The Fine Print of Self-Publishing fifth edition

NOTE: Below is the entire review of Createspace from the 2011 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.  It is provided ONLY for informational purposes, as the service offerings and publishing packages LIKELY have changed since 2011.  The contract terms, printing costs, and royalty amounts often don’t change significantly, HOWEVER, you should check the Createspace website for the most current offerings and pricing.  Also, none of the links below are live as many have changed.

Updated information on this publisher’s printing markups and royalties can be found in the  2014 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

 CREATESPACE

http://www.createspace.com

FORMAT OF BOOKS: Paperback. (Authors interested in creating ebooks are forwarded to the Kindle section of Amazon.com.)

GENRES ACCEPTED: CreateSpace, an Amazon.com company (now combined with BookSurge, another previously distinct Amazon.com brand), operates much the same as Lulu.com and is more of a content manager and printer than a publisher. Therefore, it does not discern genres or quality of writing; it only asks that you not use the site to print books that are disturbing (i.e., pornographic or hateful).

PUBLISHING FEES: CreateSpace offers a variety of services, available for review at https://www.createspace.com/pub/services.home.do. There are do-it-yourself publishing packages where it is free to upload your book (https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/Index.jsp#content2 ), but you need to create your own cover and interior and submit them correctly to CreateSpace. CreateSpace only recommends its do-it-yourself packages for people with design experience. (See “Submission Requirements” at https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/#content5 .)

For those who want more services, CreateSpace offers packages that resemble publishing packages offered by other self-publishing companies. A list of these packages can be found at https://www.createspace.com/Services/PublisherSolutionServiceTable.jsp . They range in price from $299 to $4,999. An example is the Total Design Freedom Essentials package ($1,798), found at https://www.createspace.com/Services/TotalDesignFreedomEssentials.jsp . The following items are included in this package:

  • One round of copyediting (based on a 60,000-word manuscript; additional fees may apply to longer works)
  • ISBN
  • LCCN
  • Interior digital proof
  • Unique book cover: Includes five hours of design time and two initial concepts, consisting of one central image, selected by the designer, as the focal point for the cover (more details at https://www.createspace.com/Services/UniqueBookCover.jsp ).
  • Custom interior, including up to ten images
  • The ability to sell your book on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com

All of the services included in the Total Design Freedom package are also offered individually. You can also pay an additional $39 for the Pro Plan, which makes your book available at places other than CreateSpace and Amazon and gives you lower printing costs ( https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/ProPlan.jsp ). If you plan on using CreateSpace, this extra $39 (and $5 per year after that) is a must. The savings are huge.

ADDITIONAL SERVICES: At https://www.createspace.com/pub/services.home.do , click the “Marketing” tab and you can view the marketing and PR services. These consist of mostly basic services, like press release writing and distribution, collateral materials (i.e., bookmarks), and two types of video trailers ( https://www.createspace.com/Services/VideoBookTrailers.jsp ).

RETURN OF DIGITAL COVER AND INTERIOR FILES: You might assume that this is a nonissue because, in the CreateSpace model, you provide all of the files and the book prints exactly as submitted. However, the CreateSpace agreement says that while the author owns all the rights to his content, the publisher owns all of the files created using its proprietary templates, including “source files, future-proof archive files, and packaging materials.”

When I asked the CreateSpace help desk if I would own the source files created using CreateSpace templates, I was told, “We own the sources [sic] files we create for our printer.”

If you want to sell your book outside of CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com, in addition to creating all new files, you’ll need to purchase your own ISBN. CreateSpace owns the ISBN it offers with printing, and its contract states that you can only sell books imprinted with its ISBN on Amazon.com affiliated sites.

RETAIL PRICE OF AUTHOR’S BOOK: CreateSpace allows authors to set the price for their books, with the caveat that authors may not sell books on CreateSpace.com or Amazon.com for more than they charge elsewhere. Authors must also acknowledge that Amazon and its affiliates have the option to reduce the price of the book.

PRICE AUTHOR PAYS FOR BOOKS: There is a pricing calculator under the “Pricing” tab at https://www.CreateSpace.com/Products/Book/#content4 so potential authors can determine how much they will pay for books. For a standard 6″ x 9″, 200-page paperback the cost is $0.02 per page and $1.50 per cover, or $5.50 per copy. If the author has joined the Pro Plan, the cost for each book is $0.012 per page and $0.85 per cover, or $3.25. The printing costs don’t vary by quantity, so if you order one copy or one thousand copies, the price per book is always the same (depending on whether you’re in the Pro Plan or not). Without the Pro Plan, the markup is 41 percent. With the Pro Plan, the printing costs are actually less than the standard $3.90 per book because CreateSpace owns its own printer (which was once BookSurge).

While the printing costs for low quantities are great, the markups become high when you get into larger quantities, but are still much less than most other publishers in this book.

