Adventures in CreateSpace – Chris Longmuir

I’ve been publishing to Kindle since March 2011, with a reasonable amount of success, and with great satisfaction. Like many others before me I’d come to the conclusion I was flogging a dead horse (excuse the cliché but that’s the way my mind works in the blogosphere), by pursuing a traditional deal with a traditional publisher. Been there, done that, worn the teeshirt, I thought, before embarking wholeheartedly into the wonders of the electronic world and eBooks.
So now I’ve been adventuring in the electronic world for all of 20 months, what on earth would induce me to dip my toes back into the print world?
Don’t worry, folks, my original decision stands – I’m done with the traditional route to publish my books. However, I’m often asked to talk to groups, library, women’s, church, ad infinitum. Now one thing that arises every time I give a talk is ‘Where can we get the paperback?’ And I always have to say, there is no paperback, haven’t you thought about getting an eReader. And that always comes back with a resounding ‘No, we like paper books.’
So, eventually I gave in. My readers are demanding paperbacks, so it’s my job to provide them. Now, I know full well that if I go back down the traditional route, the publisher will want my electronic rights as well. And that is one thing I don’t want to do. I definitely don’t want to relinquish my electronic rights. So that only leaves one avenue, self publishing.
Now there has always been a bit of a stigma around self publishing, and I find authors who still publish the traditional way can be among the most disapproving. They forget that many famous writers were originally self published. Writers like – Mark Twain, Zane Grey, James Joyce, D H Lawrence, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling – I could go on and on.
Maybe part of my reluctance to go down the paperback route was partly to do with that stigma, because self publishing on Kindle didn’t really seem like self publishing in the true sense of the word, but if I published a paperback I would truly be a self publisher.
My desire to satisfy my readers, however, soon overcame that last vestige of reluctance, and I looked about to see how I could do it. The one proviso I gave myself was that I would not pay for my book to be published, because to me that smacked a bit of vanity publishing, something that has an even greater stigma. So I looked around the POD publishers and settled on CreateSpace, although I had heard that having your books shipped from the US cost an arm and a leg (cliché again, sorry folks).
I found the procedure relatively simple by using one of the templates CreateSpace make available. I copied and pasted my book into the template, chapter by chapter, as per instructions, but the biggest decision at this point was the font. Which one would I use? I tried several but the ones I liked didn’t have curly quotes, and I do like them curly! So I came back to the tried and tested Times New Roman with a 2 point leading which gives a bit of extra space between the lines.
Oh, and I didn’t take their advice in respect of the most popular format which they said was a 6x9 size with white pages, because when I looked round my bookshelves I couldn’t find any books that fitted this criteria. Books were mostly 8 x 5 or 8.5 x 5.5, and they all had cream pages. So, based on the size of Dead Wood, I decided on the 8.5 x 5.5 size with cream pages, and the resulting book exceeded my expectations.
The next stage was to decide whether I wanted a CreateSpace ISBN which is supplied free, but it makes CreateSpace the publisher. Now, being the independent person I am, otherwise known as an awkward sod, I decided I didn’t want to be beholden to CreateSpace, so I went the alternative route and bought my own ISBNs. This meant I also had to make myself a publisher. So, what to call myself? All the names and titles I thought of had already been taken, so I was reduced to choosing two family names and I became Barker & Jansen. So if you see my books published by Barker & Jansen, it’s only me folks, hiding behind a double-barrelled name. Besides, the B & J logo on the spine looks pretty tricky.
I particularly liked the CreateSpace digital proofer which allows you to see how the actual book will look when it is published, and the downloadable PDF which sets the manuscript out like a book. It made the inspection and proofing relatively easy. However, I did order a physical proof before actually approving the book.
Once Night Watcher was on stream as a paperback, I went ahead and did the same for A Salt Splashed Cradle. This one needed a bit of extra work though, because it still had my own cover on it, therefore I needed to commission a professional cover, Night Watcher already had a professional one. But once I got that, like Night Watcher before it, everything went smoothly.
So now I have two paperbacks available as well as my Kindle versions, and the strange thing is, there has been an increase of Kindle sales since the paperbacks went on line.
Oh, and one other surprise, when I ordered my first 20 author’s copies of Night Watcher, they actually came in cheaper than the author’s copies I get from my publisher for Dead Wood. And that was despite the cost of postage from the US. I can’t understand though, why the author’s copies have to be despatched from the US when customers buying them get UK copies. The mysteries of Amazon!
So, what are my expectations from sales of the paperback? I’m afraid I have no great expectations, I don’t think they’ll sell in shedloads. I only brought them on as a service to my readers. My heart is still with electronic publishing, and I reckon I’m a true author electric.


