Saturday, August 14, 2010

Publish America versus Createspace

Why Createspace Is Better Than Publish America.

Reams have been written about Publish America and why it is a bad choice for book publishing.

It is a vanity press in cheap clothing. PA’s blaring red, white, and blue website promises the moon, but, in reality, delivers a big wheel of moldy cheese.

While true commercial publishing, through a publisher with editorial standards and distribution should always be the goal, sometimes a project is more appropriate for self-publishing. My book has a niche appeal to a specific group of collectors. It made sense for me to be able to control all aspects of marketing and distribution. I was free to include advertising for my company. I could set the price . . . and so on and so forth. Definitely not a Random House project.

I had choices with this project and one of those choices could have been Publish America. I chose to go with Createspace. Here is the rationale behind that decision and why I recommend Createspace (CS) over Publish America (PA).

Note: This analysis concerns the true self-publishing part of CS. They have pay-to-play options such as cover design, formatting, and copy editing. I did not use those services. I felt that if I wanted to produce a book myself, then I needed to learn how to produce the print ready files. CS has a thriving forum full of people ready to help with the technical side. A good crit group and the ability to copyedit are necessary to all writers! If I'd felt the need for outside help, I would have contracted for it on the open market.

That said:

1. Retail Price: I was completely free to set the retail price for my book. I balanced factors such as shipping costs, shipping materials, costs to use payment services such as PayPal, costs to list on internet auction sites, the royalty to my illustrator, and the advance I paid to my illustrator. I was able to price my book at $7.99 retail and make a fair profit on the project. I've read where PA writers are selling their books for $14.00 to $17.00 and still not seeing a profit. Outside of the advance I paid to the illustrator, I saw a profit inside of 24 hours.

With PA, my little book would have retailed for a minimum of $24.95 unless I gave in to one of their pay-to-play author purchase hard sells. The lowest price I could have seen from PA was $9.95. My max royalty from PA would have ranged from .80 - $1.95 per copy. Without revealing all my secrets, I can say that I make more than that on every copy regardless of the sales channel.

I did this project to get books out to collectors, not to see it posted on a retailer’s website to show to my mom. I didn’t “just want to hold a copy in my hands.” I wanted collectors to hold it in their hands. To mix my metaphors, at the end of the day, the bottom line is price. All the hyperbole about how customers will pay more for “quality stories” is wishful thinking for an unknown writer.

2. Price for Self-Purchase: Really, I could begin and end the analysis here. CS uses a pricing calculator based on the number of pages. For books under 110 pages, the price is $2.15 per copy under the “Pro Plan” (one time fee of $39.00). I can order any time without waiting for a promotion email (although with PA, those come almost daily).

I can order one or a hundred and immediately know what it will cost. I sell my books through my website and at trade shows. I also want to be able to give them out as contest prizes and promos. The price per copy was very important in my decision.

Don’t think this doesn’t apply to novels. Say I had written an 80,000 word novel and wanted to publish through CS. Using the general formula of 300 words per page, the book would be approximately 270 pages long. The price per copy is $4.09.

Compare this to PA. The best self-purchase offer I have ever seen is 50% off, buy-one-get-one-free. Now, on a $24.95 book, that is still $6.23 per copy, or almost three times what I pay at CS. Also, to get a deal like this, PA requires the writer to purchase a minimum number of copies.

CS allows for the purchase of one or a thousand and the price never changes. On that 80,000 word novel, the PA price would have been more like $29.95 or $7.50 per copy on the BOGO offer. That’s minimum! These days PA is only offering a single 50% discount, so the price range is more like $12.50 - $14.50 per copy. This is a recipe for economic disaster for a writer who wants to self-market. The array of sales gimmicks sent to writers by PA is dizzying.

3. Shipping Costs: With PA, you pay up to $3.99 per copy to ship your books. With CS, you pay weight based shipping and have the option to choose your shipping method. Not in a hurry? Pick media mail. In a hurry? Pick Priority Mail and pay a premium.

