Category Archives: Create Space

Print On Demand vs Short Print Runs

I finally received the proof copy of Pegasus Falling from CreateSpace yesterday which seemed to take its time crossing the pond. I had a good look over it and thought this would be a good opportunity to showcase the differences in build quality between the original Short Print Run (SPR) copies we had made by Biddles for the UK market and the Print On Demand (POD) copies made by CreateSpace which will be sold through Amazon in the UK and US.

As you can see from the photo below, the front covers belay quite a few differences, despite the fact that both books have been built using almost identical files. In all photos, the short print run copy is on the left and the Print on Demand copy on the right.

There are both positives and negatives to be had from both manufacturing techniques, some of which I touched on in an earlier post. Here, I’m looking at the build quality in particular.

FRONT COVER

Two Pegasi: The SPR copy is on
the left, the POD copy on the right

Now, bearing in mind that I have tweaked the artwork slightly from the original print run (in order to highlight the text on the cover) so ignoring those traits, it immediately struck me that the colours on the POD copy were vastly different to those on the SPR. The colours are much warmer, with a slightly reddish tinge to the whole cover. I’m putting this down to the CreateSpace printers being calibrated differently, as both cover files were built using a CMYK colour space. I think I prefer the toned down hues of the SPR book, but others may “warm” to the other cover (see what I did there?).

The board used on the POD cover is of a lower grade – it feels flimsier, and you can see how much it wants to curl in the picture. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as some readers have commented that they prefer their paperbacks to be flexible and the SPR copies have too stiff a cover. Personally, I prefer the feel of the SPR copy, but that’s personal taste!

BACK COVER

You can see the red tinge in the POD cover on the supposedly monochrome back cover here. Thankfully, the quality of the image rendering on both covers is acceptable, and the text is legible. 
The biggest difference on the back cover is the barcode area. CreateSpace insert the barcode automatically, meaning you have no control over where it goes on the design. This is all to do with making the process as easy as possible for authors who might not be technically minded. For me, though, it caused a headache. As I had designed my back cover before CreateSpace was available, and therefore had to add the barcode myself, this meant a redesign.

I’d have preferred it if CreateSpace gave you the option. It’s a shame, because I prefer the white box design on the SPR cover over the white bar on the POD. Still, both are fine, and contain identical info (bar the pricing which reflects US and EU prices now we’re international and all!).

Since the proof was completed, we’ve had a couple of fairly high-profile reviews. I’ve added some excepts to the back cover, so it will look slightly different on the finished books. 

SPINE

Now, this is the biggest difference between the two. The CreateSpace book is a full 5mm thinner than the short print run copy. This is because I decided to opt for a heavier grade of paper stock for the original print run. Believe it or not, both books contain an identical number of pages. Biddles offer different paper stocks (and will even send samples to help you make your choice, which was very helpful) and I have to admit I was tempted by the thicker stock. This added to the cost of the run, but I felt it was worth it, as it made for a more impressive spine width.

CreateSpace, however, only give you a choice of white or cream – there is no choice of paper weight. And I wasn’t even given that choice, as cream paper stock is only available with a limited choice of paper sizes, and I wanted to match the paper size of the UK books, which happens to be one of the sizes cream paper isn’t available for.

As an aside, I’m really happy with the changes that have been made to the spine artwork. It’s amazing the difference that some shadowing makes to the text. I’m particularly pleased with how the cropped cover image has come out. This was included because I figured that most books on bookshop shelves will not be front-facing, so it needs something to entice the wannabee reader. I love the cover image for Pegasus Falling (courtesy of the very talented Dewi Clough) and it looks great on the spine too!

INSIDE

Short Print Run

Print on Demand

Finally, a look at the interior…the meaty bit…let’s face it, the bit that matters the most (to the reader, at least). Like the cover, the interior was built using almost identical files. The CreateSpace system, however, insisted on minor changes being made, which caused some head scratching and late night cursing a couple of weeks ago. The eagle-eyed among you will spot that the gutter (the area where the pages disappear into the spine) is wider on the POD copy. A wider shot of the pages would show that the outside borders are narrower than the SPR book too. The difference is only a few millimetres. This is an improvement in a way because the writing doesn’t slip into the gutter quite as much as on the SPR book.

The difference is negated, though, because as you can see, the CreateSpace book folds back much more than the Biddles book does. I’ll almost certainly make this change on future short print runs.

Now, I know that the act of breaking the spine can be a controversial one. Personally, I hate doing it (so this test broke my heart a little bit), but another member of my household loves doing it, and complained to me that Pegasus Falling‘s spine didn’t break easily enough.

I cracked both books roughly in the middle. I wanted to see firstly, how easy they were to bend and secondly, how flat they’d lay. The POD copy was a lot easier to bend back, so spine-breakers will love it. It also lies very flat compared to the SPR copy, so it’s a good one to lay down on the table. Readers who like to keep their spines in tact, on the other hand, will prefer the SPR copy! 


As you can see from the close ups below, the spine on the SPR copy looked to be in much better shape after the crack, with the binding starting to show through on the POD copy. Now, I did give both books a good old bending back, which was probably a bit rougher treatment than they would get in every day use, but it does point to better build quality on the SPR copy. 

The SPR copy – the spine was harder to bend

The POD copy – note the binding starting to show through

Another difference is that the text is heavier on the SPR copy. The paper stock seems to be more porous, and the ink has been soaked in a bit more. It’s not a big difference, though, and I’d rate the print quality highly on both copies. 

IN CONCLUSION

So, both copies have their positive and negative traits. I would say that the build quality on the UK-made short print run copy is slightly better than the US-made print on demand one. However, the choices made (and available to me at the time) have had a bearing on this outcome. The thicker paper stock makes for a more substantial SPR copy, and the spine is certainly a lot more sturdy. However, the POD copy is probably a bit more “reader friendly” thanks to its more pliable spine. 


From a publishing point of view, I’m very happy with both copies, and I’ll continue to use both manufacturing techniques in the future. The choice is there to just use CreateSpace. Copies can be ordered in bulk at a discount for the author to distribute themselves and the prices per copy are comparable when ordered in batches of 100. However, all CreateSpace bulk orders are manufactured in the US and shipped over and I’m keen to support British manufacturing wherever possible. So, Short print runs will continue to be made for distribution to UK bookshops and CreateSpace will be used for all Amazon sales channels. It’s fantastic that the choice is there. 


So, to you readers after a copy, I’d say the choice is yours…


If you’re a spine breaker, head to amazon


If you’re a spine preserver, order it from your local bookshop or head to acuteanglebooks.co.uk


If none of this is of concern to you because the spine on your Kindle will never break, try here


Happy reading!

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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