Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - August 6, 2010

Self-publishing online options

CreateSpace and others offer assistance, distribution

Once a writer has decided to self-publish, where does he or she turn for the next step?

Amazon.com, the enormously successful online book (and now other-goods) seller, offers CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) as its program for those looking to self-publish. CreateSpace, which encompasses the former BookSurge brand, is available to authors, musicians and filmmakers.

Under the BookSurge name, the program began 10 years ago and was bought by Amazon.com in 2005. Publishing around 2 million books since its inception, it merged with CreateSpace last fall.

Customers can sign up for free and choose from a variety of publishing options, depending on where they are in the development process. Packages and services range in price from free (if an author has his or her file ready to go without needing any additional assistance) to the $4,999 "Total Design Freedom Marketing Pro" package, which includes two rounds of copyediting, unique cover design, book interior design, a video trailer, ISBN assignment and press releases.

Once published, the work is available on Amazon.com and distributed elsewhere as well, depending on the option selected. "The author has total control," said Aaron Rosenstein, CreateSpace's Senior Marketing Manager.

Books can be purchased in download/digital formats, or in print versions. CreateSpace uses a print-on-demand method, which means there is no concern about overstock.

"There is no physical inventory, so space is always available," Rosenstein said.

There is no minimum print order, and price per unit is the same regardless of number of copies printed. Depending on the option chosen, authors keep 40 to 60 percent of the royalties, and the distribution agreements are non-exclusive, meaning there isn't a conflict if an author changes his or her plans, or a book gets a traditional publishing deal, he said.

Another site, Lulu.com, also offers an array of publishing packages, from the $369 "Primer" package, with basic design assistance, formatting help, retail availability and ISBN, to more specific types of services, such as the "Children's Imagination" package, specially geared toward children's books ($479). Lulu also has "ala carte" services, such as editing, cover design and ghostwriting.

iUniverse.com, which has ties to the Barnes and Noble bookstore chain, offers similar packages (from around $500 up to $4,200) and individual services in editing, designing and marketing.

— Karla Kane

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