CreateSpace’s New Distribution Options: Pros and Cons

Recently, CreateSpace added several new free distribution options to their distribution channels. This includes distribution to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and your local bookshop, academic institutions and libraries, and to CreateSpace Direct. These options, once available only to authors who were able to afford them, are now available to self-published authors with all sorts of incomes, writing styles, and fan followings.

Now there are definite perks to doing this. Authors would love more readers, and if they are able to reach readers in places previously unavailable to them due to monetary concerns, this can only be good for them. And bookstores, which have been suffering with the rise of the e-book and online distributors, will probably benefit being able to cater to the fans of authors whose works were before only available on certain online retailers. In a way, it’s a symbiotic relationship, both for authors and booksellers.

Not only that, but the books of self-published authors are sometimes rejected by libraries and academic institutions because they are self-publsihed in the first place, or their self-published status means that the books don’t come from certain distributors. If authors are able to get their works into libraries, that means people who don’t own e-readers or who can’t afford to buy books online can now read the books of self-published authors through this new distribution system.

And, using the expanded distribution channels means a potentially higher royalty rate for every copy sold.

However, there are drawbacks to this. Amazon, which owns CreateSpace and it’s print-on-demand services, determines minimum prices for all works published through them. They calculate these minimum prices by determining the length of the book, how much it’ll cost to print, how much they get from the sale of the book, and how much they need to give the author. Recently when I published my novel Reborn City, I saw that the minimum price they gave me was a little less than nine dollars, much higher than I’d expected. I wasn’t happy about it, but I decided to go with it and make the best of it.

When today I decided to try these expanded distribution options on RC, I found out that in order to use these expanded distribution channels, the list price would go up to at least thirteen dollars. In other words, the increase didn’t cost anything for the author, but it did cost extra for the reader.

I decided not to take these extra distribution channels because of the price hike it’d require. Some of my friends and family would not be able to afford a paperback copy because of a list price, or they’d be much more reluctant to buy it because is it not  their genre in addition to being over thirteen dollars. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to make people pay too much for his work more than he wants them to actually read his work. Terrible character flaw, I know, but I live with it.

However that’s my own personal choice. If you wish to, go right ahead and sign up for these new channels. It’s your choice, which as I’ve said before is one of the best perks of self-pbulishing.

And who knows? You could see your sales go up dramatically, and your fanbase expand like a hot-air balloon. Not to mention the joy of telling friends and family that your work is now available in bookstores and libraries.  That’s always something to make you feel good. And for some books, the increase in the list price might not be too high, so if you have my problem with pricing books too high, it may not be so bad after all. I might still use these channels for my collection of short stories, which is already very low-priced.

What do you think of these new distribution options? Are you planning on use them? If so, why or why not?

*Note: Since this post’s publication, I’ve had a change of heart and I’ve decided to try distributing my books through these new channels in the hope of reaching more readers. Whether or not I’m successful, we shall see. Wish me luck, as well as everyone else using these options for the first time.

How to Make PDFs for Print on demand – WITHOUT Adobe

When you publish a paperback book through any number of POD providers, you need PDF files for your cover and your interior. Like many authors I’ve had to shell out cash to buy Adobe products to make those PDFs – but that was in 2009. It’s 2012 and there are free programs out there now that actually work! (NOTE: I’ve experimented with both programs and uploaded a test book on Create Space. The files were accepted but because it was a test I have NOT submitted it for review nor had a proof printed. I can’t imagine why either one would be a problem, though)


Like Adobe Professional, Cute PDF has a “print” option that will install itself in all your programs. You can get it here -= there’s a paid version and a free version, the free version is what we want:

When it installs it will pop up and tell you that it needs to also install something else (I don’t remember the name of it,but it has a P and some numbers.) Go ahead and tell it okay. However, it will also want to make your homepage and add a toolbar, so make sure to uncheck those boxes. During install a black DOS box will pop up and say something about “ghost” again, it’s fine.

To use it, open your formatted document in word, then go to print and choose CUTEPDF from your list of printers: (your list will look different than mine because you will have different printers than I do)

Now you need to set your printer properties so that the page size is correct: Depending on your version of word, you may get to the printer properties in a different way. If you don’t know where to find them, go to google and search “Word (your version) how to set printer properties” and you should find a page or two that tells you. I have Word 2010, so I click printer properties and get a pop up box:

clicking advanced gives you another new box. Click on whatever it says next to “page Size” (mine said Letter by default) and a drop down box appears. Pick the custom size:

Another new box pops up. Type in your trim size. in my case it is 6×9

Hit OK on all the boxes and then hit print. unlike Adobe it will NOT pop up the PDF when it’s done, so you’ll need to go open it manually.

So how does it look? Well, not quite the same:

click to see full sized
click to see full sized

You can see them both here: (no, it’s only the first chapter, not the whole book 😉 But it gives you an idea)

For the price, the difference is likely to be negligible. Free vs several hundred dollars. Of course, I’m not sure if this will work with Lightning Source, who has much stricter PDF requirements.

But can we PDF the cover with this? Probably, however I have not figured the settings out (if you know how to do this, please leave it in the comments and I will update this)

Meanwhile, for the cover, let’s use…


Inkscape is a free vector program that you can use to PDF the wraparound covers. You can get it at – the download link is in the bar at the top of the page. It took me a little bit to find it:

install it, open it and you’ll get a tiny little window:

You can make it big if you want, or leave it little. It doesn’t matter. Now go to File>Open and open your already prepared cover. Then go to File>Save As. A dialog box pops up. Choose PDF from the drop down list

Hit Save – a new box will pop up. Change the DPI to 300:

hit OK and that’s it. So how do they look? The pdf created with inkscape is actually larger than the one I created with adobe photoshop: (both at 100%) but the quality of the images is exactly the same.

but if you’d like to compare you can get them here to see for yourself –

The bonus to Inkscape is it is also a vector art program – if you’re interested in those things – aka like adobe Illustrator – and can save as SVG files, which can be resized without changing the picture quality (if you’re curious about what I mean, check this out – – use Ctrl and the + to zoom in a bunch of times. Now go to any image on the web and try it. You can see how the other image pixelates as it gets big, while the svg doesn’t. Snazzy, huh?)

