Saturday, October 9, 2010

Self Publishing With Amazon CreateSpace

Welcome to the future of publishing.  Self published works produced print on demand or electronic versions for our ereaders.  Write up a book, get it edited, turn it into a snazzy PDF, attach a cover, pick a Print on Demand (POD) service, and off you go.  You are now a published author.

And there are a whole lot of ways to go about doing this.  So, here begins the series on different services available to authors who have a manuscript in hand and are getting ready for the next step.

First off, CreateSpace. This is Amazon's self publishing arm.  It offers pretty much everything you could possibly want, and several things you probably don't, to the self publishing author.  When you first land on the CreateSpace page you have the option of Books, Film, and Music.  Since this is a book writing blog, we're going to ignore Film and Music and go straight over to books.  Once you click on books you have two options, both of which I hope you will use, Book or Amazon Kindle ebook.

Technically CreateSpace is only books.  Ebooks are handled on Amazon's Digital Text Platform.

Once you get into CreateSpace they have a slickly laid out pile of information ready and waiting for you to browse through.  You have the option of doing everything but printing the book for yourself, or paying them a pile of money and having them handle everything, or something in between.

CreateSpace starts you off with one of two options,  Standard Plan or Pro Plan.  The Standard Plan lets you sell books through Amazon and your own website.  The Pro Plan allows you to use the "extended distribution" channel.  This means that you can sell your book to bookstores, libraries, etc...  The Pro Plan costs $39.00 for the first year and $5.00 for each additional year.

Granted, in the last entry I mentioned not being a huge fan of paying for a service to let you sell your books to brick and mortar bookstores, but in this particular case, they've made paying the fee worth your while.  The royalty set up is different for the Standard Plan and the Pro Plan.  In both cases you pay a basic per book fee, a per page fee, and Amazon gets a cut of the final price.  Amazon's cut goes up depending on where you sell your book.

The basic formula for a book on the Standard Plan sold on your own site looks like this:

$1.50 (per book fee)+ $.02 per page + 20% of the price you set.  If you sell on Amazon that percent goes to 40%.

If you have the Pro Plan the formula looks like this:

$0.85 + $ 0.012 per page + 20% of the price you set.  Once more, on Amazon that percent goes to 40%, and for other retailers it goes to 60%.

Those are the formulas for books over 108 pages (they cost less for smaller books) and black and white type.  Basically, a generic novel.

Here's the difference between those formulas.  With the Standard Plan I can price my book at $18.50 and make no money on Amazon sales and $3.70 on my estore sales.   With the Pro Plan I can price it at $11.50 and make $0.29 on Amazon sales and $2.59 on my estore sales.  (Yes, on the Pro Plan I lose money if I price it at $11.50 and sell to bookstores.  I'm not going to sell to bookstores.  At least, not through Create Space.)  So, quick vote, how many of you are going to pay $18.50 for a trade paperback fantasy novel by a writer you've never heard of?  How about $11.50?  I am less than shocked to see more of you raise your hand for the second choice. 

Now, my book is long.  The per page price difference results in an almost $3.00 difference in the base cost of each book.  I'm unlikely to set the price at $11.50.  I'd like to make a tad more than $0.29 per copy sold on Amazon.  If I bump the price up to $12.99, a fairly common price point for a trade paperback the length of the one I'm going to put out, then with the Pro Plan I can take home $1.18 per book, slightly less than double the industry standard royalty for a first time author.  

CreateSpace has a nice little calculator to let you play with prices.  You set the price you want your book to sell for then they tell you how much you'll make.

They also offer another price for you to order your own books at.  Once again the Pro Plan price is substantially lower than the Standard Plan price.  (For example, I intend to buy at least ten copies of my own book to give to buddies.  The Pro Plan discount on that order alone pays for the price of the upgrade.)  You can order as many or as few of your book as you like.  The good thing about this is you can get three books cheep.  The bad thing is there's no bulk discount, so you can't get 10,000 books cheep. 

Once you've finished playing with the royalty calculator, you can take the time to see what else they offer. Which is quite a bit.  Editing?  They've got it.  It costs $175.00 for the first 10,000 words and an additional $0.0175 per additional word for basic copyediting.  If you want all the bells and whistles editing it costs $320.00 for the first 10,000 and $0.032 for each additional word.

Cover design?  Everything from DIY with their goodies for free, to hire their design team and get a $999.00 designed-specifically-for-you to your standards cover, to a 1499.00 illustrated-specifically-for-you to your standards cover.  Or you can use the cover you designed yourself.  If you use their free cover designer that cover can only be used on the Amazon version of your book.  So, if you plan on publishing the book on Amazon, Lulu, and Smashwords, you can't take the cover with you when you leave CreateSpace. 

Publicity?  Sure, they've got it.  You can buy anything from press releases to book reviews to business cards.  (The business cards, at $199.00 for 500, are a tad more expensive than the free ones you can get at Vista Print.  This is one of those areas where it's very likely you can get a better price on your own.)

Want it all together in a nifty little package?  They've got that too!

Need help getting it all figured out?  They've got blogs and community forums filled with advice.  Feel like spending money for the help and you can call them and have someone hold your hand through the publishing process. Want to show off a bit of your work and get some comments from other writers?  They've got that available, too.  Want to introduce your book to the other CreateSpace writers out there?  They've got a place for it.

With CreateSpace you keep the rights to your book.  You have a non-exclusive publishing contract with them, which means you can publish your book elsewhere. You can pull your book off of their service when and as you like.  The only thing Amazon asks is that you don't sell it for less elsewhere. 

Pretty much anything you can imagine wanting to have over the course of getting your story from a manuscript to a book they will happily offer to you.  If you want the help, they'll give it to you, all you have to do is pay.

But what if you don't want a physical book at the end of this process?  Or what if you want a physical book and an ebook?  Tune in next time for Amazon Digital Text Platform!

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