I'm looking at using Amazon's Createspace facility to generate paperback copies of one of my books as a Print On Demand (POD). Technically I only have to buy one copy, at a discounted author rate, for proofing purposes although the conventional wisdom is that I will end up buying at least one second copy after proof reading the first copy and making changes.
Why am I doing this? After all, I'm one of the nay-sayers who claim that the printed book and newspaper is doomed, who makes environmental arguments for the eBook industry. Is this just vanity? Well I'd be lying if I said I couldn't care less whether I ever appeared in print - print media has been a part of my life for over fifty years so while I'm forward thinking and accepting of the future I have to admit that until eBooks become a practical reality I'd always assumed my aim would be to be in print.
But that's not the whole story, nor is it the important part. I've looked at the Createspace POD system for a while but I have to admit they don't make the process transparent - some of what I believe I know has been drawn from bulletin boards as some critical information - such as what costs will I incur - seem remarkably difficult to find. I'm one of those people (the tight fisted kind) who are reluctant to enter into any agreement without knowing what the end cost will be, so although I suspect my exposure to be moderate, please appreciate that I embark on this journey with a touch of foreboding. But I am intrigued by the prospects of this and realise that only Amazon could possibly make it work. Hence my giving it a go.
Amazon have invested in a system that permits single copies of books to be printed on demand, to a standard that's variously described as good down to tawdry. They can list the book on their site at virtually no cost, link to and from the eBook version if it exists and take a royalty if and when any copies are bought. And if no copies are bought then it's just another electronic file sitting on a server somewhere. There has been a lot of talk about Amazon's long tail in eBooks - it costs them virtually nothing to store the files for my five books and if none of them sell for a year Amazon don't lose anything apart from some storage costs - but if each book sells one copy each, and every one of the hundreds of thousands of eBooks they stock also sell one copy each, then Amazon gets hundreds of thousands of royalties ranging from $0.65 per book upwards - trivial in its own right but collectively....
However the costing process for the POD system is interestingly different, as far as I can tell (I haven't got that far yet). It seems that they calculate the cost of printing a single book based on the number of pages, add 30% and invite the author to name his price. So that determines the price of the book, with the exception of a little old thing called tax; and of course shipping. Compare this with the pricing of eBooks where Amazon ask you to pick a sale price starting at $0.99 and let you keep 35% of the price. You do get the opportunity to keep 70% of the askiing price if you elect to price your book over $3 a pop, but let's not forget that Amazon don't incur any extra costs, no matter what the price is. With the POD pricing, they get a fixed amount and the author determines the affordability of the book beyond that.
Is it difficult? Well, up to now, fairly painless; but I'm only so far through the process. Uploading the text was easy enough, although it is a bit picky about the page size conversion. I'm guessing that because we use the A series paper over this side of the Atlantic it detected an unusual paper size. I just rolled over and let it suggest a size and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I was able to review what my book would look like using an animated page view that lay like pages and turned in the same way. I know its an animation, but it felt right.
I also uploaded the cover for DLF that I've used for the Kindle version and submitted it all for review. Now when I started the project I was asked to provide a name for the project and naturally named it DLF. Unfortunately Createspace don't allow all capitilised words on its book titles, so today I opened an email explaining that my cover was not useable as they need a full front, spine and back image (fair enough), but additionally noting that the project is called Digital Life Form despite the cover image name being DLF. I've had a bit of a parlay with the Createspace people and it seems that the capitilised rule is hard-wired, so I've got to name the paperback as Digital Life Form.
The designer of the original eBook cover, Adam Griffiths, is a pretty busy guy, so I've elected to use the book cover designing tool that comes with the Createspace tools. Here's a preview:
There wasn't a circuit board image option - perhaps a tad too specialist for them - so I've gone for a space theme instead.
So, will it sell? No, of course not. I'm expecting the price to come in at over $10 a book plus shipping - I'll know soon enough, once I've finalised some admin details out with Createspace - but I very much doubt if I'll sell a copy apart from any I buy. I've had a few comments over the last year from people who maintain that they would read my books if they were in print, but I'm guessing that not many will pop their hands in their pockets at $10 a copy (or maybe more, perhaps I'm being naive). I may be pleasantly wrong, and I'm more than willing to be proven as such. I may even buy a few copies extra at the author's rate to sell on privately to any of these willing technophobes.
So perhaps I ought to clear a space in my garage!
I'll update on progress in a future blog.
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