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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