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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.