This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.
Print-on-demand (POD) technology has been around for more than a decade now, and it has changed the way much of the book industry works, especially for small, independent publishers and self-publishing writers.
What is POD technology? Imagine a giant laser printer that can print out a book in less than a half hour, and that also includes the cover. That's a very basic explanation of print on demand. Such technology allows publishers and retailers to wait until an order for a book is filled before printing the book instead of doing it the old-fashioned way, printing off a ton of books and storing them in a warehouse somewhere. The old way was quite expensive, and for years precluded many smaller publishers and self-publishing writers from remaining in the business, or even starting in the business.
But then in the late 1990s, POD came along. Pretty much from the very beginning, the leader in POD has been Lightning Source.
Most recently Lightning Source has been utilizing the Espresso Book Machine to print books in a flash.
Below is a video explaining how the Espresso Book Machine works.
To simplify things, Lightning Source is a service company that prints and distributes books that have been printed on demand. Publishers and writers and retailers put in an order for their book or books, Lightning Source whips out the book and mails it off.
But how does this help the writer?
The most direct way is that writers can become a client of Lightning Source. Basically, the writer becomes a publisher, then turns their book(s) into files which Lightning Source can use for printing, which the company does for the price of some initial fees and a percentage from the book(s).
To clear things up, keep in mind that Lightning Source is basically just a printer with some distribution networks. The company will not edit your books, nor format them for you. You, a publisher or self-publishing writer, have to take care of all that before sending your computer files to Lightning Source. This company does have some cover design services, but the last I checked they were fairly rudimentary, so you might be better off designing your own covers or having a graphic designer do it for you.
One of the great things about working with Lightning Source are all the options available to you, the publisher and/or writer. Do you want your book in paperback or with a hard cover? Lightning Source can do both. Do you want just a few books or a wharehouse-load of them? Don't worry, Lightning Source has you covered.
Another great thing about Lightning Source is its distribution network. Through Lightning Source, your books are made available to Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Gardners and Bertrams. If the majority of those names mean nothing to you, then you've got a few things to learn. Let's just say that list includes the top book distributors on the planet, and those distributors are the ones who get books into the hands of paying customers.
If you are wanting to self-publishing your own books in print, or you are considering becoming an independent publisher who deals with other writers, Lightning Source can be a boon for you. Check out the company's website for a full list of services and costs.