What in the past was termed ‘vanity publishing’ is now a less painful way to get our work out there. What could be easier than using Amazon to produce our hardcopy books? So much so, that many traditionally published authors are following the same path.
What many ‘new to publishing’ authors don’t know is that Amazon is not the first step to self-publishing your book.
First you must set up a profile with CreateSpace, an Amazon company designed to help you format your book before publication. I can only speak to my personal experience with this company. While their customer support skills are impeccable, they don't reveal all that they should – or could – about the hidden pitfalls of self-publishing. And the hidden costs.
When self-publishing, it’s important that we as authors understand our rights. Do we retain the rights to our own work after it is listed? Are we free to accept an offer from a big publishing house? And lastly but by no means less important, how much of our earnings will CreateSpace keep?
Let’s answer the last question first. The happy answer is CreateSpace keep only 40% on each book. And if you provide your ISBN number, Amazon has no ongoing rights to your work. You can even publish your work elsewhere whilst selling on Amazon. Also, having your own ISBN number will enable you to sell internationally.
There is no contract to sign, so anytime you wish to remove the book, you can, no questions asked.
We all know that fine print is controversial because of its deceptive nature. But how do we cope with the invisible fine print when it comes to publication?
That’s illegal, you may say. Well think again. Invisible fine print does exist and when it hits it’s like a punch in the face.
Let me explain my experience.....
While publishing Pan, Vino e Peperoncino, a highly detailed book with many photos, I needed to communicate almost daily with CreateSpace’s customer support team. If they didn’t hear from me after a few days, they’d send me a beautiful email encouraging me to keep working on my book.
So nice that they care.
CreateSpace assured me that they had my best interests at heart, and they were there 24/7 to answer the hundreds of questions I may have.
Finally my masterpiece was finished. Just before I hit “submit your book” I did a quick calculation and realised that something wasn’t right. If CreateSpace takes 40% commission, simple mathematics states I should make 60%... but alas that wasn’t the case.
For every book I sell, 40% goes to CreateSpace for helping me with the design. Old news, right? Then I went to list my book and got a nasty surprise. Amazon will keep 45% for selling my book.
Of course I didn’t have to worry about a thing. They will receive the orders, they will print the books and they will despatch the books to any country in the world.
When you do the math, I’ve given away 85% of the profit.
Now all I need to do is wait for those profits to roll in. Yes?
No. I’ll only receive a cheque if my profit as an author is $100 or more. So, let’s say for argument’s sake I make only $99.99 – I’ll never see a cent of that money.
At this stage you may ask, what’s the point?
It really depends on your reasons for wanting to be published.
Will you push that button so you can get your work out there? Or change your mind and try elsewhere?
In my case, publication wasn't about money. I wanted to share my unknown culture with whoever wanted to read it, so the invisible fine print didn't change my mind. Besides, I was sure only family members and friends would buy it.
I was wrong. To date I’ve sold 28 hardcopy books on Amazon. I’ve made my $100 and wait excitedly for my first cheque. Much as this is a thrill, the most exciting part of this process was receiving emails from two readers, one from America and one from Guatemala, neither one with any ties to Italy. They loved my book. The knowledge still makes me smile.
And more excitement – CreateSpace has given the OK to print my books locally. Since then, I’ve sold 90, but I'm still waiting for my family to buy a copy!