Lightning Source Print on Demand
Frequently Asked Questions

Select a category and question to view answers.

Lightning Source offers a suite of services that makes doing business in today's high-tech world both easy and profitable for publishers. An "on demand" printing division, which allows a book to be printed to order in a range of formats within 2 business days, whether the order is for one book or one hundred. Short-Run and web direct distribution orders are printed and fulfilled within 5-10 business days.

No. Lightning Source is designed to be a resource for publishers, providing printing, and distribution services. Publishers maintain all rights to their titles and pay author royalties.
No. Lightning Source is not a retailer. While the fast, easy solutions we provide ultimately benefit the consumer, Lightning Source's customers are publishers, booksellers and libraries. The services Lightning Source offers are designed to give publishers the tools they need to maintain high standards for customer service in a changing marketplace.
Lightning Source specializes in on demand printing needs. Titles can be printed as few as one book at a time to meet the exact demands of the market. A range of formats are available including hardcover, trade paperback and ebook. As part of our on demand printing capabilities, we also provide short-run and galley printing.
Through Lightning Source's print on demand system, the publisher avoids lost sales, reduces its investment in printing and warehousing inventory and all orders are filled quickly and easily.

It's easy. If you are an existing customer, you can do this on our web site by logging into our Publishers Secure Site (login/password entry is at the top of each page within the site). If you are a new customer, click on the “Open New Account” tab under New Client in the site navigation to provide new customer information and establish an account.

No. Lightning Source accepts both hard copy and digital file submissions for print on demand products. The hard copy is scanned for print-on-demand. Then the title is stored digitally in the Lightning Source library.
Yes. Refer to the File Creation section of the Lightning Source Website.
The publisher. Lightning Source is designed to be a resource for publishers, providing printing and distribution services for them. Publishers maintain all rights to their titles and pay author royalties.
The publisher retains all rights to the book content. Lightning Source is neither a publisher nor a retailer. We provide quick, reliable fulfillment services on behalf of our customers.
Depending on your needs, any title can be a candidate. Current titles in the Lightning Source Library include new titles, current backlist, OP (out of print), and OSI (out of stock) titles. Books should not be pornographic or obscene to a degree where they would not be carried by a traditional trade bookstore.
Yes, absolutely! The Lightning Source library and digital fulfillment system are reliable and secure.

With the Lightning Source print-on-demand service, publishers can make out-of-print titles available and prevent premature extinction of low-volume sellers. In addition, publishers can test-market or launch a new publication through our services.

Lightning Source uses a high quality, acid-free, book-grade of opaque paper stock. Depending on your book size, books are printed on either a 55# natural shade opaque or 50# white. Paperback covers are printed on a bright white 90# cover stock. For more information, see our trim size matrix.
Booksellers can order Lightning Source titles through Ingram, Bertrams, or through their regular source of supply as they would any other title. The publisher can also order copies directly, or use Lightning Source's direct distribution option to fulfill direct sales. See Print Solutions.
Publishers can set their titles as returnable or non-returnable
With Lightning Source's combination of on-demand and short-run printing, publishers reduce inventory carrying costs and the risk associated with reprinting slow-moving titles or launching new titles. This in turn allows publishers to provide more new titles and keep more books in print. For authors, big or small, Lightning Source affords the opportunity to prolong the active life of their book. As part of our on-demand capabilities, Lightning Source also provides 4-color cover galleys for promotional use.
Using revolutionary technology, Lightning Source can print 800 pages in less than a minute!Print-on-demand wholesale orders are usually printed and shipped within 2 business days.

Lightning Source direct distribution orders are usually printed and shipped within 2-5 business days as determined by the publisher at point of order.

Hardcover bind styles are usually printed and shipped within 5-10 business days.
With the direct distribution program, publishers maintain a direct relationship with the customer and have an alternative option for fulfilling the sales channel. The direct distribution option can also be used by the publisher to maintain inventory in their own warehouse.

