Self-Publishing Update & CreateSpace eStore

Whatever time I lost working on my books in August, I’m making up for now. I spent a number of hours on a binge-formatting streak last night, knocking out 481 pages and 41 chapters of The Lion Vrie; my Proofies should be receiving it in less than 14 hours as I finish up my “From the Author” segment.

I wanted to share some of my self-publishing experiences with you in those hopes that other would-be authors will be inspired at publishing their own books.

As most of my readers know, I have cordially parted ways with my legacy (or traditional) publishers for the frontier of self-publishing. Reasons being: maintain 100% creative control, faster turn-around time of books, higher royalties on both print and ebooks, ease and feasibility of restriction-free social marketing, and the fact that it’s the author who generates and maintains a fan base – not the publisher (ie marketing).

In prepping Rise of the Dibor, Book 1 of The White Lion Chronicles, I made a list of most of the major tasks I encountered along the way:

1.) Resurrected the original Word.doc manuscript, made sure it was as clean and presentable as I could make it.

2.) Scouted and secured a freelance editor, Sue Kenney, negotiating a contract for all three books based upon my satisfaction of a sample editing of 5 chapters. (She’s fantastic).

3.) Researched the present field of POD (Print On Demand) and ebook formatting businesses; settled on Amazon’s CreateSpace as offering the most consistent and professional services, as well as being the giant in print and ebook distribution. Setting up an account is free, and there are no upfront costs. Aside from electing a few of their services (2 of which I describe below), you could easily upload your interior and exterior PDFs and publish a book completely free.

4.) Began work on cover design. Developed numerous covers myself, and asked a few friends to submit ideas, too. Finally settled on a design submitted by Christopher & Allan Miller. Gave them permission to go ahead and do the full spreads of all three books. It’s been a fun collaborative process. The stellar series logo was done by Jason Clement.

5.) Once the corrected manuscript was returned (using Track Changes feature in Word), I forwarded a PDF version to my Proofies. I sent them a fun introductory email, and gave them 7 days to send me edits via email.

6.) Realizing that having 10+ people send you corrections and suggestions – a large portion overlapping – is a lot of data to process, my friend Nathan Reimer suggested I set up a GoogleDoc spreadsheet for Proofies to submit changes to in real-time, not bothering to post duplicates, and allowing me to post questions if need be. It’s worked like a charm and saved many hours of work for me.

7.) Midway through this process, it became apparent that Adobe’s InDesign would be a better application to format a novel in. The control is far greater, but as a result, so is the learning curve. Allan and Jason both helped a great deal with tutoring me.

8.) I used CreateSpace’s handy “help” features to get the exact specs for my book (I chose a fairly standard 6″x9″), which included template generators for the cover (takes into account the estimated number of pages for the width of the spine), and a sample interior Word template (which I obviously did without once we went with creating an InDesign template).

9.) The brand new (and super cool) interior PDF was then resubmitted to my Proofies for a read through, mostly focusing on formatting issues. Again, the GoogleDoc spreadsheet helped facilitate this very smoothly.

10.) I made finishing touches to the final cover spread, and uploaded a CMYK jpeg to CreateSpace’s step-by-step processing path.

11.) A number of final improvements were made to the general formatting of the manuscript, including a quick phone call to CreateSpace’s outstanding customer support line, and it was officially submitted earlier today.

12.) I set up the “marketing channel” selections in CreateSpace, which included creating your own eStore for your books. I was able to design and upload a custom header and background with some trial and error (shown above). You easily set the price of the print book (based on figures they calculate on how much your book will be to produce), and then select what venues you want the book published to, from Amazon.com to retail stores to schools and non-profits. I’ll be rolling out the eStore announcement as soon as the print version of ROTD is proofed and put into production by CreateSpace.

13.) The two services I’ve decide pay for are CreateSpace’s Pro Plan (one time $39/title, $5/per year) which gives you a higher percentage, lower book cost when ordering your own copies, and gets it into more retail stores. I’m also paying $69 to have CreateSpace do all the Kindle formatting for me (as that’s another learning curve I just don’t have the time for; plus, they are Kindle, so they’re going to get it right the first time). I anticipate the ebook version to come about 2 weeks after the print version is ready.

Feel free to ask me any specific questions below; I’ll be sure to answer you as best I can.

Last but not least, the formation of Spearhead Books transpired somewhere in this creative mess. Lots of phone calls, Skyping, emails, and tweets were exchanged by who are now the founding members of Spearhead: Christopher & Allan Miller, Wayne Thomas Batson, and yours truly. We prefer to think of ourselves as a post-publisher.

Now off to write that section from the author. ch:

  • I got goosebumps reading this! Especially #11. However, you forgot the first step, write a book! I’m still stuck at that step 😉

    • Thanks bro! Yeah, I felt a little euphoric clicking submit. Half fearful I’d missed something catastrophically minor; half peeing my pants that I was publishing a book all by myself without a major publisher holding my hand.

