I've finished writing my first fiction novel and while it's being edited, and trying to nail down how I am going to get it printed.

While Lightning Source is an option, I've also found interesting options off Ali Baba that could result in significantly less cost. The site shows ratings, etc. for the companies.

What are the critical things I should be aware of? Has anyone had experience in dealing with any one printing company over there?

I've heard that shipping take can unpredictably long.

  • 1
    I think the most important thing is probably to get a sample copy in your hands, so that you can judge the quality of the paper and cover and so on.
    – evilsoup
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 9:24
  • That's the plan. Comparing a proof, but sometimes there can be issues that aren't apparent, such as duties/taxes or "bait and switch" experiences between proof and shipment. Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 15:43
  • What's your planned print run? Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 19:48
  • Initial planned run of 500. The cost difference between Lightning Source vs the Chinese options seem to be $3.19/book versus $1.20/book, at this volume. Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 21:02
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    Have you considered CreateSpace? I've read that Lightning Source is not recommended for newbies, because of a lot of hidden costs along the way. Dean Wesley Smith made a few posts about that (but they could be outdated in the meantime). Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


With your first book, you have no idea (honestly...) how it will sell. So, your 500 copies may well take a long time to sell, and in the meantime, you have to keep them in a damp proof storage location, preferably not on metal shelving (winter cold creates damp that way), and other factors apply, too.

Nowadays, it's much easier and cheaper to use POD (Print On Demand) from a firm like Lightning Source, so you can just print 50 or so, and replenish how many or few when needed. This also improves your cashflow, loss of investment potential (of the bigger print run cost, and possibly storage costs). If you're in the UK, safe storage is often a hassle, USA may be easier.

However, back to first time author scenario - even regular publishers don't always know how a book is going to perform; a self-pub author is even more so the case - it's adviseable to do a POD run first, until you've worked out your marketing and distribution strategies, and established the need for a bigger print run.

Also, if your book is doing great, and you sell overseas as well, Lightning Source will print it and deliver it to order overseas, and USA as well. Their postal costs are much lower than yours, so that helps, too. Also, if they supply distributor orders, e.g. to a bookshop, there are times there's no postage cost to you at all. If you have an ISBN and sell via Amazon, they supply Amazon with no delivery cost to you, either.

Just please remember that I don't know your full details, e.g. how you intend to supply print-ready copy, and much more, so I can't say whether some other solution may be better for you - it may help to use say, CreateSpace. You need to really investigate self-pub in depth to establish your best route. I can only say, fairly confidently, that doing biggish initial print runs, especially in China without having good contacts first, is not likely your best option.

For the record, My wife and I have been in publishing (UK) for the last 18 years, and we do most of our books on POD with Lightning Source until we know how they perform. The days of big print runs as a norm are long gone.

If you haven't done so already, you could also read up a few self-pub books, there are many around that give you a lot of valuable information. When we started, I read up Dan Poynter's books, and I still tell people how useful his books and website are. Look him up on amazon.com, and his website is, if I recall right, [www.parapub.com]

I hope that helps some.

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