I have a spreadsheet with the formulas for calculating costs of printing books at Lightning Source (LSI), CreateSpace, and Lulu. Let me show you the per-book printing cost for each:
300 pages, paperback, 5.5″ × 8.5″
$ 4.80 LSI
$ 5.10 CreateSpace Pro Plan
$ 7.00 Lulu (publisher grade paper)
$10.50 Lulu (standard paper)
650 pages, paperback, 5.5″ × 8.5″
$ 9.35 LSI
$ 9.30 CreateSpace Pro Plan
$12.25 Lulu (publisher grade paper)
$17.50 Lulu (standard paper)
Note that LSI has a setup fee per title of $75 and an annual catalog fee of $12 per title. CreateSpace’s Pro Plan has a one-time fee per title of $39, then $5 annually.
With LSI, distribution through Amazon and Ingram is automatic. You can set your discount as low as 20%.
With CreateSpace, distribution through Amazon requires a 40% discount.
With Lulu, you have to purchase one of their distribution plans for $25 or $75, or use one of their ISBNs. If you use their ISBN, they are the publisher.
Lulu also has publisher plans which offer “discounted printing, discounted shipping, discounted publishing services, preferred customer service levels, expanded site branding and more!” These plans are available for upfront fees of $2,500 or $5,000. Hmmmph.
Lulu has an online Retail Book Cost Calculator.
A 300-page paperback, size A5 (5.83″ × 8.27″), with the royalty* set at $1 and printing cost of $7.50, has a list price of $17.50. Is that price competitive with similar titles? Is $1 per book going to cover your production (less printing) costs? No? Then–oops, at $5 royalty* the list price is $27.50!
CreateSpace pricing is at CreateSpace Royalty* Calculator.
A 300-page paperback, size 5.5″ × 8.5″, listed at $17.00 on Amazon gives a royalty* of $5.75 (Pro Plan).
I have printed books through Lulu, and I was satisfied with their service and production. Lulu’s fine if you only need a dozen or so copies. But I don’t think it’s the best route for profitable publishing.
* BAH! AUTHORS GET ROYALTIES, NOT PUBLISHERS