I’m thrilled to have Jaclyn Aurore as my guest poster today. Jaclyn has a number of self-published books available, and some very worthwhile experience with Print on Demand.
My Experience with Print on Demand Publishing
There is nothing easy about writing a novel, or going through the publishing process, whether self-publishing, landing an agent, or hitting the Publishing House jackpot directly.
I thought I’d suffered enough trying to edit and revise my work for the twelfth time over; I finally got it to a place where I felt confident enough to share. After sharing it though, I quickly realized it needed more editing and finally after countless edits, headaches, and hair-pulling stress, I deemed it worthy of self-publication.
I can’t talk much about the Amazon Kindle or KDP Select process because, honestly, I left that in my husband’s charge. He’s the expert on all things social media and Internet, so that was the easiest decision I made in the entire process. He sent my manuscript back to me, asking me to reformat it as per the Kindle Guidelines, but that was easy enough. To save you time, it might be easier to know these guidelines prior to writing your novel in the first place, but it’s just standard Word Document practice, for example, indent paragraphs and insert page breaks between chapters.
After that, the natural next step was to figure out print on demand. E-publishing might be taking over the business, but there is nothing like seeing your own book in print. It makes you feel official. So the first thing I did was talk to a friend who’d done this before. She said, the process will not happen overnight, so have patience.
That was my first bit of disappointment, I suppose. I’d hoped to use CreateSpace and upload my manuscript, possibly design a cover, and voila – print on demand. Sadly, this is not the case. First thing you need to know, is that CreateSpace is a free service, you can set up your account, upload your work, all completely for free. However, it’s not very user-friendly and there isn’t a lot of online support. Just have a little patience, and try not to pull out all your hair at once… it’s a lengthy process after all.
I’m going to offer advice about the site that I learned the hard way. Hopefully, you can speed through the process more efficiently than I ever did. The general CreateSpace process is:
- Upload your document;
- Design a cover;
- Wait for approval for said cover;
- Proof your work;
- Approve work, set price, submit to Amazon.
This last step is without a doubt, the easiest step, and if you don’t already have an eBook established on Amazon, you can do this in the fifth step as well.
Going through the first four steps multiple times over, you’ll become a pro too, but maybe I can lessen the work for you. First thing you need to know, is that CreateSpace is an affiliate of Amazon.com – meaning, it’s American. So, if you are not from the US or living in the US, then you need to get a US tax number. This is a long process itself, so you might as well start now even if you choose not to sell your work right away, at least you’ll have the number. CreateSpace has a step by step process including documents and forms needed, just do a search on the site for “ITIN or EIN Process.”
Next, before uploading your manuscript to CreateSpace, make sure that you reduce all unnecessary spacing. It costs money to print, so the more pages your book is, the more it costs to print it. The more it costs to print it, the more you’ll have to charge in order to see any kind of profit on it. The more you charge, the less people will be inclined to purchase. The end format will be a paperback book after all, not hardback. People won’t pay more than $15-20 for a paperback novel at most, so if it costs CreateSpace that much to print it, you’ll not see any profit or any sales. So reduce your page count any way possible.
Ways to reduce your page count without reducing word count are easy enough. First, pick a standard font, like Times New Roman point 10 to 12. Second, single-space your document. Third, get rid of any unnecessary blank space, but don’t feel pressured to get rid of all blank space, as some is probably necessary.
Once that’s done, upload it to CreateSpace. This takes a few minutes, and during this time, the site prompts you to create a cover while you wait. Don’t. Trust me on this, just wait it out.
You will receive an email once your document has been uploaded so if you need to go do other things while you wait, do them, just don’t touch the CreateSpace site.
Once you’re there, with your document uploaded, you’re still not ready to create a cover. As is, your upload is likely in the format of 8.5×11 inches. This is the size of a stack of paper, or a text book. It’s not likely what you’re going for when you think of ‘novel.’ They recommend some standard formats but other than dimensions, they don’t really say what any will look like… this is trial and error on your part. I’d recommend the 6×9 inch format. It’s as close as you’re going to get to “Trade Paperback” format. Choose a smaller dimension if you want, but the smaller you go, the thicker your book will be, and thus, more costs.