      Wow, that’s such a good point. And far often understated. I often tell people that mention something along the lines of, “I have a great idea for a book,” that they probably have a great idea, and have the opportunity to write, but the main difference between me and them is that I already wrote my book. God can not publish what we have not created. And now, with self-publishing being so accesible, there’s simply no excuse.

      Um. So I’m not preaching to you, bro. I…uh-

      • Uh… well… yeah…

        I AM writing on my blog, which has been great to stretch those dormant writing muscles, if you know what I mean.

        • Indeed! In fact, one of the reasons I’ve decided to do this “blog post every day” thing is (besides craving discipline) wanting to get better as a writer.

          • Pretty ambitious to write everyday. I’m trying for 2-3 times a week.

          • Honestly, it just kinda’ happened. I just started doing it after Creation Fest, and decided I shouldn’t stop, even if it was one line, I needed to post something.

  • That is so great!! I do have one question though. If I were to submit something in the GoogleDoc–like a correction of some sort–do I simply save it and it is visible to you as well? Or do I have to e-mail it back to you by hitting the ‘Share’ button? I was a little confused.

    • So appreciate your enthusiasm, Glade!

      Actually, you don’t need to save or email: as soon as you start typing in a box, IT’S THERE! Just like that!

      I know. Sick.

  • *stunned silence* Whoa . . . *speechless*

  • Sarah

    14hoursohmypumpernickel!

    Sorry, instinctive reaction.

    No questions that I can think of right now . . . awesome blog post, though! Very informative!

  • Christian Fahey

    Outstanding, CKH. You and others like you stand at the headwaters of not simply a paradigm shift but an artistic and literary revolution and upheaval. I can’t help but think of the importance of eliminating the “middleman” (hats off to those in traditional publishing who served well) to enable writers (and musicians!) to have deliverables quickly and, perhaps more importantly, IN THEIR CONTROL AND OWNERSHIP! This is a great moment. Good for you!

    • I feel the same way, Christian. The word “epic” is thrown around a lot these days, more more aptly, we’re really in a new “epoch.” A shift of staggering proportions. And I’m definitely not bitter toward legacy publishers. They served their purpose for a good long while. Though I think what’s sad is seeing many – if not most – of them try and stay afloat without trying to reinvent themselves. Often they “say” they are, but if you’re not restructuring royalty rates, trimming the fat, and creating new modes of delivery, you’re not actually advancing. Amazon is. They are truly a new type of publisher, as are guilds of like minded authors working together (et Spearhead).

      All that to say, it certainly is exciting to be a part of.

      • Christian Fahey

        Epoch indeed. I read an interview with Jeff Bezos recently where he stated his vision–swallow this–is to make every literary work known to man available in any language (primarily in ebook). Such extraordinarily big thinking is one of the reasons he, and Amazon, are at the pinnacle of this colossal shift. I doubt he could’ve had better timing and loftier vision. And it is paying off in spades. The comparison to the founding of Standard Oil (a fortune built on refinery and delivery, not discovery and drilling, of oil) is not farfetched. Exciting. The possibilities are staggering.

  • HannahW

    Hey, Mr. Hopper! 😀 I’m glad you like Createspace so much. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for a few years now, and I finally decided this year to take Createspace up on their offer to publish completed novels for all the NaNo winners! I love the feeling of having my own book published, and it is on my bookshelf next to your books, Batson’s, and Sir Arthur Doyle’s! 😀

    • I’m so honored! WOW! And I feel the same way about being next to yours!

      So tell me, you’ve already gone through the process? How did you like the finished product? AND…pre tell…are you a NaNoWriMo WINNER?

  • It is an honor to be traversing uncharted waters with you for the Author!

  • Sam

    Dun dun dun…God bless this endeavor CH. I have many dreams, but in the forefront is A) Getting well(or being healed) and B) Banging out a publishable novel. Health comes first..but next on the list is that novel. Can’t wait to join the published ranks with authors such as yourself.

    And yes I know it can be horribly hard to get published traditionally, but, one way or the other I am confident it’ll happen. 🙂

    • Praying for your body, bro. Standing with you on that indeed.

      I’m sure you have many tales to tell, and I look forward to the day they’re broadcast to the world.

      The fact that it’s so easy (though requires effort, as noted above) is encouraging. I could never steer someone toward traditional publishing anymore, if even from an economic standpoint.

      When someone bought Curse of the Spider King for $16.99, Wayne and I collectively only made about $1.35 of that in the best scenario (less in others). And that’s fairly standard. If I charge $14.99 for ROTD paperback, I’ll be making nearly $7.00. There’s no way a legacy publisher can compete with that.

      Surely money isn’t the only thing, we know that; but when those dollars directly effect my family and compensate my time more appropriately, you prefer one avenue over another.

      I’ll do some more posts that dig into a lot of the questions asked on this stuff.

  • Sam

    I’ll never forget getting my sausage and bagels that morning in the Drury and seeing you and WTB walk into the breakfast room, talk about shock. lol!

    • You rock, man. That was such a fun day, wasn’t it? Was just awesome getting to meet you and your dad (et all).

