Places to Publish: CreateSpace

I’m beginning a series of articles on places for indie authors to publish and sell their books. I can’t think of a better place to start than CreateSpace.

Print on Demand

CreateSpace is a print on demand publisher. The term print on demand requires more explanation.

To explain print on demand, it helps by explaining traditional book printing. Traditional publishers do print runs of 1,000 or more books. When you print 1,000 or more copies of a book at a time, the price per book comes down.

There’s nothing stopping you from doing a traditional print run as a self-publisher, but there are disadvantages. You have to shell out thousands of dollars for the print run. You have to store the books somewhere. When someone orders a copy of your book, you need to handle the order and ship the book. A traditional print run is also risky because there’s no way of knowing how many copies your book will sell. If you print 1,000 copies of a book and sell only 200, you’re going to lose money.

Print on demand publishers take care of the mundane tasks of self-publishing. You submit a PDF file for the book to them. When someone orders a copy of your book, the print on demand publisher processes the order, prints a copy of the book, and ships it to the customer. By printing a book only when a customer orders it, there’s no unsold inventory with print on demand publishing.

The downside of print on demand publishing is the price of printing a single book is higher than doing a traditional print run. But the reduced risk of print on demand publishing outweighs the higher printing cost. I would rather make $1-2 less per sale with print on demand publishing than ship books myself and risk having hundreds of unsold copies of my book sitting in my house.

Pricing

CreateSpace doesn’t charge upfront fees to sell your books. They take a percentage of each sale. How much they take depends on the distribution channel you use.

  • If you sell a copy of the book on the CreateSpace eStore, they take 20% of the book price plus the cost of printing the book.
  • If you sell a book on Amazon, they take 40% of the book price plus the printing cost.
  • If you use CreateSpace’s expanded distribution channel to sell to libraries and bookstores, they take 60% of the book price plus the cost of printing the book.

The cost of printing the book depends on the number of pages and the type of interior: black and white or color. Printing a book with a black and white interior costs 85 cents plus 1.2 cents per page. Books 108 pages or less have a flat $2.15 fee.

Suppose you are publishing a 300 page book and selling it for $20. The cost of printing the book is:

.85 + (300 * .012) = .85 + 3.60 = $4.45

Here’s how much you would get for selling the book on CreateSpace.

CreateSpace eStore: 20 - (20 * .2) - 4,45 = 20 - 4 - 4.45 = $11.55

Amazon: 20 - (20 * .4) - 4.45 = 20 - 8 - 4.45 = $7.55

Expanded Distribution: 20 - (20 * .6) - 4.45 = $3.55

CreateSpace also offers services like cover design and editing, but you don’t have to use them to publish a book with CreateSpace.

Strengths

CreateSpace’s biggest strength is your book is on Amazon. If you want to sell a print book on Amazon, CreateSpace is your best option. In my pricing example, you got about 37% of the book price for each sale on Amazon. If you use another print on demand publisher, your piece of each Amazon sale is going to be similar to your piece when using CreateSpace’s expanded distribution channel.

CreateSpace makes it easy to sell your book on Amazon’s Kindle Store. All you need to do is sign up for a Kindle Direct Publishing account.

Weaknesses

You don’t get much money per book if you use CreateSpace’s expanded distribution channel. In my pricing example you got only about 17% of the book’s price when using the expanded distribution channel.

Summary

If you plan to sell books on Amazon, you should check out CreateSpace. No other service will pay as much for a book someones buys on Amazon.

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