ePub Author Question – Should My Book Be in Color or Black and White?

Color printing is great but it will really jack up the retail price of your book’s hardcopy version.  I’ll show you the figures for one of my books printed in both B&W and color. The difference between the retail prices of each print type needed to provide the same royalty per sale is almost astonishing.

Clarify the Question

Before we break out the numbers, let’s clarify the opening question. What we are really asking is whether the hardcopy version of your book (the Print-On-Demand version if you are self-publishing) should have color images or black-and-white images. A book’s images are the only difference between the color book and a black-and-white versions of the same book. Both versions can have the same full-color cover and same B&W text. The difference between the two is whether the book’s images are printed in color or in gray scale. The images that appear in a B&W book have been printed in gray scale using only black ink. The images in a color hardcopy book have been printed in a color mode called CMYK.

The question of whether to use color or gray scale images is relevant only to printed, hardcopy books. An eBook’s price is not affected by the amount of color contained in the images. eBook images are displayed on the screen of an e-reader. Adding color to an eBook’s images doesn’t add cost to creating the .epub file or displaying the images. Printing a colored image on paper, on the other hand, is way more expensive than printing a gray scale image.

How much more expensive? Here are the numbers for one of my books.

If you are self-publishing, you’ll be using a print-on-demand (POD) company to print and ship your hardcopy books. The POD company partners directly with all online bookstores. When an Amazon customer purchases a hardcopy book, the order is sent to the POD company, who then prints and ships the book to the customer.  The only involvement that you the self-publisher have in this whole sales process is to receive royalty payments at the end of the day. Not bad.

Lightning Source as a POD Company

I use Lightning Source is my POD company for one simple reason. They allow me to make the most money. Lightning Source is the largest POD company with the most retail partners in the world. Lightning Source’s clout makes them the only POD company that can dictate to Amazon what Amazon’s wholesale discount will be. I set my wholesale discount for all of my POD books at 20%. That means that Amazon will receive only 20% of the sale price of one of my POD books. That is significant considering that Amazon keeps a full 65% of sale price of most of my Kindle eBooks.

Lightning Source also gets paid during the sale of each hardcopy book. Lightning Source is the printer and charges a fixed fee for printing each book during each sale. Lightning Source’s fixed printing fee depends on the type of printing, the binding type, and the number of pages in the book.

Lightning Source’s Publisher Compansation Calculator

Lightning Source has a convenient Publisher’s Compensation calculator on their web site that enables you to determine the retail price of your book that will provide a specific royalty payment. Simply input the following information into Lightning Source’s Publisher Compensation calculator:

– Type of book (color or black-and-white)

– Binding type from Lightning Source’s available choice of bindings

– Page color (white or creme)

– Number of pages

– Wholesale discount (the percent of the sale price that you allow the retailer such as Amazon to keep)

– Retail price of your book

The Publisher Compensation calculator then displays Lightning Source’s print charge and your publisher’s compensation.

Here Are the Actual Numbers

Here are the number for one of my books, just to illustrate the difference in pricing between the color and black-and-white versions of the same book.

One of my better-selling books is a 478-page manual entitled Practical and Clear Graduate Statistics in Excel. I originally printed the book in color and was selling it in hardcopy from Amazon at a retail price of $79.95. My royalty from each of these sales was $19.94. Here are the inputs and output of Lightning Source’s Publisher Compensation calculator in this case:

Numbers for the Color Book

– Color, 8.5 X 11 inches, Perfect Bound on White Pages with Gloss Laminate

– 478 Pages

– $79.95 List Price

– 20% Wholesale Discount


– $44.02 Print Charge

– $19.94 Publisher Compensation

If I simply convert all of the book’s images from color to gray scale and sell the book as a black-and-white book, here are the new figures (make sure you are sitting down when you read these):

Numbers for the Black-and-White Book

– B&W, 8.5 X 11 inches, Perfect Bound on White Pages with Gloss Laminate

– 478 Pages

– $39.95 List Price

– 20% Wholesale Discount


– $9.90 Print Charge

– $22.06 Publisher Compensation

By merely converting all images to gray scale, I was able to cut the book’s retail price in half and increase my profit from each sale. The difference is that the black-and-white print charge is only $9.90 compared to $44.02 for color.