Susan Price said…
Good luck, Chris! I'm thinking of having a dabble with Createspace myself, and you encourage me!
Bill Kirton said…
I followed the same route, Chris (although I can't match your readers clamouring for print versions). It's remarkably trouble-free, isn't it? The thing that bothered me with the first one was their warning about 'some fonts couldn't be reproduced, etc.' Fortunately, they give the option of ignoring the warning, so I did and there's nothing in the printed version that explains what they were on about.
Dan Holloway said…
very interesting, as someone who's always used Lulu (largely owing to fear of shipping costs). May I ask how much 20 copies came to including the shipping?
CallyPhillips said…
Yes Chris,there's still a place for paperbacks and it no more makes you a 'self/vanity' publisher than ebook publishing does. Indeed as you've described your journey you have become an 'indie' publisher in another medium - giving your market what it wants.
I have been publishing print copies for a number of years and using various channels. A couple of 'tips' to take or ignore are:
1) YES do fiddle with templates and get the book the way you want. Standard format is around 8x 5 cream (well, actually not cream but bookwove an option createspace doesn't offer) and use the on line proofing to its fullest.
2) Though they offer you discounted author copies from US if you're only ordering a couple it's cheaper just to order them and pay the whole price through UK - you get your royalty 'discount' of course and clock up a couple of sales.
3) there's a tipping point at which it becomes CHEAPER to actually do a short run print from a PRINTER (with experience in book printing) than order multiple copies from Createspace. For me, given books of around 300 pages 8x5 priced at £7.99 this turns out at about 15 copies. Any more than that it's cheaper to get a short print run done and you can STILL have it available on POD.
I have to say having looked at all other POD systems recently Createspace does offer ease of use and no cost unlike 'hidden' costs of other POD companies. Times will change of course, but as long as you are willing to brave the technology I'd say that AT THE MOMENT getting POD copies out there via createspace isn't a bad thing - it only costs your time. And it's a publishing and 'publishers' decision - electric is not the only way (yet!) But certainly POD helps save money and the planet! Diversification may be the rule for 2013. Who knows? On the other hand, anyone thinking of paying hundreds of pounds to get their work published in print or ebook format needs their head read! Getting a short run print done of 20 or so copies can be seen as a direct marketing tool though. If and when Amazon will give us author copies direct from UK the situation will change again of course. And the one thing we know about this marketplace is that it's constantly changing but we are indie publishers so we can change quicker than the TRAD mainstreams! And for the reader, they just want BOOKS in the format they want to read! As of yet the 'markets' are not fully converged so for us to diversify is fine. Congrats!
Chris Longmuir said…
Hi Dan, 20 copies of my book (345 pages) cost me £88.36 which works out at £4.42 a copy (£3.13 for the book and £1.29 for the shipping)The cost of author copies from my publisher for a book with the same selling price of £9.99, is £6, so I'm quids in with Amazon. However, my share of the selling price when sold through Amazon is much the same as my share of my £2.55 ebook! Funnily enough with the paperback I get a larger share from American sales than I do from UK sales. Hope I'm not giving away too much info here, and if any readers are listening in, I'm not making a fortune because quite a few of those 20 copies will be doled out free for promotional purposes, reviews etc.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Really great advice Chris especially for a newbie like me :-)

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