My Experience Self-Publishing With Createspace

by Josh Hanagarne on October 26, 2010

in Writing

Hey there.

In the past few weeks I’ve gotten all of two questions about why I chose to self-publish The Knot with Createspace. I’ve decided to ignore the evidence and am just assuming that everyone else is also wondering, but is too afraid to ask. Or they can’t remember the  name of this blog to ask me. So below I’m going to outline the experience of publishing a book with Createspace, which is pretty painless–if you can write the book first.

Why I decided to use Createspace

Way back when (read: a few years ago), I wrote a book, just for the thrill of it. In my opinion, that’s the best reason to write.  I write because it’s fun.

But it’s not always easy. It’s a ton of work. Maybe you don’t even care about exploring traditional publishing routes. I never really did, besides the occasional daydream. But maybe you’ve decided it would be nice to have someone actually read your book. That’s how I felt.

I had a blog that people actually read, and I considered releasing my book for free as a download. My main reason for not doing it was simply because I wanted to feel the book in my own hands. I didn’t care how ugly or low quality, I just wanted to see the object. I was right to do it. The first time I saw the book, I was happy as can be, even though I knew only a handful of strange people (looking at you!) would ever read it.

I published that book with Createspace because:

  • I had finished the hard part, writing the book, but my flighty nature meant I wasn’t about to jump into an exhaustive study of self-publishing opportunities. CS was the first thing I saw when I started looking. It looked good enough.
  • Friends that I trusted also recommended the service to me
  • Friends spoke less-ravingly about other services, but like I said, I have no personal experience with anything else
  • The price was right–more on that in a second

So here is the actual process.

Getting started

First, write a book.

Then,

I went to CS and registered my account. This was pretty simple–email and username.  I chose the author’s option because I had written a book, not composed an album of music.  Then I was delivered unto the setup options.

Editing

I would spend some serious time revising your manuscript. You could also pay someone to edit for you. I didn’t, but I had also spent several years writing The Knot. I felt confident that I had caught all of my grammatical errors and when I read through the book after receiving my copy, I was happy about the work I had done. Also–the book still had some errors. I had gone blind to my own work.

This is how self-publishing works. The manuscript you submit is the one that will be published, exactly as is. Nobody is going to be your safety net. It’s on you. You could be a very sad sally if you your book and discover that you had spent 800 pages writing “their” when you meant “there.”

Formatting that sucker

After logging into your new account, you’ll be taken to a page where you select how information about your book will be displayed: title, associated keywords for findability (not a word), your biography, etc.

Createspace requires two file types: your interior files (the text inside the book) and the cover file.

You will have to convert both into PDF documents before uploading them. Specifications are given with regards to the format of your text and the book’s cover. If you do not format them correctly your manuscript will be rejected with a quickness after you try to upload. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but is more irritating than many things. (Yes, I screwed up more than once).

If you are a graphic designer or know a Photoshop wiz, you can design your own cover. I am not and did not, so I used Createspace’s template designer. I wound up with a very ugly cover. I did not know this at the time because I am not aesthetically inclined, but readers clued me in. I still really don’t care about how the book looks, but I have also purchased a lot of ugly books, so what do I know? When I publish another book, I’ll probably get a decent cover designed for me.

After the formatting is done, upload your files and trudge forward.

Entering sales information

How much is your book going to cost? You’ll have to decide.  CS will give you a few details about their suggested price, based on page count, the type of book you are publishing, and the formatting specs you chose.

You get to set the list price. CS will give you a minimum price that covers the cost of actually producing and shipping your book. You get to set the price above the minimum so that you can make a profit, and not just make Amazon fatter.

This is not very complicated. I was a little intimidated by the screens that were jumping up at me, but CS is well-designed and user friendly. In the end my book wound up selling for just over $21.00

Submitting your book, order a copy

Once you have jumped through all of these hoops and escaped unscathed, it is time to submit your manuscript. This is simple: press the “submit” button once you have uploaded your files and been the sales screens that I have talked about so far.

Someone at Createspace will check your manuscript to make sure that it meets all of their formatting requirements. I repeat–they will not correct anything for you, they will only check that your files and margins and such meet the physical publishing parameters.

Less than 48 hours later, an email informed me that my manuscript was approved. This is the fun part. You are then required to purchase a review, or “proof” copy. All that means is that mail a copy of your book so that you can look through it and confirm that it has turned out exactly as you had hoped. Or good enough.

