The fabulous Audrey Kalman, who blogs at Audrey Kalman: Writing of Many Kinds, offered to do a Q&A with me about her experiences with CreateSpace because I’m seriously considering self-publishing my book this spring. Right now, I’m in the research phase and I am so very grateful to Ms. Kalman for sharing her insight and experience with us.
Today’s post is going to be on the long side because, well, I had a lot of questions and she gives great answers. I won’t be posting anything new on Friday or Monday, just linking back to this post because I think it’s that important. All my questions and comments will appear in bold to show how much work Ms. Kalman did for this post. 🙂
1) What other competitors did you consider? Why did you choose CreateSpace over them?
I’m afraid to say I probably didn’t do as much research into alternatives as I should have. Since I published first for Kindle, I was already familiar with Amazon. For digital publishing, I had looked at Untreed Reads, but they weren’t then (and aren’t now) accepting unagented novels.
I know there’s a lot of fear and anxiety over Amazon. But there’s a reason people are afraid: the company is very good at what it does. Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time and energy to put into the process, I wanted to go with a company that had an easy interface and lots of tools for helping self-published authors promote themselves. Of course, the author still must do all the work. I really liked the tools they have for estimating author royalties on different price points so you can see in advance the impact of making a change.
2) What were the hardest parts to creating your book with CreateSpace? What was the easiest thing about using CreateSpace?
The hardest thing—and this may sound silly—was trying to figure out what to do about the ISBN. Of course, this would have been an issue with any self-publishing option.
I read a helpful FAQ (http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/isbnqa.asp) but that still didn’t tell me what I should do. Should I get the ISBN myself or through Amazon? Should I buy a bundle of numbers to use for future works? In the end, I again ceded control and got the ISBN through CreateSpace, which turned out to be one of the easiest parts of the process.
3) How did you go about choosing a font? Designing your cover? Converting the file for an e-reader? Any outside resources you would recommend to someone making these choices?
Once I had committed to using CreateSpace, I took advantage of their templates. I picked one with a font I liked and went with that. I figured that there was less chance of problems if I didn’t mess around with the template.
For the cover, I took photographs and had my son (who is into digital art) create the cover. This is one area I would spend more time and though on next time around. (In fact, I’m considering relaunching the book with a new cover.) My existing cover is hard to read in small format and doesn’t stand out well among hundreds of other thumbnails.
If you want to work with someone professionally, I just saw that Amazon has partnered with CrowdSpring to offer cover design services: http://www.crowdspring.com/createspace/book. I might look into something like that for next time.
Because I published first for Kindle, I did a fair amount of research to find out how to prep the manuscript for the Kindle version. I used MobiPocket creator: http://www.mobipocket.com/en/downloadsoft/productdetailscreator.asp. This was a great web resource: http://www.dragosroua.com/how-to-self-publish-on-amazon-kindle-and-ibookstore.
Since the time I published in 2011, Amazon has come out with a CreateSpace solution for Kindle publishing. I haven’t tried it, but if the CreateSpace on-demand solution is any indication, it should be pretty straightforward.
4) Were you happy with how your paperback book turned out? Did it meet your expectations?
We’ve all heard the adage “you get what you pay for.” I find myself amazed that anyone can print a book on demand for the amount I pay Amazon to do so. Given that, I’m not surprised that the cover is a bit flimsy and you don’t have a choice of cover stock. I (and many other authors!) think CreateSpace should offer a choice of cover stock. I’d be willing to pay a bit more for a sturdier (and not glossy) cover. That said, a good design can overcome the limitations of cover stock.
The cover probably gave me the most trouble of any part of the process. I had to have a graphic designer friend format the image and it took multiple tries to get the right resolution. The spine colors also were limited, so I ended up with one that doesn’t quite match the color of the front and back covers. I believe it’s possible to create a wraparound cover, but that seemed beyond my capabilities. Again, another reason why I would use some professional cover design help next time around.
5) What were the top three biggest time sucks (expected or unexpected) to creating your book on CreateSpace?
1) Doing all the detail oriented research required so I wouldn’t make a big, unfixable mistake (for example, with the ISBN).
2) Proofreading. I expected this, and it would be the same with any publishing option.
3) Creating and uploading the cover.
