Is CreateSpace Free … ?

I’ve received a question from Jana, who says, “I was wondering if you would mind looking at this POD price comparison between Booklocker and CreateSpace and interpret it for me. Since I haven’t used a POD I’m not sure what to look for.” Here is the link: http://writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/008395_02122014.html

The first thing I need to do is note up front that the following are my opinions and experiences only. And, other than using their services, I have no association with CreateSpace.

With that clearly stated, let me address the question. Since I’ve only used CreateSpace, I can’t comment on the other services cited in this post from Writer’s Weekly. I can, however, lay out costs I incurred with CreateSpace.

In her article, Angela Hoy claims the cost of set-up at CreateSpace is $1,486.00, thereby making her own service (Booklocker.com) look much more attractive at a cost of $675.00 for set-up. If you were going to do absolutely NOTHING yourself—no formatting, no cover design—I imagine costs are incurred. And I suppose the people who are computer illiterate, or those that simply don’t have the time to do the work themselves, and choose to pay to have everything done for them could incur costs that amount to those that Ms. Hoy sets out. I don’t know, and I have no way of checking since Ms. Hoy doesn’t reveal her source.

With that said, however, I have to say that MY cost for set-up at CreateSpace was $0.00.

You’ve got that right: FREE. Nada. Zip. Zero.

I created my interior file according to CreateSpace specifications. (And I’ve published the steps to accomplish that here, in my blog posts.) Once my interior file was complete and I knew how many pages it would be, I entered the specs on their site and downloaded a template for the cover which I then provided to my cover designer. She ensured that my cover was laid out correctly.

With those two things done, I uploaded the two files. Within 24 hours, I received an email telling me that my files passed their check and that the proof was ready for review.

CreateSpace provides three methods to review your book. The first is to simply download a copy of the PDF again and review it. I usually download this file, but I don’t use it to do my review. The method I prefer is the second option they provide: their online Digital Proofer. It provides a side-by-side page view of the book. Basically a virtual image of the actual book. I use it extensively on my first review, going through the book page by page. If there is an error, I correct the file and upload another version. If it looks fine, I order physical proofs. Physical proofs are their third method of review. But I wouldn’t order physical proofs until you have done the digital proof.

Why? Because this is the point at which some small costs are incurred. Why spend money on shipping until you have gone through the digital proof and are fairly sure you are happy with the book?

So what are the costs? CreateSpace charges you for the costs of printing the proofs, so you have to pay roughly $5 – $7 dollars for each physical proof copy you order. And they charge you the cost of shipping. I tried to be frugal on the shipping and just go with basic postal service, but for some reason one of my shipments was lost. Probably because I am in Canada and it got stopped at the border or something. Who knows? When I notified CreateSpace, they immediately sent out another book, however, I had them ship it by courier at a cost of about $20 for shipping. It arrived within about 3 or 4 days.

Yes, the cost of the courier put the cost of my proof way up. However, I look at it as a cost of doing business. It is a tax deductible expense. At a royalty of roughly $4 per book, if books are sold from Amazon, my costs were recovered after the sale of six books. Six!! Nothing close to the figure cited in the article.

Next in her article, Ms. Hoy talks about royalty earnings and the problems with the eStore. To my knowledge the CreateSpace eStore is the only one of its kind. I’ve not heard of the other POD services offering anything similar, although I could be wrong. If so, someone please correct me. Being the only eStore means that NONE of the other services can match the royalty provided by the CreateSpace for sales from their eStore.

My impression is that the eStore was designed to compensate people who are adept at marketing and web-sales for selling their books from their own website. This compensation is a higher royalty rate. You can sell all the books you want from your own website with other services and NEVER receive a higher royalty rate for your efforts. CreateSpace is offering a higher royalty ONLY if you do the selling. Ms. Hoy is correct in saying that no one will find your eStore by browsing. There is no eStore Bookstore for customers who want to browse. Readers are only going to find your eStore in one way, and that’s through a link from your website.

If readers are on a discovery mission, browsing books is best accomplished at the main Amazon site. And, yes, if they find your book that way, you will receive the standard royalty rate rather than the one you would have received had they discovered your book through your website.

Am I totally happy with the eStore experience? No. Why? Because I am NOT a person who is adept at online marketing and web-sales. But that is my problem and not one for which I can really blame CreateSpace.

Also, I find that the eStore can be a bit cumbersome for my readers to use. I would like to be able to link to one Home page at the CreateSpace eStore that would showcase ALL of my books, and allow people to at least browse all of my books at the eStore from links they would find on that Home page. Instead, each book has its own page. You can provide ONE link at the bottom of each page and that link can either take your reader back to your website where they can click on the next book they want to browse, OR the link can take them to another of your novels at CreateSpace. However, you have to guess which one they may want to view, so it’s not really the reader’s choice. For those reasons, the eStore can definitely stand to improve, in my opinion. However, the fact remains, that CreateSpace seems to be providing a service that no one else does, and they are compensating with a higher royalty rate for initiative taken by the author to market their own books.

Ms. Hoy goes on to state that CreateSpace has numerous complaints. In one instance, that statement simply leads to another of her articles with summarized statements from dissatisfied CreateSpace clients. Since there is no way to either refute or validate statements that have no cited source, you will need to make your own conclusions concerning validity. Unfortunately, Ms. Hoy does not appear to provide a means to allow comments on the blog articles on her site either. Since comments often go a long way to providing readers with a clue as to the value of articles, perhaps that is significant.

That said, I think that any company will have customer complaints, and I’m sure CreateSpace has them. Sometimes these may arise from misunderstandings, or a less-than-helpful customer service representative, or a multitude of other possible reasons. However, I have found that, often, a simple courteous email can resolve an issue.

So there you have it. That’s my interpretation and analysis of the article at Writer’s Weekly. As someone who has used CreateSpace for six novels now, I have to say that, if you do your homework, you are very unlikely to have any significant issues . . . or costs.

My thanks to Jana for the question. I hope I’ve managed to address it adequately. Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

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