittering, etc. to increase my platform.

I'm leaning towards CreateSpace but wonder if I'm not reacting quick enough to get things done in time.

Do you still believe that going to Bowker is the best way for me to get ISBNs and not thru CS because of international rights? Can you send me the link so I don't end up at the wrong site? (Almost happened to me recently on another site with payment).

Do I need to know my title to get an ISBN? I'm still pondering over a few titles.

Is MS Digital Image Pro 10 a software and is it free? I know CS has an area where you can create a title page but not sure that's the best option. Do you have a link to this site?

Are you saying that the shipping costs to customers on Amazon will pay large shipping costs or will that only apply to my purchases?

I'm a first-time author so I'm not sure I should worry about international just yet but want to be open to do what I want in the future.

Do you recommend me buying quite a few from CS and selling on my site or just the one copy? Do you know if I would pay huge shipping costs?

Thank you for helping me avoid anymore confusion than I've already encountered with so much information on the web.

April L. Hamilton said...

sunshyne -

"Do you still believe that going to Bowker is the best way for me to get ISBNs and not thru CS because of international rights? Can you send me the link so I don't end up at the wrong site? (Almost happened to me recently on another site with payment)."

If you intend to sell internationally (and therefore need to register your book(s) with the Nielsen catalog), I would suggest getting your own ISBN(s) and barcodes direct from Bowker. Here's the link:

I have accepted the free ISBN offered by CreateSpace for all my books to date, and have not regretted it because I'm not looking to get my book stocked in brick-and-mortar stores or libraries. But if those things are a priority for you, you should buy your own ISBNs and bar codes so they're registered in your name.

"Do I need to know my title to get an ISBN? I'm still pondering over a few titles."
No, not if you're buying direct from Bowker.

"Is MS Digital Image Pro 10 a software and is it free? I know CS has an area where you can create a title page but not sure that's the best option. Do you have a link to this site?"

Ms Digital Image Pro is software put out by Microsoft, and it's not free. I think I paid about US$40 for it, and it should be available in any store that sells consumer software. You can also find it on Amazon, I'm sure, though by now it may be in a higher edition number (e.g., Digital Image Pro 11). You can also search online for freeware and shareware graphics editors if cost is an issue for you, you just need to be sure that the software can handle "layers" (this will appear in the product/software description).

"Are you saying that the shipping costs to customers on Amazon will pay large shipping costs or will that only apply to my purchases?"

No, people who buy your book on Amazon will pay the same shipping as they would for any other product sold by Amazon, which means your books can qualify for shipping promotions like Super Saver Shipping. I've heard that the cost to ship copies internationally direct from CreateSpace is high, but this is a non-issue if you're in the U.S. (for purchase of author copies) and most of your customers will be buying from Amazon in the U.S.

"Do you recommend me buying quite a few from CS and selling on my site or just the one copy? Do you know if I would pay huge shipping costs?"

If you're in the U.S., your shipping costs shouldn't be anything unusual. As to how many copies to buy, that depends on how much hand-selling you intend to do, and how many copies you intend to give away as review or promo copies. I have never hand-sold my books, but some authors can really make it work if they're strong public speakers and not averse to basically becoming a vendor as well as an author. Be aware that if you sell copies from your website (as opposed to providing 'where to buy' links on your website), you need to be prepared not only to buy the books, but pay for packaging materials and shipping costs, too. Also figure in gasoline and automotive wear and tear if you don't live near a post office and can't get package pickup at your door.

Hope this helps. =')

Unknown said...

I went to primopdf,but it's giving me a hard time saying I need to have 32-bit or 64-bit...which I have 64 bit. They don't specify in their site so I'm not sure where to go from here.

Do you know if it's me or the software OR of another software I could use??

Last questions (here anyway): Do you know if CreateSpace allows B&W photos in their books and how I can confirm my photos are 300 dpi? I see a size but not sure how to check dpi.

Thanks for your help.

April L. Hamilton said...

sunshyne -
Try CutePDF, here:

It's a freeware, no bells and whistles version of a full software package that sells for $50, but if all you need to do is convert from Word to pdf, the freeware version should be fine.

Createspace does allow photos in their books (my IndieAuthor Guide has lots of screenshots, for example). As for how to tell dpi, that's something you need to do in your graphics or photo editor program. Open the file in your program, then go to File > Properties. It should list file size, dimensions, dpi and more.

Unknown said...

Thank you, April. You're great. All your answers worked.

April L. Hamilton said...

sunshyne -

Thanks! Glad I could help, and good luck with your project. =')

My Carpe Diem Life said...

Excellent resource. Thanks for all the great information and advice.

I have a manuscript and I've been looking at both lulu and CS. I'm at the point where I want to make proof copies and was hoping I could do that without an ISBN. I "published" (only for myself) in lulu, and it assigned a barcode... does that mean it gave me an ISBN? I haven't paid anything and I (hope) I didn't do anything to tie me to lulu, but I'm unclear if now I must go with lulu rather than CS.

In CS, it looks like you can't create a draft copy without an ISBN, so I'd have to make the decision of whether to use CS's free ISBN up front. Is that right? main question is am I obligated to stick with lulu, now that I've created a "private" proof copy? Did they give me an ISBN when they created the barcode?

Thanks so much for all your help.

April L. Hamilton said...

Yvette -
I'm sorry to do this to you, but I'm afraid you're going to have to pose your question about the barcode to Lulu since I don't know which program you used when you signed up, and Lulu's terms of service are subject to change just like any other service provider.

A barcode isn't the same thing as an ISBN, though the barcode on your Lulu book may be a Lulu-specific identifier, or a Bowker barcode. Again, I can't really answer this.

Contact Lulu's customer support department, and if you can, come back and post your findings here. I'm sure other Lulu authors would like to know the answer.

RE: CS, yes, you do need to commit to getting your own ISBN or accepting the free one from CS before getting an author proof.

Ellen said...

Thank you for this posting. I too struggled through both web sites and you boiled it down beautifully.

I live in Hawaii and my novel is set here, therefore a large percentage of my market (if there is one) will be here. I assume that won't make a difference regarding shipping costs from either CS or Lulu? Please let me know if you have read otherwise.

