Using CreateSpace for Your Paperback
Wanted to keep people abreast of the latest developments with my historical fiction novel, The Wandering King.
Since self-publishing the e-book version on March 29th, the paperback version came out a month later on April 29th. For the hard copy, I used Amazon’s company, CreateSpace. Similar to self-publishing for the Kindle, CreateSpace is fairly easy to use, it simply involved following their formatting guidelines. As I’ve stated previously, you can pay people to do all of this for you, or you can do it yourself. I’ve done the work myself, and believe that if you have half a brain you can pretty much do the whole thing on your own.
CreateSpace gives you a lot of options for publishing your paperback. Almost everything to do with printing your book is under your control. For instance, the book size. There are 15 different sizes to choose from, the smallest being 5” x 8” and the largest 8.5” x 11”. Though you might think a smaller size would yield a cheaper book price, not necessarily. The smaller the book, the less words you can fit on a page, hence the more pages you’ll need. The more pages you use, the more expensive it is to print your book. After fiddling with several sizes, I settled on 6” x 9.”
You also get to select which fonts you use, along with the spacing between lines and paragraphs, again, all of which affect your total number of pages. Just by tweaking these parameters, my book could have been anywhere from 250 to 500 pages long. As readability was important to me, I used a 12 point font, and 6 points of leading between the paragraphs, all of which looks quite pleasing to the eye. Since the book is about ancient Greece, I used the Papyrus style font for the chapter titles. These might seem like rather small details, but it’s actually rather cool to have that level of control over what your book will look like.
As a novice, about the most difficult part of the formatting process was breaking the book into two sections, so that I could use Roman numerals for the pre-book materials, like the maps and table of contents, and regular numerals for the text. Might sound silly, but perhaps the most maddening thing about the process was getting the headers set up correctly. Once I got those parameters straight, the rest was a snap.
Creating a Cover
The only thing I could not accomplish myself was creating the book cover and the maps. Once you have all of your formatting issues resolved, you upload your book file into CreateSpace’s cover creator. In the end, The Wandering King weighed in at 378 pages, which determines the width of the spine of your book. Their cover creator program kicks out a PDF template that gives you the exact dimensions of your cover. As I work with a number of graphic designers, I asked a co-worker to put together the cover and create two maps. Though I wanted to pay her, she refused to take any money from me, so I gave her a $100 gift certificate to a nice Italian restaurant, She was pleased, and I came away feeling that I got all of the book’s artwork done rather cheaply. I placed the maps in my Word doc and uploaded the cover into CreateSpace.
All of this might sound rather complicated. It’s not. You simply follow CreateSpace’s online step-by-step instructions. If you’ve done anything wrong along the way, they tell you exactly on what page you can find the error so you can correct it and move on.
The next step is simply proofing your final manuscript and cover. CreateSpace’s tools for proofing are excellent, as they give you a snapshot of what your finished book will look like online in a PDF format that you can download and review at your leisure. They’ll even mail you a printed version for you to proof for a small fee. After you’re finished proofing your book, you release it to CreateSpace and they check to make sure it meets their requirements (i.e., no pornography). They get back to you within 24 hours and if all goes well, the book is ready for publication.
CreateSpace works on a print-on-demand basis. As orders come in through Amazon, they print out the books one at a time and mail them out. Unlike traditional publishers, they are not printing out an initial run of several thousand books, which would have to be catalogued and warehoused. It also means you don’t get stuck with a bill or an angry publisher if your books don’t sell.
CreateSpace takes care of getting the book onto Amazon for you. If you have an e-book version out there already, as I did, within 72 hours, Amazon marries together the two books so that they are for sale on one page.
Among the last things you have to decide is the distribution channels where you want the book sold and how you want to price your book. CreateSpace distributes through Amazon US, Amazon Europe and the CreateSpace e-store for free. The CreateSpace e-store is a page on CreateSpace’s web site, similar to Amazon’s web site where people can buy the book.
For an additional $25 a year, you can opt for CreateSpace’s expanded distribution. CreateSpace does not explain how it works, all they tell you is that by using their expanded distribution the book will be available to online retailers, libraries and academic institutions. The problem with expanded distribution is that CreateSpace charges them more for your book, so if you decide to use it, you have to raise the price of your book, otherwise you’ll be selling them at a loss.
One of the cool things about the entire process is pricing your book. CreateSpace has an online calculator that allows you to plug in a price, and they calculate your royalty. You can modify the price of the book for each channel, and will make the most profit by selling it through the CreateSpace e-store, which is also where you’ll want to order copies for yourself, as they give you a reduced price (about 30% of the retail price).
I don’t know how other people go about it, but as I was making roughly $2 per e-book through Amazon, I priced the paperback at $12.50 because that yielded the same royalty per book, $2. I realize at $2 per book, I’m not going to get rich on The Wandering King, but that was never my goal. My goal was simply to get read.
To make the book as inexpensive as possible, initially I did not opt for expanded distribution. This meant I was able to sell the book for $12.50, which is cheap for a paperback. According to my local independent bookstore, books like The Wandering King typically sell for $16.95. Hard to believe, but true.
For the first three months, I kept the e-book for sale on Amazon for $2.99 (the cheapest price point that yields a 70% royalty) and kept the paperback at $12.50. I took a handful of the paperback around to our local independent bookstores and was happy to learn that they were glad to support local authors and willing to sell the book on a consignment basis.
