Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baker & Taylor, Createspace's Expanded Distribution Program, and More

I thought I'd use this next blog to clarify a few things given feedback and questions I received.

First question: You stated that CreateSpace users need thier own ISBN. Does that still hold true in light of the new expanded distibution program implemented in December?

Response: Just to clarify, I did not say that Createspace users need their own ISBN. You are free to use the one provided free by Createspace, just understand that in using their ISBN you lose control over how that ISBN number is used. Remember that all the advice I provide is based on the premise that the author retains as much control and flexibility over their book as possible. So, using the CS ISBN won't have any impact on your Amazon sales but once we get into bookstores things get a little stickier. You can check out my second or third post in January which goes into why authors need to retain as much control as possible.

Createspace and Expanded Distribution

I must admit that while I use Createspace for Amazon sales and printing services, I am not sold on the effectiveness of the expanded distribution program. I think many authors who use it have not done enough homework to understand how it really works. So here are some key issues that I have with the program.

  • Expanded distribution does not allow you, as an author, to accept returns. Why is that important? Because one of the key things major retailers expect before they stock your book is that your book will be returnable if your book doesn't sell well. If it's not returnable most won't stock it. So, to offer a program that's supposed to get your books into bookstores without offering returnability is pretty pointless.
  • Createspace, as I understand it, does not disclose how much of that 60% wholesale discount actually goes to the stores. Why is that important? Because most major retailers won't stock your book unless they receive a wholesale discount of 40-55%--the higher the better. If Createspace is only offering 35%, as an example, then most likely a store isn't going to stock your book. So, again, the program is useless. Even with a higher discount, the returnability issue may hurt your chances. You really need to be able to offer both.
  • Too many authors think that a listing in Ingram means a bookstores and libraries will just start stocking your book. This couldn't be further from the truth. An Ingram listing only makes your book available through a store's normal distribution channel so that if by some miracle they find it, they could purchase it. But the chances of them flipping through a catalog of hundreds of thousands of books, seeing your independently published book, and picking it up--with all the traditional publisher salespeople beating down their door to get their books on the shelves--has about the same probability as a second virgin birth. It ain't gonna happen. If you enroll in the ED program and you aren't sending out letters and postcards, visiting, or calling retailers to get your book in libraries and bookstores, don't expect your book to magically appear on the shelves. Not gonna happen.

There are a few positives about the program:

  • You book gets listed on Barnes &
  • Your book gets listed with the International Amazon retailers

These things happen even if you do nothing. And the more places your book can be found, the more exposure it gets.

Baker & Taylor

Okay, so I spoke previously about having a time getting my book listed with Baker & Taylor so that I could be in the Borders Bookstore distribution chain and get my book on the shelves. Another author indicated that there was a way to do it, but suggested I purchase his new book to find out. Of course I wasn't going to do that because I'm the cheap indie author!! But I spent an hour yesterday figuring out a solution and here it goes. So--if your book is already listed with Lightning Source and you want to expedite the listing on Baker and Taylor, here's what you need to do.

Send an email to

In the email, explain that you are listed with Lightning Source and would like to get your book listed on Baker & Taylor. Include in the email your company name, your name, address, contact phone number and ISBN(s) and book titles EXACTLY as they appear on your Lightning Source account.

Once they receive this information, they will list your book in Baker & Taylor's systems as an inactive listing. When they notify you via email that your company information is listed, you will log onto Lightning Source, fill out their help form or call your customer service rep...and ask them to transmit your information to Baker & Taylor. At that point, B&T can pick up your information. But they can't pick it up before they put your information in their system--so the first email is the KEY.

And that's it. It can take up to a week for the listing to go live with B&T (maybe longer). But you'll know your book is available when it shows up on


I think that's about all for today.

Until Next Time,

Keep it real...and keep it real cheap!


  1. Another great post Karla. You never let me down. God bless you for this.

  2. By the way, someone actually ordered 10 copies of "The Only Way is Up" from the Createspace Expanded Distribution Program this month. Last month too. I seem to be getting orders through the EDP. Bless their heart-whoever placed the order. I guess they figured since I didn't have Ingram distribution yet, they'll use what I have for right now! I also have wondered about the exact percentage but I believe the breakdown of the 60% is this: CS still takes their 20% and the wholesaler gets a 40% discount. Then of course my 40% is less the production cost of the book and really nothing! It would not work for a distributor though as they need up to 55% discount but I get CS in this case is the distributor. Oh well...

