To Lulu, Or To CreateSpace? That Is The Question.

So as I mentioned previously, I am now in the process of putting together the print editions of Shards and Ravels. It’s been a good six years since I last did a print book (that would be Dragon Stones, of course), and while all of my previous ones were done through Lulu, I thought I might give another service a try this time — namely, CreateSpace.

Since I already had Scrivener templates set up for a Lulu 6×9 paperback, not to mention already having a Lulu account, I’ve created projects there for both new books and have ordered proofs. But CreateSpace seems to offer a compelling alternative. For one thing, as it is an Amazon company, I can set a lower price point on the books and still get higher revenue from sales at Amazon. Take, for instance, the aforementioned Dragon Stones; at 380 pages, the Lulu print edition price is $21.95 and, if it is purchased directly through Lulu, I get roughly 50% of that, $10.40; if it is purchased anywhere else, e.g., I get $1.42, or only about a seventh the Lulu royalty. Lulu royalty very very good; non-Lulu royalty less very good. The problem here, of course, is that no one purchases books directly through Lulu.

Looking at CreateSpace pricing/royalty structure for, say, Ravels, which is over 200 pages longer than Dragon Stones*, I could price the book at $20, and get a little over $8 for sales directly through CreateSpace, and a little over $4 for sales through Amazon. (For sales through Amazon’s “Expanded Channels”, which corresponds to Lulu’s “anywhere else” category, I would get $0.24, which is, of course, even paltrier than the $1.42 from Lulu; but as previously mentioned, generally speaking, non-Amazon sales for my books amount to somewhere between zero and zilch, so that’s not such a big deal.)

Of course, it’s not all about the Benjamins. When I formatted and uploaded PDFs to CreateSpace to create proofs there, it immediately gave me more feedback about the layout of the interior than I ever got from Lulu. For one thing, its automated layout review tool told me that (1) I needed to increase the gutter between the inside text and the binding, (2) I needed to boost the resolution of a couple of interior images to 200DPI to avoid possible blurring, and (3) that the top, right, and bottom margins might benefit from being adjusted. So after scurrying off to the web to find out how to set gutters in Scrivener (hint: Use facing pages and alternating margins), adjusting the other margins, and fixing the DPI on the images, I uploaded the files again, after which they went into a limbo of being reviewed for suitability for printing. This takes about 24 hours, and appears to involve being looked at by an actual person. Why do I say this? Because Shards came back with a note that, while it was suitable for printing, I might want to insert a blank page before the first chapter, for the following reason:

The interior is currently set up so that even page numbers will appear on the right-facing pages, and odd page numbers will appear on the left. You may wish to add a blank page before the text begins to correct the pagination as the first page of the printed book should be a right-facing, odd page.

Looking at the PDF, what was described in the note is what was present in the file; and pulling down a couple of printed fiction books (I do have a few here — hello Snow Crash!) off the shelf, the feedback is entirely correct: That’s how they are set up. (It’s also how my existing Lulu print books are set up, so evidently I noticed it on my own with those, probably by ordering a $15 proof, opening it, and then slapping myself on the forehead.)

After fixing Shards, I went and checked the PDF for Ravels, which — being over 500 pages long — I’d had to format with a differently-sized gutter and set of margins from Shards (I set up separate compile presets in Scrivener for future reuse on both sub-500 and 500+ page CreateSpace books. Have I mentioned lately that I love Scrivener? So much stuff I did manually with all the other books, Scrivener does automatically during the “compile” process!). The Ravels PDF had the exact same issue with the pagination that Shards did, but it wasn’t flagged as such during the review, which tells me that the files were reviewed by different people, one of whom caught and tagged the start page issue, and one of whom either didn’t catch it or didn’t think it was worth bothering about. While fixing the pagination on both PDFs I noticed that Scrivener was labeling the first page of the story as “Page 6”, because of the excerpt, blurb, copyright, title page, and other yada yada yada that came before it, so I took the opportunity to correct that in the compile format as well — another reason I’m glad to have gotten this alert from CreateSpace. Discovering six months from now that my books started on page six would have bugged the crap out of me.

Anyway, at this point, the CreateSpace files are back in the 24-hour-review stage, awaiting approval so I can get a new set of proofs from them.


It’s not a done deal — I still have to look at the finished product from each outfit and make sure I approve of the material and quality — but I kind of have some warm fuzzies about CreateSpace at the moment, so everything being equal, I will probably proceed with them. And if for some reason the Lulu books come out significantly better and I end up going with them, I’ll be porting over the fixes CreateSpace recommended. After all, if I’m going to ask someone to pay $20 or more for a paperback, it needs to look as professional as possible. But don’t worry, Donna, the likely switchover to CreateSpace will only set the print editions back by a few days!

* This is the main reason I split “Shards” into two books and renamed it the “Strings” series — the two print books together add up to over 1,000 pages. Not only would nobody spend $50 for a thousand-page paperback by Joe Schmoe, but neither Lulu nor CreateSpace will even print a book that big in a standard size, and a “coffee table” edition is not what I was going for.

4 thoughts on “To Lulu, Or To CreateSpace? That Is The Question.

  1. Fascinating reading. By the way, though I do not attempt the incredibly hard work of novel writing, I discovered Scrivener and use for other types of projects. So much easier than word for rearranging sections (chapters) and being able to “attach” research for later reference checking.

    I have also heard / read (but have no personal experience) of people using Createspace for the Amazon world, but then using Ingram for everything else. Seemed like the economics were better and independent book stores would be more likely to order a title through Ingram than through Amazon, whom they consider a competitor.

    Best of luck on the new books.


    1. Hello D.K. & the Herd! That’s exactly why I got started using Scrivener, because it was such a pain to move chapters and scenes around with regular word processing programs. Since then I’ve discovered (and keep discovering) all kinds of helpful features like the ability to attach research that you mentioned, to store the cover files, add character sheets and location notes, and so forth. In a way I use it the same way I used the late, lamented Binder component of Microsoft Office, which they ditched way back in, what, Office 2003? I still have ancient Binder files full of stuff for some of my older books.

      That’s interesting information about Ingram and the book stores — I checked Ingram out a while back, too, and while the tools didn’t seem as advanced as the others, I’m certainly not opposed to putting the books out through whatever channels make the most sense. I will give them another, closer look. Thanks for the tip, and for the good luck wishes!


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