Diving into CreateSpace

Believe it or not, there’s a subclass of humanity that prefers real books over Kindles and iPads. I should know; I’m one of them, which is why I decided to give Publish On Demand a shot. To be honest, I think I saw it more of an adventure: I’ve always been a little curious as to what goes into putting a printed book together and, without too much outlay, this seemed like a pretty good way to find out.

There are a couple of well-known POD outfits out there. I think Lulu is probably the most well-known, closely followed by the Amazon-owned CreateSpace. As far as I can tell, when it comes to POD there’s not much between them, but Lulu also covers eBook publishing so has the advantage if you’re looking to do the whole thing from a single service. Since I already had the Kindle and the iPad covered I thought I’d give CreateSpace a bash. From looking at the instructions (and you must read the instructions), CreateSpace looked like much less hassle for a good result. I also thought as they were owned by Amazon then it would be much easier to get the book into the Amazon store – that was mistake number one.

Both services offer a set of Word templates to help get your book into the correct format (I picked a 6×9 because I wanted to show off the cover … :-)), and as long as work slowly, don’t bugger about with the template’s formatting,  and save often then you shouldn’t find the process too difficult. Tedious, yes, but not too difficult.

You should only worry about the cover design once the book is in print format. Why? Well, you need to know how many pages the finished book will contain to work out the width of the spine. Your cover designer will know all about this, but if you’re doing the cover yourself, both Lulu and CreateSpace have onsite calculators to help with this.

Incidentally, I’ve never seen an author-drawn book cover that I’ve actually liked. If  you’re taking the time and trouble to go to print then you may as well stump up the money to get a decent cover designed.

Once I’d uploaded the book interior (pages) and the exterior (cover),  I ordered the proofs. And this is where I realised I’d made something of a mistake. Although it is attached to Amazon, a company with an almost galactic reach, CreateSpace is very US-centric: the proofs had to be shipped from the States (not cheap). What’s more, even though CreateSpace is attached to Amazon, there is no guarantee that your book will appear in any Amazon store other than the US one.

Bizarre, I know.

Although I haven’t tried them, I understand that you may have better luck with Lulu if you want to sell on Amazon UK. That’ll teach me to read the small print.

Anyway, a couple of weeks(!) later, the proof arrived.

If there comes a time when you feel like jacking it all in, here’s what you do: get a single copy of your book made up.

Hold it in your hand, caress the paper, drop it onto the dining room table and listen to the sound it makes. You can even read it again if you want to.

Trust me, you’ll feel renewed.

Speaking of reading through, CreateSpace will allow you to order the books without ordering the proof first. This is madness, I tell you, sheer madness! I cannot imagine why anyone would order a boxful of books without a thorough proof-read beforehand. It’s a false economy; don’t do it.

And if you are new to self-publishing then you could do a lot worse than spending a few hours on Catherine Howard’s extraordinarily useful, extraordinarily honest and extraordinarily pink website. In my case, not doing so was mistake number two; if I had, I wouldn’t have made mistake number one.

Or would that make it mistake number…well, you get the idea.

Things I wish I’d written #2

I wish I’d written all six seasons of Six Feet Under which, for me, is HBO’s finest series to date.

The series ran for five seasons and followed the lives of the Fishers, an extended family whose complicated relationships were all the more poignant because they were dealing with mortality almost every day.

Six Feet Under blended real life and fantasy so seamlessly it was almost like watching a poem being written on screen.  The writing was trimmed to the bone: not a word of dialogue or a single scene was wasted. Truly brilliant stuff. I do a lot of fantasy/real-life writing myself and regard Six Feet Under as the bar to clear.

Weirdly, my favourite piece of writing didn’t actually appear in the programme; it was a strap line for the final season DVD. I don’t usually pay much attention to advertising, but I thought this phrase epitomised my whole experience with Six Feet Under: few words spoken, but so very much said:

Everything.

Everyone.

Everywhere.

Ends.