Createspace and Me: An Essay

logo-csp-no-tm

I was going to save this topic for a guest post when all was said and done, but I am about to explode and I really must get this off my chest.  My bra is too tight and there is really no room for it. (I hate bras.)

Createspace is a wonderful thing.  They make it possible to do fantastic things like self-publish an ebook and prepare a print-on–demand paperback.  For the Indie author, this is a Godsend.  I know there are a few, like lightning source and lulu that will do the same thing and they are wonderful, too, I am sure, but today I have to talk about my personal experience with Createspace.  This is the company I chose to go with for the creation of my paperback version of “Red Clay and Roses”.

First, I should tell you about my experience publishing my eversion.  Not having any skills for formatting or translations errors or any of that other technical stuff that is supposed to create a better product, I opted to go with an Independent small press publisher, Elderberry Press.

David St. John was quite affordable, and the contract terms were delightful.  David and I developed a very good rapport.  I sent him my manuscript and within 72 hours my first book was up and live on smashwords.  By that third day, I had a file that I could easily upload to Amazon’s KDP.  All done.  Now there was nothing to do but wait for the royalties to come in right? (hahaha…I hear you laughing).

Second, I did not have a professional cover design, and some WordPress friends gave me some really good info, advice and insight on how to proceed with that and I contacted a gentleman in England (Paul Beekly at create-imaginations.com) who also had really good work and really good rates, most professional.  He read my book, viewed my original photograph, and we shared some thoughts.

Within days, I had a fantastic cover image.  He went on to provide a Facebook banner, imprint logo, bookmark design, and several other book shots and a paperback design for extremely reasonable rates. To sum things up, that whole process went very smoothly, and I was quite satisfied.

This cover image, also, was easily uploaded to Amazon via KDP, live within hours, and my publisher uploaded to smashwords and thus it went on out to various retail distributors over time.  In the end, this whole process took less than a month and would have taken less, had I been better prepared.  Being a newbie, but with a little experience, I thought working with Createspace would be a breeze.  Their price for their top of the line assisted service was as reasonable as Elderberry’s had been for the eversion.

NOW FOR THE DIRT

I am about madder than a wet hen at Createspace.

I started with them on June 6th to get this paperback accomplished.  I was told it would take approximately 8 weeks from start to finish.  I thought, “Great, I should have my paperbook live by August 6th, right?  WRONG!  NOT TODAY EVEN, A MONTH LATER!

Let me say, I don’t believe I went into this with unrealistic expectations.  I knew, being a paperback, this was probably going to be a more complex project.  I also knew that I wanted to submit some revisions to a completely well edited manuscript.  After all, this was going down in ink on paper. I also knew that Createspace was a much larger company than Elderberry Press, and I would most likely not get the individualized, one:one service that I had received from David.  Yet, I had heard wonderful things about their customer service, so I thought I was going down a well-traveled pathway to progress.

One thing that worried me was the possibility of delays, because I have had my book nominated for a very prestigious award by a Reader’s Group…but that is a subject for another post.  The point is I had an October 1st deadline with them.  That is to say, I have to submit four bound manuscripts to this organization by Oct. 1st to be considered in the 2013 publication phase.  So I had some concerns.  Yet, August 6th as a deadline with Createspace seemed reasonable, and should give me plenty of time. NOT!

First, after paying the money and not hearing from them about ANYTHING to do with progress after THREE WEEKS, I gave them a call.  The very polite girl in CS (Customer Service) told me that they were “backed up” and had not started with me.  Shit, I thought!  I am sure I said it out loud.  She assured me that they would be starting with me very soon, and once under way, things should move quickly, BUT my eight weeks would not start until they contacted me.  So a week later, we are already talking about July 6th, I was contacted…a full month after my purchase.  Eight weeks, let’s see Sept. 6th, right?  If things had worked out well, my paperback would be live today and my copies would be in the mail to the Reader’s Group Organization.  Things have not worked out well.