I would also like to use BookLines because they do brick and mortar distribution here in Hawaii. In that case would I buy author copies and give them to BookLines, or would BookLines buy them directly from CS?

You mention you do not do brick and mortar yourself and I am guessing that is due to the nature of your book? Do you have a link to explain your reasoning?

My Carpe Diem Life said...

Here's what I found out from Lulu. By the way, the customer support person was much more helpful than any information I got from CreateSpace (which basically just cut & paste from their help files. They would not give me a personalized response.) I also found out that you could publish your book (same title, same content, different barcode) on both Lulu and CreateSpace.

From Lulu:
The barcode is different then the ISBN. Usually if you see the barcode there it is a placeholder for a future ISBN. It does not obligate you to publish fully with us, you have only printed your book. Lulu is non exclusive which means even if you do have an ISBN with Lulu you are free to publish the same book somewhere else, if you republished it you would need a new ISBN for the other publisher.

April L. Hamilton said...

Yvette -
Thanks for the update, I'm sure it will be very helpful information to others reading this post. =')

Unknown said...

Hi, this really is an excellent article and very eye-opening. Any chance you could do a similar comparison of the big self-publishing firms around? I've heard a great deal of positives about, does anybody have experience of their work or print quality and customer service?

April L. Hamilton said...

ellenc -
Wasn't sure if your question about brick and mortar stores was directed toward me or Yvette. If me, here's the link to a post explaining why I don't bother trying to get my books distributed through brick and mortar stores:

Also worth mentioning - an author friend of mine had his book published by one of the biggies earlier this year, and within 4 it was no longer shelved in my local Borders or B&N. So even if you DO opt for bookstore distribution, and even if your book were released by a major publisher, the clock is ticking down till the day you'll be in the same boat as all the indies who never bothered with brick and mortar distribution anyway. At least those indies know what they're up against from the start, and aren't counting on brick-and-mortar sales to carry them.

April L. Hamilton said...

DoctorK -
Try this site, where Mick Rooney offers many in-depth reviews of various service providers:

Personally however, I recommend against going with any package deals, or a subsidy publisher (if you have to sign over any publication rights, it's a subsidy publisher), or a service provider that requires you to buy a minimum print run. If you want to know why, look at my book (in the BookBuzzr widget in the right-hand sidebar - click on pages to zoom in for easier reading) and go to the chapter on Publishing Options.

Unknown said...

Hi April

Thanks for the link, and especially for your advice. There is so much choice out there for publishing, it is all so confusing. I shall read and investigate further before I commit myself. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

You mention the differences between Lulu and CS, but haven't heard anything about Lightning Source as a direct source. When I sit down and do the math of CS and LS it seems I would receive higher royalties. Do you have any thought on their service?

Second, and most pressing, question is the amount of ISBNs. I have one just about ready to go and 2-3 titles I hope to write in the future.

For this do I just need to buy one block of 10 ISBNs OR do I need to consider a much higher number if selling on say CS and plus my own stock on my website? I was a bit confused on whether or not the 1 ISBN prints on my book at CS and then I could purchase a supply of those without having a new ISBN.

Any help is greatly appreciated?

PS - On a very separate note....have you ever heard of for graphical design of a cover?


April L. Hamilton said...

sunshyne -
I have never published through LSI, but I was able to get my hands on their pricing information and as it turns out, their pricing for POD is actually higher than Createspace.

If you've already got an LSI account, you should have access to their pricing grid. Take that grid and compare LSI's POD options to Createspace's Pro Plan pricing, here ("Pricing & Royalties" tab):

As of this writing, you'll pay a flat fee of $39 + $5 per year to upgrade to the CS Pro Plan, but LSI's setup fees are nearly twice that much (and that's assuming you're providing them with digital files for both your cover and interior, as you'd do for CS. If LSI has to scan your content, their pricing gets even higher). Also, LSI charges pretty stiff fees anytime you want to make revisions during the pre-publication phase (CS doesn't charge anything for changes), LSI charges an annual fee for keeping your book's ISBN listed for wholesale distribution (CS doesn't charge for this either, though their distribution is limited to Amazon), and LSI will only ship author proofs via express mail, which significantly increases shipping cost on proofs.

If you're ordering a minimum print run LSI's volume discounts may be able to beat CS's pricing. But if you're doing that, you're eliminating most of the benefits of POD.

Authors will often point to LSI's superior distribution as a reason to go with LSI instead of Createspace, Lulu, Wordclay, etc., but that doesn't quite wash with me, either. If it's a POD book, having the broader distribution LSI can offer just means people can special order your book from any major retailer, and it will be available for bookseller orders in trade catalogs. It *doesn't* mean your book will be stocked on brick-and-mortar store shelves; that will only happen if bookseller buyers decide to stock it, and given everything the big publishers are already pushing on them, that's not too likely.

As for the LSI book being "available for order" through any major bookseller, if a customer has to special order a book, aren't they most likely to order through Amazon, where they can get it cheaper and faster, anyway?

The Ingram catalog won't take on accounts for individual self-publishers or imprints with fewer than 10 titles in print, so it's true that if broad "available to order" capability is important to you, maybe it's worth going with LSI regardless of its higher per-copy production costs.

However, bear in mind that you could be talking an extra dollar's worth of expense or more per copy produced, which means an extra dollar's worth (or more) reduction in your profit per copy sold. Carefully consider how much you stand to gain for that tradeoff, because from where I sit, it doesn't make much financial sense for the typical, individual indie author. If you expect to be doing a lot of in-store events and can get the booksellers to order quantities of your book for those events, that may be a different story. But even then, once you've deducted all the expenses of financing your own book tour you'll find you'd better be selling a LOT of copies at those events if you hope to break even.

April L. Hamilton said...

Sunshyne, I forgot to answer your second question...

RE: authorsupport, I've heard of them, but have not worked with them myself and don't happen to know anyone else who has.

Unknown said...

Thank you, April. You are full of knowledge. I appreciate you taking the time to look at their price structures. I did take a look but apparently I wasn't seeing the price structure from an Indie author standpoint.

