Createspace’s Expanded Distribution – Yes or No?

[For an update on Createspace’s Expanded Distribution program, please read Lynne Cantwell’s article here. – the admins]

Createspace is Amazon’s print-on-demand company. They’re the same guys but they’re run as a separate company. Amazon is in Seattle and Createspace is in Las Vegas. I self-published two ebooks through Amazon (KDP), and the same two books in print form through Createspace. Unfortunately, when I had to contact them to deal with different issues that sometimes come up when you publish your own book, I had to speak to each company individually. So, that means emailing Amazon for your ebook queries or contacting Createspace by email or talking to them on the phone. Yep, they’ll talk to you. You instant message them from their website and ask them to phone you. I’ve done the phone deal five or six times and each time my phone has rang within five minutes of messaging them. It’s a great system and they’ve been very good in helping me.

I was asked recently whether I utilized Createspace’s Expanded Distribution feature and paid the $25 fee. I did-both times. This is the blurb from Createspace’s website detailing what Expanded Distribution means and how it expands the reach of your book to their additional outlets and distributors:

Bookstores and Online Retailers – Make your book available to online and offline retailers such as Barnes & Noble and to distributors, such as, Ingram and NACSCORP.

Libraries and Academic Institutions – Make your book available through Baker & Taylor to libraries and academic institutions.

CreateSpace Direct – Make your book available to certified resellers through our wholesale website.

Through Expanded Distribution you can take advantage of our direct relationships with retailers, as well as leading industry distributors, such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

As you can see, in paying the additional $25 your book will be distributed to a number of wholesalers and libraries as well to Barnes and Noble. One of those distributors is Ingram, and, because I’d like to get my books onto the shelves in bookstores, Ingram is important to me. Through a couple of personal contacts I managed to get my first book into a couple of large grocery stores and Black Bond Books, an independent chain of bookstores. So, when I approached both of these places it was easy for them to order my book. In Canada, to have your book considered a bona fide bestseller you need to retail five thousand books and the books I sell or distribute from the trunk of my car don’t count towards this number. So, retail outlets found it easier to order my book because they were dealing with a wholesaler with whom they regularly did business, plus one by one, the numbers tally up and might just get me closer to that elusive five thousand sales number.

Unfortunately, the royalty rate on sales of your book through expanded distribution stink. In fact, you may as well be traditionally published; your cheques would probably be around the same amount. I’ll give you an example. When I sell a $12 print book through normal channels my royalty is $2.94. When it sells through Expanded Distribution my royalty is .34 cents. Yep, that’s it. So, it takes a heck of a lot of sales through their Expanded Distribution to earn back the $25. The majority of books I sell are ebooks, the print book market seems to be a totally different business, and I haven’t done nearly as well there. Of the few hundred print copies I have sold, most of them were through Amazon’s direct channels, and 30% of those were sold through the Expanded channels, so I did make the $25 back after a while.

The numbers quoted don’t pertain to overseas sales of print books. When you upload your book and publish it through Createspace, it’s important to make sure you tick off the section that will enable your book to be distributed in Amazon Europe also. This is part of their basic deal and doesn’t involve the Expanded Distribution feature so it doesn’t cost anything, so you may as well do it. When you are on the “Distribute” tab, go to “Channels” and make sure you’ve checked “Amazon Europe”. Both of my books are partially set in the United Kingdom so I have sold some books in the UK as well as other parts of Europe. The payment threshold for Europe and the UK are broken down individually and are separate from the US, so you need to earn one hundred Pounds or one hundred Euros before they’ll send you a cheque. I’ve yet to meet either threshold.

So, even though it takes a little while to make your $25 back from the Expanded Distribution feature I would do it again. One of my projects for this year is to try and get my print books on more shelves in bookstores. As a self-published author this can be a steep hill to climb and if I do find a bookstore willing to sell my books I want to make the process as simple as possible for them. So, if they’d rather order from their regular supplier as opposed to buying books from me, or having me leave them on consignment, the system is already in place for them to go ahead and order my books. So, I’ll keep knocking on the doors of bookstores and trying to sell my wares and maybe I’ll hit that bestseller list eventually and then the $25 will definitely have been worth it.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of BookDoggy.com and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on “Createspace’s Expanded Distribution – Yes or No?”