Second, I want you to know that I am not blameless here!  I am a perfectionist and I want things done right.  I also want to assure that I am putting a quality product out there for the reader to enjoy.  I don’t want there to be any distraction, errors, or other such nonsense to make the reader feel like crap for having had enough faith to invest in me.  I gave my eversion away for free for two full weeks to get enough reader feedback to hopefully get my revisions accomplished, have a copyeditor review and advise, get my line editing done, and proof the final MS.  So, all of this was taking place between waiting periods with Createspace.

Waiting periods, that brings me to my third challenge.  I thought I had done my research with Createspace.  Their upgraded plan included the special features that I wanted for my book.  I wasn’t told how complicated and time consuming “special features” could be.  I had some handwritten letters in my book that would need different fonts.  I also had a black and white image of my book imprint logo that I wanted in the front matter, so I was being particular.  I don’t mind being candid here.  That’s why I included “Me” in the title to this post.  I had a lot to do with what went wrong, so try to learn something here, okay?

Quickly, let me give you the low down on how my upgraded plan with createspace works/includes: 1) A personalized consultation with a team project specialist, 2) Mock ups phase, up to three mockups are sent to the purchaser to make changes (They don’t do this part anymore, more about that later.), 3) Digital or paper proof available to be mailed, 4) Final manuscript submission, 5) Interior Text approval, 6) Cover image uploaded and approved, 7) Final complimentary author proof mailed for review, 8) Approved and ready to go live.  Sounds simple enough?

Here is a list of what all went wrong, (this is just the Create and Set-Up), what was involved, and how long it took to make repairs:

1.       My initial challenge was learning how to navigate the Createspace site- I had to learn the icons and emblems and what they stood for in my member dashboard.  I learned about my message box, project tool box (where downloadable files are stored), and explored all of the steps in the process; Create, Set-Up, Review, Distribute and Sales & Marketing.  Each of these steps has sub steps.  This took a couple of days.  I don’t claim to be real tech savvy.

2.        Next was the consultation- Now we are starting July 6th- The gentleman assisting me was very professional and assured me that they could accomplish all of my special features.  He took notes and told me that they would be both prudent in selecting fonts and fleuron, and in embedding images.  I was instructed that all I needed to do was upload my Manuscript so they could get started, I would be allowed to upload another manuscript later with any text changes I needed, and the three mock ups would give me the opportunity to assure that things were coming along as I planned for the book.  I would be allowed to make changes in the design lay-out, front matter, fonts, fleuron, and images during the mock up phases.  I was figuring on a couple of days turnaround between mock ups, after all, they told me I was allowed up to three and I was expecting an 8 week process with these included.  Erroneous Assumption.  After submission of the manuscript, it took another week to get the first mock up (we are now looking at August 27th   having this ready).

3.       The Mock up phases, where things went terribly wrong- There is a reason that they are not doing these anymore, and my experience is probably part of why they have decided to omit the mock up phases. First mock up- They had the front matter acceptable but had left out the Book Imprint logo I had uploaded.  They had switched the title header and author headers to the wrong sides.  The page numbers needed to be in the top right corner, not at the bottom.  The handwriting fonts for the letters were a nice choice, but very small, and the same for both characters writing letters.  That simply could not be.  Two characters would not use the same handwriting now, would they? The fleuron that they had selected was way off.  I had asked for something linear and curved, simple.  Just a little something to indicate a change in thought/construct in the middle of a chapter.  What I got was a highly embellished round swirl.  They were small details, but important to me. Another week passed.  I uploaded my request for revisions, and some fleuron images that were acceptable to me, and the logo image, again.  It is now July 11th.Second Mock up– By some fluke of fate, and not a very kind one, my cover artist sent me an image of my logo, an Ark, with a silly looking giraffe in in it.  It was a joke.  It was hilarious and very juvenile.  I thought it quite funny.  I didn’t realize that I had even downloaded it.  Guess which one I uploaded to createspace?  Not the original logo of the Ark that is posted on my website, bit this one:stupid girraffe

