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master steward
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I noticed that Amazon has a service for printing your books on demand

They use something called create space, and it looks really neat.

You write a book.  Make it pretty.  Make it good.  Then give Create Space a PDF, and they translate it into something they can print.  You review it, and then every time someone buys that book from Amazon, they print it and ship it.  Once a month they send you a cheque.  Sounds like a good residual income to me. 

Seems like a great way to reduce paper waste and reduce the expense of publishing books


Now, the question:  Has anyone tried this service? 

Or maybe one like it? 

Tell me all about it and where I need to be careful to avoid pitfalls. 
 
pollinator
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I have not tried this service but have spent quite a bit of time researching the many options available for printing and selling books. Here's my first thoughts.

Pros of POD:
- GREAT if you are very uncertain of how many you will sell or think you might not sell many. Having boxes on boxes of unsold books can be a hassle for storage space and a hassle financially.
- Once you've got it set up, you don't have to do anything. Just market your book and Amazon takes care of all order processing, returns handling, printing, and shipping. Great if handling any of that seems like a huge burden.

Cons of POD:
- The cost per book is higher than bulk printing. Yes you get 30-40% more per book than going through a traditional publisher, but you might get another 10-20% extra if you print the book yourself.
- Services like Amazon can and do alter the deal. I think about all the folks who played the Facebook business game and then got crushed when Facebook changed their algorithm. In short, it's a bit of a gamble.
- You are limited to either full black & white or full colour pricing on the whole book. So if you have 5 pages of pictures you're still paying the (very high) cost of printing a book entirely in colour. This is not an issue if you're publishing a novel... but may be an issue if you're writing a how-to book with lots of colour pictures that don't grayscale well. With most traditional printers you can print a 200 page book with 5 colour pages in it and only pay the price for colour on 5 pages.
- Early on the quality of POD books was not great. I hear that the quality is getting better.

One idea is to do a large print run when you launch your book. If it's crowd funded then you know how many you need and you can order a few extra for future needs. Then after a couple of years if sales start to dry up then you can set it up as POD. Of course then you're dealing with shipping large amounts of books at launch, or using a fulfillment company to do it.
 
r ranson
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Great things to think about.  Thank you.

With print on demand or any of these services, do I still keep the publishing rights or whatever they are called so that I can reproduce some of the material in future books?
 
Shawn Klassen-Koop
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I think that generally, yes, you retain the rights. I would be careful though to double check any agreements you make.

Something to watch out for if you're doing eBooks is that some sites and services (like Amazon KDP Direct) is that they require exclusivity, which means you can only sell on their platform. In general I am inclined to run from anything that requires me to give exclusivity but for some people it seems to be something they are comfortable with and it works for them.
 
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My daughter and her best friend are writers. They have found Create Space a great way to go. Yes, you retain publishing rights with that. Definitely be sure to do your research as to legalities concerning your writing.

(Ha! Just did a quick Google search and was surprised that the first 5 pages were nearly entirely related to her: Tirzah Duncan)

Good luck!
 
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I've used CreateSpace (and its predecessor BookSurge) to publish all my books. I'm quite satisfied with it. I retain all rights to republish or publish in other venues (all my books are CC commons for copying and sharing at will with attribution), and the royalties are higher as a percentage of price than you're likely to get from a conventional publisher. And if you write on a niche topic, you'll probably do a better job virally marketing your work among readerships that you're familiar with and in communities you're already part of, compared to an in-house publicist just going through the motions of promoting in the standard outlets. If you know your audience and are willing to do the work of designing the text and cover files to their specs and promoting it yourself, I highly recommend it.
 
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After researching popular online on demand services, I ended up working with a local (Spokane) small press, Gray Dog Press to print my annual guidebook. Owner Russ sat with me for an hour discussing my book in detail. He made me feel like I was his only customer in the world. I did the layout in an old version of Pagemaker, and cover art in Photoshop, and saved it all as a pdfs. He handles printing and distribution, including Amazon and regional book sellers, payment now is via PayPal. I also presell about 250 books at a discount to vendors I cultivated on my own and can re-order for them on demand. Money wise, my printing cost has gone up a little as the page size increased annually. Generally, I pay about $3 per book. (B&w inside. Color cover). They retail for $9.95. Presales are $5.50. Regular wholesale is $6 ea. I also sell some to people at full retail. For my other book, an ebook, I use Smashwords, which has worked fine.
 