A market access fee of $12.00 per year entitles a publisher to the following services:

  • Standardized BISAC subject coding with up to 3 subject categories.
  • Detailed title listing in all daily catalogs Lightning Source provides to its US distribution partners* (e.g Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, etc.).
  • Detailed title listing in all daily catalogs Lightning Source provides to its International distribution partners* (e.g Amazon UK, Whitakers/Bookdata, Gardners, etc.).
  • Title summary (annotation) inclusion in our enhanced bibliographic catalog feed.
  • Thumbnail cover image preparation and inclusion in our enhanced bibliographic catalog feed.
  • Storage and backup of both title content and bibliographic data.
  • Price and discount maintenance for publisher price changes.
We have developed a File Creation Guide to help you set up a new title.

Your final page count needs to be divisible by 2.


Final page count includes ALL pages that comprise the interior of a book, numbered & non-numbered, including front matter and back matter such as: Table of Contents, Acknowledgements, Copyright page, photo inserts, Appendices, etc.


Why is the correct page count important to your book? The width of the cover spine is directly dependent upon the number of pages in the interior. The front and back matter can encompass numerous pages. If front and back matter are not considered in the page count, the cover file will have an incorrect spine width and may cause your project to be delayed.

Our proprietary imposition workflow requires that all books be divisible by two.


The last page (the one divisible by two) must be completely blank. Your file does not have to include this blank page at the end : we recommend stopping your file with the last page of actual content. We will add the necessary pages to make your book divisible by two. A blank page is defined as totally absent of any content; this includes headers, footers and page numbers. The last page must be completely blank.


LSI prints a barcode on the last page. If your interior file is divisible by two, but has any content on the last page, we will automatically add the necessary pages to allow a barcode to be printed on the last page. The barcode is necessary to guarantee that the interior pages match the cover. During the binding process, a barcode reader will scan the last page of the book and a barcode on the cover to verify that the two elements match before binding the two parts together.

Our proprietary imposition workflow requires that all book be divisible by two. The final page of all submissions must be completely blank and is reserved for a check barcode and information for LSI.

LSI prints a barcode on the last page. If your interior file is divisible by two, but has any content on the last page, LSI will automatically add the necessary pages to allow a barcode to be printed on the last page. The barcode is necessary to guarantee that the interior pages match the cover. During the binding process, a barcode reader will scan the last page of the book and a barcode on the cover to verify that the two elements match before binding the two parts together.

LSI addresses this at our website. At www.lightningsource.com, click on File Creation.

We recommend using the template for all cover submissions (required for color books).

Cover Template Generator


Once you complete and submit the form online, LSI will email you a template to be used to build your cover. Included in the email will be instructions for using the template, creating an appropriate PDF to LSI specifications. Each unique bind type has an applicable template.


Yes, we provide information on how to build your cover to bleed size for all bind types:


Building Your Cover to Bleed Size

The overall document size of the cover template is located in the bottom left corner of the template you receive.

ICC Profiles are color profiles that can be applied to files (and images & objects in them) intended to assist with the printing process. We do not recommend using them.


Black & White Interior:

The recommended color mode for B&W interior files is Grayscale. ICC profiles can often produce unexpected shifts in image tone when reaching the printer. A common issue is text that appears to be 100% black on the monitor, but prints as a shade of gray (showing a dot pattern).


Adding these to the file is unnecessary and often causes delays in trying to process the file and assess what the problems are. Oftentimes, we will have to request a corrected file from the publisher. It is best to refrain from using both RGB and ICC profiles.


Covers:

We do not recommend using an ICC profile for cover files. If one needs to be applied, we recommend the U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2.


Color Book Interior:

No profiles recommended. Files should be PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 compliant.

Yes, the barcode in the back cover area can be moved or repositioned as needed. We ask that you don't resize the barcode.

PDF/X-1a:2001 and PDF/X-3:2002 are designed to provide a reliable and stable PDF for printing purposes: requires all fonts to be embedded, flattens transparency (this is important for effects such as drop shadows to render correctly).


