CreateSpace and Amazon’s Pitch 2.0: Completely Worth It


So, last night, I attended a free event put on by CreateSpace and Amazon called Pitch 2.0. It very nearly didn’t happen, and I’ll be paying dearly for it for the next three days, but it was totally worth it. It was even worth the rush hour traffic on the 520 bridge, which locals know is the kind of hell you usually only associate with cities like L.A. and New York.

I took copious notes and I’ll be blogging about it for some time to come, starting soon (probably as soon as work finishes making me pay for my pleasure). The main thing I took away was this: publishing has changed, and independent authors have some fantastic resources available to them now. I’ve been seriously considering the whole self-publishing route for some time. Unless circumstances change, this event has pretty much convinced me that this is the right choice for my books. I’m not interested in spending years trying to get them traditionally published after finishing them. I want them in the hands of my readers ASAP. And with the tools available now, those books won’t lack for anything in the product quality department. The only possible failing may be the author herself, but I’ll be doing my utmost to make sure the contents match the beautiful, professional packaging.

A lot of excellent information came out of this event: help with pitches, marketing, distributing, and various other topics. We won’t lack for Dojo material, I can tell you.

I can also tell you that if CreateSpace and Amazon throw one of these little soirees in your neighborhood, get your ass registered and attend, no matter what it takes. It was worth several months’ worth of perusing the best writing blogs out there. Not that you shouldn’t be doing that, too, but there’s nothing like an event like this for helping you become a better author and, if you wish, your own publisher.

Comments

  1. badandfierce says

    I’ve been trying to keep up with the mostly-metaphorical turbidite of information on this subject, and the wall I keep running up against is that Amazon is, you know, evil. All the regular kinds of corporate evil, what with non-union employees and such, but also in a cyberpunk villain kind of way. Remember when they were forever besties with real bookstores? Then, when they had a chance to take that market share, they did the best they could to destroy their market share. (Borders fell mainly to the incompetent and deeply unethical behavior of its administration, sure, but Amazon helped!) Why would you ever expect them to behave differently to independent authors? Publishing is a big, evil, corporate industry too, of course, dedicated to profit over art, but at least they don’t have an automatic and insurmountable monopoly for most purposes.

  2. Hank Fox says

    I used CreateSpace for Red Neck Blue Collar Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods & Faith, and I did it after researching a half dozen other self-publishing avenues.

    CreateSpace is fantastically cheap, unbelievably fast, and pretty much painless. And because it’s Amazon, it dovetails seamlessly with an Amazon listing.

    I’ll admit, I had the skills and software to do my own interior formatting, and my own cover design, so that I only had to upload it to them, but even without that, I think it would be amazing.

    Since then, I’ve gotten raves for more than just the book contents. Several people have said they were impressed with the paper, and with the quality of the cover.

    I’m a CreateSpace fan.

    One caveat for those thinking of it: You get what you send, so proofread and edit the FUCK out of your book before you send it to them.

    THINK about the right title, about some absolutely FABULOUS cover art. Make sure what’s inside is PERFECT.

    And after you get your proof, read it SEVERAL TIMES, in deepest fear that a mistake is going to get through.

    Finally, when you get the book back in perfect form, you’re going to have to do a LOT more work to promote it.

    There’s the entire universe up until the time the book came out, when you’re a writer, and then this whole other universe, the REALLY TOUGH UNIVERSE, when you’re its only promoter, its only fan.

    Much to my surprise, the world does not leap to its feet and scream your name, aiming cameras and throwing money at you, the instant your book comes out.

    Bookstores, libraries, reviewers, agents, media outlets — some of them, a lot of them — are going to see you not as fresh and interesting and exciting, but as “Huh. Another guy with a book. How much longer until my coffee break?”

    Writing and then marketing your book is going to be the hardest goddam thing you ever did in your entire life.

    But … oh, my, is it worth it. Hey, if nothing else happens, if you don’t sell a single danged copy (NO, I’m not talking about me; I sold a good amount of them; it was fantastically reviewed, and it’s still selling pretty well), you become instantly and forever an AUTHOR.

    You’re over that one very high conceptual hump, and you’re open to writing other ones, better ones, anytime you damned well please.

    • says

      Nice writeup. I’m glad you enjoyed the event and found it of value. I certainly had fun being a part of it!

      But really I’m commenting to say that yes, Hank is correct about all the production work required to put a professional product out into the marketplace.

      What I’d encourage him to do, though, is be smart and hire out as much of that as is feasible.

      Get your manuscript developmentally edited. Back in the good (bad?) old days, publishers did this for you by sending your manuscript to guys like Alan Rinzler, and making you revise the manuscript until the house’s editor thought it was good enough. That largely doesn’t happen anymore, so it’s on you to find someone [blatant self-promotion alert:] like me to help with that.

