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The fabulous Audrey Kalman, who blogs at Audrey Kalman: Writing of Many Kinds, offered to do a Q&A with me about her experiences with CreateSpace because I’m seriously considering self-publishing my book this spring. Right now, I’m in the research phase and I am so very grateful to Ms. Kalman for sharing her insight and experience with us.
Today’s post is going to be on the long side because, well, I had a lot of questions and she gives great answers. I won’t be posting anything new on Friday or Monday, just linking back to this post because I think it’s that important. All my questions and comments will appear in bold to show how much work Ms. Kalman did for this post.
1) What other competitors did you consider? Why did you choose CreateSpace over them?
I’m afraid to say I probably didn’t do as much research into alternatives as I should have. Since I published first for Kindle, I was already familiar with Amazon. For digital publishing, I had looked at Untreed Reads, but they weren’t then (and aren’t now) accepting unagented novels.
I know there’s a lot of fear and anxiety over Amazon. But there’s a reason people are afraid: the company is very good at what it does. Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time and energy to put into the process, I wanted to go with a company that had an easy interface and lots of tools for helping self-published authors promote themselves. Of course, the author still must do all the work. I really liked the tools they have for estimating author royalties on different price points so you can see in advance the impact of making a change.
2) What were the hardest parts to creating your book with CreateSpace? What was the easiest thing about using CreateSpace?
The hardest thing—and this may sound silly—was trying to figure out what to do about the ISBN. Of course, this would have been an issue with any self-publishing option.
I read a helpful FAQ (
) but that still didn’t tell me what I should do. Should I get the ISBN myself or through Amazon? Should I buy a bundle of numbers to use for future works? In the end, I again ceded control and got the ISBN through CreateSpace, which turned out to be one of the easiest parts of the process.
3) How did you go about choosing a font? Designing your cover? Converting the file for an e-reader? Any outside resources you would recommend to someone making these choices?
Once I had committed to using CreateSpace, I took advantage of their templates. I picked one with a font I liked and went with that. I figured that there was less chance of problems if I didn’t mess around with the template.
For the cover, I took photographs and had my son (who is into digital art) create the cover. This is one area I would spend more time and though on next time around. (In fact, I’m considering relaunching the book with a new cover.) My existing cover is hard to read in small format and doesn’t stand out well among hundreds of other thumbnails.
If you want to work with someone professionally, I just saw that Amazon has partnered with CrowdSpring to offer cover design services:
. I might look into something like that for next time.
Because I published first for Kindle, I did a fair amount of research to find out how to prep the manuscript for the Kindle version. I used MobiPocket creator:
. This was a great web resource:
Since the time I published in 2011, Amazon has come out with a CreateSpace solution for Kindle publishing. I haven’t tried it, but if the CreateSpace on-demand solution is any indication, it should be pretty straightforward.
4) Were you happy with how your paperback book turned out? Did it meet your expectations?
We’ve all heard the adage “you get what you pay for.” I find myself amazed that anyone can print a book on demand for the amount I pay Amazon to do so. Given that, I’m not surprised that the cover is a bit flimsy and you don’t have a choice of cover stock. I (and many other authors!) think CreateSpace should offer a choice of cover stock. I’d be willing to pay a bit more for a sturdier (and not glossy) cover. That said, a good design can overcome the limitations of cover stock.
The cover probably gave me the most trouble of any part of the process. I had to have a graphic designer friend format the image and it took multiple tries to get the right resolution. The spine colors also were limited, so I ended up with one that doesn’t quite match the color of the front and back covers. I believe it’s possible to create a wraparound cover, but that seemed beyond my capabilities. Again, another reason why I would use some professional cover design help next time around.
5) What were the top three biggest time sucks (expected or unexpected) to creating your book on CreateSpace?
1) Doing all the detail oriented research required so I wouldn’t make a big, unfixable mistake (for example, with the ISBN).
