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Posts Tagged ‘CreateSpace’

Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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In 2010 I used Lulu to publish my first book, Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Then, this year (2011), I decided to give CreateSpace a try when I published Simply Prayer. Although the two POD’s are similar, there are some differences I thought others might like to know about before choosing one or the other. Here’s the breakdown of the two.

Lulu

Cons:

  • Not very user-friendly. It took a lot of time to search through the FAQs and community answers to find out how to put Lulu’s free ISBN on my copyright page. By the time I was finished I had a major headache.
  • Difficult to add Lulu’s free ISBN to the copyright page. I first had to upload my .pdf to Lulu, then have them issue the ISBN (took only a minute or two), then add that to my copyright page and then re-upload the new .pdf.
  • Look Inside! not even an option. Let’s face it, even if you’re buying a book online you want to be able to see between the pages to get an idea if this book is right for you. I did find a work-around, but it’s not the same as having an Amazon Look Inside! right there with the buy button.



Pros:

  • It’s free. This was super important since I’m just starting out and have a very small budget.
  • You’re book will be listed on Amazon. It can take a couple weeks, but it does show up pretty quick. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered those supposed listings with other booksellers often show the book as “out of stock.” Not exactly helpful for distribution.
  • Great cover designer. I was able to design the front and back, then import them as .jpgs into a basic template. Lulu even added spine text, though they did warn me about the possibility of the text wrapping to one side or the other based on the small page count. This was very important to me as I’ve donated my books to church libraries that will be including them on bookshelves.



CreateSpace

Cons:

  • Cover designer difficult to use. I like designing my own covers (though I hope someday to employ someone much better), but I found designing a full cover (front, back and spine) very difficult. The CreateSpace instructions for creating a full cover were a little hard to figure out. Also, CreateSpace refused to add spine text, even though the page count for Simply Prayer was a little larger than my first book.
  • Questioned about picture quality. What I was asked to do was change every picture to “300 dpi” or risk poor print quality. While that might not seem like a big thing, for someone who understands the nature of printing houses it was an irritation because it’s not the dpi that matters. What’s important is the ppi (pixels per inch), which I knew were perfectly fine.
  • Look Inside! feature can take up to 8 weeks. Sure, waiting 8 weeks is better than not having the feature at all, but it does wear on one’s patience.



Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • Very user-friendly. With step-by-step instructions and simple buttons, I didn’t need to read any FAQs or search the community pages to figure out how to upload my book.
  • Easy to add CreateSpace’s free ISBN to copyright page. I was able to get the ISBN before uploading a .pdf, so adding it to my copyright page meant only creating one .pdf for the entire process.
  • Listing on Amazon. Of course, that’s where free distribution ends. If you have the budget, then getting the larger distribution package might be the way to go.



Those are the biggest pros and cons I found between Lulu and CreateSpace. Everything else was similar, as far as I could tell. For those of you who have used either or both, or even someone else, what are your experiences?

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The proof of my second book, Simply Prayer, finally arrived in the mail this week and I’m happy with it overall. I admit, though, that I had to beg my husband to read through it just to make sure the errors I found needed to be fixed or if I was just being a perfectionist. Usually I would have simply buckled down, fixed the errors and, as I want it available by Ash Wednesday, ordered an expressed shipped proof. However, I ran into a snag with the digital files — which is the point of this post.

If you use InDesign CS4 you probably know about the book feature where several separate files can be compiled into a single book. It’s a great tool that keeps file size down and makes it simpler to print a single chapter.

The downside, as I discovered after sending my .pdf to CreateSpace, is transferring all those files into an ebook. You can’t simply re-save the book with a new name and expect the chapter files to save themselves as new files too. You’ll have a newly named book using the original chapter files instead.

What that means is that any re-formatting you do to your chapters will be saved over the original files. For instance, I wanted to include the pictures from the print edition in the ebook edition, but I wanted them to be seen just before the section titles. To do that I followed Elizabeth Castro’s instructions from EPUB Straight to the Point and pasted them directly into the text box. It looks great in the epub, but when I went back to check something in the original book file (after making those changes to two entire chapters!) I discovered that change was there as well. Not good.

If I had already approved the print edition and had no plans to ever release a second edition similar to the first, then it wouldn’t be a problem. Now, if I wanted to make any changes to the print edition, it will be a major headache. I’ll have to re-format the print files, getting them back to the original as close as I can, before I can correct those little things I didn’t like.

The good news, at least, is that I’ve learned a valuable lesson I can pass on to all of you.

  1. Save the original files in a single folder, including images and anything else contained in your print edition.

  2. Copy everything from that folder into a second folder strictly for epublishing and web content.

  3. Re-name everything in the second folder. I chose putting an “e” in front of each file name to make it easily identifiable.

  4. Open the new “eBook” in IDCS4, select all the old chapter files, click the remove button, then add the new “eChapters.”
  5.  

It’s a little bit of work to create a second set of files in a new folder, but believe me when I say a little work now will save a lot of work later. What other tips and tricks have you learned while putting your book together?