If you want to earn the most money from the sale your books in hard copy, use Lightning Source is your POD company and sell your books in black-and-white.


Author Question – Why Does It Take So Much Longer To Create a Print-On-Demand Book Than an ePub?

You would think that a book is a book is a book is a book, regardless of its final, destination format. Quite the opposite is actually the case. Yes, the content will be the same,  regardless of final format. But, that’s where all similarity ends. The differences between creating the files for POD (print-on-demand) and the files for an ePub are greater than night and day.

Before we go into the differences between creating POD and ePub, here is briefly what they both are. If you are a self-published author and your books are available on Amazon, your hardcopies will be sold in the form called print-on-demand and your Kindle eBooks will be sold in the format of .mobi, which is very close to the .ePub file from which it is derived. You, the self-published author, interact directly with Amazon Kindle Direct. Any eBooks or updates that you upload to Kindle will go live the next day.

In the case of POD, you are interacting only with the POD company. The POD company is a third-party aggregator and will conduct all interaction on your behalf with all online book stores for the sale of your hardcopies. Any POD files or updates that you upload to the POD company will take much longer to go live in the online book stores.

Now here are the reasons why it takes so much longer to create the files for a print-on-demand hardcopy book an ePub eBook:

1. The number one reason is the amount of formatting needed for the print-on-demand book. The hardcopy book is…. a hardcopy book. Every page of the book will be formatted from top to bottom. Every element of every page of a hardcopy book will have its own place on that page. An ePub eBook has very little of the on-page formatting that a hardcopy book does. ePub eBooks don’t actually have “pages” due to the ePub’s reflow capabilities. The contents on an ePub “page” that would show up on your e-reader screen would totally depend on your e-reader’s screen size and the font size that is set by you. You’ll never see page elements such as headers, footers, or page numbers in an ePub eBook because ePub “pages” have no set page length due to the ePub reflow capability. The only significant formatting issues in ePub eBooks are where to start the beginning of  each “page” and the horizontal positioning of elements, whether centered, floated left, or floated right. All ePub formatting is accomplished with CSS. All POD formatting is accomplished by directly placing each element in its designated location on its page. Adobe InDesign enables the use of CSS through its paragraph and character styles. I, however, don’t use InDesign to create print-on-demand files because my clients usually don’t have InDesign. They would not be able to open up an InDesign file that I am working on for them in order to give me feedback.

2. Right on the heals of point number 1 above, the additional formatting requirements of a POD book usually result in significantly more interaction between myself and the author than is the case when I am creating an ePub eBook. It is my job to make the book exactly as the author wants. I use Microsoft Word when creating the POD so I can send updated versions to the author as soon as I change anything. The authors always have Word so they can see exactly what I am doing and provide instant feedback. That’s the way they like it and that’s the way I like it too. The back-and-forth interaction between myself and the author when creating a POD definitely adds to the total time it takes to complete the job – but the end result is that the author gets exactly what he or she wants. And that’s what I want. Occasionally authors will apologize for the amount of feedback they are giving, and that always surprises me. When that happens I try to remind the author that the more feedback that he or she can provide, the better the book will be. I want their feeback.

3. An ePub eBook is only one .epub file. Creating a POD book requires creating two .pdf files. One of the .pdf files contains the book’s content and the other .pdf file contains that cover artwork.
4. The required specifications of an ePub file are much less stringent than .pdf files that will be sent to the POD company. ePub files have to meet the guidelines of the most current ePub standard. I put an ePub through a process called “validation” to ensure the current ePub standard is being met. If I have been careful when creating the ePub file, very few errors will need correcting upon final validation. Creating the two .pdf files for POD is a completely different story however. There are no ordinary .pdfs. These .pdf files must be configured to meet all of the standards of professional printing presses. Without going into details, I found the learning curve to be steep when I first started creating print-on-demand .pdf files for my own books.

