Ups and Downs: Publishing a Comic on Createspace


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.

Uploading Ease

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.

Customer Service

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.

Quality

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.

Recommendation

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.

The 5th Marines


Celebration! This book just went up into Createspace for review. It’s already available as an ebook. Soon it’ll be available on paperback.

5th marines cover for web

Fighting in the Korean War, Colonel “Tough” Tony Shultz of the 5th Marines clashes against Sung Shi Lee and the Chiang-si Province Boys. It’s a stark contrast of American ideals vs the pride of an ancient culture, certain of its own Communist ideals. Political wrangling and corruption are the backdrop to the moral battlefield of Panmunjom and the land called “No Man’s Land” in Chang Dang Valley.

The United Nations’ deceitful role is revealed in a conflict of interest with both the Chinese and Americans paying the price. This story of East and West mirrors the conflicts, misunderstandings and potential for productive relations of two proud nations.

Frank Crowe: The Dam Builder Who Changed the Face of the Earth


coverIt’s an epic period of American history – the building of the Hoover Dam. See life through the eyes of folks from all walks of life who built the Dam; travel 21 miles on Death’s Highway, to Sin City, Las Vegas where legal gambling, whorehouses and cold beer await.

Building the Hoover Dam led America and the world out of the Great Depression. Seemingly foreshadowed with the death of worker John G. Tierney from the beginning, it end with the death ofPatrick W. Tierney, thirteen years to the day in the same river. From Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, seven American Presidents were personally involved in the building of the Dam. Larger than the Pyramids, more complex than the Great Wall of China, the Hoover Dam helped populate the western United States. America became the bread basket of the world. This dam controls floods and drought in seven states, provides electricity, fresh drinking water to irrigate 1/4 million square miles of new farm land. The weight of the water behind the dam moved planet earth a fraction out of balance.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/404800

A Dagger to the Heart


cover

England, 1866…An assassin has been hired to kill the United States Ambassador to Britain and the covert operative, Dagger, must protect the diplomat while ferreting out the assassin. And in order to stay close to the Ambassador, Dagger, in his real identity as Elijah Sinclair, Viscount Gilchrist must play escort to and ultimately protect the man’s American nieces, Aurora and Ginny, from danger.

Published: May 06, 2014
Words: 66,820
Language: English
ISBN: 9781311146670

Ion 417: Raiju


ION417

Her life was a lie! She had no name, save for the one she gave herself, and her life was totally controlled by one person. To him she was nothing more than project 417, though she called herself Ion. Now she has discovered just what he has planned for her.
Using the abilities Teyrn Elon had engineered into her genetics, she escapes his plan to sell her to the highest bidder. Now she is on the run in a stolen ship with only one possible safe haven. Her hope is to seek out her mother’s people. The only problem is that the world she dreamed of finding isn’t the way she pictured it to be.
Instead of sanctuary, she finds the need to become their hero. Her life has gone from being a lab rat, to fighting for a people that refuse to accept her as one of them. Her abilities earn her the name of Raiju, a mythical beast of lightning; they also ensure that she will never have a boring existence.

Published: Sep. 16, 2011
Words: 93,090
Language: English
ISBN: 9781465831170