This is no children’s book. Not even a respectable giraffe. A huge image of this giraffe logo, not the thumbnail sized plain ark image I had requested. The front matter looked good with the dedication and quote, but something was missing.  There needed to be a nice fleuron between them.  The headers were swapped out, the letters had different handwriting, the page numbers were in the right place, the fleuron they selected for the text was acceptable, but the handwriting font for the letters had been grossly enlarged and looked ridiculously silly.  I resubmitted my changes.  It is now July 31st when I get the second mock up back.  I wasn’t totally satisfied with the handwriting size when they reduced it in this 2nd mock up, feeling like they may have gone too small, but I didn’t want to wait another two weeks for them to correct it.  I couldn’t handle a 3rd mock up!

4.       I accepted the material as it was and awaited my first proof copy to be mailed. – And waited, and waited, and waited.  After two weeks with no copy received in my mailbox I gave them a call, on August 14th.  They were just fixing to mail out my copy!  I begged them to let me change it to a digital copy.  I had so wanted to hold a paper copy in hand, because I am, after all, creating a paperback, right?  But no, we must submit ourselves to the travesty of time.  A few days later, I get my digital copy. It is August 19thwhen the digital copy is received.  Imagine what it would have been to wait on a mailed paper copy!

5.       After having so much time to prepare my manuscript, I thought, “Great!  This thing is as close to perfect as it is going to get!  Time to upload it! – Well, herein lies the problem.  Although I had made changes on two manuscripts, my RCAR file for KDP, and my manuscript.docx file that I had originally submitted to Createspace….sound easy enough? ….after weeks of editing 2 copies side by side, I am told that my text changes have to be submitted on the downloadable manuscript file that is in the project tool box on the web site, NOT on the original manuscript.  The formatting won’t be right (or something technical like that, I still don’t understand). The changes have to be made on THEIR service file MS copy. Silly me, I didn’t even know I had a manuscript file from Createspace in my project toolbox!  Yet another week to sit these two files down side by side and line edit precisely between the two. August 26th is upon us when I resubmit my final manuscript.

6.       I am waiting for final text approval, and have yet to upload my cover image (which I need an exact page count for) and I did get some good news yesterday.  They can send me five proof copies when they send my author proof copy in the mail for final review, so I can send those in for my contest (it doesn’t have to be published yet, but must be provided in bound manuscript).  God hope all goes well and it is acceptable to me.  Then I can hit the approved button, and go live!

August 6th was my original date planned go live. It is now September 6th, the day that my book was tentatively rescheduled to go live.  I am impatiently awaiting final approval of my text changes, my cover uploaded and approved, and the final proof copies to be mailed to me.  I am hoping this can all be accomplished at least a few days before my October 1st deadline so that I have time to mail in my four copies for my nomination.  I think Fedex still does an overnight delivery.  I know that I am pushing the wire and I am sitting on the edge of my seat biting my nails.

My advice to anyone using Createspace, especially if you have special features:

  • Expect it to take longer than expected.
  • Be very clear in your initial phone consultation.
  • As they no longer do Mock Ups, make absolutely certain that you have your manuscript one hundred percent ready to go with the first submission, including any fonts or fleuron that you can upload images for or provide samples.  Try to not have any need to make changes.
  • Trash any old MSs or images that you don’t want to accidently upload.
  • If you think there may be a demand for a paperback, do your ebook and paperback at the same time through the same company.  I wasn’t expecting to do a paperback.
  • Thank God that they don’t do time consuming mock ups anymore, but be 100% certain that you are prepared on the first run.

I will get to “Review, Distribute and Sales & Marketing,” in due time.  I hope your experience runs smoother than mine and your book gets published without a hitch.  Good Luck!!!

18 thoughts on “Createspace and Me: An Essay

  1. I don’t think my lame comment, “I feel your pain!” will fix this. But I remember about a month ago you had another bugaboo (bugabook!!) which eventually got solved. Does Createspace subscribe to your blog–? Anyway, you have a chance to vent here and I for one commiserate, having come lately to the blogworld. My small problem–trying to fix the settings on WordPress dashboard to “ping” out my posts through pingomatic, technorati, etc. What the manual says doesn’t match what I see. Sound familiar?

