If dreaming of being an author means holding your printed book in your hands, CreateSpace is the fastest, easiest route to that end.
CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service, turns an aspiring author into a published one — including the ability to sell books — with as little as a story and a basic understanding of Microsoft Word. You can buy them one at a time or in bulk, just as readers can, so there’s no commitment to buy 5,000 copies and get stuck with 4,900 of them.
Begin here. There are tutorials, resources, FAQs and online community at every turn.
Authors can publish paperback books only through CreateSpace, but other format options for other artists exist, too: audio CD, MP3, DVD and video download (tomorrow I’ll share how I printed my book in hard cover). Like Amazon Kindle, you can use a free CreateSpace-assigned ISBN or use your own. I bought one from Bowkers so I could sell “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal” in other channels.
You can choose black-and-white or color print (black and white is infinitely less expensive), one of two paper colors (I used cream vs. white because it’s easier on the eyes) and more than a dozen standard trim sizes. If you’re not sure, copy the size of a mass market book you like.
Now you’re ready for your manuscript.
Three words of indispensable advice: Use the template.
Unless you’re a wiz at Word, you’ll want the template for the standard book parts (like table of contents and epilogue), footers, headers and page breaks. I studied other mass market memoirs for guiding the setup and design of mine. And if you aren’t familiar with Word, get familiar with Google and YouTube to help you out of jams.
I’m reasonably adept with Word, and it still took me days to format my 307-page memoir. I had to pour text in, chapter by chapter, and format leading, indents and quotes throughout (I also had wild stuff like quotes at the beginning of every chapter). Literally every italicized word had to be reviewed once in CreateSpace.
Do not rush through this or you’ll end up with an amateurish result.
Now you’re ready for the cover. You have three choices:
- Build your own with CreateSpace’s cover creator.
- Pay CreateSpace to design one.
- Upload your own book cover as a print-ready PDF (which means you need to use a design program to create one).
I think CreateSpace’s pre-fab covers scream “amateur self-publisher,” but that’s just me. I know a lot of people use them (because you can see it when you start perusing self-published books). But this option is obviously the least expensive route if you aren’t a designer or can’t afford one.
I designed my own cover with an oil painting I had commissioned for the project and Quark XPress. Making a place for CreateSpace to print the ISBN is a trick, but trial and error will take you far.
Now you’re ready to sell.
No, wait, the next step is to review. Definitely order a printed proof and wait for it to arrive. The wait will be interminable, but you should at least see what you’re selling.
Not happy? Fiddle around with your files until you are. Happy? Now you can distribute.
CreateSpace offers authors their own author portal where you earn more royalty than through Amazon. It sounds great, but I haven’t figured out how to drive traffic here; I’ve sold only a handful of books on my personal portal even though my business cards, my Facebook Page and my blog all link to it. Readers hear that “The Percussionist’s Wife” is on Amazon and go there first.
Well, that’s fine. Amazon is earning it’s share that way.
And what’s Amazon’s share? You earn 60% of the selling price minus the cost to print the book; my net percentage on my $16.95 book is 33%. I think what CreateSpace charges to print a book is reasonable especially for a one-off printing setup (for me, less than $5), but in the end, Amazon is making tons of money off self-publishers.
Still, CreateSpace is a crucial channel for a serious self-publisher because not everyone reads ebooks. Having an affordable alternative to provide printed books is a gift. Nineteen percent of my total sales have been through Amazon as a printed book, and I wouldn’t have any books for direct sales (which I’ll address Sunday) without CreateSpace.
Tuesday: Self-publishing with Amazon’s Kindle
Wednesday: In Barnes & Noble’s Nook fold