First, a disclaimer: in the course of this report, I’m going to mention several products and companies. I’m not affiliated with them, except to the extent that, like many of you, I use their programs and services. My purpose is to inform others of some of what’s available, and what works, in late 2012 for indie authors and small publishers wishing to pursue the object of bringing their books to the public, in print form. And most of it is FREE–as far as CreateSpace goes, I did most of the work myself via software and internet, so I only paid for copies and a modest shipping charge.
Well, you have to savor these moments. It’s not every day that the delivery man drops 100 pounds’ worth of your own creation on your doorstep. Though it has happened to me before–that’s my first point. I have seen two previous [text]books through the press, in 2000 and 2005, respectively. Wow–much is changing in a brief span of time. Only twelve years. Seven years.
When I relate the timetable, you may have trouble believing it. I do, and I’m holding the evidence.
I published my e-book through Amazon’s KDP Select back in August. Never mind how many years it took me to draft, revise, edit, and format that project. Suffice to say, many. But once Clotho’s Loom was out there in electronic format, it quickly became clear to me that there were folks who would love to read it but, despite all my efforts to promote an ebook–a whole other tale–these people just want a physical book. And I can’t say I blame them. Even though, as someone who has moved my residence many times in the past decades, I’ve given and thrown away a lot of books I no longer had use for, I have kept a small and treasured collection.
Okay, skip to the very near-present: one week ago, in fact. I had lain down the raw audio tracks for my planned Audiobook edition, and just as it was becoming clear to me that being an audio engineer would require (another) steep learning curve, I caught a cold. Funny, huh? It wrecked my voice for re-dubs. No choice–I had to convalesce, and turn to another project in the meantime. So I wondered, even though the original paperback publication was scheduled and announced for mid-January, if I couldn’t possibly finish that business up before the holidays. I did not dare dream I could have a print edition for sale–I merely hoped to go into the new year with some solid work done. Winter, after all, is reading season. Also, I had shown one bit of intelligence by marking all errors and potential late revisions I caught (reading from my Kindle) while recording audio. This, coupled with another pass through the MS Word’s spell-check, produced a text with far fewer problems. (For clarity’s sake, most of the problems were of a formatting nature. I have been using WordPerfect and MS Word since the DOS days, and I’ll just say that a program called Scrivener may work better for 21st-century fiction writers–I’m not sure yet.)
I opened my Createspace account last FRIDAY (a week after “Black” Friday). My book is here in my hands today (the following Thursday.) The mind boggles. My first two books both took one year from acceptance to publication. And lest you think this must be some little novella–well, no. This thing is a brick — seriously, you could deck an intruder with the spine. At 205,000 words, the volume weighs in at two pounds of bona-fide literary fiction, just like we used to read in school. No cheaty-big margins, no oversized typeface, and only a few blank pages. A single week. I’m not going to say it was easy, but man was it fast.
Here’s the rundown. You’ll need some software. In addition to your favorite word processor and book files, and a very gamesome attitude, you’ll want an image-editing program (MS Paint works for basic tasks, but I produced the whole wraparound cover myself from CS’s template, using a more advanced prog called Zoner Photo Studio. Obviously, you Photoshop gurus will be within your wheelhouse. I, in fact, know very little of either. You also need a PDF creator, not just a reader. Adobe Acrobat serves well. Again, I know little, but was able to learn in the course of a few late nights.
I uploaded my files Friday night–you should pay careful attention to CS’s guidelines, which are clear, and I do recommend downloading the templates. On Saturday I was shocked to see electronic proofs ready for my approval. Remember, this was a weekend during the year’s most hectic month. Now, especially if you’ve never read proof, this vital stage in the process is best done on paper, and you can order old-school paper proofs from CS, or print them yourself on laser. For those who have done this, you can imagine the next 24-36 hours were long ones for me. In addition to error-catching, I had technical problems with PDF conversions, page numbers, setting margins, as well as choosing proper fonts and sizes, colors, creating logos for Glas Daggre (my publishing imprint,) and the rest. You just take one problem at a time, hopefully patiently. I approved the proofs on late Sunday, and sat back for more waiting. But every time I thought I’d be going back to the audiobook, something else happened.
A CreateSpace store opened almost immediately for me–technically, the book was for sale! This takes minimal set-up. I ordered my own batch of copies, to see the product quality of course, and to distribute to reviewers, giveaway winners, and a few friends, as well as to stock myself up for sales though my website, or even a possible book signing somewhere. I was informed that CL would appear on Amazon in a week or so. It was there Monday. For Sale. I then proceeded to Seller Central, where one can request the “Search/Look Inside the Book” feature. Several e-mail exchanges and PDF uploads, and about 24 hours later: Done! (I was also not aware that this feature makes the entire text of your book available to certain search engines, though only to searchers in small bites–obviously a big bonus). Sometime on early Tuesday, I received an e-mail that my copies shipped out, and were on their way to me. REALLY?
More promos. Write on the blog. A press release would be a good idea. I can’t seem to get back to actual audio engineering, so I watch Audacity (open source, free) tutorials in preparation. I also sign up for a Lightning Source account, for extended distribution channels and a possible hardcover edition, but I don’t commit yet. Their process is slower and more deliberate, anyway, because they deal with accounts of every size, from sole proprietorships like mine, to behemoth companies. I also don’t go forward yet, because I want to see the CreateSpace copies first. Notice I’ve shifted to the present tense?
Now this may be the news you’ve been waiting for: with that kind of incredible speed, how good could they be? Answer: pretty damn good. I’ve scrutinized over a dozen copies so far, and aside from variations that lie within some pretty tight production tolerances, they’re high-quality and consistent. About 95% perfect, I’d say–and of the remaining 5%, maybe 3.5 is my own fault. Remember one thing about Print-On-Demand: garbage in, garbage out. If you submit a cover that looks amateurish, that’s what you’ll receive–so don’t. And the resolution proved to be quite high (CS asks for 300dpi photos,) so if they have flaws, get rid of them before submission. I’m very happy with mine, but remember what they used to say about Compact Discs: “the digital format can reveal limitations of the source material.” Same here. The color reproduction was excellent, but I allowed few jaggies and one shifted bleed area to slip through, that will get some tweaking for next time. No biggie–a buyer likely would not blink. And the beauty is I can submit corrected files NOW–not, as in the old days, when and if a new edition gets tooled up and printed.
If I had one complaint so far, I’d like my interior typeface a shade darker. A magnifying glass will reveal that my Times-New-Roman was produced via dot-matrix tech of some kind–though again, not enough to disturb buyers, and probably my own fault. CS and LS both specify that all fonts must be “embedded” in your PDFs–and to show you I was not kidding about not being an expert with any of the softwares this kind of work takes–I still don’t know what an embedded font is.
And, lo and behold, when I logged into my CreateSpace account following delivery, in order to check my balance against the packed invoice, I discovered I had the first of my royalties awaiting me!
So there it is. Things could not have gone more smoothly, so far (aside from my own learning process, which always seems to hurt a bit). And well in time for the Holiday season–I’m not sure if, like all the good folks in retail and delivery out there, they’re really amping up during the month of December over there at CS, or if this is now business-as-usual in the POD industry. I am sure I’ll issue a follow-up report during 2013–but first impression: well done, Amazon/CreateSpace!