Title Upload

Click the “Add a New Title” button on your Dashboard or under the “Titles” tab to
begin the upload process. Be prepared to provide concrete details on the specific
features and dimensions of your book. Lightning Source needs to know a lot about your book in order to distribute it effectively, and this chapter covers much of that information in detail. Don’t stress about it too much though; you can come back and change your book’s metadata at any time.

Basic Metadata

The first distinction you must make is whether your title will be published in print, in digital, or both. Lightning Source charges a $75 upload fee.

Title: The main title of your book. Do not include a subtitle here.

Subtitle: Flavor text attached to the end of the main title. This can be a more precise description of your book’s subject matter, or simply “A Novel,” or “Volume IV,” or nothing at all. This field can be left blank if your book has no subtitle.

Language: The language your book is written in.

Short description: A very brief summary of your book’s content. Think of this as an elevator pitch (i.e. a descriptive mini-speech introducing someone to your book, which should be quick enough to deliver while riding an elevator). Once you’ve written it down, practice it out loud so you’ve got it memorized the next time you’re in an elevator!

Step 1 of 7 - Basic Metadata


Keywords: Enter 4-8 words that explicitly reflect the content of your book (e.g. memoir, paranormal, Renaissance, bildungsroman, etc). These keywords will help your book appear in online searches made by customers browsing by subject.

Series Name and Number: If your book is part of a series, enter the name of the series here to link all titles in that series together. Then enter the correct number of the book you’re uploading, to keep your titles in the correct order. Some series have unique names (e.g. the His Dark Materials trilogy), while others are simply named after the first book (e.g. the Redwall series), or named after the main protagonist (e.g. the Harry Hole novels).

Edition Description: For your first time uploading any given title, enter “1st edition” in this field. If your book undergoes a significant revision or if you add a chapter or more of new content (enough to warrant assigning the new version a unique ISBN), the new version should be marked “2nd edition,” and so on.

Description: In this space, copy and paste the primary marketing blurb from the back cover of your book. Also, feel free to use bolds, italics, and other formatting in this field. You’re required to fill this space with at least 200 characters before you can continue—if you have no description prepared, you could simply fill the space with 200 zeros to skip this step for the time being.

Step 1 of 7 - Basic Metadata cont’d


Contributors: Enter the last name of the author here first. Then add the author’s first name and middle initial (optional). Take note that this is the name that will be publically listed as the author of your book in Lightning Source’s database and distribution network; so, if you write under a pen name, pseudonym, or nom de plume, now is the time to lock it in. If your book credits an illustrator or editor along- side the author, enter his or her name as well, then choose the appropriate job title from the drop- down menu on the right-hand side of the screen. Click the “About Contributor . . . ” button next to any contributor to provide additional information about that contributor.

Biography: A quick and tidy summary of each contributor’s identity. In the case of the author, this can be copy/pasted from the author bio on the back cover of your book. If you’re stuck writing a bio, pick up a few books from a nearby shelf and
read the bios for those authors for inspiration; the trick is to be brief, while also communicating something unique and interesting about yourself.

Prior Work: Here you can list other titles you’ve published or collaborated on. This can help consumers discover new books by you if they read one of your books and enjoyed it enough to look it up online.

Location: Enter your location here if you identify with a particular area. This can attract readers searching for authors in their own local community.

Affiliations: Here you can list any organizations, agencies, schools, or nonprofits you’re associated with.

Imprint: The particular house that publishes a book is often a subsidiary (known in the book industry as an “imprint”) of a larger publishing house. By default, your imprint will be listed by Lightning Source as the business name associated with your account; you can also request an additional imprint name by clicking the link.

Subjects: Rather than typing into the space provided here, click the “Find Subjects” button. This will open a new window with a search bar; type into that search bar a very simple classification for your book (e.g. fiction, science, biography, history, dogs, crafts, etc). The keyword you enter will generate a list of possible genres, which you can choose by clicking the square next to the appropriate classification. If you don’t see anything that accurately describes
your book, feel free to try another keyword; it’s normal to try a few times for more obscure genres. You can apply up to three subject classifications to your book, though you’re only required to choose one. The more subject codes you apply to your title, the more frequently it will appear in the search results of customers searching for similar books online.

Regional Subject: If your book takes place in a particular region of the world
(e.g. Pacific Northwest US, South Australia) you can search for that locality by clicking the “Find Regions” button.

Audience: Identify your title as a textbook, children’s book, young adult book, adult/general book, or scholarly/professional book. If your book is not marketed to a particular age range, it’s best to default to adult/general.

