Self-Publishing: Selling and Converting eBooks with Lightning Source

Lightning Source

There are so many eBook distributor options available that author’s are always asking us, which one should we use?

That all depends. You can go direct through the retailers, such as Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo and the iBookstore, or, you can cut down your workload and use one of the great eBook distributors out there who can better support and guide you through the process of selling and converting your eBooks.

Over the coming weeks, here at Finish Your Book we’ll be reviewing all of them. This week we are taking a look at Lightning Source.

Who are Lightning Source?

Lightning Source, who are owned by Ingram were one of the earliest P.O.D printers used primarily by publishers to create galleys before digital printing became what it is today.

Lightning Source have printed over 120,000,000 books for over 24,000 publishers around the world and their digital library holds over 7.6 million books and adds several hundred thousand each month.

Through partnerships with book retailers and wholesalers, Lightning Source offers a comprehensive bookselling channel for indie publishers and self-published authors in the United States and the United Kingdom through, Ingram, Baker & Taylor,, Barnes & Noble, Gardners, Bertrams and many more.

Known primarily for high-quality P.O.D, they also convert, package and distribute eBooks.

Do they convert text to eBook format?

Yes. They can manage the entire book conversion process for you taking straight text files or books with images, tables, graphs, bibliographical references and endnotes, although there is a slightly higher charge for the latter.

They will convert your book into the standard ePUB file, or, if you want to sell your eBooks on Amazon, they will also convert it to the.  mobi format required for the Kindle.

Can they convert color books and books with pictures into eBooks?

Yes. However there is a higher cost attached to this and you need to get a custom quote from a sales rep.

What file formats do they accept eBook submissions in?

They accept .pdf’s only. That means you will need to save your .indd or .doc files into an adobe .pdf file, which is easily done. You can also submit your ePub files if you have already had them converted.

But first check to see if they are compliant, which you can do here: If your files are compliant you can shave 2 – 3 days of the processing time!

How much does the eBook conversion cost?

Lightning Source have a standard rate for their eBook conversion and distribution packages and then a set per page conversion fee:

There is a standard one-time sign up fee of $150. This covers you for any number of titles. So if you are a self-published single title author you pay $150 and if you are an Indie publisher with 20 titles you also pay $150. There is an additional annual fee of $30 to cover the costs of hosting your titles on their servers (again this is a flat fee, irrespective of the number of titles you have in your catalog.)

When it comes to conversion costs they have a standard rate of 0.33 cents per page for basic text files (that means no tables, graphics, endnotes, etc.)

For books with text that contain more complex features, such as black and whit images, tables, graphs, endnotes, etc you need to get a custom quote. They provide an estimate of between 0.33 – 0.66 cents per page for such conversions.

For color books and fixed layout books you need to contact a customer service rep to obtain a personalized quote.

How much do you get for each eBook sale?

That all depends on whether or not you choose to sell your books to Amazon or Apple via Lightning Source’s eBook distribution program or stick with the other 60+ eBook retailers that they distribute to.

If you DON’T wish to sell to Amazon, you must set a wholesaler discount of 40% for all of your eBooks (this is a standard industry rate, some distributors ask you to set it at 50 – 60 %). In addition, Ingram (who own Lightning Source) take 15% of your net income, which is essentially the distribution fee.

So, if you have an eBook with an RRP of $10 for each sale you will earn:

$10 – $4 (40% wholesaler discount) = $6 net income

$6 – $0.90 (15% Ingram distrib fee) = $5.10 actual earnings per book sold

Now, here is where their model gets a little complicated.

If you DO wish to sell to Amazon (which is optional), scrap everything you just read. Instead of the 40% you will be required to offer a 52.5% not just to Amazon, but to ALL retailers. The standard 15% distribution fee to Ingram still applies.  This is how your earnings will be affected on a $10 book:

$10 – $5.25  (52.5% wholesaler Amazon discount) = $4.75 net income **

$4.75  – $0.71 (15% Ingram distrib fee) = $4.04 actual earnings per book sold


** Amazon also charges 4% for a coop advertising fee, which is deducted from what you would earn for ebook sales from Amazon

If you also want to sell your eBooks via Apple then there is another level of detail to consider. At this time, Apple is a stand-alone ebook service and can be included at no additional cost (normally a $250 fee).