Overall, the process was pretty quick. Here’s the schedule I used for myself.
|Activity||Time needed||Target date|
|Decide on/obtain ISBN (free option chosen)||1 day||09/16/09|
|Format document||3 days||09/18/09|
|Write back cover copy||2 days||09/20/11|
|Create art for cover||2 days||09/20/09|
|Proofread document||1 day||09/19/09|
|Have proofreader proof document||1 day||09/20/11|
|Finish steps and submit for approval||1 day||09/21/09|
|Receive Amazon approval||2 days||09/22/09|
|Order and receive proof||5 days||09/28/09|
|Approve for sale||1 day||09/30/09|
|IF 2nd proof needed: Order and receive||5 days||09/29/09|
|IF 2nd proof needed: Approve for sale||1 day||10/05/09|
6) Did you find having a physical book was helpful/worth the cost or would you go the e-book only route next time?
Absolutely. It has enabled me to do readings where I can offer books for sale. I also have reached some people who (still) don’t use e-readers.
I look at the physical book as a marketing tool. Given the extremely low cost of using CreateSpace (less than $100 total to get set up, with a low per-book cost), I would certainly opt to have a printed copy available again.
7) Percentage wise, how did the e-book sales compare to the paperback book sales?
I sold about ¾ as many e-books as I did paperbacks. (But we’re not talking huge numbers here.) I believe both are important; physical copies for the reasons listed above, and virtual copies to appeal to people with e-readers and to take advantage of things like book giveaways on Goodreads and free Kindle downloads to increase name recognition.
8) Did you find the distribution of your book was in line with your expectations? Was it as accessible as you expected?
Yes, given that my expectations were extremely modest. I considered this project a way to 1) make the book available to family and friends; and 2) learn about self-publishing.
Accessibility has not been an issue. Amazon offers two distribution options, regular or expanded, with expanded available for a modest fee of $25. (https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/ExpandedDistribution.jsp). I chose expanded distribution, which allows the book to be available to libraries and bookstores through book distributors such as Ingram.
9) Did you use CreateSpace for editorial services or engage an outside editor or a critique partner? If you used CreateSpace, were you satisfied with their work?
For Dance of Souls, I had a single reader giving me feedback. For my current novel, I am spending more time on the editing process and using a group of beta readers. I didn’t use CreateSpace professional services.
10) What were the biggest pros and cons of using CreateSpace? If you could go back in time and give yourself a couple tips to using CreateSpace, what would they be?
Pros: Easy user interface, lots of tools, straightforward process.
Cons: It’s easy to get sucked into relying on a single vendor.
11) Would you use them again, if you chose to go the indie route on your next book?
The answer is “yes, and.” I would likely use CreateSpace AND set up on other platforms as well. Jane Friedman has an excellent post on questions to ask before choosing an e-publishing solution: http://janefriedman.com/2012/02/10/10-questions-epublishing, which any author would do well to review.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the process… I hope it was helpful!
Audrey, it was extremely helpful for me and I hope my blog readers enjoyed it as much as I did! I really loved the timetable you created and shared. Gave me a good idea of how long this process would take. Now I’d like to hear a bit more about you and your book.
Audrey Kalman has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. She published newspaper and magazine articles in the days when such things still involved ink on paper, wrote a database how-to book when such things were popular, and now offers writing and editing services as a consultant. In 2011 she published Dance of Souls, a literary novel that explores the longing we all share to find meaning in our lives and the countless ways we search for it. She launched a writing blog, “Writing of Many Kinds,” at http://audreykalman.wordpress.com and maintains a Facebook page for her novel at www.facebook.com/Danceofsouls.
Excerpt from Dance of Souls:
It was a dream, of course, although Zach couldn’t remember ever having dreamed so vividly. It seemed so real: The vibrant orange flames, hissing, cracking, racing along the wall between the hallway and the kitchen; the smell, like the time he and Brendan had experimented with setting one of Brendan’s sister’s dolls on fire; the heat like pressure against his body. It’s the dope making it seem so real ran through his head. I’m not used to smoking weed. Wish I hadn’t. Then he sat up, banged his head on the edge of the coffee table where the remains of dinner still lay, white cardboard containers upended and bleeding greasy sauce onto the table’s tile surface.
Dance of Souls is available as a
PAPERBACK through CreateSpace (you pay the same, better deal for the author) — $13.99 plus shipping
PAPERBACK through Amazon — $13.99 plus shipping or free shipping for Prime members
KINDLE version through Amazon — $2.99 (watch for free promotion days)