Table of Contents: Here you can copy/paste your table of contents to provide a list of all chapters included in your book. This is generally unnecessary for fiction, but for nonfiction it can be very helpful for readers to see exactly what kind of information they can acquire by reading your book.

Review Quotes: Use this field to enter quotations from people who have favorably reviewed your book (and given you permission to publicize their words). For recommendations longer than a couple sentences, it’s best to provide a brief excerpt rather than the full text.

Illustrations/Photographs: Confirm whether your book contains images or not. If you select “Yes,” you’ll be prompted to specify whether your images are black & white or color, and how many there are total.

Trim Size: Choose the appropriate physical dimensions for your book from the
drop-down menu (see list of possible dimensions on page 12). Popular sizes for trade paperbacks are 5x8, 6x9, and 7x10, while 8x8 is very popular for kid’s picture books. You should make your decision based on what you think would be the best fit for your book.

Interior Color and Paper: Next, select whether your book should be printed in black & white or in full color. For black & white books, you can choose between cream and white paper. Lightning Source offers two levels of color print quality, standard color and premium color. Standard color is suitable for most books where you just need spot color, although more and more children’s authors are making this choice because of the price: it is roughly a third of the cost of the premium color option. Premium is a good choice for coffee table–type books or where color is more critical.

Binding Type: Specify whether the book you’re uploading should be printed as a
paperback or a hardcover. Paperbacks can be either perfect bound (i.e. bound with hot glue applied to the spine) or saddle stitched (i.e. held together with staples applied to the spine); hardcovers can be either case bound (i.e. bound with the cover image printed directly onto a rigid cover) or cloth bound (i.e. bound to a rigid cover coated in fabric). Cloth bound books can be produced with either gray or blue fabric, either with or without a dust jacket. Depending on which trim size you selected earlier, some binding types may be unavailable; for example, Lightning Source cannot produce a 7x10 book as a cloth bound hardcover, only as a paperback or case bound hardcover (see the tables on pages 52–53 for more information on which binding types are compatible with certain trim sizes). On October 22, 2019, we will be retiring our blue and grey cloth covers and gold foil spine stamping in favor of a blue and grey digital cloth image with linen textured lamination. Read more here.

Laminate Type: Lightning Source offers two varieties of cover laminate; gloss covers are reflective and enhance vibrant colors, while matte covers feature a muted finish that softens colors and makes type-heavy covers easier to read. Again, this choice mainly boils down to the particular style of your book and your own personal taste.

Stamped Text: These spaces only appear when “cloth bound” has been selected under “Binding Type.” As part of the production process, these books can have the title, author name, or other text embossed in golden letters along the spine of the fabric-coated cover. You can enter text in any of the three spaces, depending on how you want the text oriented on the spine (for example, you could enter the title of your book in the “Left Justified” space and your name in the “Right Justified” space, or just enter the title in the “Centered” space). On October 22, 2019, Spine text that was previously foil stamped will be digitally printed using a non-metallic comparable gold-colored ink.

PAGE COUNT: Enter the number of individual pages in your book (including all the blank pages); one sheet of paper, back and front, counts as two book pages. Your final page count must be an even number equal to or greater than 18 pages and lower than 1,200 pages. Bear in mind that Lightning Source adds an additional left-hand page to the end of your page block for the printer’s barcode that provides information as to where the book was printed, so if the last page of your book’s interior is a right hand page, Lightning Source will add one page to the total page count, and if the last page of your book’s interior is a left-hand page, Lightning Source will add two pages to the total page count.

Print ISBN: Enter your book’s ISBN here. An ISBN (International Standard Book
Number), also known as EAN (European Article Number), is a unique thirteen-digit item code provided by your country’s ISBN agency and assigned by publishers to identify the particular format and edition of a particular title. So, a traditionally published book will usually have three different ISBNs—one for the hardcover edition, one for the paperback edition, and one for the digital edition. Indie published authors in the US are responsible for acquiring ISBNs for their books by purchasing them from Bowker, the US ISBN Agency (www.myidentifiers.com); you can also purchase ISBNs through Lightning Source for $85 each by selecting “Click here if you would like to purchase an ISBN (an ISBN is required for distribution)”. Bowker sells a single ISBN for $125, 10 ISBNs for $295, or 100 ISBNs for $575; therefore, it’s always advis- able to purchase ISBNs in bulk, unless you are certain that you will use only one ISBN for the entirety of your publishing career. Retailers and distributors often require that indie published titles have an ISBN assigned to them for sales and inventory purposes. That said, Lightning Source can assign a free custom item code to your book for printing purposes if you do not intend to distribute your book through Lightning Source; just select “Click here if you would like a non-distributable SKU to be assigned to this title.” Finally, be sure to use the same ISBN for your book on all sales channels. Listing the same book with different
ISBNs on multiple distributors may confuse retailers trying to purchase your book. Note that publishers from countries outside of the US should research where to obtain an ISBN specific for your country. In many countries, such as Canada, ISBNs are provided for free by the government but it varies from country to country.

