Some of these platforms beyond Amazon are relatively untapped, so if you’re into self publishing low content books, you’re going to want to pay attention.
Just In Case You Don’t Know…
Low content books include journals, diaries, planners, notebooks, activity books, puzzle books, and much more.
If you are looking into self publishing low content books, make sure you check each platform’s policies on low content books since they can and will change without notice.
Make sure you check how they handle ISBNs because some may require that you purchase your own for low content books.
As someone truly interested in publishing quality low content books, stick around and read this entire article because you don’t want to miss what I have to say about a company called BookBolt that makes creating these books dead simple!
It doesn’t even matter if you have ZERO tech experience and your’re brand new to the business of self-publishing.
1. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
By far, KDP is the most popular of all the options, and the one I recommend you start with first to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing.
You can publish both paperback and hardcover books on this platform. Hardcover is still in beta, so there are some limits, but it’s still available.
They do not currently offer a jacket option.
They offer 16 trim sizes for paperback, and 5 for hardcover. I’m sure that will expand in due time.
You have two options for paper:
- 55 lb
- 60 lb
The 60 lb is great for the premium full color option. You can choose from black and white and standard color.
Price increases with standard and premium color options, but that doesn’t come out of your pocket. It comes out of the customer’s pocket as part of the cost of the book.
Print options always include a baseline price that includes printing cost and you’re unable to set your price below that threshold. This is standard with all print-on-demand platforms, so just know that’s the case.
With KDP, you can get your paperback into 12 Amazon stores, but you will not get expanded distribution for your low content books. I’ll cover why that is a little later on.
You’ll only get in 10 stores with your hardcover, and since it’s still in beta, I imagine distribution will eventually match other print options in the future.
You get 60% of the sale as a royalty minus the printing fees. This usually comes to around 35% to 50% of the sale as a general rule.
Fair warning: KDP does NOT like duplicate interiors. You risk suspension and/or termination if you just upload the same interior with different covers.
How do you avoid it?
Use BookBolt to easily whip together different designs. Just make sure you customize each interior, so you stay in KDP’s good graces.
The print quality of Barnes & Noble Press is second to none.
You have some extra options here as well. You have paperback, hardcover with printed case, and hardcover with dust jacket.
There are about 20 trim sizes for the various formats, give or take.
For paper, you can choose from 50 lb cream or white, and 70 lb white. Print colors include black and white, standard color, and premium color.
Here’s the catch: distribution is U.S. only.
For royalties, you get 55% minus printing fees.
This includes LuLu Publishing or LuLu Press…everything except Lululemon. That’s a completely different company!
With LuLu, you get paperback, hardcover, hardcover with dust jacket, and wait for it…spiral bound. Not all types get distribution, though, so make sure you check with support if you want to do something different. For example, you can’t get spiral bound books on Amazon.
There are 17 trim sizes available, not including specialty products like calendars.
LuLu provides templates and thorough instructions all on their platform, so you shouldn’t get stuck not knowing what to do.
They have 60 lb white and cream paper and 80 lb white. They also have 100 lb white for calendars only.
Unlike other platforms, they offer a standard and premium black and white alongside their standard and premium color options.
LuLu’s distribution covers Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram besides the LuLu bookstore itself.
For royalties, you get 50% of the gross revenue. Essentially, they mean you get any money left over from Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. You get 80% from sales in the LuLu store, and LuLu takes 20%.
Heads up: LuLu only pays out quarterly, not monthly like other platforms.
That’s really my one gripe with LuLu, but their print quality is stellar.
IngramSpark has its limitations. They do not want blank books, sketchbooks, or journals on their platform.
They make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for activity books, puzzle books, and workbooks. You’ll need to contact support to confirm if they will accept your low content book on their platform.
Be specific. If you just say “low content book”, they’re going to say “no, thank you.”
Explain your book in detail.
IngramSpark has paperback, hardcover, and hardcover with canvas cover and dust jacket to choose from.
With all the different options, you can choose from 29 trim sizes.
They have cream or white paper, but they also have something completely new to print-on-demand called groundwood.
It’s a 38 lb paper option with limited distribution in the U.S. and U.K. It runs a little cheaper than other options. Definitely order a proof if you go for the groundwood paper just to be sure everything is quality.
For black and white and standard color, you get 50 lb paper. For premium color, they use 70 lb.
IngramSpark’s distribution is the best out there. They reach over 40,000 online retailers, libraries, institutions, and bookstores. Of course, there’s a catch!
Not every distributor will want to take your low content books. You may get on IngramSpark only to have Walmart say no.
It is what it is.
The royalty structure is very interesting. It’s 45 to 65% minus printing fees. You set the wholesale discount level to determine your payout.
Warning: Do not enable returns if you can’t afford to cover the cost.
If a customer buys a bunch of your low content books and returns all of them, you have to eat that cost. IngramSpark is the only platform that does this.
I’m not a big fan of how they handle this.
Finally, they also charge a $49 upload fee. Before you count them out completely, you can waive that fee if you use the coupon code dale2022. You can only use that once; however, subscribe to my channel to make sure you get notified when I get a new code!
How to Use BookBolt for Self Publishing Low Content Books
It’s super easy to create custom low content books with BookBolt Studio. Check it out.
Once you’ve created your account, open up BookBolt Studio and choose Paperback with the cover.
Enter your preferred size.
Choose the interior and paper type.
Choose bleed or no bleed. If you want edge-to-edge graphics, choose bleed. If you want clean margins, choose no bleed.
Enter your page count and click Create Project.
Grab a royalty-free image right inside the BookBolt interface and add some text.
Insert your interior. Make sure to create variations and unique qualities so your work stands out.