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Hi! I use Createspace for my non-fiction book. I have a lot of pictures in it, but they're not crucial for the reader to understand what I'm talking about (more for entertainment and a picture into my life). My pictures are black and white and I think they turned out just fine (you can order copies of your book for a small fee to make sure it looks good). I did all the editing myself and the cover as well, so I didn't opt for their paid services. The nice thing about Createspace is you can sell through ALL major booksellers because they do it for you. So recently I sold some books via Barnes and Noble! It's really easy to update your book, change things, change the cover, price, etc. So I like that flexibility. There's no back and forth with a publisher or small-time distributor. And I'm happy with the percentage of profit I get. I don't see how it would be worth it in color though. They have an easy calculator on their website that tells you how much you would make based on # of pages, color or black and white, etc.

Also note that with Amazon KDP it is NOT exclusive unless you select the option to be in the Kindle Unlimited Select group. You don't have to sign up for that. But it exposes you to a lot more people. So, it's not a bad deal in my opinion. I've made some money off of Kindle unlimited, not a lot, but it might help some readers who aren't ready to commit to buying a paper book. Once they see the usefulness of your book via reading it for free with Kindle Unlimited, then they might buy the paper copy.

Last thing, it's not a big money maker unless you have a big platform and are relatively famous. Since you (r ranson) write a lot on permies you might get a lot of customers that way and it might be successful for you. But I've found that usually writing a book is better for marketing a consulting service or coaching. Just my 2 cents! If you have any other q's feel free to ask! I did a lot of research before picking Createspace.
 
r ranson
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I have lots of questions.  My biggest problem is I don't know what the questions are yet.  There is so much more to this than I expected. 

I found a company that is like a publisher but not called Friesen Press.  They provide layout and editor services.  The more you need the more you pay.  They also help with the marketing.  Fascinating stuff and something worth investigating further.  If I wasn't already working with a professional, I think I would go this path. 

Then there is this company that helps people self-publish and run a crowdfunding campaign. 

My head is spinning.

What I want to do is to publish a series of small books.  I thought they were called booklets but after talking to a few publishers, my word count makes them books, not booklets (whatever the difference is).  Then I will later combine and expand the small books into one larger book. 

Because my subject isn't a common one, there aren't many books in print that come near it.  So I don't know in advance what kind of sales it will get - which makes it difficult to sell the idea to a publisher.  My theory is that by producing the smaller books I can test the market and build interest in the subject.  I can also get a taste of self-publishing and see if I want to go this path for my big book or try and sell it to a publisher. 

Anyway, that's the theory.  There's so much to learn.  Even though it's stressful learning all these things, I'm enjoying it too.  I suspect that if I went the traditional publisher path to start with, there would be a lot of hidden tasks that I would not see.  This way I get to see just how much work goes into transforming a giant gob of text into a book. 
 
Rosemary Hansen
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Oh dear, I'm glad that you mentioned publaunch.com. I looked at their website and it looks fishy to me. Their sample contract looks worrisome too.

Please please do your research before paying any company or "publisher" or even giving them your work. There are a lot of shadow/dirty "publishers" out there that are scammers and will take large amounts of $$ from you ($10,000+) to publish your book when in fact they take your money and you never hear from them again. I would not trust any company that you haven't heard about from other successful authors. There are dozens of stories of small authors who don't know how this works and will give away their work and promptly see it published under someone else's name and...actually the contract they signed with the "publisher" said that they can use your book for anything they want, change it, slap someone else's name on it, etc.

Anyway, it's possible there might be some good small time folks out there trying to do good and publish books for real, but so far I haven't heard of them. That's not to say that they're not out there, though! So just do your research and don't pay any money upfront.

Createspace is legitimate and they say in the terms of service that your content is 100% owned by you. Yes, it's uncertain whether Amazon will continue providing that service to authors, but if you're worried about it, buy 100 copies of your book and store them in your house! Their online software is very easy to use and you only need to write your content using Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign. You can also buy e-books on Amazon telling you exactly how to format your self-published book. Joanna Penn has good books, Sean Platt, Michael Alvear, and Aaron Shepard are all good authors that help you write it yourself & format it. You can also hire an editor on the internet to go over your book for you, but that can get expensive. I used the trick of reading out loud to myself and you can catch a lot of errors that way. Or send your book to some friends.

If you want to get a lot of q's answered, sign up for an Amazon account and hang out in the customer forums where they talk about self-publishing. There are tons of posts about all this stuff and lots more.

