Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Self-publishing with Createspace

Sitting here at the Gare du Nord waiting for the Eurostar, I thought I'd tell you about my experience of publishing a book with Createspace. Createspace is part of Amazon. It allows you upload a book file and have it published online on Amazon and through other outlets. You can publish traditional paperbacks or Kindle versions of your work.

We chose to use Createspace, after reading around a bit and concluding that the process was fast, easy and almost certainly more profitable than using a known publisher in the traditional fashion. Createspace is most associated with creative writing, but more and more educators and academics are finding it a convenient way to spread their word.

The process is simple and mainly pain-free. You sign up for an account at createspace.com and start a project (your book). You write your book using Word. Createspace offer ready-made Word templates which correspond with the size of book you wish to have printed. 9 by 6 inches is common.

We opted for this size and downloaded a pre-formatted Word template. This, with hindsight, was an error. I would recommend going for a non-formatted template from Createspace in the future. The formatted one causes issues if you wish to override its standard settings. The pre-formatted version comes with a ready-made contents page, but this may not match what you want to do, especially of your book is not as simple in format as a novel. The advantage of a downloaded Word template is that it numbers pages correctly, ensures your chapters start in the right space and, crucially, that margins are appropriate for a book.

With Createspace you can include visuals, tables, pictures and so on. We had to fiddle quite a bit with the pre-formatted template to get these to look good on the page. It's important to remember that the file you upload to Createspace is a pdf, so you need to check carefully that your Word to pdf conversion is as you want it. If you are a newbie, it is dead easy to save a Word doc as a pdf.

Once your file is uploaded, the Createspace team check the formatting and point put any issues which need fixing. They will also do a spell check if you forgot to. It is easy to re-upload a second version.

When you work through your project on the CS site, you enter key information such as your name and book title, and you are given the option of uploading your own cover or using one of their free templates. These can be edited by altering fonts and colour schemes. You can also include your own picture in some of their templates. We used a ready-made template because it was attractive and free. You get to write your book's blurb during the cover creation process.

Once your book is uploaded it is ready for sale on Amazon within about 48 hours. It appears on UK, European and north American versions of Amazon, but not in Australia and New Zealand. Amazon's free "expanded distribution" service allows the book to appear in other catalogues too.

Royalties are generous and can be viewed on the Createspace site. Broadly speaking, you get about 40% of the purchase price (which you choose). Each month your royalties are transferred into your chosen bank account. You can see your sales in real time on the Createspace site and they send you a regular report if you opt into this. You get to see where your book is bought and what the royalty was in each case.

Incidentally, Amazon can discount your book price, but your royalties are always based on your original chosen price.

Any reservations? Not really. I suppose you lose the kudos of being with a regular publisher. Publishers also edit for you, which is useful. I would strongly advise that you get an editor. We were fortunate in having an experienced one and she (my wife) was very thorough about the process. Although you may not appear in some catalogues, remember just how many books are sold via Amazon these days, along with reviews. What I liked almost most of all was the speed and efficiency of the process - no waiting six months for a publisher to do their thing.

If you wish to publish via Kindle, you need to bear in mind that a different type of file is required (not a pdf). This can be done professionally by searching online. For simple books it is cheap. Where more complex formatting is needed, it costs more. We paid around £130 to have our book formatted for Kindle. To do this yourself you would need some IT skill, but is is feasible. So far, we have a small but significant number of Kindle versions of our book.

Finally, using Createspace is free unless you opt for their professional cover service or other extras. They make their money from sales.


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