Printing Your Book With CreateSpace: Part III


This is Part III of a three-part series on my attempt to print my short story collection, one bad twelve, using Amazon’s CreateSpace method. Part I covered many of the basics; Part II covered the “short list” of tips and tricks that helped me get my title to CreateSpace.

In many ways, this is the easiest part of the CreateSpace process and is more about reporting than tips or tricks. Once I’d been through the formatting and artwork (cover) stages of my book, much of the “creative” process was over. There are still a few issues that might be of interest to writers new to the print format, however.

Proofing
Upon uploading your final file to CreateSpace, your book will go through a review process by CS staff. Do not assume this is for error checking, however. In my case, though I had a relatively error-free submission, what they caught was the fact that I had put “CreateSpace Edition” in the front matter of my text. They scrubbed this out, saying that they would not allow any indication that CS was the publisher of the work (in my naiveté, I was simply trying to indicate that this was my print edition). However, they did not catch (nor suggested they would catch) many small errors, such as missing chapter spacing wingdings (“.   .   .”) or other mistakes. This review is to protect CS, not the author.

Upon passing the review, you are offered several methods for “proofing” or error-checking your work:

  • Digital proofing (allows online proofing)
  • Downloading a custom .PDF for proofing
  • Ordering a print copy for proofing (the real deal, aside from the last page of the book which says “PROOF” in large letters). CreateSpace offers several shipping options. I went with the standard shipping (7-10 days) to save some cash, but–amazingly–the proof was in my hands in 3 days. Same thing with my second proof (I had substantial changes to the first).

This is the last chance to catch any errors. The temptation, of course, is to just glance over it then give CS the green light to print it. But do yourself a favor and give it a thorough going-over or–better yet–give it to someone else to look for errors.

Some things that tripped me up at this stage:

  • As I mentioned in Part II, Word reverses the page layout that you’ll see vs. actual. If you have differing header information (e.g., Book Title on the left, Chapter or Short Story Title on the right), double check that it printed correctly.
  • Pay special attention to blank pages and front matter starting on proper pages. Traditionally, title pages, Contents, and first pages start on the right.
  • If you make substantial edits, double check your Contents page numbers. You probably entered them manually, so make sure you aren’t off by a page or two because you cut out a paragraph somewhere down the line in this round of edits and corrections.
  • Certain letters in a serif font (e.g., Garamond) have drop caps that create long “tails”. R’s, for instance, have tails that dribble into the printed text. If you’re a stickler for details, check each drop cap for spacing.
  • Check for widows and orphans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widows_and_orphans)

It isn’t fun, but if you’ve caught a substantial number of errors, do yourself a favor and order a second print copy. You’ll see more clearly with the project in print…I know I did.

Pricing & Distribution
When you’ve checked your proof, you can simply login to your CS account and confirm that the proof is fine. At this point, you’re through the final gate and can begin selling the print copy of your book. But you do have two important decisions to make: Standard or Expanded distribution and Pricing.

In Standard Distribution, which is free, CreateSpace makes your title available in two channels: Amazon.com (including automatic linking to the e-book, if it exisits*) and a CreateSpace “eStore”. The eStore is a simple webpage for your book that has your cover, a description, and a CS shopping cart that handles customer purchases (check mine out here). I think of the eStore simply as a way for your customers to go direct to the printer as opposed to a distributor (Amazon, in this case).

The important difference for the writer is that you get a higher royalty from customers who go to the eStore as opposed to buying it on Amazon. For the customer, the price is the same and the only major difference is that Amazon Prime members cannot use their free shipping on eStore purchases.

For a one-time fee of $25, CS will set you up with Expanded Distribution. In addition to Amazon.com and your eStore (above), your title will also be made available to bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and independent booksellers that only buy wholesale. Because these channels expect (and need) a deep discount in order to sell your book, your royalty on each book is severely decreased when sold through these entities (see Pricing, below).

*I found it odd that CS did not allow me to manually link my ebook and print version together, but the automatic linking only took a few days.

Other issues

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • The Standard Distribution category allows you to set Discount Codes that you can hand out to preferred customers (for a sale or a bookseller, for instance) in either dollars- or percentage-off. The discount can never dip below the threshold price (see below).
  • Different royalty rates – I understand that picking Expanded Distribution alters the royalty rates at all levels, but since I didn’t choose Standard, I don’t what the differences are. If you know, please share in the Comments section.

Pricing
The price you set is entirely under your control, but there are several restrictions, the most important of which are your threshold price as set by CreateSpace and your own take-home royalty rate as determined by the different distribution channels you choose. The threshold is the lowest price you can set that still allows CS to cover their costs (you make $0 at the threshold and can’t go lower).