Once you get that book, read through it, and are read to go, you log back into your account and press the approve button. Congratulations! You now have a book that people can buy through am Amazon store.

Knowing what I know, would I do it again?

Not only would I do it again, I will be doing it again. Create Space publishing is a terrific service. In case you’re wondering about my sales, they are terrible. Is there a word for worse than terrible? They may even be that word. But I’ve got my book. I did something that a lot of people talk about, but few accomplish. I wrote a book. Started, finished, and in some hands.

And I’ve got a copy! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

And of course, I have heard that there is a big oaf selling signed copies of The Knot. His name is Josh, but some say that he is actually related to bigfoot and goes by a Yeti name that cannot by pronounced by human tongues.

If you’d like a signed copy (with free shipping in the US, up to $10 free shipping international), please contact me, including “signed copy of The Knot” in the subject line and I’ll tell you how I’ll get the book to you.

And if you’d like to know more about how I came to write the book and why it’s important to me, read this.

thanks!

Josh

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Logan Christopher October 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Funny I just wrote my own post regarding this with some testing I’ve been doing with Amazon. I agree with you in everything you said here Josh. Createspace is easy to use, yet getting the documents rejected can be very frustrated. I tried 20 times to get a cover right before just about giving up.

I talk a little more about the steps it takes to publish on the CreateSpace as well as some ideas why here.

http://www.loganchristopher.com/how-to-sell-books-on-amazon/

When’s the sequel out Josh?

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Joel Friedlander October 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Josh, great post, as usual. The self-publishing thicket reduced to a bite size enjoyment.

You were fortunate to have well-informed friends. CreateSpace is probably the best vendor right now for single-book self-publishers who are not interested in setting up a publishing business. And their connection to Amazon seals the deal. For $39 you can get into their expanded distribution and get access to real live bookstores (although none of them will order your book).

Your story is why I still love self-publishing, still get a thrill helping someone navigate the path to publication, still get a big sloppy grin when I put a book into the author’s hands for the first time after sometimes months of work. It rocks.

Check out Joanna Penn’s blog, by the way, she’s just started self-publisher her novel, and doing it in a public way.

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I’m a big fan of Joanna’s!

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Logan, the actual book book that I’m writing for real live publishers is about to consume me, so the sequels will be pushed back a ways.

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Eric | Eden Journal October 27, 2010 at 6:16 am

I like the cover. I like the simplicity of it, and it moves my thoughts towards the sleepy little town. Maybe I’m also not aesthetically inclined, or maybe Josh and I are, and the rest of the world is not.

Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes look. I had wondered about it, but just a little and not actually enough to ask the question.

Also, I loved the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Thanks Eric. Hmm…maybe everyone else IS wrong. we’ll see.

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Todd October 27, 2010 at 6:57 am

First, Josh, I forgot all about this, and will be happy to order your book. I’ll email you again about it.

Second, I’ve been writing a book over the last year (it’s a slow project when you’re lazy, er… I mean busy). My thought was to publish as an ebook, but to be honest, this is looking more intriguing.

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

No worries, Todd. If you are going to go to the trouble of writing something, I would love for you to have a book to show. A physical book. Being a PDF merchant just isn’t as sexy.

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Todd October 28, 2010 at 6:18 am

That’s an excellent point. There’s just something about holding your hands versus reading it on the screen.

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Todd October 28, 2010 at 6:18 am

edit–there’s something about holding holding something physical in your hands…

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Michael N. Marcus October 27, 2010 at 7:36 am

CreateSpace wants to censor a book because it mentions parent Amazon.com (about 99% is positive, 1% negative).

Yesterday I submitted a book file to CreateSpace for printing.

I got this scary response: “The interior file submitted for this title contains text referencing Amazon.com. Please remove all text and/or logos which reference Amazon.com.”

Years ago, the USSR forbade published criticism of the Communist Party, but I am shocked to find that an American printer/publisher/bookseller wants to censor a writer.

Details at http://bookmakingblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/publisher-createspace-doesnt-believe-in.html

Michael N. Marcus

http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
http://www.Self-Pub.info
– Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
– “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Interesting Michael, thanks.

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cinderkeys October 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

Wow. Amazon.com has the right to refuse to publish (which isn’t the same thing as censoring) anything it wants. I don’t think it’s a good business decision for them in this case, though.

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Michelle October 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

I’m also a Createspace alumni.

