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My experience with Create Space print on demand


My experience with Amazon's Create Space print-on-demand platform
...was pretty good, actually.

I was kind of wishing I had a good testimonial before I started the process of helping my mom through getting her book self-published via Create-Space, but I had trouble (in a hurry, we were on a tight deadline) finding such a thing that seemed reliable or relevant, so here's mine for your use.

First, a caveat: we were publishing a really niche-market book, half children's historical fiction, half doll pattern for the doll described in the book (most of my mom's writing is doll patterns, and she's actually pretty extensively published in the magazine market). Our goal was simply to have about a hundred copies on hand for an event next weekend for her to sell alongside her demonstrations of the doll pattern in the book. This is analogous to if one of us wanted to do a big launch event for a self-published book, in a way. My mom's not a great writer, but the story is cute and informative, and her patterns are (as always) excellent. But if I didn't do something, she would have literally published the thing by hand--made copies at Staples and then bound each one by hand with a stapler. I wanted to get her a better product with less labor. Since my mom is not very tech savvy and we were, after all, playing with real money and real copyright issues, I essentially did everything on Create Space for her while she watched my screen by screen share on Skype, so that she had full control over everything but had someone skilled at internet stuff to make sure nothing went wrong. We both actually really enjoyed working together this way, and it might work really well if you have a co-author!

The process was simple, once we figured it out. There's a lot of legal stuff to read through, but from what I can tell, it's pretty good for keeping your rights in your control and the royalties are reasonable and well-declared. You get to set your own price for the book, so it's important to know what your audience might be willing to pay, so be sure to do your market research! They take Microsoft Word or PDF files, and images can be incorporated easily and accurately, but be sure you get as high a resolution on every image as possible right from the start--you can always compress an image to a lower resolution, but it's just not possible to make an image into a higher resolution. They also provide templates for your cut size, so I do recommend that (I'm a fan of templates in general for formatting).

Pros: You have complete artistic control, the basic process is completely free, there are a lot of available sizes, you can choose cream or white paper even, and the publishing process can be completed in two days (with the text available on Amazon within a few days after that), royalties are pretty high, you retain most of your rights to the text, you can mark if a book is in a series for potential buyers to understand where to start, and the author price is actually about what my mother would have paid doing the book her originally planned way (printing the pages at Staples and then stapling them together) with a better product.

Cons: If you need any assistance--cover design, typesetting--it will cost a lot because it's basically a vanity press (and those things take a lot of labor, as I learned doing them all for my mother); you get no choice in binding and your only choices in cover are paperback matte or gloss; shipping even for your discounted author price copies is pretty expensive; you have to pay for any physical proofs at normal author-order rates (although you can do digital proofs and, while less certain, they worked for us); there's no marketing assistance (unless, again, you pay for that).

As I explained to my mother, the real difference between traditional and self publishing is who bears the burden of risk for the venture. In traditional, the publisher takes a gamble on the author; in self publishing, it is the author who carries the risk. I do like, though, that print on demand reduces the scale of the risk in both models. :)

I would recommend Create Space if you want to self-publish because you want complete artistic control and have an aggressive marketing campaign planned, or if you are publishing a really niche book (as we were). The distribution options are excellent for those kinds of situations.

If you are going to do it, I wouldn't worry about formatting or cover design until you have your text ready and exactly the way you want it. THEN use the provided templates for your text and cover, because the size and margin requirements are really strict and there for a reason (to protect your text against any abnormalities in the print on demand production process, which any book whether print on demand or not might be susceptible to).

I would NOT recommend it if you are not good or confident with digital formatting tools, like Microsoft Word, or if you get confused reading a lot of instructions online. Self publishing in this way really requires the author to be an expert on all aspects of the publishing process: not only the writing, but also art, digital typesetting, standard book formats, market pricing, marketing strategies, etc.

For my mother, she's super pleased with the product and process, and she's already planning her next project for Create Space. As for me and my fantasy novels, I will continue to try to submit them for traditional printing because I don't really want that much creative control--I really want to see what a cover artist will do, what a professional marketer will recommend, how a professional editor and typesetter will choose to package the story. I'm happy to cede a large portion of my story's presentation and royalties to make it more collaborative. But for solo acts, it was really surprisingly painless, and the books came in less than half the time they were expected!


I've been using CreateSpace for years to publish my fantasy novels and memoirs, etc., and I have had nothing but good experiences with them. They're relatively easy to use, the templates are simple to utilize, and I can put a book together for the cost of a $15 image from Dreamstime.com and a few hours of my time. A friend of mine uses CreateSpace, too, but he gets more into the custom covers, done by a professional artist. Good stuff! I haven't used their marketing services, but I have real books out there on Amazon, and people are buying them, so I'm happy!