I priced my short story collection one bad twelve at $11.99 for several different reasons:

  • My “threshold” was $8.90.
  • I wanted to keep the overall price low enough to seem affordable and $11.99 stays out of the “teens” ($13.99, 15.99, etc.)
  • I elected to go for Expanded Distribution and wanted to make at least $1 per copy.

When it’s all laid out, at a price point of $11.99, I make:

CreateSpace eStore $6.03
Amazon.com $3.63
Expanded Distribution $1.23

Obviously, I want to steer my customers towards my eStore, as I’ll make twice as much. I could even give a $2 discount to help defray the cost of shipping and still make slightly more.

Self-copies
Another nice benefit of CS is that the offer Member copies (i.e., ordering your own book) at cost + shipping. So I can buy my book, which costs $11.99 retail, for $3.56. Shipping for a single copy is $3.50, but the price goes down with larger orders (sorry, I haven’t done the math, but a recent order of 10 copies only cost $1.80 per). If you have a signing or know a bookstore/distributor personally, you could make an amazing percentage by selling direct.

Summary
That’s my CreateSpace adventure to date. I remain new to the attempt however, and still am not sure how to distribute to or attract the online retailers into picking up my book (the ebook of one bad twelve, for instance, is available at Barnes & Noble…how do I get them to notice the print version?). As I bumble my way through this mess, I hope to share what I’ve learned.

As a last word: if you’re even considering printing your own book, do it. There is really nothing like holding a stack of your own books which–if you’ve taken care to perfect the writing, layout, and design of the book–looks as good, if not better, than anything you’ll find on a book store shelf.

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Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Tips for eAuthors
17 comments on “Printing Your Book With CreateSpace: Part III
  1. char says:

    I’m slogging through this process right now too. I noticed that on your estore, it only sells the print edition. Can you make it have your ebook as well? And did you have to do anything special to link up your print and ebook through Amazon, since to do it free, I had to do CreateSpace for my print edition and kdp.amazon for my e-edition? I’m still waiting for my proof book to get here. Mine, unfortunately is on the 4th day (and I’m dying to get it).

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Char – Thanks for stopping by. I don’t believe the eStore can be changed to sell the ebook…Amazon and CreateSpace are integrated, but only to a certain extent and it doesn’t seem to include this.

      Regarding linking the two: as I mention in the post, it’s strange that Amazon doesn’t give you the ability to manually link your ebook with the print version so that there’s less chance of error as well as getting it done quicker. But they handle the whole thing. In my case, it only took a few days and was accurate. CS for print, KDP/Author Central for ebook is the norm.

      The system is open to abuse, however; see David Gaughran’s recent run-in with a scammer who scraped his ebook and began selling a print version without Dave’s consent. The “print version” was automatically linked to Dave’s legit ebook, which had many high-starred reviews, thereby leeching the integrity of the ebook. This could not/would not have happened if auto-linking weren’t the norm.

      Best of luck with your print version! It shoudn’t be long now and is worth the wait!

      • char says:

        Thanks for the tips, Matthew. I had seen a spot where you could pay Createspace to make an ebook out of your print book and have them automatically linked, but I had already done everything needed for formatting an ebook, and didn’t want to pay. I’m glad to know that they linked the two for you. Hopefully they’ll do the same to mine (I hate when print and ebooks aren’t linked together–which I find a lot). Oh, and I forgot to tell you before, but your description of your short story book is amazing. I loved it. When I get through a few of my other books, I’m definitely going to have to give yours a try (and I’ll try not to write a infuriating review about how I don’t like suspense crime stories).

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thanks, so much, Char! I’m glad you like ONE BAD’s blurb…I find them difficult to write, actually. Please let me know how your CS adventure goes…I’ll be printing all of my future book-length projects and the more information, the better.

  2. jakeescholl says:

    When I get ready to publish, I’ll keep CS in mind. 🙂 Thanks for this series of posts.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Jake – Thanks for hanging out. I’m glad you liked the series…I hope they help you when you decide to go to print! Feel free to drop me a line here or matt.iden AT matthew-iden.com if you have any questions. Can’t guarantee answers, but I can try.