If I could bother you with two more questions.

What font do you recommend for text in a self-help book, 250 pages single-spaced manuscript.

Do you think it's necessary to pay for an internal page designer or just work with my editor to get to a pdf?

I'm trying to spend my money on the appropriate avenues as I have already made a couple mistakes in the process by paying for something that won't be used.

Thanks for all your help.

Unknown said...

April - I did have another question about the number of ISBN's. For one book on CS that I intend to sell to bookstores too is one set of 10 enough?

Unknown said...

Good comparison between CS and Lulu.

I am leaning towards CS now.

I just signed up for CS and they demand my tax ID, which is fine.

However, if I buy 100 copies of my book from CS, will a report go to IRS that I am liable for possible profits?

April L. Hamilton said...

Walt -
First, the usual disclaimer: I'm not a tax professional and you should not take what follows as professional tax preparation advice. For that, you need to see a tax professional. Having said that...based on my own experience and my own questions put to CS...

CS won't report your purchase of copies of your own book, because they have no way of knowing whether your intend to resell those copies or not. For all they know, you intend to give them all away to friends, family, reviewers, etc. From the CS perspective, they're just selling you a bunch of books, it's entirely incidental that you're the author.

CS *will* report sales of your book from your CS estore page, but only if you sell enough copies to earn $600 or more in royalties (that's the U.S./IRS minimum threshold for earnings reporting). Similarly, if you sell enough copies on Amazon to earn $600 or more in royalties, Amazon will report those earnings to the IRS.

April L. Hamilton said...

ellenc -
Forgot to answer re: BookLines. I'm not familiar with this outfit, so I'm afraid you'll need to ask them how their distribution arrangement works (e.g., do they order from CS or do you provide the books).

Sunshyne -
Let me refer you to an earlier post regarding your questions about ISBNs.

Regarding your question about interior design (which font to use), that topic is covered in my book, The IndieAuthor Guide, which you can read for free right here on my blog in the BookBuzzr widget in the right-hand column. Click on the book cover or the 'read now' button in the BookBuzzr widget to open the book, then click on any page to enlarge.

Look up the section entitled "A Word About Industry Standards" in the Table of Contents to get the page number, then flip ahead in the BookBuzzr to that section.

Unknown said...

April - Quick question. Almost 2 years ago I paid for AuthorHouse services (subsidy/vanity)which cost around $500. Since I'm not going to use their services after all do you know if I can get a refund? Someone mentioned that to me in passing but I assumed I was out that money.

Any ideas?

Thanks again for all your information.

April L. Hamilton said...

sunshyne -
You'll need to comb over AH's Terms of Use / User Agreement / Contract to see what recourse you have to try and recover monies you previously paid to them. I'm afraid that from all I've heard about authors trying to get refunds from vanity/subsidy presses in general though, you're not likely to collect.

Also - a new wrinkle has come up now that CS has made a deal with Ingram to offer broader distribution as an option on CS Pro Plan books.

There's an article all about it here, on Publetariat:

Long story short, if broader distribution is important to you, you can get it much more economically by going through Lightning Source (LSI) than through CS. As of this writing you'll pay about 6% more in production costs going through LSI vs. CS, but the extended distribution option is built right into LSI's service model.

However, LSI doesn't do ANY handholding, and they charge extra fees for any revision requests prior to publication. This is because they were originally set up as a print provider to trade publishers, and print publishers have in-house professionals to get their manuscripts and cover files ready for production. LSI only accepts ready-for-print manuscript and cover files, and if you're having any problems meeting their specifications they will immediately refer you to a more full-service outfit, such as BookSurge. They do offer more size and binding options than CS though, and that's another plus.

Even so, I am personally acquainted with quite a few indie authors who've used LSI and are very happy with their decision. If I ever self-publish another book in hard copy, I'll likely go the LSI route too. Even though I *still* don't care all that much about brick-and-mortar or library distribution, now that I'm running a website (Publetariat) that has a large U.K. and Australian audience, I'm more interested in making my books available overseas than I have been in the past.

Ellen said...

Hi, I just heard from Robert Sawyer, who is doing remarkably well now, that a publisher will not even consider looking at my work if I have self published it first unless I can show massive sales. Is this true? I had hoped to interest a publisher by showing him/her at least some positive response, well short of massive sales.

April L. Hamilton said...

Ellen -
I can tell you that when Writer's Digest picked up my self-published book, The IndieAuthor Guide, for publication in a revised and updated edition for 2010, they didn't initially seem very interested in my sales figures to date. They eventually asked, but it seemed an afterthought that may have played into the terms of their offer, but (it seems to me) not in the matter of whether they extended an offer in the first place.

However, that book is non-fiction. Novels are a tougher sell, since reader tastes play so heavily in the question of how well a novel does---whereas in nonfiction, it's mostly a question of how useful and needed the information in the book is judged to be.

My agent told me she was surprised WD wasn't more focused on my sales figures, as in her experience, this is typically the first question a publisher will ask when considering pickup of a self-published book---followed closely by questions about author platform and online audience size. Even so, she confirmed that publishers aren't necessarily expecting to see sales on par with those of a mainstream-released book.

Another couple of wrinkles are buzz and platform. Quite a few authors have parlayed a quality web presence and large online audience into a book deal. If you can build a strong online presence with a large following, your sales figures won't be as critical.

To me, it seems a lot like the question of grade point average versus test scores versus extracurriculars when a high school student applies to colleges. If you're extraordinarily strong in one of the three areas, colleges aren't so critical of merely average performance in the other two.

If your sales are huge, your platform and online audience probably aren't as important. Conversely, if you have a fantastic online presence with a huge audience, your sales figures probably aren't as important. Finally, if you have both a respectable online presence/audience and respectable sales, it probably doesn't matter that you're not exceptional in either area.

Ellen said...

Brilliant April! It's a new day, and it seems to me that POD is one of the many new formats for self-promotion, not a death knell for mainstream publication. Besides, I'm enjoying the process with Create Space and I like the web and it's endless possibilities for exposure, how bad can that be? Appreciate your help.

Gregory Thaumaturgas said...

