CreateSpace is the publishing engine of global online retailer and publisher Amazon. Createspace began life in 2002 as CustomFlix Labs (DVD), originally intended to make widespread distribution easier for independent filmmakers by providing on-demand DVD production. In 2000, a small group of writers pooled resources to form Booksurge with the intention of creating opportunities for authors to self-publish their books and retain content rights and sales profits. Both companies quickly flourished and in 2005, Amazon acquired them, with CustomFlix Labs changing its name to CreateSpace in 2007. By late 2009, Amazon took the logical step and merged CreateSpace and Booksurge under the CreateSpace brand name to form a single company offering on-demand manufacturing of books, DVD’s and music formats for independent artists and businesses. CreateSpace also supports on-demand products for Amazon retail and their publishing imprints AmazonEncore (for deserving author slipping under the mainstream radar)and AmazonCrossing (for foreign language books deserving an English translation).
A couple of years ago CreateSpace might have seemed like any other POD (print on demand) service, but visit their site now and you will be in no doubt that you are dealing with a compant connected to the Amazon brand. For several years CreateSpace was the main competitor to DIY self-publishing service, Lulu.com, but 2009 has actually seen CreateSpace surpass the published output of the Tennessee self-publishing service.
Many readers will have followed my own DIY self-publishing experiences on this website with Lulu and Blurb and wondered why we did not offer a more expansive review of CreateSpace until now. We delayed doing a thorough review throughout 2009 and 2010 because of the rapid development and changes at Amazon and CreateSpace.
CreateSpace, in spite of all the changes, has built up an extraordinary strong brand and it was no real surprise late last year when Booksurge was subsumed into the CreateSpace brand. Like Lulu (LUL 244.75), CreateSpace is the ideal place for an independent DIY artist to go and upload a book, film or album for on-demand production and publication.
For the purpose of this review, we will centre on CreateSpace for the services they offer self-publishing authors. The most significant move made by this company last year was the introduction of a full global online distribution and availability package at $39 (Pro-Plan), costing almost half of what is on offer at Lulu for a similar deal. Books submitted and up-loaded must meet with CreateSpace’s technical requirements. Prior to the introduction of this distribution package, CreateSpace would have always been considered the second choice for serious self-published authors. Thankfully, that all changed last year when CreateSpace introduced the package and it truly put the company on the map as a DIY self-publishing service. Of course, like Lulu, if an author has modest aspirations, and simply want to have a printed book and use CreateSpace’s ISBN and are happy with availability of their book on the CreateSpace’s bookstore and Amazon, then setting up a book is technically free, outside of the cost of the final proof copy of the book before it is made available.
CreateSpace uses online tools to upload a completed book PDF file, or allows the author to design their book using templates and widgets provided by CreateSpace. I found the Createspace application for book load-up not quite as easy to use as Lulu, but that is purely a personal taste. The quality of what you have and what you put in is what determines the quality of output on the finished book. The book samples I have purchased from CreateSpace were exceptionally good and on a par with anything I have got from Lightning Source.
From the CreateSpace website:
You earn the same royalty share for each book manufactured through the Expanded Distribution Channel. These earnings are recorded in your sales reports as Expanded Distribution sales. Sales information may take up to eight weeks from when a sale is made to appear in the sales reports.
It may take up to six weeks for your title to begin populating in the distribution outlets you select. Additionally, changes to any details of your book including list price, selling information (such as your book’s product description), or your book’s files may take up to six weeks to update in all distribution outlets. Outlets don’t update simultaneously, so your book’s previous list price, selling information, or files will persist until the change propagates throughout the distribution outlets.
Book Update Fees
If you need to change the cover or interior files for your book for any reason, we can accommodate your request; however, there will be a $25 book update fee for each new file change request. This fee only applies to changes made for an EDC-enrolled title.”
Upgrade your book to Pro Plan to lower your book’s fixed and per-page charges.
Sales Channel Percentage
A sales channel percentage is deducted from your book’s list price depending on which sales channel the book is sold through.”
Fixed charges vary depending on your book’s page count, whether your book’s interior is black and white or full-color, and if your title has been upgraded to Pro Plan.
Some books with higher page counts may also have a per-page charge.
Based on the above figures, if an author goes for the Pro-Plan distribution on our average example of a 200 page black and white interior and full colour cover books, then we are looking at the following royalty share for authors if they set a retail price at $10:
Through CreateSpace bookstore – $10 less 20% ($2) distribution, less fixed charge for Pro-Plan ($0.85), less page charge ($2.40) = $4.75
Through Amazon bookstore – $10 less 40% ($4) distribution, less fixed charge for Pro-Plan ($0.85), less page charge ($2.40) = $2.75
Through other expanded channels – $10 less 60% ($6) distribution, less fixed charge for Pro-Plan ($0.85), less page charges ($2.40) = $0.75″
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It is obviously worth making a Kindle version available with Amazon if you are going to use CreateSpace to publish your book. The service itself does not come at a fee and the author gets 35% royalties on the retail price.
Provided you are not in breach of your obligations under this Agreement, we will pay you, for each Digital Book sold to a customer (i.e., an end user) through the Program, a royalty (“Royalty”) equal to thirty-five percent (35%) of the applicable List Price for such Digital Book, net of refunds, bad debt, and any taxes charged to a customer or applied with respect to sales to a customer (including without limitation any value added or sales taxes). If your List Price for a Digital Book is higher than permitted under Section 5.3.1 above, we will be entitled to deem it modified so that it is equal to the maximum List Price permitted when calculating Royalties due to you under this Agreement.
Like competitor Lulu, CreateSpace offers access to a thriving online community of CreateSpace authors well worth browsing if any author is seriously considering using this service. CreateSpace offers an abundance of other services from design and layout to editing, but again, CreateSpace’s strength lies in being a provider of DIY self-publishing services for authors who can provide print ready files and I would like to think that they will not go the way of Lulu and start to place more of an emphasis on some of the expensive packages listed above.
CreateSpace are now at the forefront of DIY self-publishing and the introduction last year of the Pro-Plan at $39 makes them a difficult choice to ignore.
UPDATE: Nov 2010 CreateSpace announce service improvements.
About the Reviewer: Mick Rooney
Mick Rooney is an author, editor, researcher and publishing consultant from the Republic of Ireland. He has published nine books since 1990, through his own imprint, using author solutions services, and he has also published through mainstream publishers. Several years ago he began researching the publishing industry, and in particular Independent, POD (print-on-demand) and subsidy/self-publishers. Many of the findings of his research can be found at his site, The Independent Publishing Magazine together with his own experiences in the world of writing and publishing. He is the author of To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish? A Seriously Useful Author’s Guide. He is also a contributor to many magazines and online resources including, Writers’ Forum, Publishing Basics Magazine, Publetariat, Carnival of the Indies, selfpublishingreview.com, Irish Publishing News, as well as many writing and publishing forums. In September 2011, he published his latest novel with Book Republic, The Memory of Trees, available in hardback and ebook.