    • Thx, I know that i am ranting here, but I am also trying to help others not make my mistakes. they don’t do the mock ups anymore, the girl told me today, so it is even more imperative that you have your ducks in a row before the first submission.

    • I had the Independent do the ebook back in march. I really wasn’t planning on a paperback until there developed a demand for one. I had not expected there to be one. My independent doesn’t do paperbacks except through this printing company in Tennessee that costs an arm and a leg and does not do print on demand.

      • Okay, I understand. I’ve had good experiences with CreateSpace, myself, but I haven’t used them for any creative work on my books–I did the mobi for Amazon and the pdf for CreateSpace myself, and just uploaded the files for them to print. I suspect that they are better at straight printing than doing the whole book design.

        • Seems like that is what i am hearing from others as well. This was a “me” experience, clearly stated as such. I am not disrespecting them. I had special circumstances and features. I have purchased Scrivener and hope I can do some more self-publishing with that once I learn it.

          • I didn’t think you were dissing CreateSpace at all–like I say, the printing side and the editorial side seem to be run like different companies. I do hope they’ll be able to get your book ready in time.

            • Thanks. I love the fact that they do what they do. I am feeling like I could have been better prepared. The consultation guy just made it sound like it would be such a simple and easy process to make any changes, and it wasn’t. It was very time consuming, but hey…he was there to make a good first impression. I just wish he had explained about the time required for mockups, or I had thought to ask.

  2. Wow…I feel for you!! I found my first novel with lulu, com was simpler. My second has slightly more text and font type complexities so we shall see if that makes the timelines longer. All my fingers are crossed you make your deadline for the competition!!! 🙂

    • Thanks for your support. Me too. They needed to streamline that entire Mock Up back and forth experience, and from what the CS girl told me today, they have completely done away with it. I just hope people have a better experience with them than I did. Really, I do. Another author friend of mine is using lulu and doing both her eversion and paperback at the same time. She seems to be on track 🙂

  3. It has taken several months but I should get my first hard copy mock up this week from create space. This will be my first volume of 100 cartoons. There were a lot of extra charges. The book is 100 full color images. That’s costly. Then the gutters are unique as each cartoon is different size as opposed to text where the margins are the same every page. Extra set up work naturally. I made my own covers but had to pay because I could not upload to their protocol. Then my jpegs had to converted to pdf. I’ve laid out $1,800. The price would have been much cheaper if I was skilled enough to preset this work myself and then upload but I could not. My next 2 books are ready and will have my tech friend do the set ups to send. This should take at least 30% off this time. Should take him less than an hour for both books.

    I am satisfied as 100 images is much more complicated than mere text. The books will cost $12 each to manufacture, amazon wants $4 commission each sale so book will be $18 for a $2 royalty. That seems steep but this is not a comic book but 100 full color plates of my cartoon artwork. A local printer will make them for $20 each but then I don’t have the amazon market/sale apparatus. Every other publishing house wants $35 to manufacture each book !

    So I suppose I am getting a comparatively good deal. What I liked most is that all the people I spoke with in the process were so helpful, kind and patient in answering all my questions and email communication was prompt and thorough. I intend to stick with creatspace. I see you feel the time has been lengthy but they told me up front it would take about three months for my type of book.

    • I love their customer service. They are indeed very helpful. My primary concern was the time it took for turnaround. I would probably use them again, but with different expectations on the time required and less demand for special features. I think you must have the patience of Job to be creating a full color image book with them and cannot imagine what that must have been like to set up and follow through on. I am certain that it is going to be beautiful! can’t wait. My expenses were not bad, I did not do the third mock up. I paid less than $400. which is comparable for what I paid for the eversion. So I guess in that regard I am doing great! Good luck with the book and keep us posted. Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful and helpful comment.

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