Choose the recommended format dimensions (either 6×9 or something else) and click the convert button. CreateSpace then converts your document into the correct size. You’ll have to wait again, but it’s worth it. Once this goes through, you’ll see if there are any errors with the new measurements. I had some because I had headers and footers that extended across the page.
To fix these errors, CreateSpace gives you the word document in the right dimensions (i.e., 6×9) and now you save that version to your desktop and manipulate that. I had to change my headers and footers and re-upload that version, again having to wait.
Once you get an error-free upload in normal book dimensions, then you can begin the tedious process of designing a cover. This is pretty easy as far as ‘user-friendly’ goes, but still time consuming.
One small piece of advice, if you choose to upload an image, your image needs to be the dimension of the book (i.e., 6×9) as well as 300dpl. Play with the formatting of your image in Paint or some Photoshop program, before uploading. It’s easier than it sounds. If your image is bigger than the dimensions, and has better resolution than the minimum, you’re set, it’ll adjust for you.
Once your cover is designed, there’s a 24 hour waiting period for approval. Therefore, make sure you have everything exactly how you want it before submitting, because you can’t make any changes again until after the approval. Meaning that the next day you get your approval, make more changes, resubmit, it’s another 24 hours before second approval, and so on.
Once you’re comfortable with your format, dimensions, upload, and cover, and it’s been approved by CreateSpace, you can then proof your book both online, and in print. I’d recommend proofing online first, see what you can see and fix what you can fix. If you notice any errors in your document anywhere, you’ll have to fix the document, and re-upload, starting the process again. New upload, new cover, new 24 hour waiting period. The cover will be saved from the last time you did it, unless you change the dimensions of the book. So if your dimensions are the same, you can skip through the cover process, and possibly the 24 hour waiting period since you didn’t resubmit your cover. This, surprisingly, I can’t remember.
I do know that each time you submit a new document you have to go through the cover process again, even if it’s just to hit ‘next’ a bunch of times, and then wait for approval from CreateSpace. That wait time may or may not be 24 hours… the good news is that it won’t be any more than 24 hours.
If you’re confident in your upload, and after viewing it online, it looks good, order a proof. This will cost you the charge of printing, but you need to see how it looks in your hands, to see what your customers will see if they purchase it. It’s worth the money. You have the option of ordering up to 5 proofs at a time, but you only need one. This is for you only, not your family or friends, not free giveaways on your blog, just you. It has the word “PROOF” stamped in it, so it’s not something you want to give away.
Once you receive your print copy in the mail, go over it. Literally read it cover to cover. You’ll be surprised what stands out, that you never noticed before.
If you have to fix anything between the covers, you basically start from scratch, if there is something you dislike about the cover itself, then you can skip step one, and go right to step two, bearing in mind that you’ll have to wait again for approval.
At least now you’re closer to the end goal – selling your work in physical form. If and when you get the book to where you want it to be, approve the proof. This brings you to step 5. Approve work, set price, submit to Amazon.
This last step is easy, it’s just clicking buttons as you walk through the steps. CreateSpace does this for you. The problem is that if you don’t have that US tax number, you can’t do anything beyond “approve proof.”
Once you approve the proof, you can buy as many copies as you want for yourself, and give them away, sure, but you can’t sell anything without that US tax number, which means more waiting.
It took me eight weeks to get that US tax number, with that, I submitted to CreateSpace, set the price for my books and clicked a button to send off to Amazon. It took one week to see my ‘printed books’ for sale on Amazon but I had to keep looking on Amazon myself. There was never a notification sent to me advising that my books were now available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
They are not available on Amazon.ca – CreateSpace is independent of the Canadian Amazon, so I have to direct my fellow Canadians to the US site. Overall, this is the only complaint I have with CreateSpace. Everything else, though tedious, is worth it in the long run because they are offering me a service absolutely free. I don’t have to mass produce my books, purchase them all, and sell them myself. I’m out absolutely no money. Just time…
Lots of time…
Her books have been described as “Wonderfully human”, “Evokes the awkwardness of teenage life perfectly”, “Heart-wrenching and heartwarming at the same time”, “Twilight without the vampires”, and “Nothing at all like Twilight”.
She is a wife and mother, and lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two children and two dogs.
See more of Jaclyn and check out ‘Starting Over’