Today I got the copies of my books. At first I was really excited… then I saw them, and I knew right away that something wasn’t right. From the look of things, I suspect that they were not printed by CreateSpace, but rather by someone else (the copies I received today don’t even have a product id, something that is in itself a pretty big no-no). Anyway, the yellows seem to be MIA from the covers, while the reds are much stronger than they were in the proof. The end result is that in two instances my name is almost completely unreadable, the contrast is shot in all of them, and all the covers look downright grotesque. As for the quality of paper, it is clearly of a different grade than the one that was used for the proofs. Its quality is not necessarily lower, but the paper is noticeably thinner (meaning that, for a book that is well over 400 pages, the spine winds up looking kind of funny). In addition to that there is the fact that the trim size itself seems to be something like 0.1 inch shorter than the one in the proof in all of the books, and that fraction of an inch was taken entirely from the bottom (the book’s width too is a little narrower, but the difference is not so apparent). That means that the pages are clearly off-center. It may sound like I am nitpicking here, but the truth is that all these details do make a significant difference that results in a far less professional look. No, the books I received today are not entirely unusable, but I have to say that the end result leaves much to be desired.
On the positive side, when it come to the interior graphics, I have to say that the print quality seems a little better. As for the durability of the binding, well, the jury is still out on that one.
The thing is that if you have paid for the external distribution option you should probably be aware of the fact that, even if your copy looks fine, the quality of the end product is bound to be something of a Russian roulette, because no matter how you set your books up, the fact that there are two printing companies using what are clearly two very different standards to produce the books basically means that the copies printed by one of them are bound to look like crap no matter what you do. A serious problem that is well worth considering before you add that external distribution option… especially if CreateSpace is going to resort to that secondary printer to fulfill its own orders (or even those that are placed via amazon).
Now, to be fair, I have to say that most of the books I have seen that are printed by CreateSpace have an acceptable quality (not great, but certainly good enough), and the same goes for those printed by Lightning Source (though I’m not even sure if these books were printed by Lightning Source… that lack of product id again). The problem is that there are clearly some differences in the way the companies that are printing books for CreateSpace work, but given that you are stuck using a single set of files the quality is bound to suffer.
UPDATE: I have contacted CreateSpace regarding these issues and they are currently being investigated. I don’t know what’s going to come out of this, but so far I am extremely satisfied with their response. This is a relief, as one of the things I had fretted the most over when I switched publishers last year was precisely the question of what would happen when something went wrong (what can I say, I am enough of a realist to know that it was a matter of when, not if).
I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE #2: okay, apparently some measures have been taken to avoid future issues (here’s hoping they will work).