I used to work for another self-publisher (I’ll withhold the name for safety’s sake). When you signed the contract with them, it cost hundreds of dollars. If you’re not careful, it could cost thousands.

I like Createspace because it cost me nothing up front. And I did purchase the Pro plan, but I wanted to buy a number of copies, and it made it cheaper. I also get more royalties from my books than with other services.

I wrote Helpless for NaNoWriMo last year, and hadn’t planned to do anything with it. Then a friend suggested that I sell it at an upcoming horror con. I self published because I needed a quick turnaround, and honestly, I don’t think it’s my best work.

When figuring in the cost of the booth and purchasing the books, I broke even with the book sales. And someone I didn’t know bought my book! So I considered it a success.

Would I do it again? I have one book that I’m still editing that I’m entertaining the idea of shopping out. If I get too frustrated with the rejection letters, I’ll publish it through Createspace. I’m also getting ready to start another book on November 1st. Depending on how it comes out, if I don’t think it’s in my usual style yet enough people want a copy, I’ll self publish it. We’re also thinking about publishing my husband’s book of poetry through Createspace; I think that will be the perfect avenue for poetry.

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Josh Hanagarne October 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Send me your book! I’ll review it for you.

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cinderkeys October 29, 2010 at 12:38 am

I also work for another self-publishing company. It’s almost certainly more expensive than CreateSpace, but design services are included.

Every now and again, someone tries to submit something that’s print-ready — that is, no further design required. Almost always, there’s something seriously wrong with the design. My advice to self-pubbers who are doing their own design? Don’t just choose a template. Do the research to find out what a book is supposed to look like. Watch out for floating running heads, and do NOT use Times New Roman. :)

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Tosin December 10, 2011 at 9:48 am

Your writing is fun. I just CS’d too. my book is here: http://lifelib.blogspot.com/p/yalla.html

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Diogo December 25, 2011 at 3:21 am

Hi,

Thanks for this very informative post and discussion. I want to make my book available for free online after publishing (I am mainly interested in the ISBN and the cover maker) and want to know if CreateSpace allow me to download a pdf of the final version of my book.

Thanks,
diogo

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Judy Berna January 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

Thanks for this great post! I have a memoir written, about my decision to have my foot amputated, after years of hating my deformed limb. It’s a story about doing what you have to, to get the life you really want. I love my new bionic life, and write about it on my blog justonefoot.blogspot.com.
I’ve gotten a few nibbles from the query letters I’ve sent out for years now, but no strong bites yet. I got a strong recommendation about CreateSpace, from another author, who published through CreateSpace, then was picked up by a traditional publisher. So I started researching CreateSpace, and found you!
Thanks for the helpful info! (gotta love the google search!)

Judy

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Diana January 31, 2012 at 4:13 am

Hi, Josh! Just yesterday a friend of mine suggested publishing my book with the help of CreateSpace. I looked through its web and was thrilled with so many possible (and free!!!) options. A few month ago I wrote a fantasy romance and still trying to publish it, but the problem is that originally my book was written in Russian (forgot to mention that I’m from Belarus) and then translated into English, so now I have to find some native speaker to review it. So I wanted to ask if it’s possible (and if you agree of course) to send you at least first chapter, to see how bad (or maybe not) the translation is. I would really appreciate any help! P.S. Great post, by the way!

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Pascal DSanchez May 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

Brilliant post, I have just signed up with Createspace and was quite confused by all the options. I have read your post and have found it really useful.

I will be taking the plunge with self-publishing soon and Createspace seems to be the best option.

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Josh Hanagarne May 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

That’s great to hear. I’d love to know how it works out for you.

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Cheri Taylor May 31, 2012 at 12:48 am

Hello everyone, I am so excited reading this, I am a published Author with Creatspace and I love it! However knowing that I am looking be forming my own business I wanted to get another look around before I publish my next book. I will thank Josh and everyone else for these energetic comments because I don’t have to look no future, I am already there[home] Great Luck to all the authors in the making!! Congrats to the ones who has achieved there goal. It is an amazing feeling when the book you wrote is in your hands. especially when you moved forward and did it on your own. Keep Moving Forward Everyone!

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Josh Hanagarne May 31, 2012 at 9:17 am

Glad to hear it, Cheri. Good luck to you.

