Category Archives: amazon.com

A few questions about CreateSpace

This is a technical post, so look away now if you’re not interested in the ins and outs of distributing your books on Amazon!
As I posted over the weekend, we’ve set the ball rolling to make Pegasus Falling available using CreateSpace, and therefore always “in stock” on Amazon in the US, UKand Europe.
Before the off, I had a few questions, so I emailed the CreateSpace team with them. To their credit, the customer service team replied within 24 hours with a fairly comprehensive answer. As I’m sure the replies will be useful for other self-pubbers who are considering using CreateSpace, I thought I’d share them here.
Question 1: I understand that I can upload my own files to CreateSpace, therefore being able to create a virtually identical book to the ones I have printed elsewhere. As the books/content would be identical, would I be able to use the existing ISBN number?
To be honest, this question wasn’t answered directly. What was included in their reply was this nugget: “If you use a new ISBN for the title, a new Amazon detail page will be built in stages over five to seven business days, which will be separate from the detail page created for your Amazon Advantage account.”
My main concern was that because there would be a few minor changes to the look of the book (it will still look pretty much the same, but I’m making some improvements to the cover artwork and minor layout changes to conform with CreateSpace’s requirements), would I need a new ISBN or be able to use the existing one already used and registered in the UK?
Bowker, the US ISBN agency has this to say about ISBNs and the difference between reprints and new editions: “A reprint means more copies are being printed with no substantial changes. Perhaps a few typos are being fixed. A new edition means that there has been substantial change: content has been altered in a way that might make a customer complain that this was not the product that was expected. Or, text has been changed to add a new feature, such as a preface or appendix or additional content. Or, content has been revised. Or, the book has been redesigned.” Source: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/about/faqs6.html

They key word here is “substantial”, so, it seems that because there would only be minor changes to the book’s artwork, we will not need to use a different ISBN. All that’s changing is that we’re using a different distribution method. I doubt customers would be too disgruntled by the fact that the barcode on the back cover has moved from the lower left- to the lower right-hand side!
One point I should note here for anyone else considering using their own ISBN for a CreateSpace book is that if you do so, it does restrict the distribution opportunities you can access via the premium Expanded Distribution option, namely US libraries and academic institutions. The expanded distribution option also allows distribution to other retailers and via CreateSpace’s wholesale website.
Obviously, using a new ISBN provided by CreateSpace would negate this issue and allow access to all distribution opportunities, but this would cause problems elsewhere – the CreateSpace book would be considered a different product and therefore listed separately on Amazon’s sites. The existing book with the existing ISBN would still be listed as “Out of Print – Limited Availability” which would be a disaster. Although it would be nice to make Pegasus Falling available to libraries in the US, it’s not a priority, so I’m willing to forego that opportunity to avoid potentially more serious problems.
Question 2. By changing from using Advantage to CreateSpace, will this affect the book’s listing on the Amazon Europe channels? As I plan to use the existing ISBN number, will the system recognise the new distribution channel, or do I need to take any further action to ensure this?
According to the reply, there would be a problem as long as our Advantage account remained active because Amazon’s system would always order inventory there rather than use CreateSpace.
Their reply went on to explain exactly what needs to be done to transfer the title to CreateSpace, which I repeat here verbatim:
1. Set up your title in your CreateSpace Member Account. Complete all steps for your title’s information and upload your files.
2. We will then review your files to determine if they meet our submission requirements. If your files meet our requirements, you will be able to order a proof copy through your Member Account.
3. Once you receive your proof and are satisfied with the results, approve your proof through your Member Account. Immediately after your proof is approved, customers can start ordering your title from your CreateSpace eStore.
4.When your new title page is live on
Amazon.com, discontinue your Advantage Membership or close out individual titles by contacting the Advantage Vendor Services Team through your Advantage Account: http://www.amazon.com/advantage
In short, set up the title in CreateSpace first, then make sure the title is closed out in your Advantage account soon after. When any inventory left in stock is sold out, Amazon will then start ordering books through CreateSpace.
It all sounds relatively straight forward but my concern with their answer is that they refer to amazon.com. We’re signed up with amazon.co.uk, so I’m not entirely sure whether the process will be as smooth as they make out. I’ll report back if there are any problems.
Question 3: Can I continue to print copies of the book via my usual printers for distribution to other outlets?
Their simple reply was, “To confirm, the Member Agreement is non-exclusive, meaning you may pursue various distribution channels if you wish.”
This is fantastic news because, although you can order bulk copies from CreateSpace to distribute yourself (either to friends or other retailers), and at fairly reasonable prices, I’m very keen to carry on supporting the UK printers we’ve been using so far. We still intend to print more copies for distribution away from Amazon (we’re hoping to be stocked in more shops as time goes on) and we can continue to support the British printing industry. What’s more, when you order copies of your own books, these orders are printed in the US, despite the fact that customer orders which originate in the UK and EU are now being printed this side of the pond.
I hope these pointers have been helpful for anyone considering a similar move. Whether all this means that the transfer from Advantage to CreateSpace will be successful or fraught with problems remains to be seen. I do wonder just how much Amazon’s US, UK and European arms communicate with each other. Fingers crossed all goes smoothly, but if we do encounter problems, I’ll be sure to blog about them and try and help others to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls.

we’re currently waiting for the proof to arrive from the US. When it does arrive (hopefully within the next week), I’ll be comparing the CreateSpace book with one printed in the UK. It’ll be interesting to see how they differ and I’m really hoping the quality will be similar. Watch this space!

