Reader Mail: A Reader With Great Questions

An on-demand book printer at the Internet Arch...
An on-demand book printer at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco, California. Some pulleys are among the automation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like many blogs I have a contact page where people can e-mail questions or simply hit me up for editing services.  I love doing editing work because it keeps me sharp, but once in a while someone will send an e-mail that makes me think.


Today’s e-mail comes from Merle Temple, a novelist who has written A Ghostly Shade of Pale, and is a featured author for The Southern Writer’s Magazine.  He is currently looking into the self-publishing market and had many questions about the biz.  He has a Masters in Criminal Justice, so the questions came almost like I was being interviewed by a detective.   I decided to answer him on this blog because these are questions that I’m sure many of you might have.


To Mr. Temple’s questions:


  1. If I use CreateSpace on Amazon to print, can I buy books for signings (I have a supply of first editions to tide me over for a bit)? – Amazon CreateSpace will sell copies to the author for a fraction of what they charge customers.  It usually works out to about 1/3 of the cost of the cover price that you set for the book beyond the bare minimum that they will charge for each book based on cover, print size and amount of pages.  The good news is that the bare minimum you have to pay Amazon for publishing through CreateSpace is the cost of printing one of your books.  Once you receive it and like it you can give them the go-ahead to put it up for sale.  Then it’s just a matter of you sending people to your Amazon author page.
  2. What about books for competitors of Amazon? Will Amazon fill those orders and will their competitors take them? – Amazon sells pretty much anything, but if I’m reading you right then Amazon CreateSpace books are not returnable.  Amazon works like a huge warehouse, but the books are printed on demand.  However many people order the books online, then that is how many books are printed and shipped.  It is doing away with the way it used to be done (i.e. publisher makes a print run and then warehouses them until they sell).  What this means is that you will have probably buy a set number of copies and then talk to book stores about selling them on consignment.  Some local stores do this, but the brick and mortar book store is on its way out.  Why else would they be selling coffee, knick-knacks and pop culture items.  People are buying more books digitally and online.
  3. If I publish on Create Space under the ISBNs that I purchased on my own, can I print books for other retailers separately under that number? No.  ISBN’s are designed to be tagged to one type of book whether that be a digital edition or a print edition. When you buy the set of ISBN’s and then use one to tag to a book, you have to specify what type of book is being tagged.  The fields you fill out on Bowker ask if it is a print edition, digital edition, which format (Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Sony, iTunes) and even which publisher is publishing the book.  Each must have it’s own ISBN.
  4. What about the quality of books that Amazon produces? Good, fair, poor? – Amazon CreateSpace books are as good as the amount of money you spend.  They have services like every other print-on-demand service, but I published a small devotional book through them and did the bare minimum, using their cover generator, and it turned out looking very professional.  I even used my own cover image.  They have many options, and they can even do more detailed things like design a cool cover, do type-setting, etc.  However, if you can upload a Word file and are pretty handy with Photoshop, you can do your own book for a fraction of the cost and only pay for the one copy required by them to start selling online.
  5. If you print books through CreateSpace, how many do they show in stock on Amazon? – It is not a warehouse.  They print on demand.  For each order they print a book and send it.  It is much more cost effective than the old fashioned way.
  6. If I use CreateSpace, should I print under my name or a company name? I wonder if there is value in showing a company name as opposed to an author name? – I’ll point you here for creating your own LLC, but there are a couple of options for publishing under your own name.  If you pay Amazon $10 they will allow you to put the ISBN in your name (the free one you get when publishing through CreateSpace).  Also, having your own name on the ISBN is extremely important because you will be the sole owner and publisher of the book.  Otherwise it has Amazon’s name on it, and that could get tricky later down the road if it does very well.  If you form your own publishing company it’s an LLC.  It’s great if you are going to publish book after book, but you have to decide if you are going to publish other people’s work under your publishing company umbrella.  For me, it seems like a lot more work than I want to do.  The safe option is to publish under your own name (ISBN) and that way it is yours, lock stock and barrel.

Overall, I think many writers out there don’t understand the changing face of publishing.  The days of warehousing books are going away.  Print-on-demand is the easiest, most immediate, rewarding (and sometimes challenging) format for writers to get their work in front of readers.  It takes time, social media, pressing flesh, and time on the phone, but it’s all worth it.  Stop selling copies of your book out of your trunk (or your boot for my British friends) and let POD do it for you.  All it takes is a business card with a QR tag that they can scan to find your Amazon author page.


Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

One thought on “Reader Mail: A Reader With Great Questions

  1. There is still a place for the box o’books in the trunk, though: face-to-face author events such as readings, signings, genre conventions, et al. You can sign e-books using the Authorgraph app on the iPad.

    On the other hand, POD requires someone to have already purchased the book before bringing it to sign, which means you lose those impulse sales only a smiling face and Stentorian delivery can inspire. 😉

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