It’s been almost six months since Amazon announced that CreateSpace, its print on demand service, would be merged into Kindle Direct Publishing. There’s an important lesson for independent authors in the death of CreateSpace.
Most of the discussion of the merger has been focused on the less than seamless transition. Bumps in the road for authors have included delayed royalty payments, problems using the KDP website, subtitles accepted on CreateSpace rejected by KDP, a requirement to list on Amazon to get extended distribution, KDP copies that don’t look like those printed on CreateSpace, and the replacement of CreateSpace’s telephone customer service with an online ticket system with KDP. But there’s a more important take-away for authors from the merger.
Publishing a book does not lend itself to mass production.
That was a problem for what Amazon envisioned when it bought Book Surge and renamed it CreateSpace.
Amazon had already dramatically changed the way books were sold. New technology had transformed the publishing landscape, and a rapidly growing number of authors were using it to self-publish. By offering print-on-demand services through CreateSpace Amazon planned to tap a new revenue stream and provide a new load of titles for its digital bookshelves. However, not all authors who wanted to use CreateSpace had fully edited or designed manuscripts. The result was some embarrassingly bad books. As authors learned the importance of professional editing and book design to their book’s bottom line (see our post How to Earn 1/3 More on Your Self-Published Book), they sought help. CreateSpace offered authors editing and design. It was a one-stop shopping center.
The system worked fine for some authors. CreateSpace outsourced both author services like editing and design along with its customer service and technical support to meet the flood of authors who flocked to the service, but the results were uneven. A growing number of online posts expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of both author and technical services. Many of the complaints focused on the inability of the authors to get in touch with a person who could or would help them. They wanted one-on-one contact with a real person. Its absence shouldn’t have been surprising with a business designed to publish books in huge volume with what was essentially a production line process that was impersonal by its very nature.
Amazon tacitly acknowledged that the system wasn’t working when it discontinued CreateSpace’s editing and design services in April, 2018. Then, in August, 2018, Amazon shuttered CreateSpace merging its services into KDP.
Production lines are a very efficient way to turn out a high volume of products that are all exactly the same. Every book is unique. That is a problem. The author is not just another customer purchasing a one-size-fits-all service, he or she is a creative participant in the process of publishing a book. Editing a book is a collaborative endeavor which requires dialogue between the author and editor. Authors often have a vision of their book’s cover and the appearance of its layout. A professional book designer brings both experience and technical skill to the design. Working together to help create a book that reflects the author’s sensibilities and at the same time is a state of the art design requires an on-going back-and-forth conversation between author and designer. Authors have differing levels of technical skills. Some require a good deal of tech support in using software tools used in creating a book.
Providing the kind of personalization required to give each author the things he or she needs to publish the best possible book is not an easy task for a behemoth like Amazon. At Stories To Tell we operate on a more human scale. (see How We’re Different on our website) Creating a book with us is a collaborative process involving ongoing dialogue which helps us develop a personal relationship with our authors. We strongly believe that is the way independent self-publishing should work.