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I finally ordered my proof copy of Simply Prayer, formerly Prayerfully Yours. While I’m happy with the file I uploaded to CreateSpace, I’m left wondering if I was my own worst enemy in getting the entire project done to begin with.

I had originally planned on having the book out before the season of Advent, but missed that deadline by a good two months. I reset my deadline to have it ready for Lent 2011 and I’ve just made it. Why all the deadline problems? I tried to cut too many corners. Instead of going the normal route of writing, editing, designing and fixing the details of the design I tried to write and design simultaneously.

Bad idea. Very bad idea.

What I had hoped would shorten the amount of time from the planning stage to the finished product bred headaches and nightmares too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say I won’t be trying that again. And so I want to leave you all with a bit of advice. Follow these four steps and you’ll reduce the irritations and frustrations of the DIY Independent Author.

  1. Write until the story is completely told, or for non-fiction until you begin repeating yourself. Don’t worry about page count and design elements like fonts, pictures or pulled quotes.

  2. Edit your manuscript completely before you even begin to think about what it should look like on the page. Once the design process begins it’ll make it more difficult to add new material, move passages around or delete entire sections.

  3. Design your book with an eye toward more than one media. Ebooks are growing in popularity and soon will become the majority when it comes to purchases, but that doesn’t mean no one will want a well-designed print edition. Yours may become a collector’s edition. If you’re not already proficient in designing print and/or ebooks, then either hire someone to do it for you or find some really good resources like The Book Designer or Elizabeth Castro’s book EPUB Straight to the Point.

  4. Fix the little details of your design, like making sure chapters begin on the right of a print book and new sections/chapters are new pages in ebooks.

What short-cuts have you tried that didn’t end up as you had planned?

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I sometimes wonder how other writers develop their books. Do they plan it all out from the beginning so nothing’s a surprise? Do they “fly by the seat of their pants” and just begin writing? Do they write in bits and pieces, then somehow put it all together like a puzzle? There could be as many ways to write a book as there are people who write them. I, myself, have at least two ways I develop my books: the fiction way and the nonfiction way.

Because my nonfiction writing is a whole lot more organic (something between piecing a puzzle together and just sitting down to write from the beginning), I’m going to focus on the seven steps I use to put together a fiction book from the first glimmering of an idea to sending the guts off to the POD (print-on-demand).

  1. Come up with a general idea — I know this seems rather obvious, but it’s really the first place you have to start with any writing project. Sometimes I find that I have to narrow, or even expand upon, the original idea as the process goes along, but I still have to start somewhere. I often start out using free idea mapping software like mind42.
  2. Map the plot line — You can use the same plotting method for short stories and novels, though you do need to remember that the rising action in a novel will be much longer. I like to use a plot line to get me started. By the time I’ve filled out the entire plot line, I’ve pretty much envisioned the entire story in my mind. For me, the process is like watching a favorite movie that I have complete creative control over. I’ve used James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure extensively for planning.
  3. Get started — At this point I feel comfortable enough to actually begin writing. I have an idea where the story is going, but the characters still sometimes do surprising things I hadn’t planned. It’s also the longest and, sometimes, most frustrating part of the process. As I write each scene I do my best to describe it entirely, putting in a lot more detail than it warrants. My reasoning is that it’s a lot easier for me to cut than to add. Along with writing the story, I also format its appearance. It’s easier to catch widows and orphans and know what the ending page count will be if you set up the formatting at the beginning.
  4. The 4 R’s — You’ve heard of the 3 R’s: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Let me introduce you to Reading, Re-working, Re-reading and Re-writing. If writing the first draft seems difficult, the editing process can feel impossible. I have a simple solution. I read through the first draft making only minor editorial marks for spelling, typos, punctuation and quick notes about parts that feel awkward. I don’t do a lot of editing the during the first read because I want to make sure the overall story flows. I then go back chapter by chapter and re-work anything that was awkward. Finally I give it a second, more thorough read, making longer notations about changes and additions that need to be made to give the story more depth. After I complete the needed changes I move on.
  5. Fresh eyes — This is a term I picked up working at NWMSU’s weekly newspaper, but it’s just as important in self-publishing. When you’ve finished the 4 R’s it’s time to let someone else read your work. The more eyes that read it, the more mistakes will be caught before you send it to the printer. I can’t stress this enough. Let an editor, your family, your friends, even the family dog read it. Okay, maybe not the dog, but you get my point.
  6. The 4 R’s — That’s right. Once you’re buddies have read it, it’s back to the computer to fix what they’ve found. But don’t despair. You’re almost finished.
  7. And print — Finally! All you need to do now is send it to the printer. I use Lulu.com, though I’ve heard a lot of good things about CreateSpace. Once your book is ready to upload to the POD of your choice, it’s just a matter of following their instructions.

Self-publishing can seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow these steps I think you’ll find your path just a little smoother on The Road to Writing.

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