I can't understand the blog:

Does it mean that by publishing one copy of my book (for myself) on Lulu that I now cannot sell it to Penguin Books (for example), nor can I publish one copy on CreateSpace for MY own use?

Thanks... :(

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Hi, thanks for everyone for the great information!
I have a book in Russian language that I want to publish in ebook and print by demand but Create space doesn't publish in Russian, do you know where can I publish it by any chance?

Thanks a lot!

Unknown said...

Possibly the best and most useful blog with comments I will ever read - thank you.

I am based UK: will sell internationally through web (just Amazon seems enough) and direct by hand in key markets (UK & Australia). CS or Lulu?


April L. Hamilton said...

Gregory -
I've looked into this a bit, and the answer depends on which type of agreement you've made with Lulu. Lulu offers Print On Demand printing services, in which they only act as a service provider and the author (or any imprint he/she has formed) remains the publisher of record and retains all rights to the material. In that situation, the author is free to assign those rights to another publisher at any time. However, Lulu also offers publishing packages in which the author must sign over some or all of his/her rights to the material for a set period of time, or with regard to specific formats of the published work (e.g., hard copy versus ebook).

If you use Lulu only as a POD service provider, you'll retain all your rights. However, if all you want to do is print one copy, I'd suggest you use Createspace instead. Their per-copy production costs are lower than Lulu's, and they ONLY do the POD print service provider thing, so there's no risk of losing your rights there.

Love -
I've looked into your question also. I don't understand why you say Createspace won't publish in Russian, because to my knowledge (and experience - I've published through Createspace), they will print up and bind anything you send to them. Since the file you provide to them is in pdf format, I don't understand what difference it should make what language the text on the page was originally written in. However, I must admit I've never specifically attempted to upload a foreign-language book, so if someone at Createspace is telling you "no", I'll take your word for it. I'd suggest you check out Their per-copy production costs are only about 6% higher than Createspace's, they offer more paper and binding options, and you get broader distribution in exchange for the higher pricetag. They're not a service that's set up to do a lot of author handholding, so you really have to know what you're doing when you work with them. But on the plus side, like Createspace, all they offer is a POD printing/binding service so there's no risk of losing any of your rights with them.

April L. Hamilton said...

Steve -
I'd suggest for you also, assuming you're relatively savvy about how to get your manuscript properly formatted, and either already have a cover file or can use Lightningsource's free template to create your own cover. You will have to buy your own ISBN/barcode block, and Lightning Source's per-copy production costs are about 6% higher than Createspace's, but they make it easy to order both a minimum print run up front (for later hand-selling) and keep the book available for POD purchases from booksellers and web sites. They also include international distribution options as part of their service.

If you need a little more author support and help than Lightning Source can offer, I'm afraid your only option is Lulu because Creatspace doesn't offer international distribution at all---not even to Amazon's international sites. Lulu has a fee-based expanded distribution option that does include overseas catalogs and booksellers, but be sure to crunch the numbers (as suggested in this post) before you commit to anything because Lulu's per-copy production costs may make it impossible for you to price your book competitively.

Unknown said...

Wow. Wonderful information - thanks! After lots of research, however, I'm still confused on a couple of topics and hoping for some help here:
1) As a Canadian living in Canada and interested in using CS for my novel, is there a simple way to avoid paying the IRS the 30% tax that CS will deduct from royalty checks? The long process of having my ID notarized and submitting W7 forms to the IRS seems odd and cumbersome. It looks as if CS is the only company doing this to foreigner so it makes ya wonder . . .

2) While I suspect most sales will come via, I will go with the CS Pro and Extended distribution BUT I'd still like to have my books at other Amazon sites - .ca, .UK etc. If CS does not offer this option, is there a way to make it happen? Otherise, non-US residents might not be interested in purchasing through

3) Booklocker told me I cannot use a Canadian ISBN with them because the book would be published in the US and not Canada. Can I use a Canadian ISBN for my novel at CS? If so, is it better to use a (free!) Canadian ISBN or the freebie offered by CS?

Experience and suggestions on these questions (or anything else) is appreciated - thanks!
-Steve G

Unknown said...


thank you so much for your suggestions and advice - I will be taking a good look at Lightningsource.

I was convinced that CreateSpace was the best way for me to go, but the lack of international distribution is a shock. I was certain that as an Amazon-linked company, international reach would be their unique selling perspective.

It is no overstatement that this blog and thread (on my own personal level) is the most important and useful one of any type that I have ever read.

Thank you once more,

Thomas said...

What a great article. Thanks for putting it together!

I have a couple questions about CreateSpace & the Kindle:

If I create a book with CreateSpace, can I use the same ISBN for the Kindle version?

If the physical copy and the Kindle copy require separate ISBN's, would it make more sense to purchase my own ISBN's?

Regarding DIY publishing in general:

Compared to traditional publishing, what's the author's liability (and protection if any) if someone thinks you have infringed on someone else's copyright?

Britt said...

Wow! Thanks for this incredibly invaluable breakdown! And a big thanks to the other commentators! Now, all I need is cross-border shipping info to Canada. Anybody have any experience with that? email me directly at if you want, or post here as I'll be checking back often. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all the great info! If CS books only get listed on the U.S. amazon site, what is the problem for international buyers to just buy from there? I've looked at the international postal rates on and they don't seem high. Am I missing something? I'm trying to decide between buying my own ISBN or going for the amazon freebie. I will have international buyers for the book so that's why I'm confused by the shipping rate issue.

April L. Hamilton said...

Thomas -

"If I create a book with CreateSpace, can I use the same ISBN for the Kindle version?"

Ebooks, including Kindle books, do not require an ISBN. If you wanted to assign one anyway for some reason, you'd need a different one for each different edition of the book: one for trade paperback, one for hardcover, one for Kindle, one for epub, one for Sony reader, etc. etc.

"If the physical copy and the Kindle copy require separate ISBN's, would it make more sense to purchase my own ISBN's?"

Since (as of this writing individual ISBNs cost $125 to buy from Bowker, but a block of 10 is $250 from the same source, if you ever intend to publish more than one book---or one book in more than one edition requiring an ISBN---it's more economical to buy the block of 10 than to buy them individually.