What programs do you use for making your PDFs? Have you used these before?

Guest Post: 5 Reputable Print-on-Demand Services

Jane Smith contact me about doing a guest post on POD companies a few days ago and since it fit in with our Writing as a Business series, I agreed.

5 Reputable Print-on-Demand Services

First, some deep background: in the 1450s, Johannes Gutenberg printed the first movable-type Bible, kicking off a technological and cultural explosion that helped create the modern world. Printed works no longer had to be copied by hand. Doubtless some scribes were apoplectic over this, fearing for the future of humanity and, not incidentally, their livelihoods.

Half a millennium later, we find ourselves in the midst of a comparable revolution. It is estimated that in 2008, the number of self-published books eclipsed the number of traditionally-published ones for the first time. Or, to put it another way, 2007 will be remembered as the last year most books were published by publishers. One of the key drivers of this massive change is print-on-demand technology, or POD.

It’s important that we distinguish here between the concepts of “self-publishing” and “print-on-demand.” Print-on-demand specifically refers to the ability to print off each copy as it is ordered. Self-publishing just means the lack of a traditional publisher as middleman. You can easily have one of these things without the other. Just as it is possible to self-publish the old-fashioned way, printing one large batch of books upfront (to sit in your garage forever…just kidding), traditional publishers can and do take advantage of POD capability.

But obviously, POD has enabled self-publishing to explode the way it has. If you’re considering bypassing the long hard road of rejection letters known as traditional publishing…well, first of all, find yourself a good editor anyway. Then make sure you do a background check on the printing service before you sign on with them. Start by taking a look at these five:

1.     AuthorSolutions

This young, booming industry has been seeing much consolidation. Author Solutions is now the umbrella company that owns a few of the main POD companies you might have been familiar with a few years ago: iUniverse, Xlibris, Trafford Publishing, Wordclay, and AuthorHouse (formerly 1stBooks). Confusingly, these still operate independently, but most offer a starting package that includes a small initial print run for $599 and POD services thereafter.

2.     Lulu

Lulu advertises itself with the slogan “publish for free,” only taking money when a book is ordered. The great advantage of Lulu is its great flexibility; you have total control over the finished product and can print it in just about any format, the whole gamut of sizes and bindings. The flip-side is that everything possible is done digitally; they do not assign you a human contact unless something goes wrong.

3.     CreateSpace

This is Amazon’s own POD brand, which is in the process of absorbing BookSurge (I told you there were a lot of mergers going on here). As you might expect, they’re very well-run, but brick-and-mortar retailers tend to have it in for Amazon and will be reluctant to shelve their titles. If you plan to use Amazon as your main means of distribution anyway, this would be a good way to go.

4.     Infinity Publishing

Infinity offers an Author Concierge service that puts a rep in touch with you immediately. They claim to be the only publisher that stocks a micro-inventory of your title at all times to keep shipping times extra fast. Packages start at $599 for paperback and $849 for hardcover.

5.     Lightning Source

This is the official POD service of Ingram Book Group, the country’s main book distributor. As such, it only works with publishing companies. So if you decide to go the small-press route rather than self-publishing, this is the POD arrangement they’ll probably go with. The fee (to the publisher) is only $12 per year per title. Using the infinite reach of Ingram’s distribution channels, Lightning Source can probably get your book placed more widely than the other services, but again, is not for self-publishing.

Hope this helps give you an idea of the fast-changing landscape. Make sure to check the websites for up-to-date pricing information, and ask lots of questions before you sign on for anything. You’ll be glad you did once your book is out there being ordered!


Familiar with personal information screenings and online background checks, Jane Smith regularly writes about these topics in her blogs. Feel free to send her comments at

Changes to Create Space Pro Plan

If you have books enrolled in create Space’s pro plan, you probably got this email a few days ago:


As a member with Pro Plan, we’re emailing to let you know that Pro Plan is being discontinued  as of January 18, 2012. We’re now offering industry-leading royalties, low costs on copies of your books and improved distribution options to all our members, free of charge.

Here’s how you are impacted:

  • The availability of your title(s) through our free Standard Distribution channels, including and CreateSpace eStore, will remain unchanged.
  • If you purchased Pro Plan for any of your titles, the availability of those titles through Expanded Distribution channels will remain unchanged.  You have the option to change enrollment in Expanded Distribution channels at no charge. To make your selections, go to your Project Homepage, click Channels, select your Expanded Distribution channels, and hit Save.
  • You’ll continue to receive the benefit of improved royalty payouts due to lower unit costs on orders for all your titles.


What about the expanded distribution? It’s now only 25$ with no impact on your book pricing – except that to qualify for it you ahve to price your book higher. Huh?)

Here’s what I mean. With the new changes, I was able to price Legacy of Ghosts and Ties of blood at $7.99 each, however to keep Shades of Gray available in the “expanded” channels (which as far as I know have sold 0) I have to leave it priced at $10. I will probably take it out of the expanded channels and drop the price.

If you don’t have any pro books, all this means to you is that you can now price your books lower and earn the same royalty – or leave them as are for a higher royalty – and copies you order yourself should be cheaper.

If you don’t have a the pro option on your books, did you notice a significant change in the price options/royalties in your book? If you did have the pro option, what did you think of it? Are the expanded channels worth the cost and the higher price tag on your books?