CreateSpace, an update

Almost a year ago, as I was getting ready to release Soulless, Laira, and Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind, I wrote a post in which I tried to explain my decision to switch from Vitrual Bookworm to CreateSpace.  I admit that at the time I was somewhat worried about how that one was going to turn out. Now, as I prepare to release the next batch of titles, I am happy to say that for the most part my experience with CreateSpace has been a positive one.

Yes, I still feel that if you don’t know what you are getting into, have never had anything to do with the publishing business before, and you want to have the comfort of knowing that there is someone in charge you can talk to, who will listen to your concerns, know your name, take care of the details, and who will actually be in a position to help you out if you run into trouble,  you may well be better off with a well-established, small to mid sized publisher that charges a reasonable fee, even if the they can’t match what CreateSpace  has to offer in terms of royalties. Of course, the key words in that statement are ‘well-established’ and ‘reasonable fee’ because this is one field in which there are way too many scam artists. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is one instance in which the belief that ‘you get what you pay for’ will probably come back to bite you. Remember that if your setup fee is more than five hundred times your royalties per copy sold via external channels chances are seriously against you ever breaking even.

Anyway, and getting back to the subject of CreateSpace,  I have to say that, in addition to the fact that you don’t get as much support as you would with a (good) smaller outfit,  I also remain convinced that the issues with CreateSpace‘s TOS (namely the fact that they reserve the right to make any changes they see fit) are a problem. In spite of that, at least for experienced authors who can supply their own cover and their own interior layout (and who are not above playing a round or two of contractual Russian roulette), they offer what is by far the best deal out there. They provide a very efficient service, and a finished product that has a reasonable quality (thought there may be some minor issues with curling covers under certain condition, and with the printing of interior images).  I can also say that, for the most part, the system works as advertised.

BTW, while I mentioned above that a personalized customer support is one of the big advantages of a more traditional publisher, that doesn’t mean that you have no recourse when dealing with CreateSpace. Their customer support is pretty reliable (for the most part), and they will (usually) do their best to help you if you run into trouble, so you are not entirely on your own. It’s just that you don’t have a specific contact you can address your concerns to, and that precisely because they have a such a large staff, you never know what you are going to get.

And finally, in the comparison I gave CreateSpace three stars out of four, but that was based on how they compared to other the other publishers, and it did include their layout and cover design packages, which may have distorted things a bit. If I were to evaluate CreateSpace based only the company’s own merits, without the design extras, and using a one to five scale, I would probably give it four stars for experienced authors, and three for newbies who are at least somewhat familiar with the basics of the publishing business.

13 thoughts on “CreateSpace, an update”

  1. Thank you for your very specific comments regarding Virtual Bookworm and CreateSpace. I was about to take a leap with, but the lack of customer service is alarming. I was also concerned about the contractual issue with CreateSpace, but what’s an author to do? Anyway, your blogs were very helpful, so thanks very much for taking time to explain your experiences!

    1. Glad to hear you found that useful. Yes, my experience with CreateSpace has been a good one for the most part. I had a few issues with the quality control of the printing of on batch of books that were apparently subcontracted to someone else (it wasn’t so much that the quality was bad as such, but rather that they seemed to be working with a different hardware setup altogether. That had given rise to some differences when compared to the proofs I had approved that went beyond what I felt was a reasonable margin of error… that and that there were some SNAFUs and misunderstandings in how that order was processed), but when I complained about it they were pretty responsive.

  2. Hello. I want to thank you for being so kind! Sharing this type of specific information truly does help those of us who are in the processing of becoming new authors :). Thank you so much for your generosity. I was praying last night “Lord, I need some direction on my next step in this publishing process.” Wah-laaaa! I found your site this morning! I was worried about finding a reputable Print-On-Demand company. Someone told me about CreateSpace, but I didn’t know much about them. Your review really spelled everything out for me. Thank you again. Can you recommend a reputable book editor? Thanks so much.

  3. Thank you for your detailed information and comments. I have a manuscript with an agent. She is reading the final version of the work and, depending on her response, I will go ahead with a traditional publisher or I’ll go out on my own. I was just doing some preliminary work to see what was out there in terms of the self-publishing world.

    I can recommend a book editor. Her name is Sharon Gayle and her business is called Gayle Editorial. She is also a writer and you can find her books listed on Amazon. Her comments were detailed and pertinent to the work. She helped me clarify and improve the writing.

    Thanks again for all your helpful information and I hope my information helps others, too.

  4. I sent this message as a comment on your website “evaluation” of POD printers . . . to the posted email address for you, and it bounced back (twice). So let me try again, by this route.

    Some of us don’t want or need “full service,” we just want to be able to print up one or one thousand copies, whatever. I’ve been producing books since, oh, 1958. Sort of know what I’m doing.