"Compared to traditional publishing, what's the author's liability (and protection if any) if someone thinks you have infringed on someone else's copyright?"

Potential for liability is the same regardless of who published you. If someone has reason to believe you've infringed a pre-existing copyright, they can take you to court whether you're an indie author or mainstream-published.

April L. Hamilton said...

Lisa -

"If CS books only get listed on the U.S. amazon site, what is the problem for international buyers to just buy from there?"

I've tried to purchase items on the Amazon UK site before, and I haven't been allowed. At some point in the process---usually when it comes to entering shipping address, since there are no select boxes for US states), I'm directed back to the Amazon site in the US. I expect UK customers trying to buy from Amazon's US site will have the same problem.

"I'm trying to decide between buying my own ISBN or going for the amazon freebie."

The main downside of the free ISBN offered by CS is that it limits your distribution and wholesale catalog registration options to those offered by CS. See the article linked below for more information, but note that since that article was written, CS has added an expanded distribution option that will get your book listed in major US wholesale catalogs used by booksellers and libraries. It still won't get you international distribution though; for that, you need to go through a service like Lightning Source and buy/register your own ISBN.

April L. Hamilton said...

Britt -
See my response to Lisa, just above, re: international orders from Amazon's US site.

If you're talking about ordering author copies which you'll be handselling, that's different. Foreign authors can order copies of their CS books directly from CS, just like US authors, but you're right in worrying that the postage rates to Canada may be high.

All you can do is try out a test order of some book already on the CS site in the quantity you'd want to order for your own book, just to see how postage will be calculated, then cancel the order before your credit card is charged.

eric uhlich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric uhlich said...

Thanks for the great post!
I have a somewhat unique issue, as I am trying to self-publish a graphic novel. It's 214 pages and as a .pdf is nearly 300mb. For Lulu this is no problem, but at Createspace, there is a 100mb upload limit, and absolutely no work-around. I lowered the dpi and got it in at 95mb and had a proof done at CS, but the quality is too low for publication.
So, I'm considering Lulu, but hate the idea for all their tricks and ridiculous retail markups; it seems impossible to release my book at a competitive price ($12-15; Lulu's lowest would be ~$18 with no royalties).
Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Any suggestions?

Pete said...

Being Uk based, my traditional publisher uses CS for the American market and to test I've purchased from to the UK. No problem except high shipping charge and several weeks delay which will put customers off. This blog is very useful - thanks!
My next project was slated for Lulu but I will look at LSI more deeply now. Pity about CS not being over here!

Unknown said...

I am so happy to have come across this post, too. I've just uploaded three of my novels - two romances and a middle grade children's book - as Kindle eBooks, but would also like to have hard copies.

Most of the more "serious" self publishers I know of use Lightning Source. But for a while they weren't working with individual authors. Only publishers. So, many formed a publishing company just to get into them. Now, apparently they've changed that policy, and are allowing individuals to print with them.

I was one who formed a publishing outfit for my own work, so I have my own block of ten ISBNs. I've dragged my feet, though, in getting anything printed. Since you are supposed to have a number for each format type, 10 can run out quickly. I have three more books that are nearly finished and outlines for more than that. So, either a couple blocks of 10 will be necessary soon, or I'll have to apply for a block of 100 at a cost of around $800. Why there is no way to buy less than 100 or a few more than 10 is strange to me!

Of course, the cost of the actual block of numbers is way less than that, but there are fees attached and that is what boosts the cost up. My jaw dropped when I saw the break down. I love the fact that Canadians can get theirs for free.

A point about using an ISBN with Kindle eBooks which I read about in a how to by either Michael Hicks or Joshua Tallent - I read them both this afternoon - is that if you have already a print book out, use the print book's ISBN with your Kindle as it will mesh all the pertinent data with the two books. So if you are getting great reviews from the print version of the book, they will find their way into the reviews for your eBook as well.

I thought it made sense, and would probably do it if I had print copies to go along with the eBooks.

Bookmarked this place! I don't want to lose my way back!

Unknown said...

I love this blog. A couple of ideas for .pdf files. If you are using MS Word (.doc files): is a website that easily creates your .pdf file for free.
I also use the open source(free) version of the MS Office called OpenOffice. It has a "save as .pdf" option that is very easy.
You can download it from

Anonymous said...

Great post! I live in Ireland and self-published with CreateSpace after ordering proofs and doing the numbers for both CS and Lulu.

Honestly, I'm sick to death about people complaining about CreateSpace's high international shipping costs. YES, they're expensive, but you need to take into account ALL your production costs, and even with high shipping charges my CS book is less than half the cost of the Lulu equivalent.

Also, I paid $39 for CreateSpace's ProPlan (extended distribution) and within 3 weeks, my book was on,,,, and, as well as Barnes and Noble's and Books a Million's sites.

I'd highly recommend them.

I blogged about my entire self-publishing adventure on

Vitaliy said...


I am new to self-publishing and would love to figure something I still haven't been able to figure out for myself.

So, I've now basically decided on the CS option but I am a bit confused on the distribution options available for stores and libraries.

So, I will be writing a book I plan to offer free of charge as a PDF and for a cost as a printed version. Now, it seems to me that if I go with CS, I cannot have my local library buy the book and make it available for check out unless I buy my own ISBN and barcode. Am I understanding this correctly?

I would like to make the book available at Amazon, my local library, and it would be nice if I could make it available at Barnes & Noble. If it could go Internationally that would be great. But it seems like if I got with either LuLu or CS I can't have libraries stock the book.

Thank you for your time,


P.S. great post, thank you very much for posting.

April L. Hamilton said...

Vitaliy -
If you go with CS and elect to upgrade to their "Pro Plan", your book will be eligible for expanded distribution. I recommend the Pro Plan option regardless, because it reduces your per-copy production costs and allows you to set a retail price right in line with comparable mainstream books, yet net a higher royalty than mainstream authors.

The expanded distro option gets your book listed in the major wholesale catalogs used by bookstores and libraries, though being listed does not guarantee booksellers or libraries will actually *stock* your book.

