By Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications
updated November 2015
CreateSpace (CS) is Amazon’s publishing services arm for print books. It is cost-efficient and easy to use. Cover design templates are available free (not recommended), as is the Interior Reviewer tool (a spell check program). Authors pay extra for services such as help with uploading files, fancier cover design, editing, formatting interiors. Authors can provide their own cover designs, too. The book will automatically be loaded into the Amazon database for sales via the Amazon website. Amazon direct deposits royalties to the author’s bank account – a three-month lag time exists to account for any books returned by customers (rare unless the book is badly written). Authors can purchase their own book at a discount (but no royalties earned). Be sure to read all details on the CreateSpace website before using their services.
Using a CreateSpace ISBN:
Most CreateSpace (CS) books are Amazon-owned, which means the author is using an Amazon CreateSpace ISBN (book identification number), not their own ISBN purchased from Bowker. That CS ISBN identifies the book as being a CS product – CreateSpace is the publisher on record, although the author owns the copyright. For $10 CreateSpace will allow the author to list his own imprint (company name) on the book, but the ISBN still belongs to CreateSpace, the publisher on record. This option is advisable if wanting to hide that the book was self-published via Amazon and so perhaps avoid the stigma of that.
Using your own ISBN with CreateSpace:
You can form your own publishing company to purchase your own ISBNs from Bowker and use them for your CreateSpace books. Register your books and their ISBNs into the Bowker Books in Print database. You are the publisher on record. Owning your own ISBN is not that important if selling only to readers online. If, however, you think real book stores or libraries would want your book, read the article about Ingram Spark regarding distribution and owning your own ISBN. And, be sure to read the next section about availability of CS books. CS will create a bar code using the ISBN.
Availability of CS books:
Books published with CreateSpace are available only on Amazon US and Europe, and now Amazon Canada. Book stores and some libraries do not purchase books from Amazon unless a customer requests it and there is no other way to get the book. Bookstores and libraries prefer to buy from their special distributors at about 40-55% off list price.
CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution option (now free) will put your CS book on other online seller websites, including Barnes & Noble. It will also get the book listed in the Ingram and the Baker & Taylor (B&T) databases. Ingram and B&T are major wholesaler-distributors for print books, the ones most book stores and libraries order from.
Amazon’s Expanded Distribution selling terms for Ingram and B&T are not up to industry standard, however. This means Ingram cannot offer books at a high enough discount to book stores (only 25% discount vs usual 50-55%). Expanded Distribution also does not allow for returns of unsold stock, which book stores are accustomed to being allowed to do. Hence, book stores will not willingly order an Amazon book even via Expanded Distribution. Not to mention, they do not like Amazon whether it launders its books through Ingram or not. Libraries are generally fine with ordering from Amazon via Expanded Distribution, but will order from the main Amazon website if necessary. You MUST use a CreateSpace ISBN to use Expanded Distribution for the library, school and university sales option (B&T), although Amazon may still allow you to pay the $10 to show your own publishing company on the book instead of CreateSpace, to look more professional.
Note that author royalties are less (40% of list vs 60%) if books are bought using Expanded Distribution channels.
Quality of CS books:
CS books look good. Good quality (300 dpi or better) black & white photos and illustrations usually do well on white paper and sometimes on cream – CS cream paper has a definite yellowish hue. Color illustrations with any digital printer do not fare as well, so be especially aware of this if printing children’s books – you may need to use the costly Custom Interior option. Be sure to have a printed proof book mailed to you (do not rely on the online proof) for your approval. Cost of a proof copy and shipping is not expensive.
Amazon contracts with an unnamed print-on-demand company for CS books, but Lightning Source (formerly the preferred printer for serious indie publishers) is its main printer for books entered in the Expanded Distribution program. Some people say CS books by the unnamed company do not hold up as well as books printed via Lightning Source, but if true it’s probably not a big an issue for most buyers, who will only read the book once anyway.
The CreateSpace e-store
CreateSpace authors can create their own web page on a special Amazon shopping site selling only CS print books. Pass this link around to friends or through social media, put it on your website. The author gets a higher royalty if books sell through this special web page, but the shipping rate is very high! Most people would rather buy directly off the book’s Amazon profile and get free shipping with any $25 order or through their Prime membership.
Getting a CS book into a local bookstore:
For sales at real stores, you will probably have to buy the book yourself from CreateSpace (at the author discount), even if you have expanded distribution, and let the store do consignment sales. Consignment means the store gets 40% and you get 60% of sell price. It is possible that a book store will not want anything to do with a CreateSpace book due to its Amazon connection. Authors should develop a good relationship with the book store owner (be a friendly customer) and have a quality product with a sales plan before approaching with a consignment request. For consignment, authors are responsible for supplying and tracking books and money.
Do you care about sales outside Amazon?
You might not care if local bookstores won’t order your book (maybe there aren’t any left in town, maybe you’re happy with selling via consignment). You might not care if your book is not listed on other online bookseller websites because Amazon is the major player. Use Expanded Distribution to get the book on B&N, but concerning library sales, many small publishers think Expanded Distribution for that isn’t worth letting Amazon be publisher on record.
Most new authors of any genre book should find Amazon’s CreateSpace to be economical and appropriate for their needs. CS owning the ISBN is not usually an issue, although the $10 ISBN allowing the author to use her own imprint name will look more professional. Most people have found the CS service reps to be helpful. Those believing their books would be important to libraries or bookstores nationwide – and are ready to market to them – should consider using Ingram Spark in addition to CreateSpace (see the Ingram Spark article).