Instead of the standard 40% wholesaler discount, Apple take just 30% and (for some unknown reason) Ingram’s distrubution fee is lowered to 5.6% for all books sold via Apple. So, how do your earnings look for a $10 book with Apple:

$10 – $3  (30% wholesaler Apple discount) = $7 net income

$7 – $0.39 (5.6% Ingram distrib fee) = $6.60 actual earnings per book sold

Are there any hidden or additional fees?

They don’t report anything about this on the website or in their contract terms.

Who do Lightning Source distribute your eBook to?

This is where Lightning Source come into their own, and far outweigh the competition. They are partnered with over 60 eBook retailers internationally, including all of the key players such as B&N, Kobo, Sony, Amazon, Apple, Ingram, etc.

Table of the eBook Retailer Partners 60+

  • A Book Company LLC– (US)

  • Advanced Educational Products (US)

  • Advantage Media Group (Australia)

  • All Romance eBooks (US)

  • Asia Books (Thailand)

  • AudiobooksDirect (US)

  • Berean Christian Stores (US)

  • Best Price Wholesale (US)

  • Bilbary (UK)

  • (Netherlands)

  • Bookshop Krisostomus (Estonia)

  • BooksonBoard (US)

  • Campus eBooks (US)

  • Canongate Books (UK)

  • Central Boekhuis (Netherlands)

  • (US)

  • Computer Manuals Ltd. (US)

  • DEA Media Group (Italy)

  • Diesel eBooks (US)

  • Digital Reserve (US)

  • Direct Ebooks (Ireland)

  • DittoBook (US)

  • DMC (US)

  • Early Access, Inc. dba (US)

  • eBookMall (US)

  • eBookShop (South Africa)

  • EC Media International (India)

  • eCommSource (Ireland)

  • eFiction Bookstore (US)

  • Eguidebooks, Inc (US)

  • FeedBooks (France)

  • Fictionwise (US)

  • Fishpond (New Zealand/Australia)

  • (Japan)

  • Hastings (US)

  • Infibeam (India)

  • (South Africa)


  • Kobo Books (Canada)

  • (Italy)

  • Lai Lai Book Company (China)

  • (Germany)

  • (US)

  • (US)

  • Mardel (US)

  • MBS Books (eBook) (US)

  • Media Corp. Ltd. (Singapore)

  • MobiLire (France)

  • Mogul View Media (Switzerland)

  • MP Publishing (UK)

  • MPH Online (Malaysia)

  • Off World Books (US)

  • Online Book Place (US)

  • Page Foundry (US)

  • Parable (US)

  • (US)

  • PocketBook USA (US)

  • Powells (US)

  • Qbend LLC (US)

  • Qtext (US)

  • Robertson Marketing Services (US)

  • Sanborns (Mexico)

  • Saraiva e Siciliano (Brazil)

  • SBS Special Book Services (Brazil)

  • SHOP.CA (Canada)

  • Starland Media (US)

  • Summit (US)

  • Suomalainen (Finland)

  • Teaching Shop (Australia)

  • Team Research (US)

  • The Book Depository (UK)

  • TookBook (Croatia)

  • Tradebit (Germany)

  • TreeFreeMobile (US)

  • Tritium Digital Pte Ltd. (Singapore)

  • Txtr GmbH (Germany)

  • Webster (Italy)

  • Wiltronic (US)



*   iBookstore (Optional) – see how much do you get for each eBook sale above

*  Amazon (Optional) – see how much do you get for each eBook sale above

How quickly can they get your eBook into the online book retailers?

Good question. The guideline they give is 2 months from the point you submit your pdf for conversion. If you already have your title in ePUB format it will take less time. However, they also state, that, depending on volume the conversion and distribution process could take longer. I asked about worse case scenario. The answer: 4 months.

How often do you get paid?

Lightning Source pays out to you (the Publisher) for the sale of all your eBook titles within 90 days after the month in which the retailer reports the sales to Lightning Source. So, that means you won’t get earnings for books sold in May until August/September.

Earnings are paid into the bank account you specify to Lightning Source.


Who pays the taxes?