However, if your book is in those catalogs, it ensures consumers can walk into any major bookstore and order a copy, to be delivered to the bookstore. Also, whether you opt for expanded distro or not, your CS book can be listed on Amazon's US site at no additional charge. International distro is not yet an option through CS, so far as I know, but I think they're working on getting that going, too.

Vitaliy said...

Hi April, thank you so much for explaining everything to me. I did some research and it looks like CS is a better option, they are now working with lighting source and will be offering books to be available to libraries and other places as well.

I do have a question though,

I will be offering the book for free as a pdf to get it out to as many people as possible and also offering the printed book for $47 on Amazon, etc.

The reason I want to price it at an unusual $47 is because I am sick and tired of marketers stating some low-quality report has a value of $97 or whatever other price they choose to tag on. So this will be a full-blow book and not a ten page report and will be worth the money but I want to make it known to e-book downloaders that what they are getting is worth $47 and isn't just a "value" but an actual cost.

So I guess I am not actually thinking a whole lot of my books will be sold because of the unconventional pricing structure I am presenting.

For a marketing decision like this, would you still recommend the "pro" distribution package for me?

Thank you again,


April L. Hamilton said...

Vitaliy -
Yes, I would still recommend you go with the Pro option, for a few reasons.

First, your book must be a Pro Plan book to be eligible for the expanded distribution option, which you said was important to you in your first comment.

Second, it will dramatically reduce your cost on author copies. If you're intending to buy some copies for family, friends, to hand-sell or to send out for reviews, you can make up the Pro Plan fee in author copy savings alone.

Third, it's not something you can go back and change later. While I understand you have a specific plan in mind for this book right now, if the book ends up surprising you and selling significant numbers of copies, you'll regret all the additional author royalty money you passed up by not going with the Pro Plan. I believe in keeping future possibilities open.

Jim Brigleb said...

Thank you for your helpful site. I formatted an entire book, with text boxes and images, assuming I would be going with Lulu. After having read through this, I now want to go with CreateSpace, primarily based on the "author cost" per book as I plan on doing a lot of selling on my own. Unfortunately, I planned on an 8.5x11 format, which Lulu offers but I don't see that CreateSpace does. Before going through a few days of reformatting the entire book, am I correct in my understanding? Jim

April L. Hamilton said...

Jim -
You can order 8.5 x 11 as a custom trim size and it can be sold on Amazon and Createspace's site, but won't be eligible for expanded distribution. See this page for more details:

I'd recommend you just go with an 8x10" trim size, which is a standard size offered by CS and will still enable expanded distro.

You can access the first edition of my book, The Indie Author Guide, at my author website, and it includes a chapter on formatting an ms for Createspace. Here's that link:

If you're not the DIY type, you can also just hire me to format it for you; I do editing and cover design too.

Anonymous said...

i just published my new book( blood on my shroud ) with lulu.can i publish the same manuscript with the createsapce without any obligation? will there be any problem if i publish my already published manuscript
to createspace,as one of the copy has been sent to google book search through lulu? wouldnt it create any problem with createspace?

Anonymous said...

Hello Ms. Hamilton,
I have something in common with Vitaliy as far as first time self-publishing and wanting my book to sell internationally. Your advice to Vitaliy was to go with CS and elect to upgrade to their "Pro Plan" so the book will be eligible for expanded distribution. My question to you is, "do I have the option to customize the Pro Plan package?" I have a BFA degree in web and graphics. I will not need all the things regarding design within the Pro Plan. I want to make the most profit out of my book. You also referred someone else to the Pro Plan in order to benefit from the additional author royalty money. How would someone like me benfit from the Pro Plan when I do not need all that comes in it?

April L. Hamilton said...

freeinfo -
I don't understand why you want to republish the same book through CS you've already published through Lulu. If it's because you want to reduce your per-copy production cost, thereby increasing your author royalty, I'd suggest you "retire" the Lulu edition---take it out of print on Lulu---then republish via CS.

As for Google Books, you'd have to remove the Lulu edition and add the CS edition, because the Lulu edition would no longer be available for sale.

You'll also have to correct any links you've created online to your Lulu book, redirecting them to the CS book. If there are lots of such links, this will be a time-consuming pain.

In general, it's a time-consuming pain to replace a book you've published through one outlet through a different outlet, so think long and hard about why you want to do so, and what you stand to gain or lose by doing so.

Alternatively, you can leave the Lulu edition in place and publish a revised and updated edition through Createspace, with a different ISBN, though this won't make sense if the Lulu edition was published in the same year.

If this *is* a workable solution for you, you still may want to "retire" the Lulu edition. Again, it depends on why you're releasing the CS edition in the first place.

April L. Hamilton said...

Papilio -
First off, CS does not offer international distribution, so if that's a requirement you'll need to work with Lightning Source (LSI); they're the only POD outfit I know of that has per-copy production costs comparable to CS, but offers international distro.

Also, I think you misunderstand the Pro Plan at CS. The Pro Plan simply reduces your per-copy production costs (thereby raising your author royalty on each copy sold) in exchange for a nominal flat fee paid up front. As of this writing, the fee is regularly $50, $39 during discount/promotional periods.

The Pro Plan does not provide any other services, it's not a publishing package.

Note that LSI is considerably more particular and demanding than CS when it comes to interior and cover file requirements.With LSI you must also provide your own ISBN/barcode block (purchased from Bowker; you can get them at There's also an account application and approval process with LSI, since they only want to work with "serious" publishers. LSI's URL is

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Anonymous said...

thanks for your kind help...i further want to know that i want my P.O.D at amazon but ebook at lulu. option for the book i chose for Print at amazon is not available at lulu, so do i have the choice to publish the same print book as ebook at lulu with different page size, it also changes numbers too, and page cover but with same script. and do i have the right to publish at both or multiple place at same time?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Your post helped me immensely in my self publishing quest. Thank you. My question is about Bowkers. I purchased the ISBN and barcode from them. Do I need to DO something to further register my title for distribution? Or is that automatic through Bowkers? This is the part in your post that I am referring to:

"As it turns out, you can register to add your own listings to these services FOR FREE, but only if you are the publisher of record."