Happy reading and self-pubbing!
Mike

The Createspace Conundrum

This week I’ve had my head down concentrating on something I would have liked to have done months ago, but until now realistic opportunities just haven’t been there.  We’re about to launch Pegasus Falling in the USA using CreateSpace, a print on demand service from Amazon. If all goes well, by the end of this month, it should be listed as In Stock rather than “Out of Print – Limited Availability” as it is currently on amazon.com, which is all very exciting. What’s more, signing up to CreateSpace has some other very important benefits which will help things on this side of the Atlantic too.

Amazon represents a bit of a conundrum for the small publisher. You can’t sell large amounts of books without being available on the Amazon websites, but their terms and conditions make for eye-watering reading when it actually comes to having your book in stock.
Now, this post is far from an Amazon bash. Far from it, I think they are providing some very important services which are invaluable to self-publishers. In fact, they’re offering services and products which no-one else has had the gumption to offer so far, and they do make selling ebooks very easy indeed (some might say too easy) and have pretty much revolutionised the industry. There is a great deal we self-pubbers have to be grateful for on the whole. However, until now I’ve felt that it is a very different story when it comes to selling physical copies with them.
I’ve been struggling to work out what the best course of action is for the paperback version of Pegasus Falling for months. Initially, I decided to take the same direction I did with the hardback of The Cypress Branches– print a short run for distribution to different outlets and print more runs as and when necessary. When we printed the hardback in 2009, I’d researched the options on the market – everything from Print on Demand to the various complete self-publishing printing and marketing products available. I decided to take the middle-road option and print a short run myself. I found a great partner in Biddles – they’re UK based and offered a very competitive price for an excellent product. They were also rather nice to work with. It made perfect sense to use them again for Pegasus Falling.
To make this whole venture work, we had to make sure we could set a reasonable retail price and thankfully, the printing and other costs involved meant that we could do just that. We could supply books to retailers for the going rate of 40-50% discount and still manage to scrape in a small profit to plough into the next book. The problem comes when you consider Amazon who insist that you sign up to their Advantage programme in order to ensure that your book retains an “In Stock” status on their websites. Basically, you sign up and their system orders books from you as and when needed. It all sounds great until you consider the fact that they insist on a 60% trade rate and that vendors must swallow shipping costs as well. That must be fine for vendors dealing in the hundreds or thousands of copies at a time, but so far Amazon have ordered only a handful of books from us, one copy at a time. This has meant that with every copy we have supplied Amazon, we have lost in the region of £2-2.50. Coupled with the fact that Pegasus Falling is currently listed as out of stock (something the Advantage programme is supposed to avoid), clearly, there is no advantage for us as a small publisher. 
Just as I was about to pull my hair out, along came CreateSpace. I’d already heard about the Print On Demand service from Amazon, and had had a look into it several months ago, but I’d had to dismiss it because it didn’t offer a solution for the UK market – and as we’re based in the UK, and the books are based around British characters, the UK will be our biggest market, certainly to begin with.
However, late last month, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was going to be available for distribution to Amazon’s UK & European markets. I found this out quite by chance from Catherine Ryan Howard’s rather useful (and entertaining) blog, so thank you Catherine.
So, a second look at CreateSpace revealed that it might actually fulfil many desires which had so far remained unfulfilled, and hopefully without too many problems. Not only does it offer the opportunity to actually make rather than lose money by selling print books in the UK, but also makes the book available in the potentially lucrative markets in Europe and the US. And without the need to price the book ridiculously high in order to not lose out.
After I had emailed CreateSpace and received a reply (within 24 hours – something to be congratulated) which assuaged a couple of concerns (I’ll blog more about the nitty gritty at a later date), I spent the week tweaking the print-ready files in order to make them compatible with their systems (something else I’ll go into more detail with later), and today I ordered the proof copy which is about to be printed and shipped over for approval. It’s due with us on the 14th and all being well, we’ll have it up and available to buy in print in the US and (when the copies Amazon hold in stock at the moment are sold) in the UK and Europe shortly after. At least that’s the plan…we’ll see how things go!
As a lover of books in all shapes and sizes, it has always been a high priority for me to have the book available in print as well as e-ink, but somehow it always felt a bit like a novelty aside rather than a serious side to the project, the print books being subsidised by the ebook sales. Now, all being well, it feels much more like an integral part of the business and a wider audience will be able to enjoy the book, which has always been the ultimate goal. With many US based bloggers lined up to review Pegasus Falling in the coming weeks and months, it’s fantastic that it will be easily available in whatever format readers prefer when the reviews come out.
I’ll blog again when the proof arrives and when the book goes live. It’ll be interesting to see how smoothly the transition from Advantage to CreateSpace goes. 
Happy reading!
Mike