Have my first book printed by Mira Publishing was very informative. I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately I had an angel, Brittney Braur, as the internal PM to Mira that made sure everything went flawlessly. She quickly, but carefully, explained the various options available to me for a digital press run and made recommendations about things like paper stock that increased the quality. Knowing I was paying for it all on my own she also pointed out things that I could do that would reduce costs for the project. In the end, her influence produced a superior result that I was very happy with.
Then came the second, offset, print run. This meant a different printing process was being used to handle my larger volume of 2000 copies. Brittney was no longer with Mira, and it had been bought by another company. There were numerous disconnects that led to a print that, while still good, wasn’t as good as the first print in my own opinion. For instance, the stark white paper isn’t what I requested. In fact, when I got my printed proof I specifically called out that wasn’t the right paper. They said it was just a test for the proof. It turned out that WAS the paper they used in the end. Another oddity, there’s BLANK PAGES at the end of the book. No one mentioned that going to an offset printer (versus a digital press like my smaller first print) would mean I’d have to work in print palettes, groupings of 12 or 16 pages. I could have EASILY adjusted margins or font size to soak up the extra pages. Instead it looks like I have a bunch of errors at the end of every book. The cover, while it has a great gloss on it, lacked the color depth seen in the original print. The red nebula looks much muddier, even brownish. It’s still a GREAT visual, but it was an AWESOME visual to begin with. Regardless the book was still a great product, sells well, and has not had a single complaint or return.
When I began pre-printing planning for book two I returned to what I new. However, this time Mira’s bid on the project was significantly higher. In fact, they said I had gotten quite a deal the first time through. I just couldn’t justify the additional cost. At this stage of the game I didn’t need 2000 copies of book 2, just enough for initial launch, publicity copies, and a small stock to sell on Amazon. Once demand existed I’d print more.
This led me on a search for additional options. I consulted with Brittney Braur, who now has her own promotion company (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND). She and I had talked about a company called Lightning Source that actually handed all the self-published printing from Amazon and other large companies. They’re kind of the Roundy’s of the printing industry. Everyone slaps their own label on, but it goes through them.
I made a mistake and typed in Lightning press. Turns out they really do exist http://www.lightning-press.com/. I’d forgotten the second name in the printer (“source”), so I thought I found what Brittney and I had talked about. They had a very easy online quote tool, and their sales process was responsive and helpful. My sales contact, Paul, was easy to work with, and answered my questions quickly.
I placed the order, was able to follow-up with payment on the phone the next morning (which I preferred). Paul and I even talked about the project, and some of my concerns. I also got clarification about the use of #100 cover (I had selected), and discovered a 12pt cover would be a more solid stock to use, especially since I didn’t need printing on both sides of the cover. He spelled out the dimensions for the Word manuscript document, and the Photoshop cover. Because I adjusted the margins, used single spacing between rows, and reduced the font size I was able to reduce the overall page count (page count can dramatically impact printing costs), the spine size had to change. I had to adjust the Photoshop file I used from cover one to accommodate. I was nervous about getting all the dimensions exactly right.
I updated the files, and submitted them via their Web site. I received the digital proofs the next day. I also found an error in my manuscript that they changed without additional charges. I also noticed the cover was a few pixels off. Yes, I wanted to fix that. I made the change, re-uploaded it, saw the new digital proof, and hit approve. I got the physical proof (that I ordered with the printing package) in a few days. It looked great. No changes to make. I approved it online as well.
The 120 printed books came in 4 boxes the next week. They were packed and protected well, and the books looked AMAZING. The cover looks exactly like the digital image (lots of detail, bright blues, etc.). The content looked exactly as it was supposed to. I’m VERY happy with Lightning Press. I do plan on using them again and highly recommend them.
I’m still interested in Lighting Source, and plan to try them out for the short-order of book 3. It’s important to have a few options. But I KNOW I will be using Lightning Press again too.