15 Mar 2009
Lady Caine is set mainly in the US (the other location being Colombia) and is written in a very American style, even though I'm British. It's influences are Carl Hiaasen, James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard. So right from the start I wanted a US Edition.
I published the first edition of Lady Caine through Lulu. That gave the book a UK ISBN number. For the US edition, I created a new version with US spellings, a different cover design and chose Amazon's CreateSpace service to publish it.
CreateSpace automatically assigns a US-based ISBN (and EAN) to your book. It also makes your book available for sale through Amazon.com.
Creating the PDFs
CreateSpace requires PDF files for the interior of the book and any covers you design yourself (it has a cover creation wizard, which I haven't tried, if you don't feel up to the task of designing your own).
Unlike Lulu, CreateSpace does not issue dire warnings about how you must create your PDFs using Acrobat Distiller. That's just as well. Adobe software is ludicrously overpriced. I simply can't afford a copy of Acrobat.
All CreateSpace requires is that your PDF for the interior of the book has the fonts embedded. The good news is that OpenOffice.org embeds fonts as standard when you use the 'Export as PDF...' option.
With Lulu, because I had to upload a .doc file and allow them to create the PDF, I had to stick to a limited number of fonts. I also had major problems controlling widows and orphans (see 'Working with Lulu'). As CreateSpace accepts OpenOffice.org-created PDFs, none of those problems apply, giving me much greater control over the layout.
For a while, CreateSpace ran a beta programme allowing you to upload Word documents, just as Lulu does. That beta has now been terminated, so it's back to PDF being the only option.
As for the cover, once you know how many pages your book contains CreateSpace will create a template document that you can download. This is supplied in both Photoshop (.psd) and PNG formats. It shows where the cover will be trimmed, the 'safe' area for text (ie, not too close to the edge because the trim varies) and location and thickness of the spine. Instructions for using the templates are also supplied.
I used the Photoshop template. I converted the colour space to Adobe RGB (the template was in the more limited sRGB). The file needs to be saved as a Photoshop PDF, with fonts embedded, 'Do not downsample' selected, using JPEG compression and max quality.
Once you've uploaded your files, you click a button to request publishing. CreateSpace then takes a day or two to check the files - presumably for technical compatibility (such as those embedded fonts). My files passed without demur.
Then you buy a proof copy. This is where I have my first complaint...
It's time for a rant now. The proof copy of my book cost $6.50. The postage to France? $26.00!
The reason for this? There isn't one. There can't be one, other than a surprisingly parochial attitude by CreateSpace. Amazon.com is capable of shipping books to Europe (and elsewhere: I saw Australians complaining in the forums) for a fraction of this cost. Maybe they're surprised by the interest in CreateSpace from outside the US. Certainly, there are signs that CreateSpace is very US-oriented. For example, when setting up a project, one is asked to specify a reading age for the book. The drop-down menu lists the options in terms of school grades and college years - for example, '11th grade'. These are terms that make sense to Americans but to few others outside the US, where the grade school system either isn't used or has different terminology. As a non-American, I haven't the faintest idea how old someone might be who is in the 11th grade.
But back to those postage costs. CreateSpace has to do something about them if it is to have any credibility as a global player. They are simply idiotic and unnecessary.
Luckily, with this project - that is, the US edition of Lady Caine - I'm targeting the US market anyway. But these costs mean that this book will be limited to the US, and limits like this make no sense in our Internet-based, global culture.
I certainly won't consider putting any projects through CreateSpace that are not solely aimed at the US market.
Bear in mind, too, that this makes the process of proofing very expensive. So for a low-cost service, suddenly the cost isn't so low.
Now for some good news. The quality of the finished article is excellent. The cover image reproduced very well. The interior print is very crisp on bright, white paper. The binding is solid and the trimming precise. It's a quality product.
Once I was happy with the proof, I simply logged into CreateSpace, clicked a button and the book is now on sale.
It will take a little while for it to wend its way into bookseller databases and to be available via Amazon.com, but all that is now automatic.
There is still one big issue to resolve, however. As a non-US resident, I need to obtain an International Tax Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if I'm to avoid paying 30% withholding tax. I'm still going through the process and it doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon. I'll be posting a blog about that the minute the problem is fixed.