5. One final factor that significantly adds to time it takes to get a POD hardcopy out on the market is interaction that you’ll have with the POD company. Compared with setting up an account on Amazon Kindle Direct, an account with a POD company seems like it takes forever to get going. I use a company called Lightning Source for all of my POD and I highly recommend them. But, like any POD company, there are lots of forms to be filled out. Right now I believe Lightning Source has five or six forms that are part of its account set-up process. Really, that’s not a huge deal but just takes a little longer than setting up with any online store to sell eBooks. One consolation is that the POD company will handle all interaction on your behalf with all online book stores from here on out.

ePub Author Question – What Is a Fair Price For ePub and Print-On-Demand Conversion?

Converting a manuscript to ePub and converting to Print-On-Demand are two completely different animals. This blog article will cover the major parts of each process so you can see what you are paying for.

Creating an ePub

I generally charge $150 for converting a book to ePub. If there is a lot of image work or difficult formatting, I may charge a bit more. Here are the major parts of converting a book to .epub/.mobi:

1. Create a text file containing the book’s content. That usually  is just a simple copy-and-paste the contents into a text file. This can normally be done no matter what format I receive the manuscript in. If I receive the book file as a .pdf, I have to take the additional step of deleting all carriage returns at the end of each line. This can be time consuming for a long book. Inserting the content into a text file removes all formatting. I will later rebuild all formatting with CSS styles.

2. Paste the text file into an HTML editor. An ePub file is actually a mini web site complete with pages of XHTM, a cascading style sheet, and a folder of images or links to images. An HTML editor such as Dreamweaver (I use Microsoft Expression Web) is the best tool to build a web site and also the best tool to build an ePub, which is a mini web site. Each page of HTML code will contain one chapter from the book. I could paste the text into Adobe InDesign but I like to work directly with the HTML and CSS code, which InDesign does not allow.

3. Break all text up into separate paragraphs.

4. Build a CSS style sheet with all formatting styles for paragraphs and characters.

5. Apply all styles to paragraphs and characters.

6. Build the table of contents by applying <H1>, <H2>, and <H3> tags.

7. Copy and paste the style sheet into an ePub editor. My choice of ePub editor is Sigil.

8. Copy and paste the HTML code from the HTML editor into the ePub editor.

9. Resize and sharpen all images in Photoshop. Images should be 72 ppi and no more than 500 pixel wide or tall. The cover image should be somewhere around 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall.

10. Insert all images into the ePub editor.

11. Create the table of contents page, which is a page of HTML bookmarks that link to the chapters.

12. Insert all page breaks with the ePub editor.

There will normally be a lot of feedback from author when I am creating the ePub file. I send the author a link to download a free e-reader (Adobe Digital Editions) so the author can view the ePub document as I am making it. I will normally email the updated ePub file to the author whenever I make any additions or changes.

Creating Print-On-Demand

I generally charge $200 to create the two .pdf files that Print-On-Demand companies require. If there is a lot of image work or difficult formatting, I may charge a bit more. One .pdf file will contain the books contents and the other will contain the cover artwork. These .pd files are not ordinary .pdf files. The files go right to the printers at the Print-On-Demand company. There are numerous detailed specifications that these .pdf files are required to meet in order to be printer-ready. Here is how I create the two .pdf files:

1. Create a text file containing the book’s content. That usually is just a simple copy-and-paste the contents into a text file. This can normally be done no matter what format I receive the manuscript in. If I receive the book file as a .pdf, I have to take the additional step of deleting all carriage returns at the end of each line. This can be time consuming for a long book. Inserting the content into a text file removes all formatting. I will later rebuild all formatting.

2. Paste the text file into a Word document. At this point, the file will be completely without any styling or formatting.

3. Create all formatting with Word formatting tools.

4. Create the table of contents using the table of contents builder in Word.

5. Create any headers and footers that the author wants.

6. Resize and sharpen all images in Photoshop. Print-on-demand requires that all images are 300 ppi and CMYK or Grayscale color mode. I generally try to make sure that all images are no more than 5 inches in width or height.

