Tag Archives: CreateSpace

What I’m Learning About Self-Publishing a Book

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Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I recently self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s a 200+ page collection of short essays about my experiences as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a popular trailhead in a National Forest. Some of my readers have expressed interest in publishing books of their own, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far.

#1 Writing the book was the easy part.

Confessions of a Work Camper includes 15 never-published-anywhere-else essays, as well as newly written introductions to each chapter, and some fun lists, but the bulk of the book has appeared in blog posts. For the most part, the book was written before I decided to self-publish it.

The steps that came after writing were the more difficult parts for me.

#1a Proofreading is a pain.

Believe it or not, I edit my blog posts several times before I schedule them. I thought I’d been doing a great job proofreading until I put the texts of posts into my book document and found typos all over the place. So I did more proofreading and editing. Then I did more proofreading and editing. Then I took a friend up on her offer to help, and she read the entire document and offered some corrections. Then I read the entire book aloud and found more mistakes. So when it was time to approve the proof of the book, I did so without reading it one more time. That was a mistake.

When I started reading my essays again in preparation for reading them aloud to an audience, I immediately found more errors. I’m not talking about formatting problems. I’m talking about wrong words in sentences. Since the words aren’t technically misspelled, the spell check didn’t alert me to them, and my eyes glided right over them. Sigh.

Every typo is an embarrassment to me.

The first edition is barely complete, and I already need to work on the second edition.

#1b It took me a while to figure out how to use CreateSpace.

I needed some form of Adobe to use CreateSpace’s cover creator. I couldn’t get Adobe to work with Firefox. I had a telephone conversation with a CreateSpace representative in South Africa. He was exceedingly nice and very helpful, but Firefox and Adobe still wouldn’t work together to let me use the CreateSpace cover creator. I ended up using Google Chrome to do anything on CreateSpace that required Adobe.

I put the text of the book in a Word Starter document. (Word Starter is the word processing program my laptop came with. I never upgraded.) When I transferred my text into the document formatted for CreateSpace, any words in italics transferred to all caps. Since I use italics to indicate thoughts or conversations, this glitch made it seem as if all the people in my book were YELLING AT EACH OTHER. I had to go into the CreateSpace document and manually change each instance of capital letters into italics.

When it came time to approve the book’s formatting online, formatting that looked fine in the CreateSpace Word document looked all wrong in the examples of the actual book. I spent an entire morning working on the formatting, and it’s still not perfect.

I’m not saying CreateSpace is impossible to use. When I got frustrated with it, I reminded myself that people many people use CreateSpace to self-publish every day. However, there is a learning curve when using CreateSpace. (The Poet had warned me of the learning curve when she first told me all she knew about publishing with CreateSpace.) Until a writer learns the ends and outs of CreateSpace, getting a book ready for publication may take more time than expected.

#2 That book’s not going to promote itself.

Again, writing the book was easy, compared to getting people to buy it.

My book was first released as an ebook. In the first day the ebook was available, it sold nine copies. This is great! I thought. From there, sales dwindled. Once my friends who read ebooks bought their copies, I had to figure out how to get strangers to buy it.

#2a Public libraries aren’t so keen on buying self-published books (and sometimes they don’t seem to want to buy any books at all).

I had the idea to get all my friends across the country to ask their local libraries to buy my book. To make it easier for them, I researched different libraries to find out how my supporters could go about requesting a book for purchase. Many libraries have an online form for such a request, but while some library systems (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas, NV and Richmond, VA), say sure, patrons can suggest a book for purchase, I found no indication of how to do so.

I filled out an online request for the purchase of my book with a library system in a major U.S. city where I happen to have a library card. I received a response saying they don’t even consider buying a self-published book unless it has at least 50 reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. (I currently have seven reviews on Amazon and none on GoodReads.)

#2b I’m not much of a hustler, so figuring out ways to promote the book hasn’t been easy. I’m encouraging folks who’ve read the book to leave reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. I’ve set up an author’s page on GoodReads. I’ve announced the book (repeatedly) here on my blog and on the Rubber Tramp Artist and Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook pages.

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another scheduled for the day this post runs. The two readings were at the RTR and both were small. Making a reading a success seems to take a lot of promotion, including hanging flyers and sending emails. I haven’t given up, but it’s a lot more work than I expeted.

#2c It takes CreateSpace a while to deliver 100 copies of a 200+ page book.

It was Christmas before I was able to approve the book for publication and order the 100 copies I wanted for promotion. I thought I’d get them by the first week in January, which was based upon absolutely no concrete information. Instead, my estimated delivery date was January 17. I was hesitant to schedule reading where I hoped to sell copies of the book when I had no copies of the book to sell.

#3 Lots of people want to write a book.

When I mention I’ve recently self-published a book, the person I’m speaking to often says s/he has written a book or wants to write a book. I try to be encouraging while also making clear that writing a book is only the first step in getting it read.

 

Self-Publishing Books Online

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I recently announced I am planning to self-publish a collection of my work camping stories.

In the post, I mentioned asking the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours.

In response to this information, one of my readers asked, Is there any chance that you could pass this on? I just recently heard about it, but don’t know much about the where and how-to. I would be grateful for any info.

I asked the Poet if I could share her information in a blog post, and she said, yeah for sure! 

The following is the information I received from the Poet, with names removed and only lightly edited. I hope this information helps other folks who aspire to self-publish.

The two main ones are CreateSpace through Amazon and Lulu.  I think they’re similar, but Lulu if you get on their mailing list sends lots of discount coupons/promotions for publishing through them.  I’ve received 30% off coupons from them a few times…

I have a good friend who uses CreateSpace to publish ebooks, mostly lesbian erotica.  I don’t know if you want to publish it ebook and paper book simultaneously?  I think you might need Microsoft word for that, but I’m not certain.

Also you need if you’re going to sell ebooks (or maybe paper books too) to link it directly to your bank account so you can get the funds you earn direct deposited, at least through CreateSpace.  That turned me off because I wanted to route things through PayPal, but when I was researching a few months ago, maybe half a year ago?, that wasn’t an option.

You have all these options–they try to sell you packages that include cover art options, editing, and other kinds of help.  Of course the more work you do yourself, the cheaper it is.

So you upload your text in the right format, you check and make sure everything’s okay, you do your cover.  You get an ISBN.  Then you pay them something.  They mail you a proof, which I think takes a little while.  Then you okay the proof and I think there’s a little time delay after you tell them the proof was okay before the book is actually available.

There are different packages where you get so many copies for yourself.  But the main appeal about print-on-demand is that you don’t have to buy a thousand copies of the book yourself and store them and sell them yourself–people order them directly through Amazon or Lulu or other ways.  You can do a package where they make your book available for booksellers to sell, like Barnes & Nobel can pick it up, for example.

My friend just wanted to get 30 books printed for him to sell and give away himself, not to sell print-on-demand or ebook, so he was able to do that and I guess he found the shipping to be expensive. But he got what he wanted.

I think this whole process takes a while so if you want it in time for Xmas probably other people are thinking the same thing so I’d hop to it.

I know more about CreateSpace than Lulu.  Most of the info I give you above is what I learned about CreateSpace.

I think one of the main ideas is that you self-publish and your book gets noticed so a regular publisher decides to pick it up.  Then you’re in a good position and will get an advance and some promotion maybe and the book will take off.

That’s about all I know.  And hopefully things haven’t changed much since I researched it.  Good luck!