Provider Tools & Usability
There are scores of blog articles on Print On Demand publishing, some dating back before Create Space was even Create Space, when Lulu & llumina were very young and self-publishing was still connected to vanity press and FIY sites that represented the author, sharing royalties equally with the author and holding contract for the author's book for one or two years before the control of the book reverted back to the author. What was rather clear to me seeing the comparisons between the various providers, along with the innovations and policy changes that took place in the past three years. The contractual relationship. The author is gaining more and more control over their book production, and their royalty fees. This is not to say that one provider is 'better than' another, but there are differences that should be considered before an author chooses a POD provider for their book(s). I remain with Create Space as my provider because of the terms and procedures they provide. There is no contractual arrangement between provider and author beyond 'terms & conditions', which are not onerous or out of line with any other provider. The author has choices at each stage of getting their book listed and available to the public. The first choice to be made is the ISBN number; buy your own number (with bar-code) or allow Create Space to automatically assign their ISBN number to your book. The difference of these choices is the subject of the April 30 article "The ISBN Number". It is well worth reading about the distinctions between the two. I have recently posted an article on The ISBN Number, with information on what the ISBN number stands for and how it shows up in the “Imprint of Record” (what shows up on a book’s listing). Be noted here that the ISBN number is very important for the indie writer publishing their book(s) through a POD publishing platform.
What was once a second consideration to the publishing list was the $25 one-time payment for the 'Expanded Distribution Channels' option. The author is no longer charged for those Expanded Distribution Channels. The expanded distribution channels includes listing in the "Books In Print" database; (bookstores use this database to look up author/title of books for ordering). Another channel is off-line book retailers listings (Barnes & Noble, etc.) as well as online book distributors and retail outlets. New channels have been added to include worldwide reach, which opens up the European, Asian, and South American book market for the author.
After the book listing information and chosen marketing channels, the author will have the ability of creating the 'preview' for the book they are listing. A book cover image can be added, along with synopsis of the book and other details the author wants exposed to the reader previewing the book. One of the best features of the interface of the Create Space 'Member Dashboard", which is where the author has all the tools and settings at their fingertips, includes number of copies sold, royalties earned each month and every other facet of information the author needs to know.
Another available tool for those that use Create Space is the ecommerce page they offer. This is simply a page that can be linked to any website or blog, whereupon the link takes the visitor to a single page that the author is able to personalize, using photos and written information. This page is special as the author uses it to offer incentives for the potential reader, like unlimited discount offers. I use a standard 20% discount for any reader who purchases a book from my website. All listed books are linked to their respective ecommerce page with their listing information, along with a ‘Buy Now’ cart button, which then takes them to the amazon.com buyer’s checkout.
This page offers a “Discount Window” where the visitor then either types in the code or uses a copy/paste of the code posted on the website pages. The discount is then subtracted from the retail and the purchase goes forward. Being unlimited, discounts can be of any amount or percentage, author’s choice, and this allows for regular discounts with added seasonal discounts, or discounts to certain people, say a special offer to a group, or classroom, using a unique code that can be generated on the author’s side of the setup. Simple give those targeted for the special the code and they can use it at any time, or during a special offer, with a limited time period. Such an offer can be printed in a company newsletter, or via email to a group, etc. It is for the reasons listed above that I find most desirable for self-publishing. I have control over every single facet of my books' look and marketing conditions. Just understand that having your book listed in all the markets in the world doesn't mean it will be seen, without query. The level of market visibility for your books has to do mostly with the author's efforts at getting the word out via web-site, blogs, internet community links, and other cyber connections. A future article will deal with the non-cyber marketing methods available the self-published author. Methods that would come under "Gorilla Marketing".