  1. My vote would be no. Tried it…tested it…I made $0.06 on the sale of a $12 book…not to mention the $25 you have to plunk down to be in the expanded distribution. From experience…a waste of money. I now have 4 published novels at create space and none of them are “expanded (you get nothing) distribution.

  2. My vote would be YES! Tried it…tested it…and even though the royalty is low you are getting distribution of your book. I think the $25 is a pretty reasonable promo cost to get your book distributed in such a wide variety of places. I like CreateSpace and their method of operation, plus the fact that purchasing your books through them is very reasonable. As Martin related, their response time for questions is very good and have always been very helpful to me. I still consider myself to be a new kid on the block as a writer and appreciate all of the helps made available to me at CreateSpace. I know you can convert your paperback book to an Ebook through Amazon but I paid the $69 and had CreateSpace take care of the process for three books so far and am completely satisfied with the results. Thanks for he article Martin, well done and appreciated.

  3. For me, while I am broke, I see $25.00 as a small price to pay for having my books available though more channels, even if I don’t make that money back. It’s about name recognition. I hoe, eventually it will start to pay off – maybe with my Sixth book? Ah, well a writer can dream.

  4. I agree that it’s worth it. I’ve sold a bunch off of B&N to folks who didn’t have ereaders and then emailed me how glad they were to be able to get print books. Don’t have a clue why they didn’t want to use Amazon, but hey, I’m all about access. As for the small royalty–it doesn’t bother me, since I’ve given away boatloads of books and to me, there’s not much of a difference. Give ’em away on GoodReads, give ’em away on B&N–it’s all good. My main income comes from ebooks, anyway.

    Great post, Martin!

  5. Thanks, Martin. I am halfway through the ‘setup’ of my book on CreateSpace so every bit of information is greatly appreciated at this point!

  6. Great post, Martin. I’ve opted into Expanded Distribution since CreateSpace made it a one-time fee and not an annual charge. I don’t sell very many paperbacks — like DV, most of my sales are from e-books — but I feel better about having my book in multiple places, including B&N. Plus when somebody says to me, “I don’t have an e-reader,” I can point them toward the paperback. 🙂

  7. Great Post, Martin. I, too, use Createspace and have used their $69 Kindle conversion process, as well as most recently, did my own conversion (and remarkably, it worked!). I also add the $25 Expanded Distribution for my books and consider it just a cost of doing business. It’s a cheap way to make one’s books accessible.

  8. First off… If you’re making six cents, you’re probably pricing your book wrong. 😉 But income per sale IS pretty low for those other sites. If you think you’re going to make a lot of print sales, you might be better off paying Lightning Source the $75 to print with them instead. You can then set a flat retailer share as low as 20% (Createspace uses a fixed 40% for Amazon and 60% everywhere else) and since Lightning Source is owned by Ingrams, you get the book everywhere Createspace does.

    Or consider raising your price a few bucks. Compare your book with similar books from other publishers, and price accordingly. A 400 page book in print for $12 is probably too low. These are trade paperbacks, remember – most sell for $13-18 or so.

  9. Actually, I don’t do many print sales…most come from my ebooks. I just like to give the people a choice, as I’m a died-in-the-wool, hold-it-in-your-hands reader, myself. Having my book priced higher might generate better roi, but as an indie horror writer, I’m competing against some really tough, really entrenched competition, therefore, a slightly lower price for an indie might not be too bad, especially, as I said, most of my sales come from the ebooks.

    As far as createspace…love them overall. Doesn’t cost a thing to publish if you do your own formatting and cover design as I do. So I have no problems with them. As Yvonne said…Kindle is a entirely different can of worms to deal with. 🙂

  10. So glad someone has lifted the lid on expanded distribution – I’ve had several clients asking if it was worthwhile. From what I see here it probably won’t help us much in New Zealand as we aren’t on the ground in the US to do that door-to-door sales assault on bookstores. I don’t imagine US libraries would be leaping to order our books either unless we gave them a compelling reason to. But it’s good to know that the channel is available should any mad keen author decide to fill a boat with books and head north!