PDF/X-1a:2001: allows CMYK and/or spot colors*

PDF/X-3:2002: allows CMYK, RGB*, or spot colors*


We recommend using PDF/X-1a:2001: or PDF/X-3:2002: for all files submitted.


*Spot colors, RGB, and ICC profiles can produce unexpected color results when printing. Any dissatisfaction with color shift will be the publisher's responsibility to correct.

Adobe InDesign & Quark X{ress: yes, we do recommend using the "export to PDF" feature and choosing the PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 setting when doing so. It is important to use this PDF setting to ensure you have a stable PDF for printing.


All other applications: we recommend either: (1) print directly to PDF using PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002, or (2) print to PostScript file, then distill to PDF using PDF/x-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002.

Before creating a PDF in any of the above options, we recommend converting all custom/spot colors (even those with transparencies) to CMYK.


The above recommendations should allow you to produce a solid and stable PDF that is ready to print.

LSI recommends and supports submission of PDF files that are created by exporting from InDesign/Quark using the PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 setting. We also recommend and support PDFs created by Adobe Acrobat using the PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 setting. Other PDF creators are not guaranteed and any additional charges or revision submissions resulting from the use of other PDF-creator programs will be the responsibility of the publisher.


The reasoning behind this request:


Exporting from InDesign/Quark or creating PDFs with Adobe Acrobat are the best way to produce consistent and stable PDF files for printing on LSI print engines. Other PDF producers have caused a variety of issues, such as those that degrade the files themselves and/or the performance of LSI's print engines.

RGB is how computer monitors interpret color. The name stands for Red, Green, Blue: these are the three colors of light that are added together to produce a vast range of colors seen on the monitor. Many colors viewable in RGB cannot be achieved by printing in CMYK. This is why it's important to carefully choose colors that will print well in CMYK.


CMYK is how most printers print color. The name stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black: these are the four color pigments that are added together to produce the range of colors available in this type of printing.


Why working in RGB causes issues: RGB on a monitor is very different than CMYK on a press. RGB color space is capable of producing many more colors than CMYK. This is why we recommend working in CMYK, and choosing your colors carefully: referring to the values that make up the color, and not just its appearance on the screen. This will help you to ensure you're choosing a value that will print much closer to your intended selection.

ICC Profiles are color profiles that can be applied to files (and images & objects in them) intended to assist with the printing process. We do not recommend using them.


Black & White Interior:

The recommended color mode for B&W interior files is Grayscale. ICC profiles can often produce unexpected shifts in image tone when reaching the printer. A common issue is text that appears to be 100% black on the monitor, but prints as a shade of gray (showing a dot pattern).


Adding these to the file is unnecessary and often causes delays in trying to process the file and assess what the problems are. Oftentimes, we will have to request a corrected file from the publisher. It is best to refrain from using both RGB and ICC profiles.


Black & White Covers:

We do not recommend using an ICC profile for cover files. If one needs to be applied, we recommend the U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2.


Color Book Interior/Cover:

Because color book files are required to be PDF/x-1a:2001 compliant, ICC profiles cannot be used for any color book files.

RGB blue is a vibrant and beautiful blue--however--because we cannot print in RGB, the color has to be converted to CMYK. When RGB blue is converted to CMYK, it becomes a combination of 99.6% Cyan and 95.7% Magenta. This conversion results in a ratio of Cyan to Magenta that produces a purple hue, and this is how it will print.


RGB blue is outside of CMYK's gamut: CMYK simply cannot reproduce that shade of blue. The computer and software substitutes the closest color to it. Technically, that color is purple. It's best to choose your blue in CMYK, and to be careful how much Magenta is in the values range––especially if the Magenta is as high as, or close to the same value of Cyan.


