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.

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

How to Use Cover Creator on CreateSpace

NOTE: As per information from the CS team, if you use Cover Creator to make your cover you can only use the cover to publish with them because the file was created by their creator.  

By popular request, I’m doing a post on how to use the cover creator on Create Space.

To get to the cover creator you will need to have your title and author name entered. If you want to see/edit the spine, you will want to upload your document pdf first, otherwise all of your options will be “spineless”. (as in the first example of templates)

Under the cover options on your setup page, click to open cover creator

You will see cover templates.

Which template you want to use depends on how much of a cover you have constructed already. For instance there is a cover template to use if you have your front and back covers as single images – like this and this and another template to use if you have the whole cover made as an image – like this without the spine text. (I will show a screen cap of each at the end of this).

But what if you have a front cover and no back cover? No problem. There is a layout for that, too.

The rest of the templates are to build your cover from scratch – you choose the images and put both the front and back cover together. (I will also cover this briefly at the end)

For this how to I am going to go with “we have a front cover but no back cover”.

You will see there are several “headings” on the left side; theme, title, authors, front cover image, author(s), front cover image, author photo, back cover text, background color, & font color. A the bottom is also Change design  – if you decide you want a different template at any time, then click that and you will start over.

Because we want things to match, let’s skip down to front cover image first.

Upload the image you wish to use – it MUST be a jpg or Tiff. If your cover is a PNG, BMP, GIF or other file it will need to be “converted”. Though you can change an image into a JPG using paintbrush, don’t. Paintbrush creates horrible little “fuzzies” – called artifacts – in the image that will show up when it prints.  Instead, you may want to use the free online converter at (following is a mini tut on this)

Choose your image type from the sidebar on the left – mine is a PNG so I want PNG to JPG

click for full size image

When the new page loads scroll down and browse for your image – make sure to leave quality at 100%

click for full size image

Then press the Go button. It will take a few moments to upload and will then ask you to choose a folder to save the jpg file. Save it and voila! You’ve got a jpg.

One other important thing about your cover image is that it MUST be a High res image – aka a BIG image that is around 1800 pixels wide (you can find these measurements under properties on most operating systems).  If your image is smaller it will not print up as nicely.

Now back to CS. Upload your cover image. And it will automatically put it on the front cover (cool, huh?). You’ll also see that you have some new things under cover image  – alignment and rotation. In this case we don’t need any, but if you do, they’re there for you.

Now let’s go to Themes. Themes are basically your font. Use the drop down box under themes to find a font you like.

Under title you can edit the title that appears on your spine. Chances are you don’t need to (Since I named my project Testing, I had to). Make changes in the text box and hit apply.

Author(s) is the same deal except it has the option to make the author name visible – or not visible – on the spine. Use the check box to make it disappear.

Author photo is also optional and has a visible check box as well as an upload button. Just like the front cover, it must be a jpg or tiff. Just because it says author photo, however, does not mean it has to be an author photo. I am using my books “symbol” in place of my photo.

Just like with the front cover, you will get some alignment and rotation boxes, which again I don’t need, but if you do, use them.

Now we’re ready for back cover text. You can also make this visible or invisible. If you want it visible, copy your book description from wherever you have it (you should have it saved in a word file somewhere). Then hit apply.

Next is background color.

Click the box and a pop up with lots of colored squares in it will appear. Click on the color square of your choice (I’m using white) and then click the apply button

Font color works the same way:

And then submit cover! You’ll get a “working” pop up. And then will be returned to your set up page.

If you’re using the “I have a full cover” template, it will look like this:

All the tools work the same, but note that the author name goes at the bottom so in the case of this cover it would cover up the symbol I have there.


If you’re using the “I have the front and back as separate images” template it will be like this:

All the tools are the same with the addition of “Spine color”.

But what if you don;t have any of it?

Then choose a template you like. Different ones work differently – for instance the Aspen has a black stripe that goes over your front cover image:

While The Cottonwood uses one image and stretches it across both the front and back:

Experiment to find the template that works for you. (You will want to use photos or illustrations for these templates – not pre-made covers with text on them)

And that’s it. Your cover is done!

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards

You may have heard people discussing this in the last few weeks. But, what is it? The amazon Breakthrough Novel awards is a contest held by – you guessed it – Amazon, Create Space and Penguin Group (yes, the book publishing house).

So how does it work?

Entrants submit their manuscripts – formatted to the specifications stated here – on one of two categories: Young Adult Fiction or General Fiction.  But don’t get too excited just yet.

First, Amazon Editors will read through the pile of 5,000 300 word pitches.  Of those, 2,000 entries will be passed on to round two, where Amazon Top Customer Reviewers will narrow the field down to 500.  Next, Publishers Weekly reviewers will knock the entrants down to 100. After that, Penguin Editors will go through the entries and narrow it down to six (three in each category) and finally, the winning entries will be chosen by Amazon Customers. The winners will get a contract for the book with Penguin, including a $15,000 advance.

What does this mean? If you can’t pitch your book, then forget it? I’m not going to tell anyone to skip entering, but I do want to point out how important that 300 word pitch will be for entrants. If you’re just coming up to the plate on this, I suggest some serious cramming to get it just right.

The short entry window also means something else: Your book needs to be already finished , edited, and polished, like, now. (Yeah, a little valley girl, there.)  But, on the bright side, so long as your novel has never been the subject of a publishing agreement with anyone, you can enter it, even if it is self published.

To enter the contest you need to visit this site: .  There you can also find out pretty much anything you might need to  know about it, and even watch a walk through video on how to enter.

Last question, am I entering? That would be a big “No”. With only one winner in th general fiction category, I really don’t see paranormal Fantasy doing well. Am I missing “an amazing opportunity”? maybe. So, don’t let my decision influence yours.

what about you?Are you entering this year? Did you enter last year? if so, what was your experience with the contest?