Publishing a book today is made a whole lot easier by two simple things that weren't available to authors seven years ago: Online publishers who offer Print On Demand (POD) services and the introduction of the E-book.
Now before I get ahead of myself, I have spoken about this very subject on http://www.mfp.com.au/angelwanderer/smashwords-or-createspace-for-book-publishing/ recently. Some will be reading this and be wondering why I'm sending it out again. The reason is simple: I felt that this behind-the-scenes blog at writing a novel needed something said about my choices of using CreateSpace to publish my novel SEETHINGS. There is much said about the renovations going on in my home but little about the book. Don't worry, I've added tonnes of new content just so existing readers don't miss out on making the trip here.
Let's pretend for a minute that you're NOT an author and have little knowledge of how modern books are produced. At the most, you know that there are books you rake from shelves and those that appear on electronic devices. How it all comes to be is a bit of a mystery.
Currently, for authors, the dream of approaching a well known publishing house, winning a lucrative contract and jet-setting across the globe to do book signings is just that, a sweet, romantic fantasy. Less than 1% of manuscripts submitted to publishers will go through to being published. That's reality. Many authors will go ahead and self-publish a book using their own resources and skills instead. Some will go direct to a commercial printing company and have them printed, bound and boxed as part of a minimum run. Others will talk to go-betweens, businesses who specialize in helping authors take their raw text and turn it into a format a commercial printer can use and then follow the aforementioned process of printing a minimum quantity. Many offer other services like online promotions and press releases to give the author a literary shingle.
For the E-book writer the options are easier. As most of the writing work is created on a computer, the digital conversion required to become an ebook is minimal. Again, there are go-betweens who assist with the process of promoting and posting to online sites. A book written today can be out there as early as tomorrow!
Back to SEETHINGS...
It's almost ten years since the SEETHINGS manuscript was conceived. At the time, there were no such thing as IPads or Kindle Readers. Customers walked into bookstores to buy a paper-based book and paid with cash or card. Buying online was still a new and very dubious idea. So I did as most authors did and prepared myself for a routine that hadn't changed in two hundred years.
My original plan was to write the novel, get it proofed, edited and sent off to a publisher. At best, it would take a year to complete, at worst, two. I read heaps on how to approach publishers and then Apple released a thing called an IPhone and then an Ipad. Kindle had a text reader and before too long the word 'Ebook' was commonly spoken. The dubious feeling of purchasing books online faded quickly as major bookstores closed down and online book outlets popped up. Large parts of book industry simply collapsed. From the dust came a fertile, new look at how books were created and distributed.
Amazon thrived. It set about making the best of the changing habits of book buyers and authors. I think it was about 2007 when the revolutionary POD service was launched. The idea, ambitious and incredibly sophisticated, worked on the principle of combining ALL orders coming in from around the world each day to produce a combined print run. This meant that if a reader (or a writer) wanted just one book printed and sent to him or her, it could be done - because it wasn't one order, it was part of many others. They invested heavily on this new concept and it paid off. It changed the game immensely. No longer did an author need to have four or five thousand copies made to have a book for sale. Any customer could place an order online with Amazon and the item would go directly to him or her. As you can imagine, this system had Amazon hopping hot. Every sheet of paper spewed out each day by the press needed to be sorted into different workstreams. They go to different books, different people, different places. It's not one order and four thousand books, it's four thousand books, four thousand addresses, four thousand labels, packets, and a collating / binding workflow that makes my eyes bug just thinking about!
Obviously all that handling is reflected in the total cost of any book. Some think ten dollars is excessive for one book as it costs nothing to get from the shelf in a bookstore. I don't think so as it costs about that much to send any package that size anywhere in the world. Besides, if you're not having to fight traffic, use public transport to get it, then it's worth it to buy online. The only downside is having to wait for it to arrive. To solve that problem we have an Ebook version that can be downloaded immediately.
Which brings to me to my choices when it came to publishing SEETHINGS. The two main contenders were Smashwords and CreateSpace. These were my primary considerations:
- Distribution Channels
- Hard Copy AND Ebook Versions
- Simple One Click Conversions From Hard Copy to Ebook
Smashwords distributes Ebooks... through their site. Smashwords you say? Yes, Smashwords. Nice name but when I was hunting for a publisher no one knew of them. The other thing was that they didn't distribute through anyone else.
Amazon was known to readers because they had been around for a while. CreateSpace uses Amazon.com to distribute their titles. Once you’re in the Amazon online library then you’re in everyone else’s! (Except Smashwords of course.)
Hard Copy And Ebook versions:
Smashwords does Ebooks. That's what they do. If an author believes all of their readers will go for an Ebook then SW is fine. If their audience might be split in anyway, and this may happen because older readers prefer a good old fashioned, no batteries required, smelly-paged book, then an Ebook-only version won't do. The average age of my readers is above tech savvy teens and phone-friendly twenty-and-thirty-somethings. At the very least, my readers will turn off their TV and computer, pour themselves a nice Shiraz, and look forward to curling their toes and biting their nails while reading.
Amazon offered both, toe curling books in electronic formats AND hard copy.
Simple One Click Conversions from Hard Copy to Ebook.
Writing a novel isn't easy. When I had finished writing mine, I was virtually drowning in words, unable to hold my breath anymore! I saw the feature on CreateSpace that said ‘Press this to convert to Kindle’ and I said to myself, ‘YES! Thank you! There must be a God out there!’
I clicked the icon and BOOM, my book was ready for Kindle, Ipad, Kobo and you-name-it-Ebooks. I sucked in some lovely life-giving oxygen and smiled broadly. And don’t forget, by doing that through Kindle this version goes to the same Amazon.com channels the hard copy goes to! (You'll need to visit Amazon.com just to see the amazing list of outlets that their distributorship reaches.)
As far as I can recall, Smashwords costed less than CreateSpace to publish books… but back then (4 years ago) they weren't connected to Kindle. Now they have the Kindle channels, a tonne of author titles on offer, and this may have changed things.
So that’s the deal for those wanting to know why I chose CreateSpace over Smashwords.
Now go to my site, order yourself a nice delectable copy of SEETHINGS and curl some toes. If you order it from here, I’ll send you a sizzling-hot signed hard copy directly from my desk. (The digital version is here… it’s not signed but it's sent with love just the same.)
-Michael Forman (author)