For covers of Black & White titles, we can accept an RGB file, and will convert it to CMYK before printing. LSI assumes that the designer of the file is aware of this RGB to CMYK conversion, and the potential to affect all colors (not just blue). We don't assume responsibility or make any adjustments to help a color maintain its original appearance. Most colors convert reasonably well from RGB to CMYK. These colors are within the overlapping gamuts of each color space. Unfortunately, there are many colors that do not convert well. If the publisher/designer is concerned about how a file will convert, they should perform the conversion and make necessary adjustments before submitting files to LSI.

RGB on a monitor is very different than CMYK on a press. RGB color space is capable of producing many more colors than CMYK. This is why we recommend working in CMYK, and choosing your colors carefully: referring to the values that make up the color, and not just its appearance on the screen. This will help you to ensure you're choosing a value that will print much closer to your intended selection.


RGB is how computer monitors interpret color. The name stands for Red, Green, Blue: these are the three colors of light that are added together to produce a vast range of colors seen on the monitor. Many colors viewable in RGB cannot be achieved by printing in CMYK. This is why it's important to carefully choose colors that will print well in CMYK.


CMYK is how most printers print color. The name stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black: these are the four color pigments that are added together to produce the rang of colors available in this type of printing.

For best results, we recommend choosing colors based on the CMYK values.

When using a home printer, there are a lot of variables that can affect the quality: calibration, paper type (weight, brightness, sheen/finish), ink quality & levels, settings, etc.


The printers LSI uses are regularly calibrated for a consistent output (with reasonable variance) and are designed for high-speed output. Because these types of machines are so different from home printers, the output from a home printer can't truly be compared to our equipment.


For best results, we recommend choosing colors based on the CMYK values.

All fonts must be embedded in a PDF for us to print from the file. Embedding a font is the act of properly including fonts in a document so the typefaces can be rendered properly when printing.


This has to be done correctly because the rip which prints the files does not have fonts installed–it relies on the document to have all the information needed. Using embedded fonts guarantees that the reader of the PDF will see and reproduce the original font, regardless of whether or not the font is installed on their system.


Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, LSI does not keep a font library, therefore, we are dependent upon the publisher’s PDF files to have the embedded font information to ensure proper printing representation of the book cover or interior.

All fonts must show in the document as "(Embedded)" or "(Embedded Subset)". If one of these tags is not next to the font listing in your PDF, it means the font is not embedded.


To read more about how to confirm your fonts are embedded, please click here and read page 1.


We also have a helpful video that walks you through preflighting your file here.


Our system will not allow us to process or print from files with fonts that are not embedded. If we receive a file with fonts not embedded, we have to place the title on hold, and request a corrected file to work with.


Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, LSI does not keep a font library, therefore, we are dependent upon the publisher’s PDF files to have the embedded font information to ensure proper printing representation of the book cover or interior.

Base 14 fonts are the common fonts installed as a part of the Adobe Acrobat installation.


  • Times or Times New Roman - 4 versions*
  • Helvetica or Arial- 4 versions
  • Courier - 4 versions
  • Symbol
  • Zapf Dingbats

*(regular, bold, italic or oblique, and bold italic of each)


So if these are the 'common fonts,’ why aren't they embedded automatically?


Programs often default to the PDF setting 'Standard': this setting does not automatically embed Base 14 fonts. Because these fonts are available in Acrobat Reader, it is assumed they will be available to any viewer and embedding would add unnecessarily to the file size.


Because we are doing more than simply viewing the file-we are printing-this is why it's important to choose a PDF setting which is intended for printing purposes. The preferred PDF setting to ensure the fonts are embedded (and to have a stable, print-ready PDF overall) is PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002. If you don't have this option available, the second recommendation is High Quality Print.


Due to licensing and copyright restrictions, LSI does not keep a font library, therefore, we are dependent upon the publisher’s PDF files to have the embedded font information to ensure proper printing representation of the book cover or interior.

Lightning Source offers a full suite of digital fulfillment services ranging from digital rights management to secure ebook delivery on behalf of retailers. With established alliances with major technology partners such as Adobe Systems Inc., Palm and others, we deliver ebooks in Adobe Acrobat ebook Reader, ePub, and Palm eBook formats.


