Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Celebrate Earth Day with Print-On-Demand

Today is Earth Day, which is a perfect time to talk about  print-on-demand (POD) services. Aside from being a sustainable alternative to traditional offset printing, for an indie publisher with a small staff and limited resources, it makes sense. Much of my book production experience has been with Reputation Books. We chose IngramSparks because of its relationship to Lightning Source, which only works with publishers. The cost to produce a book is more than CreateSpace, but as a publisher, we want to get our books in front of booksellers, and booksellers are more likely to order books if they are available through Ingram’s catalog than through CreateSpace’s distribution channels.

As an indie author, however, CreateSpace is a very viable alternative. The options for POD are growing, but rather than comparing them all, I’ll share my thoughts on CreateSpace, which provides the most cost effective option to producing a book.  And since it is owned the world’s largest online retailer, CreateSpace offers the fastest and easiest way to get a POD book on Amazon’s marketplace.

Traditional publishing can appear to take quite a long time. It can take up to two years with some publishers, depending on their processes. With Reputation Books, we formally schedule the time it takes for our editorial, design, production, marketing and post-production processes. Each book takes us a year to produce, so I can see why some authors would choose to self-publish rather than go the traditional route. For indie authors, they are in the driver’s seat with these processes, so it can take considerably less time to self-publish their books.

Both IngramSpark and CreateSpace allow you to set up your account for free, and purchase your books at their production cost. The difference in costs are in their upfront fees. While CreateSpace does not charge to upload your book files, no matter how many changes you make, IngramSparks charges an initial $49 fee for book’s cover and interior file, plus an annual $12 “market access fee.” Any changes to a “completed title,” which happens when the official book proof is okayed for printing and/or distribution, IngramSpark charges $25 for a revised cover and $25 for a revised interior, so it's especially important to carefully and completely inspect the proof before approving it.  However, with CreateSpark, you can make changes to your book files at no additional cost, regardless if you have okayed the book proof for publishing. I also like that I can order a physical copy of the book before I actually release the book for publication.
I’d like to say that both IngramSpark’s and CreateSpace’s POD processes are equal, but I actually find IngramSpark’s easier to understand. That said, both require a bit of trial and error for the DIY author. Thankfully, there are some good tutorials on the internet that can help you get through the process.  But I found the most valuable resources were the PDFs of IngramSpark’s and CreateSpace’s submission guidelines. CreateSpace does a better job at explaining design and publishing terminology for creating submission files, which is important if you are designing the book or providing instructions for the book’s design. 

Both also provide cover templates to use, which I highly recommend. IngramSpark creates the cover mechanical template with your book’s bar code, while CreateSpace adds the bar code after you have uploaded your book files, so you don’t have the option of moving the bar code to another area on the cover.

Speaking of the bar code, both POD services require an ISBN for each book.  As a publisher, we purchase our ISBNs in bulk through Bowker Identifier Services, but  for the indie author who is self-publishing, purchasing an ISBN one at a time is fairly expensive. If you don’t want to spend $125 for an ISBN, CreateSpace has options for purchasing your ISBN through them from free to $99.

The one issue I have with CreateSpace is in connecting with an actual human being to get answers that weren't available on their website. With IngramSpark, I can call their customer service, while CreateSpace requires you to fill out their online form to get either an email or return call. When I’m in the middle of production and hit a snag, I like the quickness and ease of picking up the phone to get help.

For small publishers, IngramSpark still makes better sense than CreateSpace whether it is because of their distribution channels, customer service, or personal preference. For self-publishing authors who don’t mind a little DIY elbow grease, CreateSpace may be a better choice, because it offers authors more control, minimal up front costs and ease of use. 

Whether it’s IngramSpark, CreateSpace or another POD service, print-on-demand provides not only an economical alternative to indie authors and indie publishers, it offers a sustainable alternative to traditional offset printing. So on Earth Day, go green with POD. 


  1. Great advice for indie authors!!!

  2. Very interesting. I have zero experience with either, but do have some friends that have used CreateSpace. I'm going to forward this to them!

  3. Forwarding this one to my self-publishing friends...

  4. Thanks everyone. I appreciate the vote of confidence!

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