7. Download cover artwork template from the print-on-demand company. I use Lightning Source for all of my print-on-demand books. I am very satisfied with their service. The cover template is something that is customized based on the number of pages and the type of binding. It can be sent in several types of formats. I request mine as .pdf files.

8. Open the template up in Photoshop and build the cover. This ultimately winds up being a very large file because it must be saved at 300 ppi.

9. Upload the two completed .pdf files to the Print-On-Demand company. If everything is OK with the files, the Print-On-Demand company will send a proof of the book to the author. As soon as the author approves this proof, the Print-On-Demand company will get the book listed in the catalogs of all of their partners, such as Amazon. The Print-On-Demand company handles all aspects of order fulfillment whenever a customers makes a purchase.

There is normally a lot of feedback between myself and the author when I am creating the Print-On-Demand files. I send a copy of the Word file to the author when I make any changes or updates. The authors are generally very involved during the file creation stage.

Print-On-Demand – Another Profitable Way To Sell Your Books on Amazon

It is common knowledge that ebooks are taking over book sales and that hardcopy book sales are going the way of cassettes after CDs came along.

Not so fast……

Hardcopy sales are doing fine. You may be missing out in a big way if you only sell your books as eBooks and not as hardcopies. Most of my own self-published books are sold as both eBooks and as print-on-demand hardcopies in the major online book stores. The eBooks usually sell more units but on some months the hardcopies do outperform the eBooks. My print-on-demand hardcopies have become an excellent source of income every month for me. They can be for you too.

If you are self-publishing and selling eBooks on Amazon Kindle or will be soon be, definitely consider creating a print-on-demand version of your books that will be sold on Amazon in addition to your Kindle eBooks. It was totally worth the effort for me to do this with almost all of my books and it might be for you as well.

Here is what Print-On-Demand is all about:

Print-on-demand services are offered by printing companies to self-publishing authors. In summary, the self-publishing author sends specially formatted .pdf book files to the print-on-demand company. The print-on-demand company takes over everything from there. The print-on-demand company will make sure that the book is listed in the catalogs of all of the major online bookstores, such as Amazon. The print-on-demand company also handles all aspects of printing and shipping the book when a customer places an order with an online bookstore. After the entire transaction is completed, the print-on-demand company will electronically deposit the royalty payment in the self-publishing author’s bank account.

Your book must be converted to two .pdf files for submission to a print-on-demand company. One .pdf file will contain all of the cover artwork and another .pdf file will contain your book’s contents. These .pdf files have very detailed and specific requirements because the print-on-demand company requires both .pdf files to be submitted printer-ready for their professional quality printing presses.

Creating these printer-ready .pdf files requires detailed knowledge of printing standards and also how to implement them in .pdf creation using Adobe Acrobat. All of the book’s images must be configured in Photoshop to be printer-ready as well. Here is a link to a page on my web site which will give you some idea of the requirements that the .pdf file must meet. Scroll down to the bottom of this web page to see the partial list of specifications:


I use the print-on-demand company Lightning Source for all of my print-on-demand books. They have always done prompt and professional work for me. I can definitely recommend them. Lighting Source is the largest company in the print-on-demand business. They are connected with more online book stores than any other print-on-demand company. They used to be Amazon’s recommended partner for print-on-demand. At the time of this writing, Amazon currently uses another company, CreateSpace, as their recommended partner. I don’t know what prompted the change.

I like Lightning Source simply because they do a great job. You can get a quick look at one of my print-on-demand hardcopy books that Lightning Source created in this video, if you are interested in seeing what their work looks like. About 3 minutes into this YouTube video you’ll see one example of a print-on-demand book that Lightning Source makes and sells for me:


A common misconception among authors is that Amazon requires print-on-demand to be done by CreateSpace. Authors can use any print-on-demand company that they want.  My recommendation is Lightning Source because of the excellent and profitable work that they have done for me. I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking CreateSpace because I’m not. I am sure they do excellent work as well. I just have never tried them.

If you are interested in finding out more about print-on-demand for your books, feel free to email with any questions at my email address shown above, which is mark@epubandebookhelp.com .