Promoting Your Book
I also joined the websites Goodreads and LibraryThing. In a way they are social networks like Facebook, but with a twist: they are devoted to reading books. I discovered that both sites allow you to raffle off a couple copies of your book, which gets them noticed by thousands of readers. I gave away 5 copies of the book on each site, and was delighted when over 450 people wanted a copy on Goodreads and 200 people wanted it on LibraryThing. This turned out to be a fairly good marketing strategy as both sites allow you to place a book on your ‘to read’ list. Just by throwing a few copies into these free raffles, several hundred people added The Wandering King to their ‘to read’ lists. Of course they might not get around to buying and reading the book for a year, but it still helps generate interest.
At the end of the free promotions, Goodreads and LibraryThing randomly selected 5 winners and sent me their names and addresses for me to mail them a copy of the book. As privacy is always an issue, part of the arrangement states that you will not try to mail these people or give out their address. As you are giving away your book for free, the unwritten agreement is that the raffle winners will write a review of your book.
Thus far, out of the 10 free copies that I mailed out in May, only one person has given me a review. A Goodreads member named Glen gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. In his review he wrote: “This is a superior novel about the life of a young Spartan prince as he grows up and travels the world on various adventures… All in all, a great novel. I can’t wait for the next volume.”
Speaking of reviews, in three months time I’ve received 15 reviews on Amazon. Fourteen of the reviewers gave the book 5 stars, while one person gave it 4 stars. All in all, some very encouraging comments. A man named Steven from Houston, TX, wrote: “Many thanks to the guy who wrote this book. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to all my friends. The book is something special, great character development; this man can really write. Its historical fiction with some cool romance. A whole big bunch of book for the money.”
Someone named Dianne wrote: “Turning the last page of a good book, ending a good read, is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. One relishes the experience of both and longs for more time together. This author quickly pulls the reader into the story and maintains the suspense and action throughout the story. The author did a terrific job of weaving his story around the Hellenic era and including their gods in the story. I highly recommend this book.”
Click here to read all of the reviews for The Wandering King on Amazon.
When I first released the e-book, I signed up for something called Kindle Select. I did it for two reasons: 1) they allow you to run a promotion of your book giving it away for free for up to 5 days to help spread awareness and gain reviews, and 2) you get paid when Amazon Prime members borrow your book. The downside was that Amazon had exclusive rights to your e-book for 90 days. In other words, no selling it to their competitors such as Barnes & Noble for the NOOK.
During that 90-day period, I ran a free promotion and over 5 days 886 people downloaded the book for free, over 100 of them from outside the U.S. How many have resulted in reviews on Amazon, I’m not sure. During those 90 days, about 15 Amazon Prime members borrowed the book and I got paid a little under $2 per borrow. Supposedly, Amazon totals up the amount of money they make selling Amazon Prime memberships during the month and hands a portion of it back to Kindle Select members.
In the end, I decided that the small amount of money that I made through borrows did not justify giving Amazon exclusive rights to my book. My hope is that by opening it up for distribution on other sites like Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Smashwords, ultimately I’ll net more readers. Of course, that remains to be seen.
Barnes & Noble
At the end of June when the 90-day Kindle Select period was over, I opted not to re-up. Instead I formatted my book for the NOOK and on July 1st it went up for sale on Barnes & Noble’s web site. As an aside, though not difficult, the self-publishing instructions provided by Amazon were a lot more extensive than those provided by Barnes & Noble. Having gone through the process for the Kindle, admittedly it was not that hard, but I was a little disappointed by B&N’s scanty instructions. Still, the NOOK Press step-by-step online instructions made the whole thing fairly simple. Just to mention it, Amazon pays a 70% royalty on their e-books, while Barnes and Noble pays a 65% royalty. Not a big difference. On an inexpensive e-book it only comes down to about .20 cents per book, but it’s still worth noting.
Adjusting the Book Price
At the same time that the book came out for the NOOK, In an effort to increase distribution of the paperback, I decided to spring for the $25 and opt for CreateSpace’s expanded distribution. Unfortunately, to keep from losing money, I was forced to raise the price on the paperback from $12.50 to $14.95.
At the same time I decided to raise the price on the e-book from $2.99 to $3.99. On one hand, I did not want there to be a widening disparity between the cost of the e-book and the paperback, plus, I‘d read a blog recently that made the argument that if you price your e-book for $2.99 you are waving a big, red flag that says: BEWARE! NOOB! SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR AHEAD! This blogger claimed that the $2.99 pricing can actually be a detriment to getting your book read. Some buyers will view the $2.99 price as a sure sign that the book is by an inexperienced writer, meaning the book could be riddled with typos, formatting issues and misspellings. The blogger claimed that by raising the price of her book from $2.99 to $3.99 and then $4.99 her book sales actually went up! Therefore I decided to experiment with the e-book price by raising it to $3.99. Though it’s only been a week since the change, I can’t say that I see an increase or a drop in sales, they’re pretty much holding steady.
The good news is that the book is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The expanded distribution through Amazon must also be kicking in, as I’ve also noticed it for sale on online retailers like Tower Books, AbeBooks, Dealzilla and Alibris.
Sales Results After Three Months
To share with you the sales results I have thus far, in a little over 3 months there have been 180 e-book sales and 16 hard copies sold. Since putting it up on Barnes & Noble on July 1, there have been 2 NOOK sales. Yeah, I know, my novel about ancient Greece isn’t cracking up big numbers, but I rather expected that. I’m just happy that anyone is reading it, and that the initial reviews are all positive. About the only other point I want to make about the numbers, is that it’s interesting to see that the e-book is out-selling the paperback by 11 to 1. Because the e-book is cheaper, I had a feeling it would sell more, but not by that margin.
That’s the latest. Once I get the book onto Google Play and Smashwords, I’ll let you know how the process went.