Thursday, 3 July 2014

How to publish on Createspace - the process explained, with screenshots

Hi all!

Hope you're well. Big moment today for The Tainted Crown - I just ordered the paperback proof copy. Exciting times! I should have it in the next week. I thought anyway that I would post about using Amazon Createspace, the print on demand service I chose to publish my paperback with.

I won't go into the pros and cons of all print on demand services - I compared several, and for my needs, Createspace just edged out in front of the others. Instead, I want to share the process with you from an inside view - I had no idea what it looked like before I tried it and I really would have liked to, so I do hope this is useful. :-)

(n.b. these snapshots have just been taken - after the process - but the interface is much the same as before, only it tells me if I need to make changes I'll have to reproof everything. Click any image for the large version).

So first of all after signing up for Createspace and creating a new title, you start off with this entire checklist of various things needing attention (below). You can see that now most of the options are nice green ticks, which means I've addressed them. :-)

When you start the process, it just takes you through these in order, so it's very easy to follow. You can save and leave at any point (which I did) to come back and find all your information saved.

 First, you input the basic information about the book (below). After this point you can input/be assigned your ISBN number, which I'm keeping under wraps for now ;-)

After this, you choose what size your book will be, what paper type (white/cream - cream is better for fiction, white for nonfiction), and input your text file (below). Createspace has an amazing interior reviewer that also highlights errors - for example I received "You have 2 errors in this file". It tells you what the error is and where in the book it is.

So for example the two I received were in relation to non-embedded fonts (that I'd used for my chapter headers) not being used properly (I had to embed them in word and reupload the file - easy fix), and then the map of Caledan I'd placed was outside the idea area of the book (which was intentional, so again, easy fix, but if not, I could have easily resized the image and reuploaded the text file).

Really really easy to use fantastic tool - you can see some snapshots below in the proof reviewer which is almost identical, just without the error warnings and with the cover image. I ended up uploading about 5 versions in the end, having to make a couple of tweaks and just seeing what worked best.

After the text file has been uploaded and reviewed it's time for the cover - which can be matte or laminate in finish. Now they do have a cover creator, where you use their premade covers and edit them to your liking, but if I'm honest, they looked really shoddy in quality so I opted to keep my own. That meant I needed to create an exactly sized print ready PDF file.

My book was 8" tall x 5.25". My bookspine, at 460 cream pages, would be 1.15" wide (yes you have to work this out but it's not so bad once you get your head around what they're asking for!) Around each edge you need a bleed of 0.125". So total file height needs to be:

0.125" + 8" + 0.125" = 8.25"

Total file width is the bleed on either edge, plus the width of the back cover, spine and front cover, so:

0.125" + 5.25" + 1.15" + 5.25" + 0.125" = 11.9"

Createspace create a really handy template that I was able to use to double check my file as I was preparing it (below). You do have to uncheck/delete/hide the template once you save your file for upload... otherwise your book cover will be printed out with the template guidelines too! What you upload is exactly what's printed on your book.

The template (which you custom generate based on your book specs)
My book cover - with template superimposed.

My book cover - without the template superimposed.
After uploading all this, it's time for a file review! Createspace take up to 24 hours to review your file to check it's ok for printing (though I have no idea whether this is checked by humans, robots, monkeys or unicorns) and after this you can proof via the interior reviewer again, or by ordering a proof copy - I've done both.

The proof copy by the fastest shipping method will take about a week (2 days shipping + 5 days estimated printing time.... this is really important to remember with createspace... whatever shipping option you pick doesn't include printing time.... even the 31 day option! That proof would have reached me in mid August... a bit late!)

Here's some photos of the virtual proofing tool Createspace offer - again, almost identical to the earlier file reviewer.

Just like reading a real book! ... Only not haha. It looks good, anyway. You can check absolutely every detail of every page which is fantastic. I've ordered a proof to be safe rather than sorry - everything looks fine on the screen, but you never know.

Whilst you're waiting for the proof to be approved, you can set up your distribution channels and pricing (below). Expanded distribution used to cost, but as it's now free, you might as well tick those options too. This has no impact on the minimum price/cost price of the book in GBP and Euro. If you remove the expanded distribution option, the minimum USD list price reduces to $10.32, that's all. So really, as there's no way to reduce costs in the GBP and Euro markets, you might as well use expanded distribution.

For pricing, Createspace helpfully list the cost price of each book (below). This is the price it costs to make and distribute your book and you can't set the list price below that amount (as, if you did, you'd be paying Amazon instead of them paying you for every sale!). As you can see, because of the size of the book, my list prices are very high.

It's cheaper for me to buy my own copies and sell them ($6.39/copy /or roughly £3.87 + shipping which makes the cost price to me between £5-7), however the number 1 golden rule of self publishing is DON'T sink money into buying hundreds/thousands/*insert ridiculous number of copies here* of your book. They simply won't shift (unless you can procure a miracle).

That's the beauty of print on demand services - someone wants, they receive, you get paid - you have no hassle. No stress tying to sell all your books to make sure you can pay the bills or whatever. The downside is that... well.. you can see the difference in prices.

You can see, if I set those list prices (which are based on a UK list price of £9.99 to cover costs, multiplied up at the current USD and EU Euro exchange rates) just how little actually comes back to me. As a Createspace author, you get a % of whatever the list prices is AFTER deducting the production/distribution costs.
The market is heavily weighted towards US authors/readers as Createspace is a US business. So sell more in the US, make more, essentially. But it's not so favourable in the UK and Europe (yet). Hopefully that will change and I can lower my list prices.
Ultimately I don't expect many sales of the paperback. However, it looks good to have a paperback copy out - more professional, and it makes the ebooks more competitively priced when compared to the print book's list price. Also, for those who are hardcore paper fans, there's the option there - they're not forced to ebooks/forced not read the book.
Plus it means I can also have copies of my own book (ok, there's a little vanity involved!), and give these way to both family/friends and potential readers/reviewers/movers and shakers in the indie publishing world. It can open a world of possibilities.

That's really it, anyway! I hope you enjoyed this, I hope you found it informative, and I would love to hear your thoughts on anything about indie publishing, createspace, print on demand, and so on!

Ciao for now,



Just an update on this post. I ordered proof copy #1 on Thursday morning at 8am. By 2pm it had been printed and shipped. Very impressed! Unfortunately, their 2 day shipping is 2 business days, so it didn't arrive until Monday, but considering it was printed in the US and I'm in the UK, it's still a pretty fast turnaround as it was in my local depot by Saturday morning at 7am!

In any case, the proof was exceptionally helpful. The interior text needed a little fixing - the line spacing was just too big (which you can't tell - or I couldn't - by using the interior reviewers). The same was true for the back cover blurb - too big, too spaced out and too close to the margins/edge of the cover. I fixed those, resubmitted the files and reordered a proof.

Proof #2 was ordered the following Thursday morning after Proof #1 at 7am. By 9am (yes, seriously, how the heck do they manage this!?) it was printed and shipped. Fingers crossed it arrives Monday!

So yes. Definitely buy a physical proof copy! It's much better to see things in person than on the PC screen, despite the awesomeness of their interior reviewer! 

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