  3. Hey Folake! Yeah a lot of people get orders through IDP, but most of those orders from the as well as special orders people place in bookstores. It's not necessarily placed on store shelves. For example, one way to see if yours is actually on the shelves is to look it up on and look up zip codes using the "Pick Me Up" button. If you don't have a pick me up button that means you're not in the stores. And if you don't have a sales ranking, that means you're not getting sales through but the orders could have come through stores. Also, Ingram Book Company sometimes purchases copies of books just to stock in their warehouse, so they may be sales from them. I know that first hand because my old customer service person who was very helpful actually sent me an excel spreadsheet that showed where sales went and Ingram Book Company had bought like 50 copies. I haven't been able to get my new rep to send it to me, though.

    As far as the breakdown, that's what I assumed but another author called CS to get the exact number and they wouldn't disclose it. I suggested she call any Barnes and Noble and get a bookseller to pull it up in the system so she could find out. She thought that was sneaky. lol I dunno. Suffice it to say, I know my percentage because I set it. That's why it's important to maintain control when you can.

  4. I don't think the bookstores would buy from EDP if they got less than a 40% disount. So far I have not fund CS to be sneaky or pulling the wool over your face like Xlibris and the rest of them. They seem to be quite upfront about what they do and what they don't do. Not sure why they don't disclose the exact breakdown for this but my dealing with Borders and local bookstores show they are very strict about industry standards as per percentages and all...

  5. Karla, maybe I'm confused, but if you're with Lightning Source, you can easily tell what discount a bookstore will get from CreateSpace's expanded distribution. Just sign onto the Ingram ipage account that's available to all Lightning publishers and go to the detail page for any such book. You'll see a notation giving the discount. Or email me with the ISBN of such a book and I'll get it for you, being curious myself.

    I'm sorry you're spending so much time reinventing the wheel. If you really can't afford a copy of my book "POD for Profit," drop me a line and I'll send you a review copy. Or you can download an early draft for free from my Publishing Blog -- but the info won't be as current or accurate. Or join the pod_publishers list on Yahoo, where many Lightning publishers hang out. There's no need to go it alone.

    1. Does anyone know the suppliers for Walmart, Sams Club and Christian book stores?

  6. I agree with you, Folake that I don't think CS is being underhanded, but my only point is that if you deal directly with LS, you don't have to assume or guess, you set the discount and you can always adjust it higher if necessary. For example, if a major store required 50% you'd be out of luck, if you work directly with LS you could just change it. With EDP you don't have any control, you get the terms they set--whatever they are.

    Aaron, I think you're a little confused about this issue we're speaking about. Createspace's EDP is managed by Lightning Source. However, authors who use createspace do not have direct access to that Lightning Source account. Createspace is the middle man so to speak and they can't log on under their own username like someone working directly with LS. I was not aware that I could search anyone's ISBN and get their wholesale discount information though. Seems to me they wouldn't disclose that to anyone. I have a Lightning Source account and could just check it myself if that's the case though. As a matter of fact, my book is set up with Createspace, Lightning Source, and TextStream--the big three.

    I don't feel like I'm reinventing the wheel--and well, I'll just overlook the affordability comment because that comment would be insulting if it weren't so funny. The point of my blog is to share information with authors for free, so we don't have to buy another book and I hope to keep my colleagues from having to do so as well. But I wish you well. And thanks for the information on the Yahoo list. I'll visit there and share information about my free blog.

  7. Karla, I do apologize for the "affordability" comment. I obviously misinterpreted your remark about being the "cheap indie author." I certainly meant no offense. I've been poor for most of my own life, so I don't think of it as an insult.

    I'm not trying to extract money from anyone. If you visit my Web site,, you'll see that I offer quite a bit of free information on Lightning Source. I also offered a free download of an early draft of my book. And as I said, I'd be perfectly happy to send you a free electronic review copy.

    But when you write nearly 300 pages on a subject, it becomes impractical to try to convey the complete content in a series of blog comments. Having spent a decade working out this stuff, a book becomes the only practical way to convey it all. And frankly, saving the cost of a book, when that book contains info not readily available anywhere else and can save you months of frustration and considerably boost your income, is a false economy.

