Createspace: Print-on-demand option

When I decided to go down the Self-Publishing road, I wanted to produce both e-books and paperback copies of my novels – and, having looked around a bit, and listened to advice from friends, I opted for Createspace.

It has much to recommend it, in my opinion. It is very easy to do (even for a technological cretin such as myself); it is free (though you can choose to pay for some services if you wish); it is quick (you get notification of the completed book within twenty-four hours) and it is a joy to see your own book made manifest.

There are drawbacks, as in any system this world has to offer. Because it is based in the US, while buying the actual books is cheap for the author, shipping prices are on the steep side. I had already decided that local book sales were going to be an important part of my promotional activity – and so I spent a couple of hundred pounds ordering copies of my novels.

What happens is this: When the company, based in South Carolina, get an order, they print the requisite number of copies there and then, and one gets sent them. For the Amazon customer, it is easy: He or she simply orders the book as a paperback and Bob, as we say over here, is your uncle!

Did I break even in terms of sales? Probably yes, just about – but I most certainly did not make a massive profit from this exercise. However, the pleasure of interacting with eager customers, the sheer joy of seeing my lovely colourful paperbacks and signing my name in them more than made up for the lack of serious moolah in the Taylor bank!

That was then. Now? Sales of paperbacks have all but dried up – and this is such a shame, I think. Yes, they are more expensive (costing between £4 and £9.40) than their Kindle equivalents – and I can quite see that this would deter people (though, with my love of books I can hold, I invariably go for other writers’ paperbacks myself) – but there is something depressing about viewing my Createspace figures and, month after month, seeing nothing but a big fat zero.

We have to play a canny game with pricing – as fellow published writers will be aware: With the print-on-demand books, if one sets the price too low, one becomes ineligible for royalties; on the other hand, set it too high and no one wants to buy one’s books. I set all of mine just above the minimum price for their categories, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!

I’ll tell you what does make me a tad peeved – at my own naivety, my own tendency to sell myself short – and that is this: The most expensive of my books, the one costing just under a tenner as a paperback, is both high quality and long (nearly four hundred pages!); three of the others are between 150 and 250 pages in length. I do not consider that I am asking extortionate amounts of dosh for them. Yet, I see on Amazon writers whose KINDLE E-BOOKS cost as much as, if not more than, my paperbacks!

All of my e-book editions cost less than £4 to buy and download, and most of them are under £3.

Isn’t it weird, fellow writers? People in this world think nothing of paying £5 or more for a packet of cigarettes, £5 or more for a bottle of wine and the same for a Lottery ticket – and yet a similar amount for a high quality, 150-plus-page book is seen, in some odd way, as a bloody cheek on the part of the writer and far too much for the pocket to disgorge!

Having said all of this, I am delighted with the finished product of my Createspace adventures. All six* of them look lovely and are a pleasure to hold and to read. I do not regret my choice for one minute – but I do feel sad that I have had so few takers on the paperback front!

Would I recommend the print-on-demand option to other writers? Absolutely! But don’t expect to become millionaires from it – unless your book is lucky enough to push all the zeigeist’s buttons and propel you to super-stardom!

*Six because ‘Come Laughing!’ came out as a second edition, and with a new cover, and called ‘Strictly Come Laughing!’ Same text, however!


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