Pricing: Use this grid to determine the price readers will pay for your book, the cut that will be kept by the retailer who sells your book, and the profit you will receive from print-on-demand sales through Lightning Source’s distribution channel.

Step 5 of 7


*Market: You can assign different list prices to your title for each region where you plan to sell your book. These regional markets include the United States (price in US dollars), the United Kingdom (price in pounds), the European Union (price in Euros), Canada (price in Canadian dollars), and Australia (price in Australian dollars). Other regions of the world get books through Lightning Source’s Global Connect Program (represented at the bottom of the grid), using a price in US dollars. You are not required to make your book available in all markets, and you do so by filling in the market pricing; so, if you don’t want to make your book available for sale in Canada, just skip the Canadian pricing.

*Print Retail Price: This is the price that retailers will charge their customers when selling your book (retailers may offer discounts to customers for promotions or coupons, but those are taken out of the retailer’s profit, not yours). Though you’re not required to display your book’s list price on the back cover of your book, doing so adds a level of professionalism to the visual appearance of your book. I recommend assigning a price to your title that conforms to trade standard pricing, i.e. ending in 95 cents, 99 cents, or an even dollar amount.

*Wholesale Discount: If a product’s retail price is the amount of money a consumer pays when he or she purchases the product, that product’s wholesale price is the amount of money the distribution partners will pay the product’s manufacturer to acquire the product. For our purposes, the wholesale discount applied to your book is the portion of your book’s retail price that is passed on to our distribution partners. They may pass on a portion of the discount to their customers. If you offer a wholesale discount lower than 53%, your book will be considered a “short discounted” title and many brick and mortar stores will not order it. We highly recommend offering trade standard wholesale terms (53% to 55%), as many retailers will refuse to stock a book on their shelves if the trade discount is below a certain threshold; typically, retailers will only order a short-discount title (35% or less) if a customer specifically requests it, and the retailer may charge the customer an extra fee to make up for the meager profit they would otherwise make from the sale. However, if you decide to assign a lower wholesale discount, just select “Other” from the drop-down menu and enter a discount percentage.

*Returnable: Bookstores typically have the option of returning unsold merchandise to the publisher after a certain amount of time on the shelf. You have three options here:

»» Yes – Deliver: Returned books will be shipped to the default
mailing address on your Lightning Source account. You will be billed
for the profit you made on the original sale of that book, plus the
cost of shipping the book.
»» Yes – Destroy: Returned books will be reduced to pulp. You will
be billed for the profit you made on the original sale of that book.
»» No: Retailers will not be allowed to return copies of this title, and
because of this are extremely unlikely to stock your book in their
inventory except in the event of special orders from customers.

*Compensation (Royalties): This auto-generated amount represents the profit you would make from each print-on-demand sale of this title through Lightning Source to retail or library partners. (Units that you order and sell directly are not factored into compensation.) You are compensated based on the retail price and wholesale discount you entered when you set up your title. This is calculated as: list price – (wholesale discount x list price) – printing cost = publisher’s compensation. So (hypothetically), if a book were priced at $15, had a printing cost of $3.20, and was set to a trade standard wholesale discount (55%), the equation would look like this: $15 – (55% translates to $8.25) – $3.20 = $3.55 publisher compensation/unit. Typically, Lightning Source remits these payments within 90 days of the month-end reporting period following the sale.

Publication Date: This is the official release date of your book. New books are typically released on Tuesdays. Be sure to make this date far enough in the future that you will have time to order a bound proof, apply any revisions that arise from the proofing process, and have your first print run produced at least a month before your publication date. Publishing a book can be a chaotic process, and should any unexpected delays occur, a cushion of extra time will be your best friend.

On Sale Date: This is the date upon which retailers are allowed to sell your book. You can set this date to before your title’s publication date to allow pre-publication sales, or after your title’s publication date in the event that you need to issue an emergency reprint.

E-book ISBN : Since the digital edition of a book requires its own ISBN, you’ll need to provide an additional ISBN here when you upload your e-book.