Last bit of advice: Start writing your book first. Don't worry about marketing/publishing just yet. Write it in Microsoft Word and don't worry to much about formatting. Once you get the meat of the book done then you can get all those complicated q's answered. And have fun!
 
r ranson
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Rosemary Hansen wrote:

Please please do your research before paying any company or "publisher" or even giving them your work. There are a lot of shadow/dirty "publishers" out there that are scammers and will take large amounts of $$ from you ($10,000+) to publish your book when in fact they take your money and you never hear from them again. I would not trust any company that you haven't heard about from other successful authors. There are dozens of stories of small authors who don't know how this works and will give away their work and promptly see it published under someone else's name and...actually the contract they signed with the "publisher" said that they can use your book for anything they want, change it, slap someone else's name on it, etc.



This is one of the things I'm worried about. 

I have my eye on two main publishers whose books I adore and that publish similar books to my topic.  But I want to try the self-publishing road first to discover what it is and to prove there is an audience for my writing.  I'm curious what different pricing is going to be like.  I also want to price out the cost of having it printed on recycled paper and other more ecologically minded options to regular publishing. 

If I go with a company, I would definitely want to see what books they produce first. 


Rosemary Hansen wrote:
Last bit of advice: Start writing your book first.



Done.  I pressed send and it went to my editor (someone with amazing language skills who I trust) this morning. 

Rosemary Hansen wrote:  Once you get the meat of the book done then you can get all those complicated q's answered. And have fun!



I'm ready.
I know there is a huge amount of work left to do, but I'm taking time away from the manuscript while it's edited so I can loosen any emotional hold it has on me and be more receptive to the suggestions from the editor. 

Rosemary Hansen wrote: If you want to get a lot of q's answered, sign up for an Amazon account and hang out in the customer forums where they talk about self-publishing. There are tons of posts about all this stuff and lots more.



I'm off to amazon to see what I can learn. 
Thanks for the advice. 
 
r ranson
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from here

Just five companies account for over 85% of the books self-published each year:

CreateSpace: This company is owned by Amazon.com and its strengths include low printing costs. Tellwell includes Createspace as an option for distribution and printing. However, we are a competitor of theirs when it comes to services such as design and editing.

Lightning Source & IngramSpark: These two platforms offer competitive print-on-demand services; however, their ebook distribution offers only 40% royalties. Tellwell often uses IngramSpark for print-on-demand, but not for ebooks. These companies do not offer help with editing, design, or publicity.

Smashwords:  Smashwords offers an ebook “aggregation” service, making your book available for sale in some of the major ebook channels in exchange for a percentage of sales. You need to be technically savvy enough to get your book in the proper format for them. Their service does not include Kindle ebooks – the most popular ebook option. They do not offer help with editing, design or publicity services. Tellwell generally does not deal with Smashwords because we can get a better deal for authors by dealing directly with each ebook platform (e.g. Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Google Books).

Lulu: This company has a broad range of formats and some good tools for do-it-yourselfers, but their printing is expensive and they take a significant chunk of the author’s revenues.

Author Solutions: They operate many different self-publishing brands including Xlibris, Authorhouse, Trafford, iUniverse, Belboa, Abbott Press, and Archway. Some of these brands are partnerships with traditional publishers, where Author Solutions does the actual work and compensates the traditional publisher for the referrals. Author Solutions’ two main strengths are their persistent sales force and their aggressive Google advertising. Their downside is that they significantly mark-up the printing costs and take a large portion of sales revenues. As of 2013, about 75% of their staff were located in the Philippines.



the article goes on to explain why their services are better than these five.

Looking at this list, the first one is more my style.  But reading more about createSpace, we don't always have full control on how it's printed or the style of paper. 
 
r ranson
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If I do a print run, then place the book on Create Space, would it hurt me to get my ISBN through the regular channels first?  I understand CreateSpace also supplies an ISBN. 
 
Shawn Klassen-Koop
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I think it's best to get your own ISBN. That way you own it. If Amazon owns it and croaks who knows what would happen to the ISBN. Plus I think ISBNs are free for Canadians.
 
r ranson
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this site has been helpful in discovering what resources are available.  Very interesting that a lot of things that are free (or even ones that the government will pay ME for) are features that publishers and pseudo-publishers advertise as a bonus that they throw in at great expense to themselves.  I know it's focused on Canadians, but there's a lot of useful information for other authors too. 

Even if just one of the authors or editors is Canadian, you can get a lot of goodies to help you publish your book. 

Going back to an earlier topic, here's an article about scams targeting writer
 
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