business of writing,  Publishing,  thoughts

On Publishing – Printing & Production Choices

I often get people asking me about the printers and distributors who help me put out my independent non-fiction books.  I’ve even been “insulted”  recently, by other publishers, for making the choices I’ve made.

Let me take a moment to share with you why I use the printers and distributors I use.

For DB Publishing’s general titles (books we want to be available to everyone), we start by putting out our INITIAL RELEASE paperbacks and hardcovers on Lulu. The reason being it makes the book available immediately for readers who want the physical books right away.

I do use CS to print my paperbacks and I do pay them for distribution and other services (because the general paperbacks usually pay for their own setup and distribution costs). Once CS approves each new book and makes the paperback live on Amazon and other online retailers, I immediately remove the paperbacks from Lulu but leave the hardcovers there. I only put our own ISBNs on books over 300 pages. Otherwise I get them from CS. Readers don’t give two craps where the ISBN comes from. I didn’t spend hundreds on a huge block of ISBNs to waste them on the shorter books. I’ll keep them for the beefier ones, thanks.

Then I put up the eBooks through Amazon and B&N because eBooks are awesome and some readers don’t have a lot of shelf space for physical books. Plus eBooks are often cheaper (or they should be) and fulfill a niche for both instant gratification and a less expensive copy.

Then why use Lulu at all you ask? I’ve been slammed for using Lulu because “real publishers” don’t use them.  Evidently since anyone who can type can put books up on Lulu, that makes publishers who utilize their services either unprofessional or not to be taken seriously.  Don’t underestimate me, friends. My production process is just like yours. I use professional editors (nowadays).  I have employed artists, too. My books go through layout. The only difference is I use a POD service for standard hardcovers and initial release paperbacks. That’s it.

Here is why I use Lulu. First, for general books people are more apt to buy a paperback. However,  I wanted an inexpensive POD way to make it so those who wanted hardcovers had access to them without it costing *me* an arm and a leg in production costs and incurring an expense that sales would likely never recoup. This eliminated Lightening Source (whose hardcovers are barely a step above Lulu) as a distributor outright since their setup fees are $100+ per book and it was unlikely I would ever recover that expense on  general hardcovers. It’s true. I’ve sold probably less than 50 hardcovers of any generalized DB Publishing title.  Most people prefer the paperbacks or eBooks.  I’m not just printing limited edition hardcovers, folks. I want the bulk of my books to be available to EVERYONE. No one should have to save up $50+ to buy each and every book I put out. If that were the case, I would have only a few readers instead of the thousands I currently have.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a rich woman. I can’t afford to do all of my books in nice hardcovers. Also – I don’t want everything I write to be a limited edition hardcover. That’s ridiculous.

That would be like me putting out Limited Edition hardcovers and having Lulu or Lightening Source print them — it would make no sense. Lulu and Lightening Source do produce cheaper hardcover bindings. Not like a real offset print run and a real binder.

Because of  this – for my limited edition hardcovers (the Official Melissa stuff) I use a local printer (large scale printer as a matter of fact) but I use a small, local bindery;  a bindery where I get very personalized treatment for my books. Each book is bound by a human being using binding equipment as opposed to a cold machine overseen by a human. So yes, my limited edition hardcovers cost me more to produce and I charge a little more for them. But they’re not cheaply made like some of the books I’ve seen coming out of some of the “limited edition” publishing houses.

Just set an Official Melissa binding next to some of the other publisher’s limited edition hardcovers. Some of them are rather unimpressive when you do that. Just sayin’.  If you want superior binding you need attention to detail – a small operation will do that. A big operation will not.  So on Official Melissa titles, it is unlikely you’ll ever see me working with a big operation where the binding is sub-par.  Anyone who wants to insult me for doing that — insult away!  🙂  I am not ashamed to say I don’t mind spending more for a quality product and my readers don’t mind paying a little more for it, too.

Now granted there are a few things I’ll be changing with the next OM book. Like I need to explain to my printer (whose business is not really making limited edition hardcovers) that there need to be TWO end pages. I might even look into Smythe sewing the pages (instead of gluing them), and I might look into a less glossy paper (though I did ask them for acid free last time) this next time around. I might also look into doing a cloth binding for the standard editions to cut the costs a little and provide readers with a $50-$60 book instead of a $100 book, but I know that my local artisans will make sure I’m happy with the final product and will call me to come down if they want to show me something or have me look at something.  I like being very involved and in control of my projects.  I don’t know that I’d trust a huge printing service five states away to do exactly as I wanted.

Remember how in an earlier post within the last month I said I was a control freak?  Yep.  It’s very evident when I do a limited edition hardcover. If I’m going to do them – I’m doing them right.

So anyone who doesn’t like how I do the general books in Lulu hardcover – sorry.  Perhaps someday I’ll do some short print runs of those books with nice bindings, but you’ll have to wait until I get around to it.  Not to mention I’d need more than a couple of people to request them. So far (on the general titles) I’ve only had about four requests total over the past seven years. Everyone else seems quite content with their Lulu hardcovers.

So now you know why I’ve done it the way I’ve done it. And guess what? It doesn’t make me “less” of a publisher for doing it like this. It makes me cost conscious and it makes me a smart business woman. Like I said before — DB Publishing/Official Melissa Press doesn’t run in the red.  We never have. We do paperbacks and eBooks (oh heavens!), not just hardcovers. Also – we’ve been in business since 2005. That means I’ve been actively running my own publishing operation for 7 years now. I’m not fresh off the farm, darlings.

I suspect going forward that readers are going to become more discerning about their limited edition hardcovers (since they’re becoming so commonplace in the occult world). As a publisher and writer – not everything I print (or pen for that matter) is worthy to become a limited edition hardcover.  🙂  I’m cool with that and so are my readers.

So while some publishers are busy laughing at me and scorning me for  doing things how I do them, I’ll laugh, too, as I deposit my payments from Lulu into the bank. As a writer I’m in the business of writing useful books. As a publisher I’m in the business of selling books and making a living. I do both quite well, thank you.

Thoughts? Complaints? Suggestions?  Feel free to comment below.

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at


  • Jennifer K.

    *standing ovation*

    If what you were doing wasn’t working, you wouldn’t keep doing it. But haters gonna hate no matter what…

  • Bradshaw

    I thinks it’s just fine how you do things. Keep doing what you’re doing. HC loves your books and don’t care who prints them as long as we get them. Also what’s wrong with lulu hardcovers? We bought them for the group and they have held up really good so far.

    • Steph

      Thanks Bradshaw. 🙂 I asked the same question. I think it’s the point that “anyone” can print a book on Lulu that has my critics tripped up. Just because anyone can doesn’t mean everyone who uses that service is “just anyone”. ::shrug::

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