  3. […] one bad twelve printed through Amazon’s CreateSpace program (I document it here: Part I, Part II, Part III). The process is easy, quick, and frankly pretty fun when you get the final product in your hands. […]

  4. yoga-adan says:

    matthew, what an extremely useful series, esp for me, ubber printed-copy beginner 😉

    i have a couple of questions, you may have answered them already, but am dazed-brained i think 😉

    anyways, one, i have a generated toc file in my original file, plus one i created myself, with links to each chapter & heading (each of my poems is a heading within a topic chapter, ie, baseball / pitching

    for the createspace pdf, do i delete the app generated toc? and just keep my own created one?

    and two, i have only a couple of pictures in this particular book, and i can easily convert them to b&w (not worth paying for a color book for just these two images) but will they convert to pdf, or am i better off without the pic?

    the pic are “useful” but not essential

    thanks again matt; if you wish to email me, please send to yoga dot adan at gmail dot com

    thanks 😉

    adan

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Adan – Thanks for coming by! To answer your questions:

      1. Unless it’s a huge pain, if you’re making a print copy from your existing e-copy, I would do some things manually. For a TOC, for instance, I would not use the software-generated TOC and instead do it myself so that I could control exactly how it looked (you can design the TOC to be any way you want it to, then). Obviously, you’ll have to add page numbers back into the book, as well. In your case, just use the TOC you created yourself.

      2. I think the pictures should be fine (and you’re right about B&W). It depends on what software you use to convert your document to .pdf, but you *should* have explicit control on how it looks in the final .pdf before you send it to CreateSpace. Just review how they come out; if you use a sophisticated .pdf converter like Acrobat Pro, dig into the Image Properties and see how it compresses/converts the files. Try a few different conversions to see, but then be sure to check out CreateSpace’s own .pdf previewer once you upload as your final check.

      Good luck!

      • yoga-adan says:

        great info! matt, thank you!

        definitely will go with my own toc then; i guess i’ll need to see how the pages play, then add back the page numbers, but that’s ok

        at least i’m making progress 😉

        thanks again matt

  5. thinkaboutit says:

    I’d think twice about using CreateSpace. Several of the paperback books I’d ordered fell a part. Some after a signing and customers complained to me. Beyond 60 days and the retailer refuses to replace these damaged books. I think it’s poor quality. New books shouldn’t fall apart. For the money and time I’ve put in to this company, they should work harder for me. Looks like I need another (better) publishing agent.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Think – thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear about your experiences with CS. I’ve ordered two sets of books so far and they’ve been okay, but of course your’re talking about longevity, so we’ll see if they last down the road.

      If you do find another company with better production values (Lulu, Lightning Source, etc.) please let me know. I imagine everyone’s cutting costs to remain competitive with large publishers that run off 50,000 paperbacks and retail them for $7.99. It’ll be interesting to see how POD can keep pace with mainstream publishers as move forward.

  6. Heron says:

    Great bit of Information, Matthew. My concerns are around the quality of CS’s softcovers. Inside and out, do they look and feel ‘professional’?

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Heron – Thanks for stopping by. My experience has been good. The covers (which I do myself) are true to the graphic files I’ve sent, the interior layout and print seems spot on. The paper quality is fine (certainly better than pulpy paperbacks by far) and the covers are glossy.

      My only gripe so far might be that the “cut” is a little off…if you buy 10 copies of your book and stack them together, there is a slight variation in their trim size (like, by millimeters), so they aren’t perfectly uniform. But this is a concession I can live with for all the other great services.

      As for longevity (as thinkaboutit points out, above, in his comments), I can’t really say. My “oldest” print is of my short story collection ONE BAD TWELVE, and that’s only a few months old. They’ve held up fine over 4-5 months, but I can’t speak to 1 year+. CS also offers a hardback service, but I didn’t look into that…not sure demand will prove sufficient.

      Hope that helps! Please keep up the dialogue as you try CS yourself and/or have information!

  7. chickybus says:

    Hi. Quick question. Is is possible for me to have my first few proofs sent to me through my regular Amazon account, which is ‘Prime,’ meaning I’d get free shipping? Or do I have to do it through CreateSpace and pay for shipping?

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Chicky – Unfortunately, although owned by Amazon, Createspace does its own shipping separately, so you can’t use Prime. Proofs seem to run about $3-4 for me (the printer is in South Carolina, I’m in Virginia, so may vary for you). Don’t let that stop you, though: there’s no substitute for physical proofs (the PDF proof they provide is a nice-to-have, but doesn’t come close to revealing errors and the overall feel of your book, like type size, gutters, etc.)

      The no-Prime also applies to readers who buy your books through CS–you get a higher royalty, but your readers can’t apply Prime to their shipping, so it can be challenging to get them there. One way to sweeten the deal: CS allows authors to create coupons codes that you could hand out as a subsidy to help with shipping and, with the higher royalty, still make more per book than if they bought it on Amazon directly.

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