Thanks again...

Anonymous said...

Nd foremost important..i published my book with lulu and had their free isbn which made lulu as my publisher in amazon etc.and finally i retired project.does this mean i cannot publish my same book on CS? Or i do have the right to publish anywhere i want? Please help me on this... Nd would please tel me how can i convert my doc to epub.. I tried to some online converter but that didnt work well.

urban sailor said...

Hi April,
I am fairly new on this matter and I have been looking for some advice. This is an excellent post that gives me the entry point.
Thank you so much!!

April L. Hamilton said...

freeinfo -
Publishing through Createspace still leaves all publication rights with you. You can re-publish the same content anywhere else you'd like, in any format you'd like. However, you cannot use the Lulu ISBN on any other edition you publish anywhere else; once an ISBN is assigned, it cannot be re-assigned or re-used.

Regarding ebook publication in epub and other formats, I'd suggest you check out Smashwords. It's a service that allows you to upload a Word document and have it converted to multiple ebook formats. If you buy an ISBN for the ebook and follow Smashwords' formatting guide and other posted requirements, you can also 'opt in' for Smashwords' Premium Catalog. Doing so will get your ebook listed for sale on multiple retailer websites, including Barnes & Noble and Apple's iBookstore. You can find Smashwords at

If you'd rather not hassle with the ebook formatting yourself, it's a service I offer. For more details on that, check out

Good luck!

marvo said...

Hi April. I'm glad I came across your blog, very interesting. I've recently finished my first novel and am seeking a literary agent to represent me in the trad manner. It's a long haul. My question, just having discovered CS, is: Can one really make money out of self-publishing such as this, or is it just a dream-massager that leaves you disappointed (and a bit out of pocket) after a few weeks or months? Thanks...

Britt said...

marvo: Here's the thing about publishing a book. With any book there are three stages involved: writing, publishing and marketing. When you self-publish, you have to do all through. When you go with a publisher, you have to write (obviously) and market (less obvious) the book yourself. Publishers may spend up to 3 months marketing your book. They're looking for that insane run-away success that instantly sells millions. If that's your book, fine. For most of us, it's not.

What a publisher does do is look after all aspects of publishing, like editing, copy-editing, cover design (you get no say though) and the actual press.

They will also retain 100% rights over the content of the book. With e-publishing making a grand entrance into the world, I'd think twice about giving up the rights.

Finally, if you've given rights to a publisher and you still have to market the book, keep in mind you may earn as little as $1 a book.

As authors, we like to think the value is in the content. But in the industry, writing represents only 5% of the work. Another 5% is publishing; and the remaining 90% is marketing. Either way, in all likelihood, you're going to do the marketing.

Keep on doing what you're doing right now: seeking input. Find a series of self-published and traditionally published authors. My opinion is but one. Seek more, and then make an informed decision.

I wish you success, whatever you choose!

EQEducation said...


This is new to me and this is a great source of information! Thank you. Could I print on CS using their ISBN and then also put it on Lulu with a different ISBN (and different cover?)

Thanks Helen

April L. Hamilton said...

Helen -
I suppose you could, but I don't know why you'd want to publish both through Createspace and through Lulu.

Once you've published through Createspace (assuming you opt in for expanded distribution) you've got Amazon,,, Barnes and Noble, and orders through most major brick-and-mortar booksellers covered, and you've done so at the lowest possible per-copy production cost for a POD book.

April L. Hamilton said...

Marvo -
Every book is different, and so is every author. There are indie authors who're making quite a good living at it, and there are others who never break even. Those who are smart about it can definitely turn a profit, and matter of how large a profit depends on how much time and effort the author-publisher is willing to put into marketing and author platform.

I can tell you this much for certain: there's no guarantee of success for *any* author, mainstream or self-pub, and the great majority of mainstrea-published authors aren't making a living off their book royalties. At least as an indie, you retain control of your work and your rights.

Hollywood Spill said...

Thanks. I was struggling with this debate, I am going with my gut. Create Space for now. I know Lulu use to be which I hear ended with a bad reputation. If you type it sends you to Lulu's website.

Anonymous said...

April, I love you and want to have your babies!

Well done in doing so much to help people. And good luck to all the active and potential authors on here.

I am based in the UK.
I have gone through CreateSpace for a 90 page book of children's short stories and find it very satisfactory.
However there are still horns and dilemmas to hang oneself on.

CS is undoubtedly good for internal sales within the USA (a big market I am happy with!), however even with EDC a) the cost of postage to UK would seem to be high and b) the royalty is low as well.
I have gone down this route (including a Kindle edition) - I am now waiting to see it appear on Amazon and see what the postage is. CreateSpace postage is over $6 - not encouraging to UK customers.

I do want to order author copies to resell in small local bookshops and direct - maybe direct via my own website and the postage is going to really eat into the profit (and then I would have to post on within GB).

So I was considering a LULU edition since I believe they print in UK and postage would be I hope lower.
I take all you say about lower/higher royalties but for UK buyers a LULU, UK printed option might be more attractive.
I would like the LULU edition just on UK Amazon.

Am I daft?

In fact the LULU edition is all ready to go - found it OK once I worked out the 'My Lulu' button.
I notice they do a 'download' option - is this an ebook?

regards Trevor

dbuch said...

I have read this blog with great interest, however im still a bit confused.

I have basically ruled out Lulu due to its expensive books, so now am looking at CreateSpace vs Llightening Source.
My requirements are as follows:
I have a book larger than 100MB as it is a book comprised of many high resolution photos. (To drop the resolution will be to reduce the quality, value and purpose of the book.)
I require international distribution, so on, etc... as well as wherever else I can get it.

So first problem.. I believe that on CS the max is 100MB?

Second problem assuming the first can be overcome : Will I be able to get the book onto international distribution sites? I have read conflicting information in this blog, which states that its only Amazon .com, but then someone said that they did it through CS and it was on the international sites within 3 weeks? Confused!

Ok, so assume I now go for Lightening source.
I buy my own ISBN.
I get registered with LS..
How do I now get my books listed on the international sites, AND and uk etc... Does LS do that for me or do i have to do that.

