Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My experiences with CreateSpace

For the longest time, a lot of people have had a lot of bad things to say about CreateSpace (CS), which is a self-publishing service of Amazon.com. (It used to be called BookSurge.) I have kept quiet about my own experiences with CreateSpace, but I feel it is time to share my experiences so far.

I came into self-publishing through CreateSpace after a publisher called my daughter’s illustrations in her children’s book “unprofessional” and removed it. My daughter was hurt and I was outraged that someone thought it was okay to say such an unkind thing to a child. So, I decided to take control over her books into my own hands and publish them myself. I was already forced to self-publish my poetry books because too many publishers stopped publishing poetry books, and I wanted those books out there. I knew some other writers who had already self-pubbed through CreateSpace and one of them – my friend Kate Tenbeth – showed me the ropes and helped me get started self-pubbing through them. The experience was not mind-blowingly fantastic, but satisfactory for now.

As most self-publishing services go, CreateSpace does indeed leave a lot to be desired. What many are saying about the quality of their book covers is pretty much par for the course for me. Fortunately, I am friends with a professional cover designer, so unless I hire her to do a cover for one of my poetry books, the cover is not that great. I actually tried for hours to get a very nice-looking cover for my daughter’s children’s book, and even though it met their size specs, CreateSpace rejected it. I was forced to use an alternative design and it wasn’t as attractive as the other one.

Another thing that is not as great about self-publishing through CreateSpace is that I can’t publish a hardcover book. The option is only for paperback. Because I self-publish children’s books, and a lot of children’s books are in hardcover, I would really like to be able to publish a hardcover book. This is especially ideal since many of my children’s books are short and, because of length requirements for a book spine, they do not have a book spine that has the title of the book on it. This means a lot of libraries and bookstores will not shelf the book because the book MUST have a spine with the title on it. Otherwise, they are like booklets.

And while on the subject of children’s books, I have also experienced disappointment in their limitations of placing illustrations on pages. You cannot do a full illustration spread. My daughter illustrates my children’s books, as well as her own books, and we have both seen how poorly the illustrations are placed on pages. It’s like there is a frame around the picture.

Another downside of publishing through CreateSpace is that authors are forced to price their books at outrageously high prices if they use a color interior. With the Terror in the Night book, I was forced to publish it with black and white photos. Otherwise, the cost of the book would have been way too expensive. This is true even if the book only has one color picture in it. The price still goes up because they count ALL of the pages in the book for color illustrations.

Then there is the task of trying to create ebook files for the children’s books. This has not been easy. CreateSpace claims to use a file converter through their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service, but whenever a book has illustrations, fat chance of that illustration showing up. Usually there’s a big fat red “X” on the page where the illustration is supposed to go. I am unable to convert the files myself to where the illustrations will show up, so I have not been able to make the children’s books available for Kindle. On the very RARE chance it works, the ebook will be there, but it usually does not work.

Their limited distribution through sales channels is not so satisfactory, either. Also, they claim your book will be available in libraries, but none of mine are ever listed in library databases. Ever.

A lot of people have complained that their proofs and their books fell apart or had pages falling out. Fortunately, I have never experienced this with any of the books I have self-published through CreateSpace.

Another complaint is the cost to publish through CreateSpace. Yes, they offer services to authors to help during the self-publishing process, but I have never used them. They don’t force me to use them, either. Seriously, no one has EVER put a gun to my head to force me to use their services or to buy ISBNs. The only things I have paid for are manuscript editing through a friend who edits books, illustrations from my daughter, and cover design from my other friend. As far as CreateSpace is concerned, all that I pay for are copies of the proof and copies that I buy.

Finally, another complaint about CreateSpace is that they don’t report all sales to authors. I am still on the fence about this one. I have only had one incident in which my friend was told somebody bought her book but the sale was never reported to me. I went through sales reports several times over a period of several months and that sale was not there. This did not end well. I didn’t know how to handle the situation but ever since I have been wary about it. Usually, I got reports of sales faithfully, with at least one sale on a continual basis. But I really don’t know if this has happened with my CS titles. I really don’t know how to check on that, either.