My last order was 25 copies via Media Mail. With CS, I paid $6.00 for shipping. With PA, shipping costs could have been as high as $100.00.

4. Shipping Times: The PA message board often contains posts about waiting weeks for orders of books. They rationalize it to themselves by saying the PA has to handcraft their books and hand pack each order. That is, before the posts are deleted or whisked off to the private message board.

Pfffffttt . . .

Here is my experience ordering from CS. I placed an order on Monday morning. On Monday afternoon I had confirmation that the package had shipped. I had it in hand on Friday (I had selected the more economical and slower Media Mail). On my most recent order of 25 books, order-to-delivery time was eight days (again by Media Mail).

I’m ordering books from a company that makes books. Not hand-thrown pottery from an eccentric artist with a waiting list.

5. Customer Service: Again, the PA message boards are full of people begging for answers to their questions. Literally begging.

Their response? Rude, condescending, ugly, insulting rants comparing them to stupid children who don’t understand how business works. Disgusting treatment for asking legitimate questions.

Now, contrast that to CS. I had a problem getting my file set up. It was a stupid mistake on my part that concerned my middle initial (I know!). CS has a system where you email them between 8:30 and 5:30 EST and they will call you back. It took fifteen minutes for my phone to ring. The tech was able to answer my questions and clear up the problem in minutes. He was helpful, knowledgeable, and cheerful. It was a pleasure.

7. Distribution: The bane of self-publishing. Not a huge worry for me, as I had my distribution plan in place. I had a platform, a mailing list, and a target audience. However, I still needed mechanisms for fulfillment.

With CS, I had a personalized vendor page within minutes. I was able to distribute this link to my mailing list and begin making sales within an hour. It took three days for my book to be indexed and live on Amazon. CS also has options to distribute via Ingrams, but that wasn’t necessary for my book. Had I gone for this option, bookstores could order it at the industry standard 40 – 50% discount with returnability.

With PA, writers are required to buy copies of their book to “activate” it on Amazon, and have it “recommended” to Barnes & Noble, and have it “donated” to bookstores, and “pitched” to Stephen King and Tom Hanks. PA writers are constantly inveigled to “promote, promote, promote” because no publisher supports its writers and all writers have to do this!

While it is true that self-publication means self-promotion, I am helped by CS rather than hindered. I am able to set a good fair price. I have a fully functional ecommerce shopping cart. I have the ability to offer bookstores order fulfillment with professional discounts. Should lightning strike and a large retailer want to buy in bulk, CS has an app for that! CS is part of the solution, not part of the problem. I have all of this at my disposal without the purchase of a single book.

8. Reporting: Back to the PA message board. Post after post begging for information about royalties. Then when the raft of $2.00 checks arrives in the mail, there is an angry barrage of posts about errors in the royalty reports. PA royalties are paid twice a year.

CS is completely transparent. They tell you upfront it takes two to five days to update the royalty reports. I launched the book on August 7th in the evening. I had my first royalty report on August 9th. CS royalties are paid every month.

9. Editing: Neither CS or PA edit. PA may run a spell check and often introduce errors. Your requested corrections may or may not be implemented. At CS, you purchase a proof copy of your book and when you see it as it will be published, you correct your own files and reload them. Want to dump chapter three after seeing it in print. Do it! Other than the initial Pro Plan fee, there is no charge for changing and reloading your files during the proofing process.

There’s more, but this post is long enough! If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will answer it there.

3 comments:

Becky Mushko said...

Very informative post. Thanks for explaining what Createspace does.

Marian Perera said...

Hi Terri,

Just posted about this on my blog. Great article.

Michael N. Marcus said...

There is no reason for any writer to do business with PA ever.

Michael N. Marcus -- http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
-- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't be a Victim of a Vanity Press," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
-- "Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company,"
http://silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing/selfpubcompanybook.html
-- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750