    Anyway, I do hope to see you on the pod_publishers list, because I'm sure you'll be a valuable contributor. We always need people willing to do the research instead of just taking what they're fed. You are obviously such a person.

  8. Aaron, you're writer. You should know there's a difference between broke and cheap. I'm not broke because I'm cheap! lol It's all good. I've got a lot going on right now but I may check it out when I get time. I do a lot of research, and there's always more to learn but half the fun for me is discovering information for myself. I'm just kooky that way. I'll definitely check out your list when I get a chance.

  9. Hi All!
    May I just say once again how useful I find this blog and I dive into it more and more these days as if I were visiting my personal reference library!
    I feel that I am getting closer to publishing my children's play, Mouth Almighty by Salihah Agbaje (by God's grace) and am flirting with the idea of going with Exilibris but I'm picking up that it's not all good with them from some comments here and there. I'm tempted because their offer seems reasonable-for the professional package £799 you get all of the below:

    · Choice of eighteen book cover templates – if you are having difficulties in making the design of your cover this will help you, you can actually choose from these and you have 18 to choose from

    · Choice of nine interior templates

    · Allowance of cover art (up to 3 images) and author photo (supplied by author)

    · Ability to customize certain elements of the interior templates

    · 20 allotted interior graphics and 5 tables – if ever you will have illustrations inside the book then you can put as many as indicated here

    Production features:

    · Availability of your book in paperback format

    · Availability of your book in hardback format

    · Availability of your book in eBook format

    · One paperback and one hardback author copy – these will be given to you after approving the galley or draft

    · Ability to track book production progress through our website – you will be given a unique user name and a password for your access to this

    · Author Service Representative who provides support throughout the publication process – a particular person will be assign to you all throughout the production stage

    Post-publication features:

    You will only received 10 copies in paperback and 1 copy for hardback, you can make it 5 copies in each book for paperback and the hardcopy on the 1st book
    · Assignment of ISBN

    · Registration with Books In Print database – this database is viewable by bookstores

    · Worldwide distribution – this means through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstones,and other 2500 online resellers

    · Registrations with online booksellers through national distributor

    · Online book sales and royalty accounting

    · Book and author webpages in the Xlibris online bookstore – you control the content – this is the part where your book will be posted in our site, and about you as the author as well

    · Quarterly royalty payments

    Marketing Features:

    · 50 bookmarks – these are printed materials which includes photo of your book cover, information about you, about the book and ordering information

    · 50 postcards

    · 50 business cards

    · 5 posters

    which doesn't seem half bad for the price. The rep is also a hard seller and even though I'm not giving in to her shpeel, I asked about the barcode which she said would be mine for the taking even if I left?? The info on the website seems to offer a good deal. Or am I missing something? ANY input, advice, assistance is welcome as I am very very green!!

    Best regards,


  10. wow- I did not realise how long my comment was! :}

  11. Hi Salilah,

    I'm going to do a post right now to address this issue because I think it could be useful to others.

  12. Thank you for the tips. I'm a newly published POD author and found this interesting. I will certainly look into getting my book listed with Baker & Taylor through the route you suggested. God bless!

  13. So, If you print with Createspace and have your own ISBN number - which I do - do I have to go over to LS to get listed with Baker and Taylor? Do I need to sign up with Lighting Source, and create another book with them? Do I use the same ISBN number?
    Totally confused but really need some way to get this book to libraries...
    Emilie P. Bush

  14. Found your fascinating blog via a Google search, since I too was wondering how I could get my Lightning Source/Ingram book into Baker and Taylor for library orders. Seems easy enough - appreciate the tips.

    Btw - as I write fully illustrated children's books, I actually found it far more profitable to do offset print runs (on the smaller side) with my Audiobook CD glued into it. I then sell these books at public events, mostly author signings. I've found that I can keep prices low for customers, increase quality (and have more control over printing quality) and keep more in my pocket than using LSI/Ingram as my primary distribution channel. The POD books they generate in hardcover are not bad, but lack the "premium" feel that you can get from a quality offset print run.

    Nope, it's not "cheap and indie," but if you have even minimal demand and can book yourself for signings at local businesses/retailers, I find that you can quickly regain your investment and each out to fans at the same time. Just something to keep in mind.

  15. I fail MATH. B&T want 55% of book retail of 8.99 = 4.90. Createspace pays me 2.19. How could this work? Does CS give up something?