Friday, December 22, 2017

FYI: Book Review ~ CreateSpace Publishing

I found a book through the Safety Harbor library titled "How to Self-Publish Your Book The CreateSpace Way," (2012-2013 edition) by Blake Webster & Steve Boga.

I needed somewhere to save my notes, so I'll do that here and add a review for you:

Section I: A Brief History of Amazon
Basically this chapter points out that in 2010 Amazon has well over 7 million books in its catalog. The take-away is that "publishers feel increasing pressure to publish more blockbusters and fewer worth books on serious subjects." Hence, the impact on self-publishing.

Section II: A Brief History of POD (Print on Demand)
Yep: Briefly mentions that Lightning Source  began in 1997 and has close ties to both Ingram and Amazon. BookSurge launched in 2000 and bought by Amazon in 2005. Amazon also bought CreateSpace in 2005.

In 2009 CreateSpace became the dedicated POD platform for all BookSurge and CreateSpace authors and publishers.

To give some context, How to Self-Publish was published the following year, 2010. There's been a lot that's happened in POD since then, CreateSpace, and the tools writing and creating documents. (Hmmm...  there was no mention of any CreateSpace competitors, such as LuLu.)

Section III: Picking a Topic That Will Sell
The authors suggest visiting Google's Hot Trends page to see what subjects are being researched, then come up with possible titles. (e.g. for earthquakes, How to Prepare for an Earthquake)

The authors suggest visiting Clickbank to "identify popular trends" and perhaps find book topics through there.

Section IV: Starting Your Book
This section is a great start for beginning writers; it's even good for experience writers because it's a great reminder about interest, attention to detail, and setting up for success.

Section V: Keeping the Momentum
Personal take-aways:

  • Develop new ideas but eliminate unworkable ones. 
  • Find a Personal Editor
  • Finally: become a capable interviewer.

Section VI: Making Your Book Shine
This chapter is a good summary of all the advice writers have gotten from teachers.Like the chapter on starting your book, this is an excellent summary of the good practices all writers should be following.

Section VII: Laying out Your Book Pages
Aha! This is the section that interests me the most, moving the completed work into book form. Webster and Boga recommend using something other that Word to lay out the interior of the book. They discuss using InDesign (by Adobe) as too expensive at $800, Word as too limiting, and Photoshop (by Adobe) as "just right." They even include a Photoshop Primer in Section X.

Notes from this chapter, based on the table of contents:

  • The process
    • Size: They recommend 5.25" x 8" (or 6" x 9"). I like the 5" x 8" because it fits nicely in a 6" x 9" manila envelope.
    • Remember, CreateSpace requires a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. And, if the books will be published in black and white, set the Image Mode to grayscale.
  • Fonts
    • Text: 12-point (11-point is acceptable)
    • Fonts mentioned: Sabon, Garamond, Times New Roman, Helvetica, and Centruy Schoolbook.The author paid $25 for "Avant Garde Book" (a sans serif font)
  • Adding Content to the Pages
    • Oops. I don't like the direction this takes. They create each page, individually, into Photoshop. A 168-page book will require 168 individual PDF files!
      • Speculation: Perhaps I can use BookWright (Blurb) or Publisher (Microsoft) instead. The CreateSpace website says your document must be .PDF, .doc, .docx, or .rtf.
      • Apparently it was best to submit a book in .PDF format in 2010ish...
  • Images & Graphs and Charts
    • Remember the 300 DPI requirement. Interesting advice: "If you wish to increase the page count, place images on their own page instead of inserting them in with the text."
  • Page Order ~ The authors use this page model
    1. Title
    2. Copyright
    3. Dedications/Acknowledgements
    4. Blank page
    5. Table of Contents
    6. Blank page
    7. Forward
    8. First Chapter...
  • Compiling the PDF pages into one PDF file (use Photoshop tools)
  • Proofreading & Correcting Mistakes (self-explanatory)
  • Laying out the cover: (Not much quality content, here.)
    • Title ~ It's important
    • Subtitle
    • Basic Cover Design
    • Background Color
    • Cover Photo
    • Multiple vs Single Cover Photo
    • Spine Width
    • Book Length ~ This section was included to get the files size down to 100MB.
    • Back Cover ~ This is a sales tool
    • Photoshop the Cover ~ yep.
  • Preparing to Submit your PDF files & Submitting your PDF FIles
  • CreateSpace Tech Support (It's pretty good.)

Section VIII: Amazon Basics
There's a few tidbits tucked in this chapter. Here's the table of contents, with my comments:

  • Sales Rankings (Category Sales Ranks)
  • Actual Sales - Amazon doesn't publicize its sales, and refers authors to the publishers.
  • Reviews - Reviews are good, but can be 2-edged sword. But the CreateSpace community forums could be a resource readers/reviewers.
  • Look Inside Feature
  • Author Central ~ this is a free space for authors
  • Kindle
  • Search Positioning
  • Tags
  • Other Factors
  • Amazon Recommendations

Section IX: Promoting Your Book Online
This provides details on how to obtain a domain name, arrange for hosting, install WordPress, and  create the first few blogs. That's what I do at A Better Computer, Inc, so the mechanics are pretty straight-forward for me.

The only marketing advice, other than creating a webpage that has comments and RSS feeds, is Google Adwords. The authors done't mention Amazon's advertising channels.Both use Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

Section X: Photoshop Primer
This section is pretty useless because I do not intend to use Photoshop to create individual pages... 😒

Section XI: Conclusion
Writing and publishing a book is fun! (Plus a dozen other reasons to write a book.) In the POD world there is room for both nonfiction and memoirs, and valid reasons for writing in those or other genres.

Recap: I found a few take-away nuggets in the book.
  • The book introduced me to the Google Trends page. It was offered as a source for new subjects, but it should make interesting reading all by itself!
  • "Become a good interviewer" is a great idea, especially because I'm planning a trip to Kentucky for genealogy research! I also liked the reminders about the discipline required for writing on a routine/regular basis.
  • Use 12-point font. There may be reasons to to use a larger font (large print), and 11 point fonts can be used sparingly. There author also named several fonts native to Word.
  • I need an editor, but the book did not offer suggestions for where I should begin looking.
  • I was encouraged to find another tool for laying out the final product. The separate PDF files for each page really discourages me from using Photoshop, but the are other choices.
This is a great book for someone working on a writing project. I think it's a great start for a hobbyist. But I think it's too broad for a student, and too thin for someone near the end of their book. Any one of the sections probably needs a book of its own!

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