2) Proofreading. I expected this, and it would be the same with any publishing option.
3) Creating and uploading the cover.
Overall, the process was pretty quick. Here’s the schedule I used for myself.
|Activity||Time needed||Target date|
|Decide on/obtain ISBN (free option chosen)||1 day||09/16/09|
|Format document||3 days||09/18/09|
|Write back cover copy||2 days||09/20/11|
|Create art for cover||2 days||09/20/09|
|Proofread document||1 day||09/19/09|
|Have proofreader proof document||1 day||09/20/11|
|Finish steps and submit for approval||1 day||09/21/09|
|Receive Amazon approval||2 days||09/22/09|
|Order and receive proof||5 days||09/28/09|
|Approve for sale||1 day||09/30/09|
|IF 2nd proof needed: Order and receive||5 days||09/29/09|
|IF 2nd proof needed: Approve for sale||1 day||10/05/09|
6) Did you find having a physical book was helpful/worth the cost or would you go the e-book only route next time?
Absolutely. It has enabled me to do readings where I can offer books for sale. I also have reached some people who (still) don’t use e-readers.
I look at the physical book as a marketing tool. Given the extremely low cost of using CreateSpace (less than $100 total to get set up, with a low per-book cost), I would certainly opt to have a printed copy available again.
7) Percentage wise, how did the e-book sales compare to the paperback book sales?
I sold about ¾ as many e-books as I did paperbacks. (But we’re not talking huge numbers here.) I believe both are important; physical copies for the reasons listed above, and virtual copies to appeal to people with e-readers and to take advantage of things like book giveaways on Goodreads and free Kindle downloads to increase name recognition.
8) Did you find the distribution of your book was in line with your expectations? Was it as accessible as you expected?
Yes, given that my expectations were extremely modest. I considered this project a way to 1) make the book available to family and friends; and 2) learn about self-publishing.
Accessibility has not been an issue. Amazon offers two distribution options, regular or expanded, with expanded available for a modest fee of $25. (
). I chose expanded distribution, which allows the book to be available to libraries and bookstores through book distributors such as Ingram.
9) Did you use CreateSpace for editorial services or engage an outside editor or a critique partner? If you used CreateSpace, were you satisfied with their work?
For Dance of Souls, I had a single reader giving me feedback. For my current novel, I am spending more time on the editing process and using a group of beta readers. I didn’t use CreateSpace professional services.
10) What were the biggest pros and cons of using CreateSpace? If you could go back in time and give yourself a couple tips to using CreateSpace, what would they be?
Pros: Easy user interface, lots of tools, straightforward process.
Cons: It’s easy to get sucked into relying on a single vendor.
11) Would you use them again, if you chose to go the indie route on your next book?
The answer is “yes, and.” I would likely use CreateSpace AND set up on other platforms as well. Jane Friedman has an excellent post on questions to ask before choosing an e-publishing solution:
, which any author would do well to review.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the process… I hope it was helpful!
Audrey, it was extremely helpful for me and I hope my blog readers enjoyed it as much as I did! I really loved the timetable you created and shared. Gave me a good idea of how long this process would take. Now I’d like to hear a bit more about you and your book.
Audrey Kalman has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. She published newspaper and magazine articles in the days when such things still involved ink on paper, wrote a database how-to book when such things were popular, and now offers writing and editing services as a consultant. In 2011 she published Dance of Souls, a literary novel that explores the longing we all share to find meaning in our lives and the countless ways we search for it. She launched a writing blog, “Writing of Many Kinds,” at
and maintains a Facebook page for her novel at www.facebook.com/Danceofsouls.
Excerpt from Dance of Souls:
It was a dream, of course, although Zach couldn’t remember ever having dreamed so vividly. It seemed so real: The vibrant orange flames, hissing, cracking, racing along the wall between the hallway and the kitchen; the smell, like the time he and Brendan had experimented with setting one of Brendan’s sister’s dolls on fire; the heat like pressure against his body. It’s the dope making it seem so real ran through his head. I’m not used to smoking weed. Wish I hadn’t. Then he sat up, banged his head on the edge of the coffee table where the remains of dinner still lay, white cardboard containers upended and bleeding greasy sauce onto the table’s tile surface.
