This entry is probably going to come out as more of a complaint in regards to my recent experience with the Createspace publishing machine. I, as an author and comic book artist, am about to release the second chapter book volume in my romance series, The Heavenly Bride. I decided I would go ahead and republish the first book through Createspace, as that’s currently one of the most popular options to self publish when it comes to print on demand. I assembled my book, I went through all my steps, and then I hit it.
Overall when it comes to prose of any sort, Amazon’s Createspace is a gem for the publishing world. It’s created to be a simple to handle system with a guided step for step how to if you need it. Their cover creator isn’t half bad, and overall the system is great. But when it comes to anything with pictures on it, partially or otherwise, I have recently discovered it’s a bit of a nightmare. And what has made it a nightmare can only be blamed on the system by half. The other half has come from their “customer service”.
So let me give you the rundown real quick on my most recent and still ongoing experience with their uploading machine. I’m going to over each step as I have went through it and rate that part of their system on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.
As I mentioned before, using Createspace can be quite easy. In fact despite my sick-with-a-cold frog voice, I even recorded some of the process in regards to their cover creator for an online tutorial I hope to post later. If you have a book that’s all words, you’re probably good to go.
I on the other hand, am trying to upload 119 pages of pictures and 3 pages of written words. Createspace’s system, when choosing your book’s layout, has no provision for a book like that. You must either choose pages that extend into your bleed area – that area that gets trimmed when the book is being made – or pages that stop before the bleed area.
If you know nothing about comic books, you can still understand that it’s 99% artwork. Some pages are going to flow and I like to draw things to go off the edge of the page on occasion. Then there are all of the other pages that stop before they go too far. There is no option for “some pages extend to the bleed and some do not” so I had to choose. I chose full bleed, hoping the system would have the common sense not to freak out if something didn’t go to the edge of the page. I mean, it’s common sense right?
I’d probably rate this part of their system as an 8 because of it’s inflexibility.
Automatic Computer Checking
After you upload your book – a PDF is recommended – their computers take the document and process it through their little gears to spit out a preview if you choose that option. I highly recommend that option because it lets you see if there are going to be any issues that you can fix before you go through the trouble of submitting your book for review by Amazon’s live people only to have it rejected.
To my surprise, there were many pages in my book that were flagged. What were they flagged for? Images with white borders, because they were pictures that I never intended to bleed off the page, didn’t go into the bleed area far enough. In fact the entire page was flagged that way. But the sliver of space that wasn’t far enough was so tiny, you couldn’t see it with the naked eye. It never would have shown at all if it were sent to print, and as far as I could tell by the preview the book would have looked exactly as I wanted it to.
After exchanging an email to the Createspace people – a part of the story I’ll save for the next section – I corrected some errors of my own making and uploaded the book again. This time not only were the image pages flagged, but the book’s two blank white pages containing no data were flagged as having images going into the gutter. The title page, all prose with very large margins, was flagged for not extending into the bleed area. And the copyright page was also flagged.
At this point you can tell the system to ignore the issues and submit your document for publication anyway, hoping the Createspace employees have eyes and can read for themselves. Which is what I have done.
When it comes to getting a preview of how your book is going to look, their system is pretty accurate. I definitely would rate this a 10.
I think the employees at Creatspace, the two that I have been in contact with, were pretty nice but I lost my patience an hour ago.
The first employee was very nice as he wrote me a very long letter talking about how they had to ensure “quality,” and that was why my book was rejected. One mistake on my part was my PDF page size; it was off a bit. But the rest, I was told, had everything to do with the book’s pages being required to extend past the bleed area because that was the option I chose. Quality, he said. They only put out quality material.
I responded nicely after spending literally a full day remaking the PDF again and again and again. If you’re not sure what this means, this means that the quality of my images would have been getting worse and worse with each save if I weren’t someone who knows how to save in lossless encoding. Fortunately I am. After changing the size and getting all of the image pages to be accepted into their system, the blank pages and prose pages remained a problem.
I attached screencaps to my email, showing how what was being flagged isn’t an issue of quality at all. Wasn’t it their job to look at a book and catch problems like this, to help move things along? I pointed out that blank pages were being flagged for having content going into the book gutters when, in fact, there was no content to go into the gutters. Then I pointed out that other pages with no images were being flagged for not having images extending into the bleed area, and that one of those pages was the copyright page. Simple issues, right? Nothing to halt a book when there are thinking people on the other end. You just have to not let computers think for you.
My response from Amazon wasn’t even by the same person. My account was started all over again with a new person, who “reviewed” my case. They could certainly understand my frustration, they told me, but the pages needed to extend to the edge of the page. There were problems with content going into the gutters, they said. Very clearly, at this stage, not only was I not going to get consistent service I wasn’t going to get thinking service.
It is very apparent that this last customer service representative who “understands my frustration” couldn’t understand how to open a book. They only understood how to read a computer report but couldn’t quite get how to investigate what was really going on. I also noticed that they apparently didn’t see the screenshots I attached to my last email.
My response was anything but polite. People who let machines do all their thinking for them gets on my nerves. I would certainly rate Amazon’s customer service in this area a big fat 1.
Every time I’ve gotten a book proof for my clients through Amazon, I’ve been okay with the quality. However when it comes to the comic book process, I’m very concerned at what quality Createspace’s ineptitude is pushing my book to. It appears that the only way to get past their computer god is to turn all of my written prose pages into full bleed images. This will lower print quality considerably. It’s something I really hate doing as a result. I like my prose pages to be crisp and clear.
So publishing a comic is possible through them, but at a cost any caring self publisher should be leery about paying.
So for all of their touting to me about how they care about quality first, I’d say probably not so much. If quality were truly important here, my book would get the visual treatment it deserves. I’ll give it a rating of 5.
For prose, I would certainly recommend Createspace’s system although I also would tell people not to limit themselves to just Amazon. You want your book to have as wide an audience as possible.
For comics, I probably wouldn’t be able to recommend them at all unless you’re willing to put up with slightly blurry pages and lack of serious customer support. I would, on the other hand, recommend Drivethru Press which has always treated me well and prints some good stuff. I would also recommend Lulu, believe it or not, if you want to print some manga books to sell yourself.
Perhaps Createspace may redeem itself tomorrow, but twice bitten you know. And that’s my rundown on the comic process when going through them. All you comic authors out there can take it as you will.
Overall rating: 8
EDIT: I stand corrected. My book just got rejected for – wait for it – not having a margin of at least .30. My margins are .50. And the full bleed pages… don’t have… margins… for obvious reasons.
New overall rating: 3
From here I could go into the entire websites, forum threads, and scores of disgruntled authors that have had trouble with Createspace. Most of them have my own complaint about customer service, only they have used stronger words. I personally will from hereforth be looking for a new publisher to replace the Createspace service. Lulu would be an option but I find their publishing platform too expensive for distribution. If I find other resources I will keep you posted.