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Mary June 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Josh, Thank you for sharing your literary journey towards publication and my congratulations on same. I enjoyed your retelling of the story … and if I may say so, you write with great clarity and humour. It is a good feeling when one has actually started AND finished a book. I’ve just finished one and was thinking of trying CS. Now, is it difficult to convert a Word Doc into a PDF file – for submitting to CS? I just want, like your described, to have a physcial copy of my own book in my own hands and maybe a the hands of a few more folk! I don’t expect to make any money BUT I don’t want to hire any designers or techies. Is CS really FREE?

BTW I don’t think your book looks *that* ugly! Good luck with all your ventures.

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Josh Hanagarne June 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Yes, unless it’s changed since I did it, it’s all free, assuming you don’t hire out for design and editing. and thank you!

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Mary June 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Thanks for that Josh.

Mary

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Kelvin Smith August 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Terrific post Josh! It took almost 3 yrs to finished my memoir about the journey of a heart transplant recipient. After a couple rejection letters, the editor I’m using suggested CS. I have a great cover, celebrity testimonials and ever growing platform as I’m a public speaker. I’ve heard horror stories regarding other companies such as royalties and hidden costs. So far CS sounds like the best way. My book is more about the message vs. the money but I don’t want to go broke either!

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Josh Hanagarne August 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Kelvin, that’s fantastic. Sounds like you’ve put in a ton of leg work to get there. If you ever want to send me a copy, I’d be happy to review it for you.

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kelvin smith August 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks Josh and will do!

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Judy Berna August 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I’m about 12 hours away from pushing the ‘publish’ button on my book at Createspace. They have been a great company to work with. I cant wait to get my review copy in the mail next week. I’d highly recommend this company to anyone (and have a lot lately). It’s a great way to get your book out there and you get to have complete creative control.
In a few weeks you can buy my book at justonefoot.com. It was fun building a website for the book. I did it so I could put more pictures up that relate to stories in the book. I love how the internet helps all kinds of authors these days.

Thanks for this great post. It’s so encouraging!

judy
justonefoot.com

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Josh Hanagarne August 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I’m very glad to hear that, I hope you’re proud!

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John August 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Josh you seem to know a lot about CS, I am interested in your opinion. I have one book with I universe and 2nd book complete, less editing.
Look forward to your response.
John

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Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Hi John. I don’t think I know anything about I Universe. How did you feel about them after the first book?

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Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Hi John,

Just to butt in here, you should know that iUniverse is what we refer to as a “subsidy publisher” and, unless you want to do absolutely nothing and don’t mind ending up with a book that will be difficult to sell, I recommend you go with CreateSpace. They have great customer support, services if you want or need them, and excellent pricing. Hope that helps.

cinderkeys August 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Joel: I’m a little confused. As far as I know, “subsidy publisher” is another term for “company that provides services to self-publishing authors.” By that definition, iUniverse and CreateSpace are both subsidy publishers. What’s the difference?

Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hi cinderkeys,

No, people who supply services are service providers. For instance, I design books for authors. That doesn’t make me any kind of publisher, let alone a subsidy publisher.

CreateSpace has many service you can use if you like, but if you don’t you can treat them as a book printer and print on demand supplier. In neither case are they your publisher.

Subsidy publishers are where you pay them to publish your book. Overall, this industry does not have a sterling reputation, and I generally advise authors to try to find a different way to get into print, especially now that it’s much easier, faster and less expensive than it used to be. You might be interested in an article I wrote about this last year:

The Subsidy Author’s Bill of Rights

Hope that helps.

cinderkeys August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

We’re in the same business, then. :) I used to work for a subsidy publisher. Getting the book into print (or e-book form) was just one of the services. It worked out for people who didn’t want to do all of the legwork themselves.

It’s easy to avoid the scammers if you do your homework. And if you’re too lazy to do your homework, tell your potential self-publishing company that you’re planning to get on the NYT bestseller list and make a MILLION dollars and retire. If they act like these are reasonable goals, that’s your cue to run away.

Joel Friedlander August 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

LOL love that one, maybe you’d like to write a post for me on the inside scoop about subsidy publishers. Big audience for that. (Saw your interview on Joanna Penn’s blog BTW.)

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cinderkeys August 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I would love to write a guest post for you! The caveat is that I’m only qualified to give the inside scoop about the specific subsidy publisher I worked for, and I’m hardly unbiased there. (They were wonderful to work for, and I still do projects for them on a freelance basis.)

But I could write something related. For instance, whether self-publishing (as opposed to traditional) is a good choice for you, or whether you’re better off going the DIY route for various services when self-publishing.

You can contact me at susan (at) covertocoverllc (dot) com.