You do. As the publisher you are responsible for any resulting taxes. This applies to self-published author’s too!

What else do Lightning Source offer?

They have POD print services in a number of countries, including: The UK, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Italy and Spain. They can also do off-set printing and they distribute/sell your books across multiple retail channels in each of these countries. So, if you are an Indie or self-publisher looking to expand your reach outside of your area they are a great way to achieve international expansion for your catalog.


We’d love to hear about your experiences of eBook, P.O.D and digital distribution with Lightning Source, or anyone else for that matter! Feel free to post below.

 More on other digital distributors next week.

Adios from Finish Your Book


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Book Distribution, Converting eBooks, Digital Publishing, eBooks, Getting Published, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized

Author:Gemini Adams

Multiple-award winning, bestselling author, artist and founder of the Finish Your Book educational program.

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6 Comments on “Self-Publishing: Selling and Converting eBooks with Lightning Source”

  1. June 12, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    Great Post! thanks

  2. June 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    When I had my publishing company, Ex Machina Press (, I used Lightning Source (this was 5 years ago). Their customer service was top notch and the production costs was reasonable. And the final product…the books…looked very professional. However, I drifted to because it was more cost effective in terms of POD (print on demand) and I was able to get royalty costs more efficiently. Also, when I had Lightning Source, they didn’t have a distribution service at the time—only printing, so I went through Baker and Taylor, which was by far the WORST company I ever dealt with in terms of cusotmer service. Avoid at all costs. I am curious about LS Distribution Services, though.

    • June 13, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Peter — thanks for sharing about your experience. Although I didn’t write about the P.O.D print side of Lightning Source in this blog, I have had experience of working with them in that area and they are great. Their sales reach grows by the month and they are extremely efficient. One of the perks is that they deal with Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon, etc on your behalf. It’s a great service for small publishers and self-publishers alike.

  3. July 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Interesting article Gemini and very useful information on discounts which I struggled to find anywhere. I did not know there was an industry standard. But I fear that there may be some inaccuracies in information.
    To date, in publishing via our own imprint with LS,I am not aware that they actually do the converting of files. They do however provide very specific submission guidelines for uploading PDF for Adobe. E-Pub are uploaded in a different submission for Adobe Digital Editions.
    LS do not have a partnership with Apple.You have to go through Ingram direct for that.Their current e-retailer partner list does not now include Kobo. You do also need to be a publisher as they do not deal with authors direct. I have found their service faultless with payments spot on from both US and UK which are paid in GBP withno minimum.
    I find that shipping time to retailers is minimal, Proof available in days and about a week from approval.
    Due to our limited resources for e-pub conversion and limitations in LS e-retailer partners ( I had a list) we decided to go with Smashwords even though they do not pay (GBP) until $25 reached but it is Pay Pal(why can’t Amazon do that for non US?). In addition to download direct, subject to manual vetting they go into the Premium Catalogue for shipping to Apple,Sony, Kobo, Diesel,Nook,Baker &Taylor Blio and Libraries and more coming on board. LS are a very customer focused organisation and take all the hassle out of things with the distribution chain.
    An excellent article which sheds much light on the learning curve.

    January 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Thanks for the info. Speaking of LS and Amazon … any experience with a case like mine? I’m in the US, I write in Spanish for fundraisers and non-profits–a small audience in the US and Latin America–and want to do POD for the US, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile. My first edition in 2000, picked up by a Mexican publisher, sold 5,000 copies, mostly in Mexico. The publisher treated me well, but doesn’t want to handle the second edition for his own reasons. So I want to try POD, and want to make sure I get paid. I think I have to do a deal or deals with companies that print in the countries in question. Otherwise, there are hassles about customs and payments. Amazon seems to print only in the US, and LS only in the US and UK. Know of any company that might fit my bill? Thanks.

  5. January 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi there. You are in an interesting position. I haven’t heard of any POD companies that provide the service of print and distribution within Latin and South America. Your best bet might be to do a Spanish language edition and publish as an ebook for those territories (try Book Baby for that) and then run a US language and Spanish language edition via Lightning Source. Each country also has a publisher association, so you could find them (just Google them) and make a request to them regarding your query. Wishing you great luck with it!

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