Thanks... and hope you can help clear this up



dbuch said...

I have just seen on CS that the maximum size of the file is 400MB. This is still not big enough for my purposes..

Peggy Collins said...

Steve asked some questions that I don't think got answered. I'd like to get your input. Fantastic article, btw...very informative. Thank you!

1) As a Canadian living in Canada and interested in using CS for my novel, is there a simple way to avoid paying the IRS the 30% tax that CS will deduct from royalty checks? The long process of having my ID notarized and submitting W7 forms to the IRS seems odd and cumbersome. It looks as if CS is the only company doing this to foreigner so it makes ya wonder . . .

2) While I suspect most sales will come via, I will go with the CS Pro and Extended distribution BUT I'd still like to have my books at other Amazon sites - .ca, .UK etc. If CS does not offer this option, is there a way to make it happen? Otherise, non-US residents might not be interested in purchasing through

3) Booklocker told me I cannot use a Canadian ISBN with them because the book would be published in the US and not Canada. Can I use a Canadian ISBN for my novel at CS? If so, is it better to use a (free!) Canadian ISBN or the freebie offered by CS?

Unknown said...

My name is Samuel J Fisher and I just tried Create Space for my newly completed manuscript "Sword and Honour Shadows and Rose". I am now waiting for my proof copy. I will let you know how it goes.

pete said...

Thanks for writing this blog – really useful
I'm really new to all this, just starting to research, but it seems that if you’re British there does seem to be a real problem with Create Space and its relationship with Amazon UK –
As far as I can tell from all the grumbling Brits on the Create Space site, Create Space does not print within the UK or Europe and books have to be posted from the states – which makes it slow and costly
From reading all the posts on the Create Space community forum and Create Spaces lack of response to those posts, it does seem to be a problem
So maybe for Brits and Europeans lulu or some other company makes more sense until Create Space get local printers – correct me if I've got the wrong end of the stick

Anonymous said...

I published my book with lulu and had their isbn making lulu as my publisher. But i later retired it nd published my same book with same title on CS but with different isbn ndedited. In this process did i violate the lulu rules becoz i published my same script with Cs.i really needhelp.

April L. Hamilton said...

Vishal -
I can't address Lulu's terms and conditions, you will have to pose your question to them. Sorry I can't be of more help.
- A

Ameer S. Washington said...

This has made the choice between Lulu and CreateSpace a lot easier for me. I was hung on which one to choose, and both seemed like great packages. Love your real $ examples. Thanks a lot April. I'll be following your blog and even back-reading.

Marilyn Clarke said...

I have published 3 titles with Lulu and the ISBN's were free, they charged me absolutely nothing for setting up my book as long as I did the formatting etc. myself. The shipping on 100 books was around $50 - $60 which coupons covered. They run coupons almost continuously. The books of around 200 pages more or less cost around $7 to $8 each to publish. I can buy one book or 1000.The more you buy the less the cost per book. I may try createspace just for comparison but I've really had no problems with Lulu.

EMT Brando said...


One question I do have however,
Do i need to copyright my book prior to signing on with CS, or is that done strictly through CS?

My plan was to,

A) copyright my material
B) purchase ISBN/ barcode from bowkers
C) sign up to CS

will this make my book available to libraries and bookstores aside from, and as far as international sales go, if i go with the CS pro package, will my book be available internationally?

I am on the verge of completing my poetry book (within 20 pages) and I am anxious to get the ball rolling..
I would like to have my options open for the future, so I plan to get my own ISBN, I am just concerned about the copyright issue....


April L. Hamilton said...

Brando -
CS does not offer copyright registration as far as I know, but you can do it yourself at any time online at .

Note that there's no law or regulation that requires any printed material to be copyrighted, it's something done to protect one's intellectual property rights in the event of legal action.

RE: ISBN, there are a number of factors to consider. See this article I wrote about it on Publetariat:

John Tompkins said...

I live in the UK and have just released a book on CS trouble is it is only available in America. I cant sell it in the UK without my customers joining Not really an option.

Nothing was said about this and I selected distribution US and worldwide. So now I'm stumped.reeredsh

April L. Hamilton said...

Actually John, if you opt for expanded distribution through CS, your book will be added to all the major wholesale catalogs and your book will be available to order through any bookseller that uses those catalogs---which is pretty much all of them.

John Tompkins said...

Thanks April I didn't know that.
I find Create Space is particularly uninformative.

I'm told there is a CS estore, but I've never found it.

April L. Hamilton said...

John -
There isn't a store, per se. But every book published through CS gets its own 'buy' page on the CS site. Links to your book(s) buy page(s) are right in your dashboard---embedded in the book title #. Click through to get to your book's page, then copy the URL and use it to sell direct to your audience on your author website or blog.

Daniel Rondon said...

Hi There, I was wondering what about my case, I am brazilian but I will launch my book in english, can I buy the ISBN+ barcode+ Bowkers directly being a non US resident?

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post, it was super helpful! I also loved your book "The Indie Author Guide."

Anonymous said...

I am older than dirt, not even remotely a tech savvy person and have the idea that thinking of paying $1500 per book to a self publisher that promises many benefits of distribution and a BOOK RETURN program for $850 would be like cutting my own throat to see if drinking my blood would keep me alive. Although I am nervous about being able to properly create the right kind of file for a pdf I can learn new skills. Does your book about indie authors have that kind of information. Thanks and a hot tip for the VERY useful whatever this is called format. david the chatterbox.

April L. Hamilton said...

Chatterbox: Yes, my book does get into the step by step how-to's of formatting a book for print or ebook publication. But in all honesty, since the time of its publication the ebook process has gotten a lot easier because Amazon's KDP publishing platform is much better at processing MS Word files now than it used to be. Now, all you need to do is submit a properly formatted MS Word file with its own Table of Contents (Word has great tools for easily inserting a table of contents, just make sure your chapter titles are formatted as style type "Heading 1" --- more details on this are in my book, and probably available for free online too---) and when you upload the file to Amazon KDP, be sure to take advantage of the Preview function before publishing so you can go back and make any necessary tweaks.