Which Print on Demand Service is Right For You?

Photo provided by iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net.

Photo provided by iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net.

Okay this might be a little biased of an article.  I’m going to admit upfront that I use and prefer Createspace for my print on demand needs, but I have experience with both Createspace and Lulu, and have done my fair share of research on Lightning Source.

So to start out, what are these companies I just mentioned and what do they do?  If you’re completely new to the self-publishing game, I’ll give you a little explanation.  In order to self-publish, you must find a print on demand service through which to print and sell your books.  These services print your book every time it’s ordered so you don’t have to have thousands of printed books stored somewhere waiting to be purchased.  These print on demand services are also linked with major online book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  So basically if you’re wanting to self-publish you’re going to need a print on demand service.

The top three print on demand services in the business are Createspace, Lulu, and Lightning Source, so I’ll be going over the pros and cons of each.  But please remember, this is just my opinion on these three services based on my experiences with them.


Now this is my top choice.  It was the first service I ever used when starting out in self-publishing, I continue to use it today, and I’ll always have good things to say about it.


  1. Super user friendly layout – meaning just about anyone can figure out how to publish their novel very easily. (Just a side note: I was thirteen when I self-published my first novel – that should tell you just how easy Createspace is to figure out)
  2. Great prices. Createspace consistently has the best prices out of the three.  I believe I’m paying about $4.00 per copy of my 250 page book (and selling it for $10.00).   They also have no setup fee, offer a free ISBN if you don’t already have one, and offer free setup and availability on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords (all sites you definitely want to be on).  So basically I drop a few bucks every time I want a copy of my book.  And that’s it.
  3. Formats and sizes. I really like the formats and sizes that Createspace offers.  They have a lot of varying sizes for novels – from really tiny to quite large.  They also don’t have a standard size or charge you much extra depending on what size/format you choose (unlike Lulu, which I’ll explain below).


  1. No hardcover.  Now, technically Createspace does offer a hardcover edition of your novel, but it’s hard to get. First off, you have to pay a roughly $100 setup fee (ouch).  They also don’t offer that hardcover for sale on online retail sites, meaning only YOU can order your hardcover copies and sell them by hand.  This one totally bums me out because I’d LOVE to hold a hardcover copy of my novel.


Now, I’ve worked indirectly with Lulu, so I do technically have less experience with them.  One of my publishers uses Lulu as their print on demand service and therefore I’ve seen what Lulu offers and how they work.


  1. Yay! Lulu does offer a hardcover version of your novel. You do have to format another version of your book and cover and pay about $30.00 per copy, but that’s much better than what Createspace offers.
  2. Like Createspace, Lulu is pretty easy to figure out. I poked around on there by myself for a few hours trying to get the feel of it and they seem pretty easy to manage.  Everythins is laid out for you and you basically pick and choose what you want and they set it up for you.
  3. They also hook you up with the major online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble with no fee.


  1. Now, Lulu’s prices aren’t astronomically high, but they’re higher than Createspace’s.  I pay about $7.00 per every copy of my 200 page book.  They also don’t provide free ISBNs which is a little sad (ISBNs can run about $100).
  2. This one bugs me to no end.  I hate the standard format that Lulu provides.  I hate it with a burning passion.  It’s incredibly awkward and unprofessional looking, in my opinion (9 by 6 inches).  Now, you can choose from a large variety of pretty awesome formats, but all those other ones cost more than the standard one.

Lighning Source

To be honest, I’ve never used Lighning Source so I don’t want to talk too much on something I know very little of, but I’ll tell you what I do know.  I believe Lightning Source does have a setup fee and from what I’ve read on many other comparative articles, Createspace seems to come out in front.  But I’d encourage you to go do your own research on Lightning Source and see if you like it.  I’ve done a lot of my own and I think the things that drove me away from Lightning Source are the setup fees and the supposedly not-so-user friendly interface.  In Lightning Source’s defense, though, I’ve heard they’re great for self-publishers who are serious about selling their novels on a large professional scale.

One thought on “Which Print on Demand Service is Right For You?

  1. Teresa Pesce says:

    You are the Cliff Notes of the publishing world! Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing the results of HOURS and YEARS of research and experience with us. You’re amazing.

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