I have posted previously about my experience using CreateSpace. I thought it might be useful for people to see a guide to what other options are available for getting your book into print. If you haven’t considered doing so, it is worth remembering that thirty-six percent of book buyers read only print books. That’s according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Codex Groups and quoted in this New York Times article. It is a significant chunk of the market that you are unable to reach if you limit yourself to digital.
CreateSpace, and the other businesses I’ll be reviewing below, use a process called Print on Demand (POD). This allows printing and binding of paper covered books in very small quantities as and when an order is received. It means that neither you, the retailer nor the distributor needs to maintain a stock of your books. In stead, the placing of an order by a customer on-line triggers the printing of the book he or she has ordered.
Bricks and Mortar
In theory the same should apply to bricks and mortar stores, because CreateSpace and the others offer distribution via major book distribution networks in the USA, UK/Europe and Australia. I have, however, found little evidence that the major book retailers are interested in accessing self-published books via these channels. All the more reason to welcome the prospect of Amazon entering this section of the market.
“thirty-six percent of book buyers read only print books”
Let’s begin with Lulu, one of the longest established companies in the business. A look at their website demonstrates that the publishing process there has many points of similarity with CreateSpace. As with CreateSpace, there are no upfront costs unless you choose to avail of additional services, like cover design, for example. When it comes to distribution, however, the author compensation is significantly less than with CreateSpace. These screen grabs illustrate what I mean, using identical examples in the respective royalty calculators.
Both offer a range of cover templates you can adapt if you do not wish to pay for a cover taylored to your book’s theme. Each has a comprehensive guide to help you through the process. Both allow you to proof the finished article and make changes before going live. CreateSpace offers a range of paid-for support services such as editing, cover and interior design/formatting and marketing.
If Lulu and CreateSpace are the market leaders, what other companies might an aspiring author consider? And what might make you think twice about using them?
Feedaread is a provider that has commercial links to Random House. It claims to be part funded by the UK Arts Council. There is no charge for the basic publishing service. For distribution they require a one-off charge of £88 UK, $140 US, $A175, Australia and €125 Europe. Typical royalties quoted on their site for books sold through worldwide distribution is around 20%. Books sold on their own website receive between 30% and 60%.
They offer a limited range of cover design templates. The site also claims that it provides “free feedback every 4 months for our top ten highest selling authors opening chapters from Random House and Orion”
IngramSpark is a service provided by one of the world’s major book distributors. There is a small set-up fee which includes free e-book creation at the same time. In addition, distribution is charged at an annual cost per title. They quote 45% to 70% royalty, less printing costs. Their royalty calculator is confusing since it requires you to set a wholesale discount. I haven’t tried it but the cover creation process looks difficult in comparison with the others. You enter your book’s details into an on-line form and they e-mail you a template with which to create your cover.
One key advantage of using IngramSpark is the distribution they offer. Their claim: “More readers will have access to your books through IngramSpark than with any other platform.”
Bookbaby is a full service publishing platform that includes e-book and POD with editing, cover design, distribution and promotion for an all-in fee of $1655 which includes the supply of 100 ‘free’ copies of your book. This looks expensive, but bear in mind that purchasing editing, design and promotion services separately is not cheap. Typical royalties at Bookbaby are around 20% (see the screen grab)
To sum up, if I was to make a recommendation it would be CreateSpace, closely followed by Lulu and IngramSpark. Don’t be afraid of print. It does require time and care, but missing out on such a large section of the potential market for your work would be foolish.