You are viewing boutell

entries friends calendar profile Goode Trouble Previous Previous Next Next
I Am My Avatar - CreateSpace: self-publication gets a little less difficult
Big Warm Fuzzy Public Heart
boutell
boutell
Add to Memories
Share
CreateSpace: self-publication gets a little less difficult
shadesong just made me aware of CreateSpace, a new print-on-demand, sales and distribution service for multiple media including audio CDs, books, and DVDs. Folks are excited because this holds out the promise of self-publishing without the stigma. But does it work?

Why CreateSpace is attractive

CreateSpace prints books, CDs and other media on demand and enables you to sell them through Amazon. Amazon sales equal a much higher comfort level for buyers.

Yes, CreateSpace books do appear to show up in Amazon title searches, at least in my tests. "Search Inside This Book" is also supported. And I would not be surprised if they appeared in "people who bought X also bought Y" lists generated by Amazon.

Dollars and cents: where it gets tricky

I priced out the use of CreateSpace for two media: books and music CDs. I ignored their own examples, which are rather optimistic, and went for scenarios involving prices customers might willingly pay.

Audio CDs

It would be hard to make much money on an audio CD produced with them, with a base fee of $4.95/unit and an Amazon sales cut of 45%. You earn a 55 cent profit on a $10 CD, a $1.10 profit on an $11 CD, a $1.65 profit on a $12 CD. Can't get away with charging any higher than that for music. The good news is that I do see prices for CDs in the $11/$12 range, although popular new releases are sometimes much lower.

If you use a CreateSpace E-Store instead of Amazon, you lose less dough, but you lose that warm fuzzy Amazon One-Click feeling.

Books

The story with books is similar. Asking $10 for a 200-page paperback book with no color inside might be asking a lot. But you'll pay a $3.15 fixed fee, plus 30% for Amazon ($3.00), plus 2 cents per page ($4). That adds up to $10.15. so you can't ask $10 for your book.

If you step up to $12 for that 200-page book, though, you'll make a profit of $1.25.

For comparison, Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea is close to 200 pages and sells for $11.20 new on Amazon. So $12 is a defensible price tag.

Note that while Wizard of Earthsea is better than anything I'm likely to write, the book has been out a long time and there is no shortage of supply. So there's no reason to assume an inflated price for it. This makes it a reasonable price comparison point for short novels.

Of course, modern genre novels tend to be longer. So let's say we're talking 400 paperback pages. Then you're looking at an extra $4 in per-page fees. You can't sell it for $15, you go into the red there. The math works at $20, with a profit of $2.85.

But good luck selling a 400-page paperback for $20. For comparison, Greg Bear's Moving Mars (well-written science fiction, not junk by any standard) is 500 pages and it's available for just under $10 on Amazon.

What You Don't Get

When you choose not to work with a traditional publisher, you don't get the credibility attached to their name. Also, you don't get placement in brick and mortar bookstores (some self-published authors manage this on their own, but it's a helluva job). There will be no book-of-the-month-club edition of your book, at least unless you have already successfully marketed many copies yourself.

In a nutshell: marketing is your job, 100%.

Also, the connection with CreateSpace may attach a stigma to your work among those who understand how CreateSpace works, though never so bad as the stigma attached to subsidy publishers who pretend to be something else.

The Bottom Line

CreateSpace do take a bite, don't she!

For audio CDs aimed at a general music audience, it's a bite that still permits a price your listeners might be willing to pay.

For short novels, the situation is similar. At 200 pages, you can price your book tolerably.

Authors of longer novels probably won't be happy with CreateSpace, due to a high break-even point (no, CreateSpace won't let you sell at a loss, even if you want to).

The big winners will probably be those who have a built-in audience that doesn't care if the book costs $10 more than books of a comparable length, because of the content. If you've written the one and only decent book on roller derby for cats, cats on wheels are going to buy it anyway.

Costs, and therefore potential sales prices, are lower if you use a CreateSpace e-store instead of Amazon. But access to Amazon's payment system, which holds out the promise that customers will see your stuff as more legitimate and pay you with less anxiety, is a big part of the appeal of CreateSpace.

Yes, I would probably try CreateSpace if I had a perfectly good book that nobody wanted to publish. But if you don't have a built-in audience of, say, 100 people who are chomping at the bit to buy your book, simply popping it up on CreateSpace won't change that. There's Too Much Stuff Out There As It Is. CreateSpace helps quite a bit with sales and distribution, but don't kid yourself: you are the marketing department.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments
crisper From: crisper Date: September 26th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
>When you choose not to work with a traditional publisher, you don't get the credibility attached to
> their name. Also, you don't get placement in brick and mortar bookstores (some self-published
> authors manage this on their own, but it's a helluva job). There will be no book-of-the-month-
> club edition of your book, at least unless you have already successfully marketed many copies
> yourself.

Of course, you probably weren't going to get any of these things anyway, statistically speaking.
boutell From: boutell Date: September 26th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes, I get your point. I'm not sure how high and dry you are typically left by a typical publisher, though, or whether you were thinking of the difficulty of getting accepted in the first place.
crisper From: crisper Date: September 26th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Both. Only a fraction of the writers a publisher puts out there get any sort of treatment, promotion, etc. The rest sink or swim on their own regardless. And that's only after you've managed to get the book deal in the first place, which probably involved having an agent, etc.
catbear From: catbear Date: September 26th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
A fully automated Docucolor system is cheaper than the scratch-built website set up to feed it. Marketing is everything, and CreateSpace doesn't do any -- so I don't see what these people are offering that is of value that can't be had at a thousand other books-on-demand vendors, most likely for less.
boutell From: boutell Date: September 26th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is anybody else offering such seamless integration with Amazon?
rwx From: rwx Date: September 26th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
The integration with Amazon is pretty much the selling point. I suspect, although I'm not sure, that Amazon is about to push publishers to make their **back catalogue** available through this service, which would mean everything would be available in a NDTV forever.
boutell From: boutell Date: September 27th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
NDTV?
rwx From: rwx Date: September 26th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It also makes sense if you're a publisher pursuing the long tail -- just put books up that aren't worth printing a run of, and let people buy it if they want it. Since you've already done all the other costs of publishing, many books should be available here for free.

It also makes sense for Academic presses and whatever, for those books that are widely regarded as influential in a field with 100 people in it total.

As for myself, I might put a book I've recently finished up there, it is literally more time than I have to go hunting for technical publishers at this point.
8 comments or Leave a comment
profile
Tom Boutell
User: boutell
Name: Tom Boutell
Website: Goode Trouble
calendar
Back August 2014
12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31
page summary
tags