ROYALTIES PAID TO AUTHOR: To determine how royalties are calculated, visit https://www.CreateSpace.com/Products/Book/ and click on the “Sales & Royalties” tab; then, go to https://www.CreateSpace.com/Products/Book/Royalties.jsp . CreateSpace royalties are dictated by the retail price the author chooses, what CreateSpace charges for its printing services, and the trade discount given to each reseller (whether it’s CreateSpace, Amazon, or third-party retailers). For sales on CreateSpace, it takes a 20 percent trade discount. For sales on Amazon, Amazon takes a 40 percent discount. For sales anywhere else, a 60 percent trade discount is given. The total royalties also change if the author is part of the Pro Plan.

For a 6″ x 9″, 200-page paperback that retails for $14.95, here is how the math looks:

createspace.jpg

Since CreateSpace and Amazon are essentially the same thing, when calculating what CreateSpace/Amazon really makes on each sale, you need to factor in the trade discount it gives itself. For example, if our sample book sold through CreateSpace’s eStore for $14.95 and you were in the standard program, you’d make:

$14.95 Retail price

-$2.99 Trade discount (20%)

–$5.50 Print cost

$6.46 Author royalty

Assuming the print cost is $3.90, CreateSpace/Amazon nets about $4.59 on this sale. If the print cost is under the Pro Plan, CreateSpace/ Amazon nets about $2.99, and the author makes $8.71. It’s clear that CreateSpace prints massive amounts in house and isn’t jobbing this out to a third party like Lightning Source, so it’s impossible for an outsider to even guess at the actual profit.

Assuming everything is the same but the book is now being sold on Amazon, you’d make:

$14.95 Retail price

-$5.98 Trade discount (40%)

–$5.50 Print cost

$3.47 Author royalty

This is where CreateSpace/Amazon really makes out. CreateSpace is making money on the printing and is essentially giving itself a 40 percent trade discount to sell the book.

Assuming everything is the same but the book is now being sold through third-party retailers, you’d make:

$14.95 Retail price

-$8.97 Trade discount (60%)

–$3.25 Print cost

$2.73 Author royalty

The wild card here is that we don’t know how much of the 60 percent CreateSpace/Amazon keeps and how much the third party actually takes as trade discount. I doubt that the full 60 percent of the trade discount is given to Amazon’s competitors, as this would enable them to sell the book for less than Amazon.com’s sales price. However, that is pure speculation (and some common sense) on my part.

NOTABLE PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLISHING AGREEMENT: The publishing agreement can be found at http://www.CreateSpace.com/Help/Rights/MemberAgreement.jsp .

Section 1 says that CreateSpace can change the terms of the agreement, its policies, and its service offering at any time. It will post a notice of changes for up to thirty days, but it’s up to the author to check the site for changes; the author’s continued use of the site after the changes take effect signifies agreement.

Section 3 outlines what services authors are eligible for once they have registered on the site, including book order fulfillment and a listing on the CreateSpace eStore, Amazon Properties, and other sales channels. It also says that CreateSpace has the ultimate say on bar code placement.

Section 4 deals with how CreateSpace handles titles. Basically, it says that if an author violates the company’s guidelines, CreateSpace can remove the content and the author will still be held responsible for any outstanding fees. It also says that the author can remove content at will; however, CreateSpace has thirty days after receiving notice from the author to remove the content, and can continue to fulfill any orders placed up to the end of that thirty days.

Also included in Section 4 is Subsection 4.2, “Pricing; Legal Title,” which says that CreateSpace is the “seller of record” for the author’s book. This means that it ultimately has the power to set the selling price. It also says that, while the author sets the retail price, it must be set at or below the price the book is selling for elsewhere. This clause is bad if you intend to sell the book from your own website. Normally you could sell the book on your website for less than on CreateSpace, since you wouldn’t have to pay any portion of the trade discount to anyone. Unfortunately, Subsection 4.2 prohibits this, which may limit some of your sales avenues. However, you could always terminate the contract and publish elsewhere.

Subsection 4.3, “Customer Returns and Refunds,” allows CreateSpace to handle returns in several ways, on a case-by-case basis:

  1. The company can resell a returned book, with no additional royalty to the author.
  2. The company can destroy the book.
  3. The company can refuse all returns.
  4. The company can accept the return and, if it has already paid the author a royalty, charge the return against future royalties or bill the author for the royalty amount.

Section 5 deals with taxes and fees, and states that CreateSpace will pay author royalties within thirty-one days of the end of the month in which the book was sold. This section states: “If you are unable to make Electronic Funds Transfer (‘EFT’) payments, we will pay by check, but we may charge a per check fee and accrue and withhold payments until the total amount due meets a minimum dollar threshold.” That minimum dollar threshold is unspecified.

Section 5 also holds the author responsible if a buyer uses a fraudulent credit card to purchase the author’s book, meaning that the earnings from the fraudulent sale will be deducted from future earnings. Authors are also responsible for paying their own taxes on royalties; CreateSpace will not withhold a deduction.

Section 6 covers content, licenses, and feedback. In part, it allows CreateSpace to create digital versions of your content, or book, for the purpose of advertising and display, and to allow Search Inside! feature.

