Trying to deal with Lightning Source

I’ve been told that the people to print the books that I have commissioned are Lightning Source.  They have printers in the US and UK, and access through Amazon.  The quality of the job is apparently rather better than

But they do seem rather difficult to deal with.  First they won’t give you any kind of information up front.  At the moment I have no idea what they will charge for what I want.

Secondly they demand that you “apply” for an “account”, and they say, rather snootily, that they will review your “application” and deal with it within a couple of days.   It’s an online form, and a bit over the top but liveable w ith. 

But why the delay, the manual “review”?  This I do not get.  Now remember that these people are a business selling a service.  Just imagine if Amazon took that sort of line!  It’s unthinkably bad customer service.  It discourages business, puts off the punter, and so on.  All I want of these people, remember, is some printing.  Why the third degree?

But there is worse.  I filled in those forms this morning.  This afternoon I get an email, which makes a whole series of further demands for information, with no indication given as to why they need to know all this.  Here it is:

Dear Roger
We notice that you have started to register for an account with Lightning Source and would like to ascertain your requirements.
You have populated the first part of our application for an account, but our application process is two-fold.  Before we can open your account, we need to ask the following questions:
1.   How many titles do you plan to print with Lightning Source over the next 12 months?
2.   Do you own the rights to the title(s)?
3.   Have your titles been printed/published by any company other than your own?  If yes, by whom?
4.   In what format do you plan to submit your titles for printing?  (i.e. physical books for scanning or files?  If files, what type?  Are you familiar with creating pdf file?
5.   Have you read and understood the File Creation link on our website covering Digital File Submission Standards, Cover Template Generator etc?
6.   Have you previously spoken to a sales representative at Lightning Source?  If so, with whom?
7.  All publishers are required to administer their own web accounts independently of any intervention by Lightning Source.  Do you agree to work with Lightning Source on this basis?
Thank you.
Best Regards
Georgina Walpole
Content Acquisition Sales Representative,
Lightning Source UK Ltd., Chapter House, Pitfield, Kiln Farm, Milton Keynes, MK11 3LW, UK

What the heck is that!?!  I’ve written back with answers, but remarked on how this is a lot of information to ask of someone trying to give them money.  They sound as if I might get a telephone call — I’ve asked them not to.

All in all it’s a rather nasty experience, as an introduction to someone selling you a service.   And “content acquisition”?  I’m not selling them my content!

10 thoughts on “Trying to deal with Lightning Source

  1. Roger, Lightning Source is a professional service, not a consumer service. It relies on its clients knowing their business. If you think Lightning is difficult, you should try working directly with some of the wholesalers it sells to. {edited}

  2. Thanks for your note. Perhaps it is so. But people who do this, however, are mostly clerks, not businessmen. I never allow a customer to walk away with his money if I can prevent it.

  3. Hello Roger,

    Lightning Source is a division of Ingram Books; a rather large company, and their primary clients are mainline distributors and production houses. They are perhaps the largest distributor here in the US, and were the original supply channel for Amazon way back when.

    Their Print-On-Demand services are said to be without equal, and they have major connections to distribution channels throughout the US, Canada, and UK. In addition, they’re attempting to spread POD Kiosks in large book retailers, so that you can have a book bound while on demand while you wait.

    In short, it’s a little bit of a pain in the neck and their walled garden approach to customer service is probably irritating but they have resources you should try to avail yourself of. The work you do is wonderful, and they can help you spread it around.

    Take care,

  4. It does not matter if you have been a client with them for 10 years (as I have been) and have helped them make many thousands of dollars selling my books. They still treat their clients like crap. Don’t worry about them calling you. That is something they would never do, just like answering an email or picking up the phone when you call. If you do manage to get ahold of one of them, they will rudely refuse to answer your question and force you to call one of their other employees, who will undoubtedly be out-of-office and force you to leave a message, which they will not reply to.

  5. My own experiences have been better than that! Thank heavens!

    The setup is dreadful. But thereafter it all tends to just work.

    Admittedly I still find aspects of their service unprofessional. But it has been worth the effort.

  6. I know this post is old but I applied to LS after spending a whole day scanning and filing in forms – it’s been a month and after many emails they haven’t done anything. It’s really Bad customer service. You wonder if they’re bad with support and you get approved, if you have a problem in the future ; then you’ll likely get the same.

  7. It is depressing to learn that their service is still unprofessional. I’ve been very happy with their service, since their (somewhat clunky) website has satisfied all my needs since I got through the hoops and delays of application. It is very curious, in these days, isn’t it?

  8. The customer service offered by Lightening Source is SO BAD they could also be a government department. They keep sending me proofs which have unacceptably low print quality with blurred text through the book and seem unable to tell me why the book looks like its been checked in a puddle. I keep telling that the proof is unacceptable and there response is that they don’t know what’s going and that I should fix. How can I fix it if they don’t tell me what the problem is. They have completely screwed a deadline, lost me a lot of sales and refuse to take responsibility for their inability to print text correctly. And this is now my third horrific experience with them.

  9. That sounds like the result of expanding/shrinking to fit a page? I would guess that your page size on your PDF is the wrong size for their standard sizes.

    What I would tend to do is to register an account at, and create a private project (invisible to the world) for your book and just experiment with what happens, and what your book looks like. The environment is far easier to work with, you have far more control, and it allows you to get the bugs out.

    I did this, and in fact did my proof copies that way which I sent out for correction to the authors. The great thing is that you can download the PDF they print, which is not the same as the one you send, and so you can see instantly what is happening.

    LSI’s support is essentially non-existent. So long as you need nothing from them, you’ll be fine. So … debug your project on Lulu! 🙂

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