CreateSpace offers a number of distribution options, but you can treat it as just a printer, too. You can publish a book under the standard plan, or upgrade it to the pro plan. You can also pick and choose which distribution channels you want to use. You’re never forced to distribute your book anywhere.
You have to choose the plan for each book. You can’t upgrade to the pro plan on an account-wide basis, because books have to meet specific requirements to qualify.
What distribution channels does each plan provide?
Amazon.com: This one’s self-explanatory. Your book will appear on Amazon.com, but not on any other Amazon sites.
eStore: This provides a one page store for your book that can hang off your website. Users can add your book to a cart and pay for it right there and then. However, if you sell more than one book from your site, this isn’t an ideal solution, since each eStore can only handle one book. So you’ll end up with a bunch of pages, and that’s not a good experience for users. If you have one website per book, an eStore could work well.
An eStore offers the highest royalty per book sold, since CreateSpace only takes 20% on each sale. So you might consider driving traffic to your eStore, rather than to your book’s Amazon page, where CreateSpace will take a 40% cut.
In addition to more distribution options, upgrading a title to the pro plan reduces the cost to print each book. In other words, you’ll make more on each sale, whether through Amazon.com, your eStore, or a pro plan distribution channel.
In addition to the two channels offered by the standard plan, the pro plan offers:
Direct: Certified resellers can buy your book through CreateSpace’s wholesale website. Is this an effective channel? Who knows? I haven’t seen any talk about it around the net, and it’s not why most people upgrade to the pro plan.
Bookstores and Online Retailers: Lightning Source (LSI) used to be the automatic first choice because it got your book into Ingram and into all sorts of online bookstores. Now CreateSpace can do the same, but it takes a larger chunk of each sale (60%!), doesn’t get your book into all the Amazon sites, and your book has to meet certain requirements (trim size, number of pages).
Libraries and Academic Institutions: Here’s a distribution channel not offered by LSI, but there’s a catch. You have to use a CreateSpace ISBN, which means you won’t be the publisher of record. This option is best for non-fiction.
You can, of course, order books for yourself, no matter which plan you have. But if you’ve upgraded to the pro plan, ordering the books will be cheaper.
So what’s the best way to go? Upgrading to the pro plan will reduce the cost of every book printed, which means it will eventually pay for itself. If you’ve decided to offer your book through CreateSpace, the only reasons not to upgrade are if you can’t afford it, or if you’re planning to keep your book private and order only a small number of copies.
At this point, my posts have covered setting up your title, getting your files ready, and choosing your distribution options. Once you’ve done all that, you have to order a proof of the book, so you can make sure it looks all right and do a final proofread before publishing it. That’s the stage I’m at now. I’ll write a final post about CreateSpace when I’ve approved my book for publication.