Monday, February 13, 2017

FYI: Fiction Workshop class at St. Pete College

I was invited to talk to Professor Johnson's Fiction Workshop class at the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College. This article is for those students...

In Johnson's Fiction Workshop, each student must submit their class project at the end of the semester. Generally, this is a book, and if the Fiction Workshop is similar Create Writing, the project can be a music CD or movie DVD.

The Why of Using CreateSpace

There are 2 benefits for using CreateSpace in a writing class, especially SPC's Fiction Workshop:
  1. Students can use CreateSpace print-on-demand services to produce a bound book to submit their end-of-semester class project. It's not a requirement to use CreateSpace, but I think it's a nice touch.
  2. BONUS: The student is prepared to publish their book after class, if they so choose.
    • The point-of-no-return to commit to releasing the book for sale to the public is deep in the process. We won't go anywhere near that in this class.
    • Even if the student passes that point, they can still remove their book from publication.
    • Up to that point, the student can leverage CreateSpace's print/production services for classwork by ordering PROOF copies.

The paperback PROOF copies should run under $3 each for books up to 175 pages of any trim size. In class, this was compared to the 10 cents per page for assignments printed in the school library.
[For Johnson's Creative Writing Class, CDs/DVDs with plastic cover and printed inserts should be about $5.00 each.]

Self-Publishing Books

CreateSpace is a company that specializes in print-on-demand publishing. The advantage to this is that writers can order as few as one copy at a time instead of having to buy hundreds of copies up front.

Authors can purchase copies for gifts and direct sales of their own. They pay only the printing cost; no royalties are due. Even after release for sale to the public, the cost per book shipped directly to the author will still be under $3.

eStore: CreateSpace makes writer's books available for sale to the public at the CreateSpace eStore, its online bookstore. I ordered a domain name for my mother's book, and directed it to the CreateSpace eStore: (The link will open in a new tab if you want to check it out.) Store: CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and one of the CreateSpace marketing options is to authorize sales through Amazon. On the CreateSpace site, all you have to do is check the box next to the outlet. It really is that easy!

My mother's book is available from, too. You can visit the Amazon site and search for "Gloria Jaggers."

Neither Amazon nor CreateSpace do any marketing. Nada. It is entirely up to you to generate interest in the book. You can buy copies to sell directly, or you can direct customers to and/or the CreateSpace eStore. These online stores will collect the money, print & ship the product, and then send you your cut.

My Own Class Project

I had originally prepared my Creative Writing project to meet Johnson's requirements:
30 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, etc. I printed my book on 8-1/2" x 11" paper with my own color printer, then submitted it in a presentation cover. I assume the parameters are similar or the same for his Fiction Workshop class.

He is, after all, interested in the content of the student's work. (I got an "A.") 

In retrospect, though, I wish I had leveraged my CreateSpace experience for my project because I wanted to publish it a year later. During my journey to self-publish my book, I volunteered to bring my experience to class and give this talk.

I printed 3 different "Proof" copies along the way, and I shared them in class. Each was slightly different:

  • I successfully uploaded both .docx and pdf file formats. 
  • I had used two different covers (matte and glossy). 
  • I used, changed, and rearranged graphic images on the cover. Interior images were in black and white only, and rendered only so-so.
  • I had used two different colored paper for the interior (white and cream). 
  • My first proof was double-spaced, the other two were single-spaced. 
  • When I changed my text to single space, my page count went down 10%. 
  • I had used two different trim sizes (8-1/2 x 11 and 5-1/2 x 8-1/2). 
  • When I resized my single-space book down by 50%, my page count went up 20%
Class Activities

After explaining the "Why," and the benefits, we went online and explore examples.
  • Microsoft Word Skills
    • Explaining how to use Word is beyond the scope of this presentation.
    • There are many tutorials on that explain how to configure a Word document for publishing. A recommended search is "createspace tutorial."
      • The search will return a whole page of tutorials. Students can try listening to them until they find a tutorial they like.
      • My favorite tutorial is by India Drummond; it showed up second in my search results. We watched 2-3 minutes of her tutorial, up to the part about page sizes and margins.
    • In class, I launched and created a new account.
      • Basically, a new user needs an email address and a password. An email is sent to the address to confirm that the new user is a real person. The new user will fill in name, street address, etc., later.
      • My goal was to demonstrate that creating a new account is easy.
    • Next, I wanted to demonstrate how easy it was to upload and prepare a book.
      I logged into my personal CreateSpace account and found the button to add a new title:
    • The next screen 
      • asked for a Project Title, 
      • asked whether it was a Book, CD, or DVD, and then 
      • the setup process I wanted to use. I selected "Guided."
    • After that, it was pretty much follow the instructions as they appear. 
      • Enter title and author information.
      • CreateSpace will give authors a free ISBN, or someone can bring their own. There was some discussion about this. But the bottom line is that ISBNs have value, and I try to avoid "wasting" them.
        • I took a moment to copy my new ISBN to the copyright page of my document.
        • I saved it as a PDF file.
      • In the "Interior" section I selected the size of my book and uploaded my PDF file. I submitted it for a quick review, and this step will take only a few minutes.
        • For class, students will need to use 8-1/2 x 11 trim size because the page count is easier to show.
        • For publication, later, the student can:
          • Remove the double line spacing
          • Choose a different font that is better suited for publishing
          • Change to any other trim size
      • The Cover is the next step. CreateSpace has a very robust cover creator. 
        • There are 30 templates to choose from, and each of those has multiple settings.
        • There is a lot of help on YouTube; search for "createspace cover tutorial"
      • Once these steps are completed, it's time to submit the whole package for CreateSpace review. Unfortunately this last phase will take at least 24 hours.
      • CreateSpace will send an email once the project is ready.
      • This is the time to order a proof copy!! 
        This is the product that a student can turn in at the end of the semester.
    • HEADS UP:
      Students should be aware that approval, printing and shipping takes time. I recommend that the project should be submitted to CreateSpace at least a week before it's due.

Afterthought About Pricing

Authors are allowed to set their own prices as long as it is above the cost of production. The price can be changed at any time in the process, even years after publication. For example, my Mom's book was sold for $14.95 from 2011 until 2016. Then I reduced the price to $9.95.

Even if a student puts a textbook price on his work (e.g. $199.00) the cost for personal copies, including proofs for class, are still under $3.


CreateSpace will allow authors to generate discount coupons for the CreateSpace eStore. The discount codes do not apply to Amazon sales, only the CreateSpace store.

The discount can be a flat dollar amount, or a percentage. In the $199.00 example, the author can create a coupon for $190.00 off. A customer with the discount code/coupon can buy the book for $9.00!

After class, a student asked if the writer had to make up the difference for the discounted price. The book is  sold at the discount price, and royalties are calculated on the net price. The answer to the question is "No, students don't have to pay the discount themselves."

Why go through overprice and the mark down? The student is a published author, and with discount codes he/she can pretty much control who buys their work. If someone unexpectedly buys it, then the student gets a $190 windfall.
Remember, the writer can still purchase his own copies for only the production cost (under $3) directly from CreateSpace.

I erred on the side of caution for quoting prices in this article. I learned that regardless of page size, any number of pages between 26 and 105 makes no difference in the production cost of a single copy: $2.15. (26 is the minimum size book)

I published a 178-page book and my direct cost is still only $2.98 per copy. You'll learn more as you go along....

Please share your thoughts and your experience:

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