  • Ok, ok I get it. I need to get to work on my book. Haha. I’ll have to book mark this post so I can reference it when I finish.
    This is really encouraging & inspiring. I know either way it’s a lot a work to publish a book. You are one of the busiest guys I know & you still found/find time to do all this, it leaves no excuse for the rest of us. When there is a will there is a way.
    Thanks for posting this.

    • (I have kids, too. No sleep.)

      Ha. 😉

      Yes girl, WRITE! You have stories to tell and people to inspire. WRITE!

  • Sounds fantastic! Things are moving!

    I don’t think I caught this anywhere in your post: when will the first book be available to buy on Kindle? ‘Cause I’m buying it the moment it comes out, Sir Hopper.

    • Awe thanks for the pledge of confidence friend. From what I ear it’s about 2 weeks after when the print version is ready.

      Good news: I already heard back from CreateSpace on my proofs! That’s far far less than the 48 hours they tell you!

      The bad news: I have about 20 errors to fix for them. 🙂 Like I said: lots of details and learning curves.

  • All the best to your book. I have been using CreateSpace for a few books now, though not mine but for my clients. I do not write but I do format books. Glad you have the skills in book formatting and thanks for the mention of Adobe InDesign. InDesign is a lot easier to use in formatting your novel especially when it comes to page numbering, header and footer.

    How’s the sales? Blog about it if its okay 🙂

    • Thanks for the great comment, Jen.

      My publishing got delayed due to our new baby boy arriving and opening our new restaurant. But I plan on uploading the revised files today (had some kickbacks from CS on the initial). I most definitely will post of the books’ progress.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

      PLEASE post a link to your services here. ch:

  • Howard Cobb

    Christopher. Thanks for the blog. I am about to publish my book with createaspace and your info is really useful. I also went through the steep learning curve of InDesign – but felt it was worth it. A few ?
    3.questions.
    1. Do you have a website for each book in order to send people to the estore?
    2. What is the payment facility on the e-store?
    3. What is this awesome wordpress template – does it come with the twitter feed as standard.
    I feel that social media wil play a big part in marketing my book – what do you use?

    • Hi Howard,

      Thanks for your questions; sorry for me delay.

      1.) Yes, CreateSpace creates a separate page for each book and does not allow you to group them. So I make sure to group them on my own website’s page as well as place links in each CreateSpace description.

      2.) Amazon.com is actually the e-commerce transaction holder so you don’t do a thing with the client; you just collect when CreateSpace send you a check (or direct deposit).

      3.) I use StudioPress themes under the Genesis parent. Great stuff, easy to modify from there (try newlifemedia.me for pro help if that’s not in your skill set). I normally use one of WordPress’ numerous Twitter widget plugins.

      ch:

  • Thank you for this, it may be an old post, but I have just found out all I needed to know about setting up createspace estore and discounts.

  • That’s quite long. How much time did you spend to finish the book, from writing to publishing?

    • @Rutchie: Hard to say, as this book was originally written and published in 2007; this covers the new edits, interior and exterior design as a self-published title only. The word count on TLV is around 155,000 and I write 1,000/hour (pre-editing).

  • James

    Hi Christopher,
    I’m a novice writer, but I have one heck of an imagination.
    To be brief, I started writing an adventure story for children but I think it will appeal to adults as well. It’s soo full of life. I really haven’t disclosed the details to anyone besides a few relatives because I haven’t protected my writing or the characters yet.
    When it’s all done I plan on using CreateSpace to self publish my book.
    I know that it’s not formatted correctly as I’m just trying to get it on paper or (Cyber space) because I’m using Adobe Story. What should I do once the script is completed? I have limited funds and I want to make this a reality for myself and my family.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Hi James,

      Thanks for writing, and I’m glad to hear you’re writing your story (which is by far the most important part!).
      Formatting requirements are getting easier for CreateSpace, and super easy for Kindle (now they’ll accept a generic PDF and convert it for you). But with CS you’ll still need each page to “look” proper.
      Probably the easiest thing to do is create a template in whatever word software you have. Set the pages to [example] 6×9 (if that’s the format you want to print through CS; they offer lots of sizes); set margins to what looks good to your eye; use whatever the software allows to add page numbers or page headers. Basically, you’re trying to use your software to make each page look exactly as you want it to for upload onto CS. Add your copyright page, title pages, TOC, dedication, etc — use other books as a guide.
      Once you upload your accepted files to CS, they have a nice online previewed that shows you exactly how it’s going to print (and even searches your manuscript for errors).
      I use Adobe InDesign, but I have a pretty good graphics background and tens of thousands of hours behind that program (and still learning). There are a lot of tutorials out there on layout for InDesign. If you don’t have the money to pay someone else, but you see this as a regular thing, and something you actually want to sell and have people take seriously, I’d recommend investing in that program and watching some tutorials.
      Merry Christmas!

      Christopher

      • James

        Hi Christopher,

        Thanks for sharing your insight and I’ll definately look into Adobe InDesign as well.

        Merry Christmas to you and your!

      • James

        Hi Christopher,

        Thanks for sharing your insight and I’ll definately look into Adobe InDesign as well.

        Merry Christmas to you and your!