A Guide to Self-Publishing: Publishing Print Books

Publishing today is about making your book easily available to the widest possible audience. This means covering an expansive but ever narrowing range of formats and delivery systems. And while ebook sales are rising exponentially each quarter, having a print version is still needed.

At least for now.

The reality is there will be people who always love physical books. Like there are still people (like me) who like vinyl records. No one intends to get rich off them, but the manufacturer will at least make a few dollars and satisfy a small demographic. Meanwhile there’s kudos points for making a rudimentary collectors edition for those that want to place the work on display in their house.

Never before has it been so easy (for both author and consumer) and so cost-effective to turn your manuscript into print form.

Enter CreateSpace.com.

Essentially CreateSpace is a filing, ecommerce display, order fulfillment, printing, and delivery system.

The moment a consumer or retailer on any purchasing vehicle even remotely connected or affiliated with Amazon.com clicks “BUY” on your book, something magical happens.

The interior and exterior PDFs that you’ve painstakingly designed and uploaded to CreateSpace are called up into their printing presses in Charlotte, NC, and manufacture a specific book(s) to meet that order. Then that book is packaged and shipped, and collected monies are gathered and issued to you in check form at the end of every month.

It’s print-on-demand (POD) but with publisher-level quality, and without paying for huge runs and warehousing fees up front.

CreateSpace allows you as an author to buy your own books at cost and ship them anywhere you want. You can order 1 or 1,000 or 628. It doesn’t matter.

The best part is the book is permanently available and will never be blacklisted.

While you’re in the process of uploading your PDFs for a new title, you have a number of choices to make. Here’s a look at a title’s dashboard:

The first is what ISBN you’re going to use. You’re required to have one for each title, and there are a few options.

The easiest and the one I used is the free option: CreateSpace uses their ISBN numbers and gives you one. The pro is it’s free; the con is CreateSpace is listed as a cooperating entity under you as author/publisher should anyone dive into the details of the ISBN search results. This is only detrimental if a particular retailer doesn’t like CreateSpace. It doesn’t not affect your legal right to the book, its distribution, or its ownership.

You can opt to pay for a premium ISBN that’s registered to you.

And further still you can use your own if you’ve bought one (or a block) from Bowker. This is the most expensive but the most proprietary way.

Next you’ll need to decided where you want your books sold and for how much. This is listed under Sales Channels.

First up is selecting where people can buy them.

They give you a free CreateSpace page for each title. A book sold here will get the best royalty rate (almost 50%); the second highest is on Amazon (roughly 25%); the lowest is through secondary channels (retailers/wholesalers). You get to chose exactly where the books can be sold here. I recommend keeping all options selected for widest distribution and availability. Even at the lowest rate I make more per copy than my best legacy publisher rate.

Secondly, you’ll be promoted to set a sales price.

CreateSpace has a very convenient calculator that calculates the cost of manufacturing your book based on page count and materials, and then shows you the minimum prices you can charge without going in the red (and still make a profit yourself). For The White Lion Chronicles, the magic number where I was making positive income across all sales channels was at $16 USD. It was a little more than I wanted to charge, but allowed me to set competitive prices for books being sold to schools, institutions, and libraries.

Many people ask me about copyrighting their manuscripts. Legally, as soon as you’ve created a work, it’s yours, and by virtue of the fact that you made it, it’s therefore copyrighted. Proving that you made it (and own that copyright) is another story.

Some people feel very strongly about filing all their works of art with the IS Copyright Office in Washington, DC. But the reality is that if you’re printing (and therefore publishing) your own book through CreateSpace, and assigning an ISBN to it (listed with your name referenced to it), a court will see that alone as ample evidence that you’re the copyright holder. Putting “(c) date, your name” in the front matter of your book is just fine. And should you ever want to get the US Copyright Office in on validating it, fill out their form and send two copies of your book and a check for $35 USD to their office.

One operations note with editing details on a title listed with CreateSpace: while you’re extremely free to edit information – from the author bio to sales channels selections – any changes take a few days to go through and effectively remove the title from access temporarily. This may have even changed since I read about it last fall, but I’m too skittish to even try. Do your best to ensure that what you post the first time is the proper information; the same goes for Kindle Direct Publishing.

Turn around time for initial approval of your book is about 48-hours. Then you can order a proof (highly recommended); that will arrive in about 7 business days. Make sure you account for that time, and then review of that proof with any changes you need to make when considering a release date. I’d build a solid month into your timeline as it always takes longer than you think. Once you’ve reviewed the proof and made necessary changes, you can order a new proof (another 7 days!), or you can hit the magic “accept” button that essentially publishes the book. It’s a super cool feeling. And seeing your first book sales pop up on your sales reporting dashboard is pretty exciting.

Here’s what The White Lion Chronicles look like:

There are a few other POD style companies out there, but the authors I follow recommended CreateSpace, so I tend to follow. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I have hundreds of happy customers. My wife is happy too as the checks keep rolling in each month.

Tomorrow I’ll cover all-too-cool publishing of ebooks, by far the forefront of publishing in 2012 and beyond. ch:

  • Billy Jepma

    This stuff is so cool! Its awesome because I’m learning more and more every, single, day! I really appreciate this Christopher! Can’t wait to finish my book and move onto this stuff. It’s real exciting. 🙂

  • Gabe

    I second Billy’s comment, except that I still have to start my book 😀

  • Wow, CK, a lot of stuff this week. When you conclude the series, would you consider creating a pdf? It would be very helpful as an aggregate of the whole. It is a seismic paradigm shift (self-publishing) and it is going to be instructive to watch it emerge. Thanks for writing!

    • Billy Jepma

      I agree. I would love to have all these great posts in one complete package. 🙂

    • You’re the third person to ask me for this. You think it’s worthy of aggregation?

    • Yes! Actually, better yet, make it into an ebook! 🙂

    • Gabe

      Yep, ebook. 😀

    • Yep, because it has step-by-step instructions on formatting and stuff and it would be uber nice to have it all in one file. You’d have a lot of people swoop for sure. 🙂

    • Billy Jepma

      I know I’d buy it as an ebook. 🙂

    • I don’t think you should give it away like Christian says, it takes a lot of time. Can you include exclusive content that you didn’t put into the free blog posts? At least $.99 if so. If not, then repackaging the posts into a free ebook would be fine, just try not to spend too much more time on it. 😉

      • That’s a good idea Nate. I’d need to think about what additional content.

        I think $.99 is reasonable. I’ve spent about 1 hour writing each post in this series.

    • Gabe

      $.99 cent ebook, with extra content. Bring it on. I would so buy that.

  • LOL Your call, bro. Take all the variables (time writing, research, screen captures–>return on investment of effort) and boil down–then decide. Might be helpful to link in things like J.A. Konrath’s. The number$ that are coming in for epub authors are a major selling point.

    • Man – I’m really considering this now. Right on. Thanks for the inspiration. Truly. I needed this push me thinks.

    • (Sometimes you don’t think of your own work as having much merit – at least to publish in small form).

  • Jo

    Hey, your book looks great, I was wondering what size it was? ( 5×10, 7×10 etc)…. Did you format the inside yourself? Thanks 🙂