Free CreateSpace! (Free Expanded Distribution, That Is)

Oh, come on. You had to know I was going to use that headline, if you’ve heard about CreateSpace doing away with its fee for expanded distribution.

In the past, CreateSpace would distribute your paperback to all the Amazon platforms automatically. But paying the freight for expanded distribution would get your paperback into a number of channels that were difficult to access otherwise: bookstores like Barnes & Noble’s online store, distributors like Ingram, and resellers through CreateSpace’s own wholesale website. It would also get you a listing on Baker & Taylor, which is where libraries and academic institutions shop for books.

All that used to cost $25 per book. Now it’s free.

The fee structure has been evolving over the past several years. When I published SwanSong way back in 2011, the expanded distribution fee was $39 per year. By the time I began publishing my series in 2012, the price had dropped to a $25 one-time fee.

CreateSpace sent an e-mail to some of its customers earlier this week – the ones who had published a new book within the past six weeks and had paid for expanded distribution. They’re all going to get refunds. Mighty decent of CS, I think.

But why did they drop the price? It’s unclear. It’s certainly not to compete with Lulu, which charges $75 per book for its “globalREACH” program that makes your book available through Ingram. And it’s not to compete with Ingram’s own IngramSpark program, either – IngramSpark costs you a $49 setup fee, and an annual $12 “market access fee,” per title.

Whatever the reason, it’s a boon for indies who may have passed up expanded distribution channels in the past because of the fee.

Keep in mind, though, that when you pick Expanded Distribution for a CreateSpace title, you need to be careful when you’re setting your list price. CreateSpace charges a fixed fee for each book it prints, which varies according to the number of pages in your book, plus a percentage that varies depending on the sales channel. If readers buy your book via CreateSpace’s own online store, CS takes 20%. If they buy it through Amazon – which, let’s face it, is the most likely scenario – CS takes 40%. And if someone buys your book through an expanded distribution channel, CS takes 60%. So if you set your list price too low, you could conceivably end up owing CS for books sold through an expanded distribution channel. For example, a 180-page book with a list price of $6.99 would earn you $2.58 if bought directly from CreateSpace and $1.18 if bought from Amazon – but if someone bought it from, say, BN.com, you would owe CreateSpace 22 cents. They have a royalty calculator if you want to play around with the numbers for your own book.

I’m in favor of anything that makes it cheaper for indies to publish their work. So I’m looking forward to taking advantage of this with my next book.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

30 thoughts on “Free CreateSpace! (Free Expanded Distribution, That Is)”

    1. It’s kind of mind-boggling, isn’t it? They have a landing page during the upload/publishing process where you can play around with prices for your book, but I hadn’t seen the actual percentages before. And in the past, if I’m not mistaken, there was no line on the in-process calculator for the royalty for an expanded-distribution sale.

    1. I’m crying with right along with you — my most recent title went live last spring. But I’m publishing a new book this month, so I’ll get to take advantage of the free price in a couple of weeks, whoo hoo!

  1. Thank you so much for the information, especially regarding the royalty structuring. I automatically just thought that deducting 60% of something left you with 40%…

  2. Thanks for this info, Lynne! What I’d like is to have my two books from CreateSpace distributed in Canada. Anybody know how to get POD books distributed in Canada, besides amazon.ca? I mean brick-and-mortar stores. Thanks for any tips any of you might have!

  3. I was looking at CreateSpace the other day and they show a minimum price you’re allowed to set. However, I don’t know if that number changes when you select expanded publishing. Another factor to consider is what happens to your royalty if Amazon discounts your book. I’ve got a title priced at $6.99 and Amazon discounts it to $6.47. It leaves me with little royalty from Amazon, although still more than from expanded distribution. It seems to me however, if you’re in for the long run it’s worth accepting small royalties in return for the exposure.

    1. David, the thing to remember about Amazon’s discounts is that they still pay you a royalty based on your list price. If Amazon puts your title on sale, it’s Amazon’s profit that takes the hit — not yours.

      You’re correct — CS does give you a minimum price. It used to be that the minimum didn’t take into account the much lower royalty you would get from an expanded-distribution sale. I haven’t uploaded a book to them since expanded distribution went free, so I don’t know whether that’s changed. Anyone know for sure?

  4. Just because they’re doing away with the Expanded Distribution fee doesn’t mean you’ll escape having to price your book to get it into those channels. The Createspace pricing page tells you automatically the minimum price to get it in those channels and it won’t let you click it until you comply. Otherwise, you go Amazon only.

    And even in Expanded Distribution, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get your book into physical bookstores unless you have a highly specialized book they’re willing to roll the dice on. Most bookstores want a 55%-60% discount -and- for you to accept returns for 6 months per order. That means they can order hundreds (or thousands) of copies, put them on their shelves, and then return them if they don’t sell after 6 months, usually shopworn or damaged, and YOU have to refund the money -and- either pay to get them shipped back to you -or- take a hit on the chin when the books are shredded as paper pulp. Free expanded distribution isn’t going to fix this problem.

    I have a book B&N was interested in, but after I spoke to them about putting together a marketing plan and computed my potential liability (over $80,000) and the fact I had no control over how many books they could order, I said ‘no thank you.’ One ‘risk’ book per B&N bookstore in the country … I was willing to roll the dice. 350 B&N stores x 1 book each x $6.50/ea + $1.10 return fee/ea = $2,660 potential liability … roll the dice. 30 books per bookstore/all returnable (average ‘push’ according to the B&N people) x 350 B&N stores x $6.50 each + $1.10 return fee = $80,850 potential liability. I have yet to see those kinds of sales across all books, all platforms, all time, and they could give me absolutely no guarantees. In fact, they told me usually half of the traditionally published ‘midlist’ books they sell are RETURNED. Eh … not worth taking out a second mortgage on my house.

    A lot of authors, once they begin to hit the middle of the midlist, jump ship to Ingram because it’s the only way to get into physical bookstores … even WITH expanded distribution. I see this as Amazon trying to entice some of their bestselling authors who publish ebook only to get physical books out there earlier. But they haven’t fixed the bookstore distribution problem, which is the data I just outlined above.

    1. Anna, thanks for your comments. I’m glad to hear they’ve changed the calculator so that you can’t go into the negative with expanded distribution anymore.

      Also, you’ve done a nice job of outlining the major problems with relying on brick-and-mortar bookstores as a distribution vehicle. I know a lot of authors dream of seeing their books on display in their local bookstore, but the only way it appears to be worth it is to get a bookstore to accept a book on your terms (essentially, a few copies on consignment, and more later if those copies sell). I sell a lot more ebooks than I do print books, and my royalty is much higher on ebook sales. So for me, bookstore sales aren’t worth bothering with. But everybody’s different. 🙂

  5. I decided I wanted to keep my print copies low, so I opted not to participate with my current books. In the future I probably will, just adding enough to make the Expanded distro price and not make my readers poor in the pockets.

    1. That’s another concern, Kathy. Thanks for bringing it up. I wouldn’t want to price my print books as high as trad publishers do. I want mine to look like a bargain. But that’s just me.

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