Dance of Souls is available as a
PAPERBACK through CreateSpace (you pay the same, better deal for the author) — $13.99 plus shipping
PAPERBACK through Amazon — $13.99 plus shipping or free shipping for Prime members
KINDLE version through Amazon — $2.99 (watch for free promotion days)
After stuffing myself with Thanksgiving food, it’s time to reflect. To think. To ponder.
Actually, I can’t move. So it’s the perfect time to pause and be thankful for the wonderful people and things in my life.
I’m thankful to:
- my parents who believe in me when I don’t–you’re always proud, even when I’m not making six figures and living in your living room.
- my friends who prop me up when the world knocks me down–all those texts matter.
- my blog buddies who cheer me on and commiserate with me–your support has helped me through so many writing gullies.
- my crit partner and best writing buddy–you make me a better writer & person.
- my Grandma H–she somehow makes me laugh on a weekly basis.
- my dog who loves me when I’m sick and stinky–that’s unconditional love
I’m also thankful that I know what I love to do and I can do it. Sitting at the computer revising for 6 hours made me feel good this week. Because I enjoy it. I love it.
And the accomplishment I feel from improving a scene is almost as good as a bonus check.
I’m thankful that Dr. Bitan fixed my spine so that I can sit and type without crippling pain.
I’m thankful to all the teachers who invested in me, who gave of themselves and made me smarter than any book alone could.
I’m thankful that I live in one of the freest countries in the world, where I can do anything I put my mind to.
I hope everyone had a terrific Turkey day and survives Black Friday shopping!
In order to participate, I must answer some questions about my manuscript and pass it along to five other bloggers.
So here goes…
What is the title of your Work in Progress?
What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
I’ve been jonesing for different foods that I used to have access to in NY. I don’t know why, but suddenly I can’t bear to eat Italian again.
Luckily S is a willing participant in my food experiments. This week it was Gobi Mongolian Grill.
I like the idea of selecting the ingredients and having the cook stir fry them up. It sounded fun. And it was.
The price is lovely. $17 for all you can eat salad bar, grill, and dessert.
The salad bar has every ingredient you could possible add to a salad and about 6 possible dressings. I went for the ginger one.
Two other bars are for the veggies and meats and noodles for grilling. The meats are frozen circles and take up a lot of plate space.
My advice? Start with the noodles and veggies and add the meats and sauce last. And even if you pile your plate high, it cooks up smaller, so don’t feel bad for heaping things on your plate.
You can also take a different approach and do small portions and sample different sauces and combination.
Either way, you bring your plate to the center of the restaurant to a giant circular slab of metal where it’s cooked before your eyes.
And do save room for dessert. There is a nice little make your own sundae bar. I opted for the green tea ice cream.
The service here was top notch. Even though it’s buffet style, our glasses of water were always refilled and our plates were quickly cleared. The servers were very helpful when we had questions. As we walked in they all greeted us and as we left they wished us a good night.
It was a lovely experience.
I’ll definitely be back again.
I just returned from my second trip to the quirky midwest town of Broken Rope, Missouri, in If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance. Paige Shelton‘s second book in the Country Cooking School Mystery series is a fast, fun read with a difficult double mystery to solve.
Betts and Grams are roped into hosting a busload of foodies for an impromptu cooking lesson and sleepover. All is going well, until two of the foodies go missing and one turns up dead with a broken rope around his neck. (BTW I had no idea who was behind the foodie murder and kidnapping until the very last pages of the book.)
Betts is plunged into this murder/kidnapping after her best friend, Jake, discovers the dead body.
But the problems of the present aren’t the only ones Betts faces.