Contact your Ebook Client Services representative for more information.

Yes. For ebook submissions Lightning Source accepts only digital file submissions. Contact your Ebook Client Services representative for more information.

Yes. Contact your Ebook Client Services representative for complete specifications or refer to the eBook Operations Manuals on the Publishers Secure Site (to access, login at the top).

It's easy. Contact your Ebook Client Services representative for full instructions.

All ebooks in the Lightning Source library are supplied to Lightning Source retailers and distributors directly by LSI. For specific questions, contact your LSI Ebook Client Services representative.

Lightning Source works hand in hand with our technology partners to provide the most current security technology for your product. The Lightning Source digital fulfillment system is secure from the encryption of files to secure delivery.

Yes, Lightning Source supports the digital rights management systems of the platform providers.

The publisher determines all user rules. The publisher owns the content in the file. When setting up an ebook title, the publisher determines in which formats to make titles available.

Publisher Compensation Reports are sent via email at the first of each month for the prior month's activity. Returns can affect payment amount and will be noted on your sales reports. Publisher Compensation is paid within ninety (90) days from report date, following our month end close schedule. There is a minimum check writing balance of $25.00, therefore payments are not sent until sales exceed $25.00. Check this with finance, not all sites offer check payment now.

In your online publisher account, select the Reports menu then select Print Sales Report. Enter your report criteria and select a file delivery type under Output Format. Select Screen Display to view the information on the screen or Email Delivery to have the information emailed as file attachment(s).

Please fill out the direct deposit form and fax it to 615.213.4725 or email judith.woodall@lightningsource.com Check number and contact name with finance.

Please fill out the direct deposit form and fax it to 615.213.4725 or email judith.woodall@lightningsource.com Check number and contact name with finance.

In the US, we accept Visa, MasterCard, and Discover; in the UK, we accept Visa and MasterCard.

If your address has changed, go to the Account menu in your online publisher account and select the Credit/Debit Cards option. Click Add New Card to re-enter the credit card information as a new card. You can then click Remove to remove the original credit card information.

Changes to your contact information can be made in the Account tab of your online publisher account.

The Finance department in the US is available from 7:30 am CST to 5:00 pm CST. The UK Finance department is available 8:00 am GMT to 5:00 pm GMT

Invoices are sent via email on Monday for the prior week's billings.

Go to Account/Pay Open Invoices. Choose the invoices you want to pay, select Pay Selected Invoices, choose the credit card on file or enter information for a new credit card.

Go to the Reports tab in your online publisher account and select Invoices Enter the invoice number in the Optional Filter Criteria, select Email Delivery as file attachment(s), enter your email address and then re-enter your email address.

For each book sold, either as a print on demand title or as an e-book, publishers receive payments as well as detailed sales reports monthly. These reports can be sent electronically or as a hard copy - whichever you prefer. For wholesale book orders, LSI pays the publisher the wholesale price of the book, less the cost of printing the book. The cost of printing is based on a unit cost for each book plus a cost per page.

Author royalties are paid by the publisher.

Payments should be sent to:
US Payments
Lightning Source, LLC
P.O. Box 503531
St. Louis, MO 63150-3531

Lightning Source, LLC
Attn: Credit Department
1246 Heil Quaker Blvd
La Vergne, TN 37086

Lightning Source UK Ltd
Chapter House
Kiln Farm, Milton Keynes
MK11 3LW

Lightning Source Australia Pty Ltd
Unit A1/A3, 7 Janine Street
Scoresby, Victoria 3179
Australia 

While on the Lightning Source website login screen, you will see the option for 'Forgot password?' Click on the 'Forgot password?' link, enter your user name, and then click Reset Password. An email will then be sent to the main contact email address that we have on file and will contain a temporary password. The temporary password will allow you to login to the web site and change your password from a temporary password to a permanent password of your choice.

Lightning Source is PCI (Payment Card Industry) Compliant. Part of our compliance includes encrypting user passwords to protect our customer against any malicious access to their account.

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