We put a poetry book together for print-on-demand sales through CreateSpace this week. Now, since we suck at self promotion, we will just tell you a story.
We self-published several poetry books in the early 1990s, still finding our poetic voice and learning about language. They did eventually pay for themselves, but the economics are tough. People like poems, but poetry isn’t a very hot commodity. So, the writer usually has to front all the manufacturing costs and just cart around a bunch of books to readings and events, trying to sell enough to pay for the printing.
Back in the early days, we would cut costs by printing off pages at various temp jobs. Yes, it’s become a bit of a cliche to say that. But where would the independent and fanzine presses be without those lovely temp jobs near the photocopiers of corporate America? Then, you find a paper cutter and a saddle stapler at a local copy store, and try to not draw attention to yourself as you prep fifty or a hundred books.
For our last chapbook in 2001, we couldn’t even find a saddle stapler. So, we pushed each individual staple through every single page of every single book by hand, two staples per book, then folded the staples shut. Do you have any idea how long that takes? Now you know what temp workers do on their weekends.
The point of this story? Self-publishing authors and poets need not suffer like this in the days of the glorious internet revolution! This time around, we have the budding industry of print-on-demand services available online, connected with major retailers. CreateSpace is an Amazon.com company, for example. They give you guidelines for setting up your document and book cover, which you upload for review. They issue an ISBN for free – a daunting process for writers before the web. Then, they make the book available on Amazon and the CreateSpace site. Plus, if you have the technical capability, you can convert a book to Kindle format at no cost.
Yes, CreateSpace will gladly sell you professional design services, Kindle conversions, and even impartial book reviews – and a host of other services. From the conversations we’ve had with their remarkably accessible support team, they seem good to work with. But, writers with a small to nonexistent budget and some technical skills can make this happen without any up front expense. The company doesn’t print the book until someone orders it. Then they take their cut for manufacturing and pay you the rest – dollar amounts you can clearly and simply calculate on their site.
CreateSpace will do black and white book, full color books, even music CDs and comic books and videos, apparently. We have yet to try them all! But we did find them remarkably easy to work with, and plan to do so many more times.
Our first print-on-demand book is the 74-page poetry collection The Fates of Stars. It’s priced at $8.95, which, depending on what channel it sells through, nets us about from one to five bucks per copy sold after manufacturing costs.
Check it out here: https://www.createspace.com/4622559
- and maybe look at CreateSpace to see if you would like to make a book, too!
Amazon.com now has the book in a paperback edition and Kindle edition.
The Kindle version costs a few bucks less. Buyers also have the option to get the Kindle edition for just one extra dollar when they buy the print edition.