  11. I used the EDC and love working with Createspace, they are right on the ball as far as calling, shipping questions, etc. But the one problem I just found out about is that if you change your cover, who knows when it will show up under the paperback link. I just checked Barnes & Noble and my old cover shows there for the paperback version. So it looks like I need to call them to find out how the new cover can get distributed everywhere they distribute in their EDC.

    I’m confused by what everyone else has been saying that they have gottten paid on their paperbacks through Createspace though. I have received $7.75 for 3 books, that equates to more than $1/book.

    1. The math is not that hard to figure out, and what you earn will depend on the length of the book and the price you set.

      Book printing cost = 1.2 cents per page plus 85 cents per book, with a minimum of $2.25 per book.

      Income = List Price – Printing Cost – Retailer Share

      Retailer share is 40% for sales on Amazon, and 60% for all sales through Extended Distribution.

      So as an example? A 400p trade paperback selling for $14.99.
      400 x 1.2 = $4.80 + 85 = $5.65 printing cost.

      Retailer share will be $6 for Amazon sales (40% of $14.99) or $8.99 for extended sales (60% of $14.99).

      Income on Amazon = 14.99 – 5.65 – 6 = $3.34
      Income from sales elsewhere = 14.99 – 5.65 – 8.99 = $0.35

      For this example, if you wanted to figure out how many books you’d need to sell at places other than Amazon to make back the $75 Lightning Source fee, divide the $75 by the difference of the two above; in other words, you’d need to sell 25 books to B&N or some other retailer to make up the difference (assuming you kept the retailer discount at 40%; you could reduce the discount lower, but that would interfere with your ability to sell to brick and mortar bookstores).

      Hope this helps? Tried to make it as clear as possible… 😉

  12. I just began formatting and putting my books on createspace and currently have 3 available with a fourth in the works. I made a template and it works out very well and they look pretty nice. I have my own block of ISBN’s so I am not eligible for the extended distribution even if I wanted to pay the $25.00, but I do take the first 3 distribution choices offered. Not sure why they prohibit you from using your own ISBN’s for extended distribution, but I prefer my own ISBN’s. I’m happy with the way the books come out. Haven’t sold anything yet since it’s only been ten days or so the first one was made available.

  13. I’ve been procrastinating on the print version of Vokhtah because of the learning curve involved. Now though I may find my courage a bit sooner. Great post! Thanks.

  14. Thanks everybody for your thoughts and thank you Kevin for breaking down the math. Createspace have been good to me and I even used one of their free covers as the cover for my first book, and they let me use it on the kindle version too of course.
    I sell a lot more ebooks than print also but there’s something special about seeing your book on a bookstore shelf, and contrary to some of the opinions being thrown around out there, you can get your self-pubbed books into some stores. You just need to knock on enough doors.

    1. My selling ebooks vs print have been about equal. There is one store I have found that is great for getting our books on shelves, Hastings and I wrote an article about it here: https://www.indiesunlimited.com/2012/10/29/hastings-and-your-print-books/ The unfortunate part is that Hastings is not everywhere nor is it an international book store. I will probably do print books every time I write a book just because I can get my books in Hastings.

  15. I did on a few on my books, then when I realized I wasn’t making any $, I dropped it. I try to steer customers to the CreateSpace store, the price is the same, but my royalties are better.

  16. Just selling a few books anywhere would be nice!!

    As much as most of us write for the love of it (I do), it seems to me in reality that economically, writing a novel is a terrible business idea, as we have a very saturated marketplace. Yes on the one hand services like CreateSpace are a God-send to Indies but with my cynical eye I do wonder if it’s another global juggernaut milking the dreams of thousand’s of creative and naive people queuing up to pay over the odds for their work to be ‘out-there’, whilst they of course take the lion’s share. They seem to be getting rich, not authors!

    …. and they know that there will be a few thousand more rooky authors looking for a golden fleece today, tomorrow and another day. I read another article recently than most Indies will be lucky to sell 100 books!

    I understand we budding writers need such a facility but why do they have to take such a cut? And does the ease of CreateSpace actually decrease our chances of success by flooding the market with even more books? Surely, every time a new book is published you have another competitor to deal with?

    But a writer has to write, right?

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