But in the meantime, my experience with CreateSpace has been fair. They’re not THE best self-publishing service in town; I would not really recommend them to other people for self-publishing, because I know you can get better services elsewhere. But it has been okay so far.

However, I still want to get into book publishing. I really want to have my own publishing company someday. That is a dream I will not give up on. I hope to make that come true someday and continue to publish my poetry books as well as children's books. When it finally happens, I plan to take all of my books off of CreateSpace and republish them my own way and in a way I will be MUCH more satisfied with.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Changing course

There comes a point in a person’s life when it’s time for a change. The change may not happen right away and it may take time to get used to, but it does happen. Change is the only constant in life. Situations change, relationships change, people change. Things taking a sharp turn or a plot twist developing is certainly something that can happen for everybody.

For me, my most recent change is with my writing. Specifically, how much of a role being a writer will play in my life.

In the past, I was obsessed with writing. I was CONSTANTLY writing. I’d spend hours at the table or at the desk, either writing in a notebook or typing away at the keys. I threw myself into the role of being a writer, allowing it to swallow me up whole. Because of this, I had hardly had if any at all what you could call a social life. I rarely hung out with people. I rarely did things. Writing was my life, even as other things were happening in my life. But every day, I’d be writing nonstop for hours. My health suffered for this, too, as writing is a sedentary activity, so I wasn’t exercising or getting as much fresh air as I should have. I also chose work-from-home jobs that were writing jobs, just so I could keep writing. I was totally absorbed in the writing life and I loved every minute of it.

Well, that’s going to change now. Even as I enjoyed the time I was obsessed with writing and writing my heart out for days on end, I knew very well that it was not always going to be like this. I knew that the day would come when that flame would go out. When that drive would diminish. My obsession would change. And, it has.

I no longer obsess over writing. I am no longer constantly at the desk or table, furiously writing nonstop. No, that is no longer me. I now see writing as more of a hobby than a passion or obsession. I no longer have any desire to write or delve into fictional worlds. The thrill is gone!

These days, I’d rather be doing other things. Hanging out with people, going places, doing things, seeing places. I would rather be up and about instead of sitting at the desk so much. Of course, I still enjoy reading books. I still love reading books. But as for writing….it’s just not something that pulls me to the desk anymore. It no longer feels like something that I MUST do.

Nowadays, I just write whenever the mood strikes. And I am totally okay with that. I am actually happy about that, because it’s something I not only knew would happen, but what I WANTED to happen. I wanted to break free of the chains at the desk. I wanted to break free of that grip my muse kept me in.

And it has finally happened. I have FINALLY BROKEN FREE. It happened when I started losing interest. Maybe it’s because I have met certain writing goals or I feel that I have done all that I can with my writing up to this point in my life. But I just don’t have that drive anymore. Now, I don’t even think about writing at all. I think about other things. People. Outside. THE WORLD.

It sure would be nice to be a part of the world. To wander out and about and to experience new things in life.

Of course, I know that I cannot see this change as a reason for me to drop all my remaining obligations. I still have contracts to honor and things to finish up. I still have people relying on me to meet my end of an agreement. And I have every intention of doing so. I will finish revisions on two books, finish writing a series, and wrap up a few other books that some people are involved in. I’m not going to be a jerk and say, “Oh, writing is no longer important to me and I’m not going to do anything for you. Sorry. So sad, too bad.” No, I am going to remain true to my word and honor other agreements that I have with people. I will also continue writing a short story every week because I want to be able to accomplish that goal. I will also write the occasional blog post.

But for everything else, it’s all getting moved to the back burner. I am no longer pressuring myself to finish works-in-progress or assigning my own deadlines for them. I will just work on them whenever I feel compelled to do so. That’s not going to be as often as before, and that’s okay too. It’s time for the next chapter in my life. Can’t wait to start living it and see what it’ll be all about.