    I use CreateSpace (nine titles, currently) because of their low cost and great flexibility . . . except . . . they require an ISBN and barcode. I have a current title that is not a commerical project, I did not want barcode etc (copies are for private distibution) so I searched around . . . found what I thought was a compatible POD supplier . . except . . well, I ordered a couple of “proof” copies, which were perfect . . . but my next order which came to $1000 with shipping . . . the copies were not perfect, the color on the cover did not match the “proof,” did not even match the cover art they have on file.

    I complained, both to my “contact” and the president of the company. My “contact” said “We are a digital printer, we can’t guarantee color match.” (Oh? Then why do they suggest getting a proof copy to ensure everything is OK?). I have heard nothing from the president . . . six weeks, now, and he went into hiding. I had to throw out the copies they sent, I would be embarassed to pass them along to anyone.

    But a suggestion . . . you might expand your listings to include folks who do one-off POD . . . there are more of us out there than you might imagine — corporate PR departments, for example.

    Cordially, Brayton Harris
    Executive Editor, International Publishers

    1. Yes, I received and read your message. I merely chose to ignore it because I found your sense of entitlement truly appalling. The comparison is what it is: a tool for aspiring writers who want to get their book published and made available to the wider world, but for the most part don’t have the expertise to deal with design issues, worry about distribution channels, securing an ISBN and so on (in other words, it’s not there to serve the interests of corporate PR departments that have a budget and can afford to do their own research, nor is it intended for people have been involved in publishing since 1958 and know what they are doing, quite the contrary). It is also a comparison that, while updated more or less on a yearly basis, is still mostly premised on my original research, which was conducted more than ten years ago, long before CreatSpace and viable e-publishing came along.

      If the comparison as it currently stand does not meet your needs, well, there is a very big world out there, I am sure you will find other resources that will suit you better. As for me, I am not your employee.

  5. Dear Sir:
    A great and very helpful report, but I have a problem here. With all this favorable appraisal coming from you concerning even Virtual Bookworm, how come then that there is all these other reports and statements by various other people who have had past dealings and experiences with Virtual Bookworm, though many years old in many cases, all of which are BAD and most UNFAVORABLE?

    See the different reports on this thread, for example, You’ll find there claims and complaints of disturbing experiences by authors with this company and BOB, such as the following: there’s rampant NONE RECEIPT of royalty payments by Virtual Bookworm and BOB, or grossly delayed payments, underreporting by BOB & company of the number of books they sold, missing payments altogether on authors’ books sold, frequent difficulties by authors in communicating with this company, lack of response on their part to business inquiries or author concerns for weeks and beyond, and in general very poor quality of service, and a general exhibition of unprofessional, unreliable, even fraudulent, business profile. See, for example, Complaints #12, #13, #14, and #19, there.

    Similar complaints by many authors with BAD experiences with this entity are made also in this thread:

    Please, my question is this. I’m utterly confused now. Can you give me some reason or explanation as to why there will be such a big gap of CONFLICTING DIVERGENT appraisals between what you say, and what these reports say?

    I’ll appreciate your HONEST response as this will help me tremendously in making a pending decision about picking a POD company to go with in doing a book project we have at hand right now.

    Thank you.

    1. The review is based on my own experience, and it is described as such, on the other hand I freely admit that I began working with them in the company’s very early days. As I said, my experience has been a positive one, but I admit that I may just have been lucky in that regard.

  6. I appreciate your response, and your courtesy and particularly the rather lightening promptitude of your response. Very impressed and I sincerely thank you for that.

    Yes, I can imagine that you might have been “lucky” in the positive experiences you have with this company – possibly. Any yes, your dealings with them were in the early years of their existence, I suppose. But you’ve indicated that your dealings with them have spanned over a long period of time even to this date, if I’m not mistaken. Furthermore, those complaints listed in the sites that I mentioned in my letter, were also long ago – mostly in 2005.

    So, what I’m really asking of you is this: What could be your “theory,” at least, your view or possible explanation, of what happened with Bob and Virtual Bookworm over these years that might have POSSIBLY transformed them into the positive company you describe? Certainly, you are a well-experienced man in this business, and by no means one who could be described as a naive fellow in this industry. You have your business nose well grounded in the POD publishing and book selling business. You would have one or two (or more) ideas about this – other than simply “luck.”

    I’d appreciate your input once again.
    Thank you.

    1. I published a number of titles with them between 2000 and 2002, then I didn’t publish anything for a decade, and when I got back in the game in 2012 I switched to CreateSpace, because financially it made more sense for me to do so, so yes, my experience predates your 2005 example by a number of years. I don’t known what’s been going on with the company since, and I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience in that regard. I’ve never been affiliated with VBW in any work shape or form, but if you think that the fact that I had a favorable experience with them means I’m dishonest somehow, so be it. Also, I’m not a man.

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