Click Project and select Download this project.
That’s it! Easy, right?
If you want to get BookBolt for yourself, visit my link and use the coupon code DALE20 to get 20% off for the duration that your account is open.
Now on to the second half of our program here! I’ll bet 99% of you don’t know about these and haven’t used them.
Blurb has paperback, hardcover, and hardcover with a dust jacket available.
They keep things pretty basic and only offer 3 trim sizes. It’s the most popular ones:
You can select from white or cream 50 lb paper or the premium 70 lb option.
You can print in black and white or color in standard or economy.
Blurb’s distribution is a lot like LuLu’s in that they only have 4 different avenues: Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, and the Blurb bookstore.
I can’t figure out their royalty structure. I’ve reached out via support, but heard nothing back. It’s 100% minus printing fees in the Blurb bookstore, which is awesome. However, for the rest, they simply don’t mention on their website what the royalty percentages are.
This one’s very interesting. With PublishDrive, there’s no revenue share required. In other words, you’re not splitting your royalties with them.
Instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee of $24.99 per month or $249.99 per year for 6 books. They lower the fees for more books.
So, you have to put your money where your mouth is and produce stellar low content books.
You can get started free with a 14-day free trial.
They only offer paperback for now in 28 trim sizes.
They don’t go into specifics regarding paper choices, but it’s probably comparable to other platforms.
They distribute to 3 areas: Amazon, Ingram, and then a random Chinese distributor that I’ll discuss in a moment.
Royalties vary by distributor. Amazon gives 50%, Ingram is 45% if you get accepted and you still have to split it with them. Honestly, if you want distribution through Ingram, just go through them directly.
The thing that is unique about PublishDrive if the CNPE reading platform. This is the Chinese distributor that includes 3 online retailers and thousands of libraries. You get 50% royalty with them.
Print-on-demand merch companies are a dime a dozen and most of them have some type of journal/diary/book option. I’m talking about platforms like RedBubble, Zazzle, and Society6. For brevity, I’m going to focus on RedBubble because that’s the platform where I’ve actually had some results.
They have 2 types of print books:
- Hardcover journals
- Spiral notebooks
The journals are roughly 5×8 and the notebooks are about 5.8×8.3.
They don’t specify paper. It’s pretty standard and thin. The interiors are lined, graph, or blank. With something like RedBubble, there is no flexibility. What you see is what you get.
You show up with your own image, slap it on the cover, and you’re ready to rock.
Interiors print in black and white and distribution is in 10 regions, including, but not limited to, U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, and more.
Your royalties will depend on what you set as your markup on the base cost for the product. The hardcover journal has a base cost of $19.09 for 128 pages, so you’re going to have to kick that up a bit more.
For the spiral notebooks, the base cost is $11.75 for 120 pages.
8. LuLu Direct
LuLu has a couple of different options that may interest you in addition to their regular publishing stuff.
LuLu Direct is for when you have your own website where you want to sell your books.
You get pretty much all the same options, but you remove the middleman.
This means that LuLu only charges you for print fulfillment and shipping. There’s no revenue share for sales made through your own site. That means you get 100% of the revenue minus printing and shipping fees.
You may have run across this as LuLu Express, but it is now LuLu Direct. The LuLu Direct app integrates with Shopify and WooCommerce.
For those who don’t know, Shopify is an ecommerce platform where you build a online store. WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that makes your WordPress website into an online store. Shopify is a monthly subscription and WooCommerce is free.
9. LuLu API
LuLu API is essentially the same as LuLu Direct minus the easy do-it-yourself integration.
To use an API, you need specialized knowledge or you’ll have to hire a web developer. This is where things start to get really expensive.
LuLu API is intended more for companies with deeper budgets and a long-term marketing plan that will recoup the initial investment.
For regular self-publishers like myself, and probably you as well, this is a risky in my humble opinion. I would say if you want to use LuLu to sell directly, definitely use the LuLu Direct option with WooCommerce. There’s no real risk involved there and the distribution in their words is “our global network of printers can send your book to over 150 countries around the world.”
The big thing about this option is that you get paid immediately, unlike the quarterly model LuLu uses with their regular self-publishing service.
You simply remit payment to LuLu through your ecommerce platform to cover printing and shipping. They fulfill the order.
Now the downside…
Fulfillment takes FOREVER. Be sure to let customers on your website know it’s going to be at least 4 to 8 weeks. In fact, consider ordering a copy and seeing how long it takes. Then add on a couple of weeks just to be safe.
Amazon’s 2-day shipping has set a very high bar, so you’ll have to tiptoe around that a bit.
Print quality is stellar and on a par with Barnes & Noble.
10. Local Offset Printers
To put it bluntly, this is a gamble, but it could be a gamble in your favor.
You can try a service like PufferPrint or even check out your local offset printers in your area.
Get samples before you invest in a large print run. This is going to be costly, so be sure you can get what you want and that you can sell it.
Everything is under your control. You decide the trim size, paper type, print color, and more. It’s limitless.
Distribution is up to you. You’re the seller! You choose where to distribute. It could be Shopify or WooCommerce. You could even become an Amazon seller and send your already printed books into the Amazon warehouse.
The royalty structure is going to be better than any print-on-demand platform as long as you aren’t spending more on printing than you would on a platform. If you are, you’re doing it wrong! You’re probably printing with the wrong people.
It’s a big gamble. You have to know how to sell books for it to work in your favor.
What Are Your Thoughts on Self Publishing Low Content Books
How do you do it? What’s work for you? What’s not? Let us know in the comments. You never know when your comment could help a fellow self-publisher and, in this day and age, that’s huge.