I recently posted this on the AuthorMingle page on Facebook in response to a newbie's question. It seems right to post it here, too.
Four important warnings:
(1) Lulu charges MUCH more for printing than other companies, particularly CreateSpace and Lightning Source. To make an adequate profit you’ll probably set a higher retail price—which could make your book uncompetitive.
(2) Beware of companies that don’t provide distribution to booksellers.
DiggyPOD can produce excellent books and will ship cartons to you or to any place you specify. However, the company has no system to make your books available to booksellers.
UniBook says, “Your book is instantly available for purchase worldwide in the UniBook online bookstore.” Unfortunately, like DiggyPOD, UniBook has no way to get your books to stores or online booksellers, and its books are very expensive.
InstantPublisher has a helpful website, but no distribution to booksellers and its minimum order quantity is 25 books. Other companies—such as CreateSpace—have no minimum.
Maverick Publications says it provides “full-service book printing” and “self-publishing.” Its prices are MUCH higher than Lightning Source or CreateSpace, it takes MUCH longer, and has no distribution.
(3) Smashwords provides broad distribution of ebooks but is difficult to work with. Books sometimes get badly mangled.
(4) I’ve heard good things about BookBaby and I was going to try it for an ebook. Then I read: “In about four to six weeks, your eBook is up for sale..." That delay was a deal breaker.
And some recommendations:
(1) If you will format your own ebook, Amazon's KDP is fast, easy and free.
(2) If you want a company to format your ebook and provide broad distribution, eBookIt is fast, competent, supportive, responsive and inexpensive.
(3) The two companies that provide most on-demand printing and book distribution for self-publishers are Lightning Source (“LS” or “LSI”) and CreateSpace (“CS”).
LS can provide more income per book. However, it’s less expensive to start a book and make corrections with CS—and CS is easier for beginners to work with.
CS is owned by Amazon.com. Both companies can provide automatic book availability to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and many other booksellers.
You’ll probably encounter online criticism of both LS and CS. Each one has enthusiastic supporters and detractors. I’ve used both companies and can’t say that one is consistently better than the other. Most books from both companies are good enough, and both companies make occasional bad books.
(from my new book, 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice)