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Createspace or Lightning Source: Pros & cons breakdown


Jeff Bennington

I’m trying to decide what company to go with to get my novel out. Smashwords grinds manuscripts into all e-book formats, of course, but what about the paper book issue? Createspace or Lightning Source? I recently asked some authors about their experience with companies that facilitate self-publishers. Some were satisfied with Createspace and others were fine with Lightning Source. Jeff Bennington, author of a paranormal thriller, Reunion as well as the blog The Writing Bomb,  hit me with a great, detailed reply. He has experience with both Createspace and Lightning Source. Rather than pushing me one way or another, he laid out the pros and cons as he sees it from his experience.

“Dude!” I said (because in my mind I’m still seventeen and it’s the ’80s.)  “This isn’t a mere reply to my question. This, sir, is a blog post. How about it?” He graciously said yes.  Here’s his breakdown:


At Lightning Source, starting an account is a bit cumbersome (much more paperwork than Createspace.) Once the paperwork was complete I had to get my cover just right, but Joleene Naylor, an independent cover artist, helped me do that with ease.
However, I’m not as happy with Lightning Source’s ink/cover quality as I am with Createspace. Lightning Source’s paper is much thinner than Createspace. (Same number of pages and Lightning Source is at least 1/4″ thinner. Very strange.)
The initial work to get a proof copy is somewhat exhausting and cost $39 (overnight, mandatory) for a proof every time!
I can get five proofs for $50 (overnight, not mandatory with Createspace).
I’ll use Createspace the next time if I discover that print copies just aren’t the thing for my books. I used them this time to get advanced reading copies (ARCs) out early. Createspace was fast and easy to work with but I was very limited on the back cover and spine art.
Expect 1 to 2 days for email return. But if you call..they answer.


The number one reason to use Lightning Source is the distribution: return availability and full industry discount (45-55%). That was enough for me because very few publishers for indies do that and if they say, as Createspace does, that they have full distribution, you better make doubly sure that the wholesale discount is 45+ and that you can have a return policy. Createspace  never told me that. I asked and they said, “We don’t make that decision.” I say “Bull^%$#!” Of course they do. They are the publisher.
With Lightning Source, you are definitely the publisher. I like that.
If you have a newer mac formatting is easy. Lightning Source will upload your sized PDF with no worries.
Once the book was uploaded and passed the tests, things moved rather quickly. Give yourself 2 months to get your account in process and book uploadedReunion
The best thing is you are assigned a customer rep—a real and a very nice and helpful person. My rep at Lightning Source is Carol Egan. She is wonderful!

Overall, I’m happy so far. I mostly want my print version to be available to local stores for signings (if I have one) and a lot of my friends and family want to buy it at a store. I can’t do that with most other self-pub outlets. Lightning Source is the real thing. Great for a small press…like me!


Right about now you’re bubbling over with gratitude for Jeff”s insights. Act on it and check out his book. Reunion just launched and the reviews on Amazon are very good. Plus, you need to own it for research purposes. (See what you think of the binding etc.,…) Buy Reunion.


Filed under: author Q&A, authors, Books, DIY, ebooks, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

18 Responses

  1. Most instructive. Thanks!

  2. Chazz says:

    You’re welcome, and thanks for taking the time to say hi!

  3. Jeff Bennington says:

    Thanks for reading, Mark! Thanks for hosting Chazz. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, dude!

  4. […] Createspace or Lightning Source: Pros & cons breakdown (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  5. […] Jeff Bennington from The Writing Bomb wrote a very helpful post for Chazz Writes comparing his publishing experience with Lightning Source vs […]

  6. […] Createspace or Lightning Source: Pros & cons breakdown (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

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  8. […] Createspace or Lightning Source: Pros & cons breakdown (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  9. […] Createspace or Lightning Source: Pros & cons breakdown (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  10. Ben says:

    I’m working with both Lightning Source and CreateSpace, and the info provided above is pretty good. There’s one minor item that’s not completely accurate. With CreateSpace, you have the option to provide your own ISBN, which makes you the publisher. In this case, CreateSpace acts moreso as a printer and distributor, not the publisher.

  11. […] Divide between the Published and the Self-published    Where does the Darkness Come From?    CreateSpace versus Lightning Source: Pros and Cons Breakdown   What Used to be […]

  12. David Metzler says:

    I am a card carrying ‘old Geezer.’ I decided to write my very first novel very late in life, even though i have sold free-lance articles, essays and musings for a quarter of a century. I am also somewhat disabled (thanks to USMC) so I cannot use a telephone to contact either Createspace or Lightening Source. However, I truly appreciate the time you young men have taken for getting the word out to new authors. I am presently waiting for my cover to be constructed at http://www.killercovers.com This group is very upsaclae, tech savvy and a hell of a lot cheaper than other online cover providers. Since i cannot hear well, I leave my email with the hope that some other young person or Chazz himself will take a moment as we hurl thru cyberspace on Starship Earth, to give an old US Marine some pointers as they come up. I don’t have a lot of years to build up a series of books, I need to somehow make my Three Shady Ladies rise to the top, like cream. 🙂 Take care, Guys, Dave metzler at: Ohioclan@aol.com

    • Chazz says:

      Due to changes at Amazon with what percentages they accept, I would no longer go with Lightning Source. It was the way to go when Jeff wrote this post, but that has shifted because of policy changes at Amazon. I’m formatting one of my books with CreateSpace now for that reason. (Your mileage may vary so read around before you decide.) At least CreateSpace has the advantage that it is very user-friendly. For covers, in the future, please consider using the services of my main man, graphic designer and writer Kit Foster. You can find his samples and get his help with future cover art at http://www.kitfosterdesign.com. He’s brilliant, friendly and reasonable.

  13. Lorri says:

    I really wanted to read this blog post but I found the falling snow really distracting. 😦

    • Chazz says:

      Thanks for telling me that. Actually, I’ve been trying to get the snow OFF my site but attempts so far have failed. I’ll try again. It’s something WordPress stuck on for me, but I don’t like it, either.

    • Chazz says:

      Ah. Found it and stopped the snow. I couldn’t see it on my screen and I thought I already got rid of it once. I’m already in a Christmasy mood. I didn’t need the show to feel seasonal, either.

  14. Kay mahoney says:

    Can any author use Lightning Source, or do you have to be a “publisher”?

  15. Chazz says:

    Last I checked (it has been a while, this is an old post) Lightning Source offered a deeper discount which bookstores prefer. However, I’ve head many times that LS doesn’t “hold your hand” through the publishing process. Since I’m not very interested in making bookstores part of my nightmare, I went with CreateSpace. CreateSpace offers a shallower discount but is much easier to deal with considering their user-friendly site. You can do either, but you’ll probably find the process easier with CreateSpace. In either case, you are the publisher. LS will require more expertise in getting it done. My paperback is available (as will the next one soon) but those sales are small compared to my ebook sales and I print copies on demand for promotions, review copies, ARCs and direct sales.

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