Subsection 6.4, “Ownership,” says that while you, the author, own all the rights to the content, CreateSpace owns all of its own templates and the resulting files it creates, including source files, future-proof archive files, and packaging materials.

Subsection 6.5, “Cover Images,” says: “We may agree to provide you a file containing an image of the cover of your Title (‘Cover Images’). Contingent upon your receipt of such Cover Image, we hereby grant you, during the term of this Agreement, a worldwide, royalty-free right to use the Cover Image for any lawful purpose related to promoting your Title.” This is not the same as returning the production files to you for your own use when you’re no longer in the agreement.

All that Subsection 6.5 says is that, during the term of the agreement, CreateSpace lets you use the cover image to promote your book. When you terminate with CreateSpace, you no longer have the right to use that cover image. Now, if you provided the image that was used on your book cover and then terminated your publishing agreement, while you couldn’t use CreateSpace’s rendition of the cover (containing that image), you could create a similar cover using the same image. Subsection 6.6, “Feedback,” says that if the author sends CreateSpace information or a suggestion, all rights to that information or suggestion belong to CreateSpace, even if it leads to a change in the way the company provides service. That means that if you send them a great idea and they implement it, you won’t get paid. This is not unreasonable.

Section 7, “Representation and Warranties,” is basically standard language stating that your content is not breaking any laws—you didn’t steal it, it isn’t libelous or otherwise injurious to someone else, and as far as you know it is based on fact (where appropriate).

Section 8, “Indemnification; Maintenance of Rights; Copyright Infringement,” basically states that CreateSpace will not be held responsible if a claim is brought against the author for his or her book, including attorney’s fees. Further, it states that if the author learns of a claim against her title, she will remove the title from the site and accept financial responsibility for any books that are returned as a result of the claim.

The title of Section 9, “Disclaimer of Warranties; Limitation on Liability,” is written in full capitals to show importance, one presumes, and states that CreateSpace makes no guarantees that your content or its website will always be available. It also protects the company from damages if it should lose any hard copies of your content. If it does lose content, the author is only entitled to the lesser of $100 or the cost to replace the disk or other media the content was stored on. The lesson here: don’t ever send a publisher the only copy of your book.

Section 10 gives both CreateSpace and the author the ability to terminate the contract at any time by giving each other written notice. Upon termination, the author must pay any outstanding fees, and CreateSpace is obligated to fulfill any outstanding book orders.

Section 15 states that the agreement is governed by the laws of the State of Washington, and that any disputes claiming over $7,500 of relief will be settled in Seattle, Washington.

Section 16, “Miscellaneous,” allows CreateSpace to sublicense any of its rights per the agreement, but it specifically states that the author may not assign any of her rights. This can be a problem if you want your business to own the copyright to your book or wish to assign any royalties to your corporation. It also states that CreateSpace will not be held responsible if anything, such as an act of God or foul weather, keeps it from fulfilling its responsibilities per the contract. That means that if a hurricane wipes out the printing press on the eve of a book signing and your books are not delivered, you cannot hold CreateSpace liable for any money you lose as a result. This is a standard clause.

AUTHOR-FRIENDLY RATING: CreateSpace has come a long way since taking over floundering BookSurge. Its offerings are easy to figure out and make sense—unlike Lulu’s, whose site is difficult to maneuver, and whose sheer volume of offerings nearly require a degree in instructional design to figure out.

CreateSpace (in my opinion) is primarily geared toward the author who is bringing a completed cover and interior to the table. But, the company does offer reasonably priced packages for those who aren’t.

CreateSpace’s book prices are competitive. There are no setup fees (unless you’re paying for CreateSpace to help you design and format your book), but they make up for that in the printing markups. There is no cost savings to the author on volume, so whether you order ten copies of your book or one thousand, you pay the same price per unit. If you’re participating in the Pro Plan, the printing costs are much more favorable, even without the volume discounts. Even though CreateSpace gives no quantity discount, its prices still beat Lulu’s quantity discounts across the board.

One negative is that CreateSpace has a clause in its contract that prohibits you from setting your list price (on your own website or at other retailers) lower than the list price on CreateSpace or its affiliates’ sites (i.e., Amazon.com). This can get murky. Does it mean that if Amazon discounts your book from $15 to $10 in order to sell it, you can’t sell your book for the same discounted fee? Or, does it mean that you are stuck with the original retail price? Certainly, if you set the list price at $15 and an online retailer decides to sell it for $9 through no control of your own, it is hard to imagine that you would be liable to Amazon.

Overall, CreateSpace provides a good service. While the distribution seems wide, certainly the concentration is on sales through CreateSpace, Amazon, and any of their affiliates. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, CreateSpace blows Lulu and WordClay away. If you’re like the rest of us and want some help getting through the process, CreateSpace does offer it for a fee. With good pricing to authors for copies of their own books and decent royalties, CreateSpace is finally a publisher to consider. Impressively, Amazon has tamed its own beast.