The ghost of Sally Swarthmore, Broken Rope’s notorious ax murderer, entreats Betts and Grams to help her discover if she is guilty of killing her parents.
Sally is an intriguing character whose true story begs to be told. I’m a sucker for ghost stories and I love love love this element of Ms. Shelton’s mystery. You want to believe in Sally’s innocence despite her guilty verdict in life.
Betts and Jake are a crime solving duo I’d be thrilled to join. I love tagging along while they put the pieces together.
I’m dying to try the potato recipes in the back of the book too!
I can’t wait for book 3 to learn more about Betts’ abilities with ghosts and spend more time with the colorful characters of Broken Rope, Missouri!
I wrote this post a while back on how snippets of conversation show character so well in real life. It amused me that these were actual words real people said to each other in the moment.
In every age, there are books that challenge your world. Or at least, the world you believe exists. That force you to see the wrongs that were done and could be done again.
This book does that. And so much more.
This is a book where “one girl breaks the silence of history.”
The most horrible reality is forced upon Lina, a 15-year-old girl deported from Lithuania to Siberia. She endures unspeakable brutalities.
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.
The book sheds light on an era in history that is not well known. What Stalin did to to Eastern European nations after he invaded. His systematic deportation and mass genocide. The cruelties that the survivors dared not speak of for fear of being sent back to Siberia.
This is their book. And Ms. Sepetys awakens everyone to the horrors that tested their humanity.
One of the most beautiful and important books I will read in my life–that is how I would categorize Between Shares of Gray.
I hope to one day write a book of such value.
With each book, I have given up. Given in to the reality of rejection. And let go. Moved on to the next one.
Again, I face that same situation. But I slip into the gap between giving up and giving in. Something desperate propels me to make another submission. To believe for one more day.
But hope is a precious commodity. And I am no longer a rich person. My soul feels threadbare. Thinned out in sections.
And I’m not sure how to begin again.
How to revise this next book and have hope of it being any different than the past two.
Maybe it’s the fear. Not of failure, but of being a fool.
Of believing in something that I never should have.
Maybe it’s the personal reverberating into the professional. Someone I anticipated in my life for decades left my life this year. Not to death, but to betrayal.
I trusted in the wrong person.
Now I doubt my ability to perceive things.
I doubt myself.
And in the midst of this, I must try to find some hidden strength. Some pocket of belief. Some crumb of hope.
I have to try again.
But I do not see the point in it yet. I just see pointlessness right now.
So how do I do it?
How do I begin again?
I dissolve into memories and dreams. I listen to songs that once mattered to me. Summoning up a time of hope and carrying it forward into the now.
I find little things and make them matter. And slowly I reconnect with the things that mean something to me.
And the belief kindles and smokes.
Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing & Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults was a book I picked up at the SCBWI Winter Conference in January after attending Cheryl Klein’s workshop on revision.
It took me a bit of time to get through it, but that’s because I took my time. I read 5-10 pages at a time and put it aside. I let my mind mull over what I read and how it impacted my manuscript.
Ms. Klein writes in a practical, user-friendly style. You feel like she is speaking directly to you as she guides you through:
- what makes a good book,
- the publisher relationship,
- what a query letter should do,
- character charts,
- techniques for analyzing and revising,
- getting to the heart of your emotional story, and
- the quartet of plot, character, voice, & point.
I appreciated how she broke things down so that I could apply what she said to my own work. For example, when trying to get to the emotional heart of your story, there are four things to consider:
- Conflict, Mystery, or Lack: which model is your central plot and your subplots?
- What does the character want?
- Compulsion vs. Obstacles: The obstacles are the frontstory, but the compulsion is the backstory.
- Problem, Process, Solution: Each chapter should include a process step moving the story toward to the solution.
At the end of the book, she gives you 25 revision techniques and a final word on the author-editor relationship.
Definitely a book worth reading. And rereading.