Pricing: Again, enter a list price for your e-book for each regional market you want to make your book available to. Take note that while the “E-book Retail Price” can be any numeric amount with two decimal places, the “Apple E-book (Agency) Price” must end in 99 cents (e.g. $3.99, $9.99, $0.99). Most e-book platforms price their books according to the “E-book Retail Price,” but e-books sold through Apple’s iTunes Store follow the “Apple E-book (Agency Price”; furthermore, some e-book retailers will assign their own price to your e-book, but regardless of the price they use they must still pay you the amount listed in “Compensation.” This is a big benefit to using Lightning Source since your profits aren’t reduced if the retailer lowers the price on their site.


Step 6 of 7 (top), 7 of 7 (bottom)


Distribution Rights: If you own the rights to sell this digital content anywhere in the world, select “Yes.” This should be true if you are the author of the e-book you’re uploading, but research your regional copyright laws if you feel unsure. If you select “No,” you will be presented with a list of regional markets to go through and check or uncheck. Lightning Source will also encourage you (as do I) to contact your customer support team if you need any help completing this step.

On this page you must upload a total of four files (two if you are uploading only the print edition or only the digital edition); these files constitute the full content of your book, including both page block and cover spread.

Print Interior File
This PDF file must include the full text of your book in single pages (not two-page reader’s spreads), formatted from the very first page to the very last page with the margins, fonts, and page dimensions of the finished book. What you see on each page of the PDF is what you’ll see on each page of your bound book, so be sure that it is truly print-ready before you order a massive quantity of books. To upload the file, simply open the folder containing your interior PDF file and drag it into the box marked “Interior File”; you can also use the“Browse” button in that box to locate the file from within your computer.

Print Cover File
To upload cover art for your book, you must superimpose the full cover spread on a template generated by Lightning Source. To download one of these templates, click the “Help” tab from the taskbar near the top of your screen and select “Cover Template Generator.” Lightning Source will then prompt you to enter some basic metadata for your book; if you’ve followed me throughout this chapter you need only enter your ISBN and Lightning Source will auto-populate the rest of the data. Then, select the template file format you prefer from the drop-down menu InDesign, EPS, or PDF (personally, I always use PDF)—and enter your e-mail address.


These templates come with a complementary barcode encoded with your title’s ISBN. If you want to add pricing details to that barcode, enter your book’s list price, select your regional currency, and select “Yes” from the drop-down menu. Once you click the “Submit” button, Lightning Source will generate your template and send it to you as an e-mail attachment.

(Typical softbound cover template showing the pink “active” areas and the blue “safety” areas.)

Inside printed duplex cover for a softbound book.

Cover template for a casebound book.

Cover template for a saddle stitched book. Note the difference in setup around the spine area.

A dust jacket template for a clothbound book.


Download and open the attached PDF; once you’ve done so, you’ll see that your cover art must fit over color-coded spaces. The pink areas are active zones, while the blue areas are bleeds and safety zones. So, while both pink and blue need to be covered by your artwork or background, any text and important elements need to be confined to the pink areas. The template also displays the exact width that your spine should be, so make any adjustments needed to your cover spread dimensions and place the full-resolution image on the color-coded areas of the template. Due to variances in the binding process, borders or text can be chopped off or lost in a crease if they are too close to the edge of the book or the edge of the spine— hence, Lightning Source requires about a quarter inch of extra space (also called bleeds)around all outside edges of your cover spread. Save the combined template and cover spread as a new PDF file, then upload it to the “Cover File” box as you did with the interior file.

E-book File

Lightning Source requires that e-books be saved in ePUB format, the universal opensource file format for digital books. If your ePUB file is ready, upload it to the “E-book File” box. If not, there are many ways to get your print manuscript digitized into a full flowing e-book file, both at home and through freelancers. 

Cover Image File

Lightning Source saves the easiest file for last. Your e-book cover image should be a JPG of just the front cover of your book, without bleeds. If you don’t have an image like this saved, ask your designer to prepare one for you or crop it down from your full cover spread and save the file as a JPG. Finally, upload the JPG to the “Cover Image File” box. Click the “Continue” button to enter the content validation phase, where Lightning Source internally scans your book files for errors or glitches. If any problems are discovered, Lightning Source will prompt you with how to correct them. It’s normal to have to upload files a few times, especially when books contain images or special formatting. Once your files have passed the scanner, Lightning Source will prompt you to pay your upload fees for this title . Your upload is
finished, and your book has been transmitted to Lightning Source’s technical team, who will
prepare your files for printing and binding! When processing is complete, you will
be notified by e-mail to review an e-proof of your book. Once that step is complete,
the status will change to “Available for printing/download” on your Dashboard.

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