I just finished making the paperback version of A Game of Keys on Createspace (a printing service owned by Amazon). I was very excited, until… they made me order a proof copy of my own work. That borders on vanity press, except that they promote themselves as the printer instead of the publisher, claiming that I am the (self) publisher. Still, since they initially purchased the ISBN, they are technically the publishers, even when they do deny it high and low, so basically they’re lying.
Another aspect of Createspace, that annoys me is their promotion of “ISBN options”. To be clear about this, ISBN has nothing to do with copyright. What you write is always your copyright unless you sell those rights or give them away freely. However, owning an ISBN makes you a publisher. When you do not own your ISBN you are not the publisher, meaning that, technically speaking, you are not “self-publishing”.
Here I come to the following conclusion. Only with the 4th option, where you provide your own ISBN gotten from the ISBN distributor of your country (purchased – or for FREE in some awesome countries!! damn, my country sucks… I wanna move to Canada!), are you the rightful (self) publisher. (By the way, it doesn’t matter from which country your ISBN is, you can still sell your book anywhere you want, ’cause you are the publisher. Although, getting access to distribution channels will be difficult, because you don’t have any connections and it costs money.) In all the other three options, Createspace, who purchased a big bulk of ISBN from Bowker (the USA distributor of ISBN), is the publisher. Createspace can not resell ISBN (neither can Lulu, or any similar printing company for that matter), it will always be on their name.
The “ISBN options” is therefore a misleading term, because you’re not paying for your ISBN at all. This isn’t even about ISBN, this is about getting the most money out of unaware writers. Let’s examine the remaining three options:
I personally think that the 3rd option is especially jarring, because they claim that you can use this ‘Custom Universal ISBN’ with any other publisher if you just pay $99,- . The truth, however, is that no self-respecting publisher would use an ISBN owned by someone else AKA Createspace. So, you’re basically being ripped off.
That leaves the 2nd option, where you pay $10,- to get your own imprint, but in return you can not access all of their expanded distribution (which, by the way, costs another $25,- on top of everything… no wonder they’re so rich!). An imprint is like a label or a brand of a project, but it is not a publisher. That title still belongs to Createspace who owns the ISBN you’re using. If you want to pay $10,- for an imprint, then be my guest, but personally I don’t see the point in creating an imprint unless you’re already a publisher (which you are not when you choose the 2nd or 3rd option, because again, Createspace owns your ISBN).
Lastly, you have the 1st option, where Createspace assigns one of their free ISBN to you and also makes themselves your imprint. Well, since Createspace is already my publisher, why would it matter that they’re my imprint as well? Everyone already knows that this is self-published materials. And if I want to set up my own publishing company and purchase my own ISBN when I have the money to look more professional, I can always stop any further distribution through Createspace with a click of a mouse, then go through the same process again, but use the 4th option instead of the 1st (in such a case, Createspace will actually be printer-only and not printer-publisher).
So, to conclude, Createspace is not necessarily bad, as long as you know what you’re dealing with. My advice is to skip the 2nd and 3rd options. If you go for the quick and cheap way use the 1st option. If you go for the professional way use the 4th option (which can be very expensive in some countries, especially the USA, I heard they had to pay $250,- for one lousy ISBN, so good luck to small publishers over there! Again, Canada rocks, they give out ISBN for free. So do South Africa, India, the South Pacific region and Hong Kong – they are all awesome! If you reside in one of these countries, you should definitely use the 4th option!!!). Only pay $25,- for the expanded distribution channels, when you use the 4th option and plan to be a pro-publisher, as no big company would pick up a book published by Createspace, and when you think of marketing your book to the indie book sellers you better do it yourself. I think Createspace functions very well as a print-on-demand service and their 4th option is appealing for publishers. Their 1st option works well for writers who want to get their book out and become a known name. The other two options are rubbish.
Last but not least, the godforsaken paying systems! Let me start with Createspace. At the beginning of this rant, I said I had my paperback ready and had to purchase a proof copy, yes? Well, apparently Createspace only accepts mastercards, VISA and what-have-you-nots, but I don’t have any of them. I just tried to get one from my bank but I’m having some minor problems there as well (apparently using the wrong service, now I need to pick a different one or something like that), so it’s gonna take some time. Createspace doesn’t accept Paypal as it is owned by their rival eBay. I also cannot pay by cheque to get that darn proof copy.
On to Amazon, the mother company of Createspace. I need to earn $100,- royalty before they write out a cheque, because I’m a foreigner and therefore don’t own a USA bank account (I looked, but opening a USA bank account is a nightmare for non-residents) which means I can’t get paid through EFT. I can only get paid through EFT if it’s in Euros, but in Europe we apparently don’t like e-books as much as in the USA. Do you know the costs of cashing a cheque? My earnings will all be taken by the f*cking bank! (excuse my language, but I’m very mad here)
Paying for a proof copy is already an unavoidable rip off in this world of indie milkers, but now even their paying system is rubbish! Amazon should at least have the decency to update Amazon Checkout to work better if they don’t use Paypal. Honestly, that would be a win-win situation. Writers get paid with less hassle, and they will have a competing payment system to counter the Paypal hegemony.
Well, I have to apologize to anyone looking forward to the paperback version. It has been put on hold indefinitely.
Edit: CreateSpace now allows for online proofreading, so you need not necessarily order a paperback copy of your own book anymore!
Createspace’s banking system is also better than that of their mother company. For foreigners like me, Createspace pays through EFT at $1o,- whereas Amazon still lets me wait till I reach the $100,- mark before they pay out my e-book royalties. Amazon should really adapt to Createspace’s policy.