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Judy Berna September 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I commented a few months back, as I was in the middle of using Createspace. As of today, my book hit Amazon.com. I am SO excited! I had nothing but a WONDERFUL experience with Createspace. They actually have customer service people who speak English AND dont make you wait on hold! I’m so proud of my finished product and they made it so much easier. If you have a second, check out my new baby. Look under ‘book’s on Amazon and search for this title: Just One Foot: How Amputation Cured My Disability. I still can’t believe it’s finally published. Thanks for the encouragement along the way!

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John September 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

Hi Everyone:
I’m new to this forum; I found reading many of the posts quite helpful. But I haven’t seen any success of the books published by createspace. Am I missing something?
Thanks

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Logan September 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

John, you need to market the books in some way. At the very least have them published in a way (like keywords) that people are looking for on Amazon.

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Cheryl September 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hello guys especially JOSH HANAGARNE who began this blog and it has been very helpful to me. I am debating between letting WestBow help me with my book 192 page book or CreateSpace. I am financially tight so this is the reason why I researched CreateSpace and came across this blog. I created an account with them but was skeptical because they wanted my banking info so soon-and I know it’s for payments, but I was fearful of someone using my account to take money from me or incorrectly charge me for something I didn’t approve. I am a little reluctant now because I see a couple of comments on this post with the overarching theme that I may have difficulty making money/sales from my book. I want to know why this is the case??? And also why you John, said your sales were horrible…I do want to make money as additional income from my hard work and years of writing this book!!!

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Judy Berna September 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I wanted to pop over really quickly to answer Cheryl’s question about book sales. I have many friends who are published by traditional publishers and I have just as many friends who self published. Unless you are a famous person, marketing works about the same for both. Basically you are in charge of it. Traditional publishers get you on book lists for libraries and book stores to buy your book, but they dont necessarily ‘push it’ and if you haven’t gotten the word out about it, you wont necessarily be picked up by them anyway.
A good chunk of books that are written by ‘unknowns’ like us are bought online. The spot on the Barnes and Noble shelf is a coveted spot and mostly the better selling books make it there. Think about it, most people hear about a book from a friend, or a magazine, and they go online to buy it. This is to your advantage when you are for sale on Amazon (just like the books that are published by the big houses).
Whether you have big book sales on Createspace or not is really dependent on many things outside of Createspace as a company. YOU have to get the word out, with your own marketing. You have to make sure it is edited professionally and reads like a professional book. You have to write the press releases and send them to the appropriate places. You have to contact the correct blogs and magazines that might review it and offer review copies. You have to have a book website so people can learn more about your book and want to buy it. You have to get it out as an ebook so more people will find it and buy it. If your book is good, and your marketing is aggressive, you’ll have a much better chance at better book sales.
If your book isn’t selling, it’s generally not Createspace’s fault. They are just publishers, not marketers. They publish your work and get it up on Amazon for people to find. The rest is up to you. And that’s pretty true when you are published by a traditional book publisher too.
I loved the fact that by using Createspace I got to decide exactly how my book would look and what things I left in and took out. No editor at the publishing house cut out things I really wanted left in.
I wrote a post here for Josh, a week or two ago, about my experience. Regardless of how it seems, I dont work for Createspace. I’m just really thankful that they gave me the opportunity to get my book out there, to the people who needed it.
You can see my book’s website at justonefoot.com
I have been marketing like crazy, enlisting the help of friends and family around the country, through facebook, and dozens of other places where my book might be of interest. I’m confident that it’s a well edited, interesting book, so the sales will come when the word gets out.
I hope this helps alleviate some of the confusion Cheryl. Dont be scared off by stories of low book sales. If your book is quality, and you get the word out to the right people (people who read that kind of genre) you will have decent sales.
Very Sincerely,
Judy Johnson Berna
justonefoot.com

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cinderkeys September 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Judy said much of what I would have. :) I’ll reiterate that most authors don’t get to live off of the sales of their books, regardless of how they published.

What kind of book are you writing?

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Ben E Brewer November 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Thanks very much for the info here, I’m ummming and arrring as to whether to go the CreateSpace route or run through my own branded publishing house for muraldawn.com

I wondered, did you know if it would be possible to publish through CreateSpace with their proprietary ISBNs and then at the same time also publish the SAME book under your own publishing name with a different ISBN, but exactly the same book?

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Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I didn’t know that. Let me know what you decide to do. Congrats on having a book to ummmm and arrrr over!

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