      When you’re done with that, get it professionally line edited and copy edited. You might think these are like throwing money in a hole, but if you approach them with the right attitude, they’re not. The process of working with a good line editor will expose you in great detail to the weaknesses in your own writing craft, and does so in such a way that YOU have the opportunity to practice correcting the issues. Done right, a line edit not only improves your manuscript, it makes you a better writer.

      When the manuscript is flawless, hire a book designer like Joel Friedlander (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/) or Nathan Everett (http://nwesignatures.com/) to PROPERLY format your content for print, ebook, et cetera. Don’t be a doofus like I used to be and think that clicking the “Justify” button in Word is enough. Guys like that (and note, both of them were at last night’s event, too; Joel was on the panel discussion with me and Alan Rinzler, while Nathan was one of the pitch critiquers) are wizards with fonts, typography, layout, gutters, margins, drop-caps, and all kinds of arcane stuff you’ve never heard of but which, when done right, makes your book like like an honest-to-god, for-real BOOK.

      If you’ve got the artistic chops for it, yes, do yourself up a nice cover. If not, google “freelance book cover artist” and find one. There are a lot of talented, young, hungry artists out there who make some side money doing book covers, and if you look around long enough, you’ll find someone who’s got the right balance of talent and style to match your novel.

      The point here is that, like Joel said in the panel discussion, the instant you decide to indie-publish your book, you’re not an author anymore. You’re an entrepreneur. As such, you’re responsible for making sure that all the proper production steps involved in putting a book out there, happen, and happen at a professional level of quality. You’re the publisher. It’s on you.

      But that doesn’t mean you have to personally do it all yourself. If you have 30 years lying around, you can become an expert book designer like Nathan Everett, in which case by all means do your own book design. If you have time to get an MFA in design/illustration/fine art/composition/typography, then by all means do your own book cover.

      But if you’d rather be writing more novels, then hire that stuff out.

  3. says

    Dana,
    This is the first post I’ve read about last night’s event and I’m glad it was from someone who is going to go deeper into what happened and what was learned. In addition to thanking my favorite book doctor (Jason) for the plug above, I wanted to give a little bit of perspective on the event from one of the pitch doctors’ viewpoint.

    I was asked point blank last night, “Why do you do this?” Why do the editors, designers, publishers come to listen, critique and try to improve other people’s work? Face it, I’m an author as well and I’m constantly trying to improve my own pitch! Well, one of the key changes in the industry that has taken place is that we (authors, editors, designers, distributors, printers) are all in this together now. The day when we went out to a select group of agents and editors and customized a pitch to each one so that we were positioned to meet that person’s needs and land our own big contract are pretty much gone.

    What we have instead is a paradigm in which all of us have been cut loose from the mothership and won’t survive if we float away in our little escape pods. We have to pull them together, help each other, improve the overall impression of independent publishing, promote each other’s work, and learn from each other. Every time I gave feedback to another author about his or her pitch, I learned something, too.

    So, I just want to thank the 190 people who attended and the 80 who stood bravely and delivered their pitches for letting us have a share of your dream. This is the way the new world works!

  4. Last Hussar says

    I am somewhat sceptical about this idea. A lot of the cost in traditional publishing is the pre-production, rather then costs of paper. You notice this in ‘blockbuster’ authors, when they become ‘too big to criticise’ – Tom Clancy springs to mind.

    Its all very well saying ‘edit the fuck – WYSIWYG’ but how many wannabes will do that. How will the purchasers seperate the wheat from the chaff?

  5. Last Hussar says

    On a vaguely related note (well writing). Do you sometimes find your characters have a life of their own. My female lead has just talked the male lead into asking her out to dinner.

    THAT WASN’T THE NEXT BIT. Now I have to write a whole restaurent scene because She thought He was going a bit too fast.

    Thanks dear. I sometimes wonder whose narrative it is!

  6. Lauren Ipsum says

    I am currently working (as both editor and typesetter) with a writer who is self-publishing. She was planning on going through CreateSpace, but they are only a print-on-demand service, and I think will only print the softcover version. She wanted a little more than that.

    Xlibris will (for more money) create a hardcover version, a softcover, and an e-book, and they get her book listed on Amazon and I think Barnes & Noble.

    The plural of anecdote is not data, but I thought I would contribute my experience to the discussion.

  7. jay says

    Glad I went. The best part was practicing the pitch, getting feedback, then trying the revised version.

  8. Paul Havlak says

    Not looking to be published anytime soon myself (except maybe short articles), I don’t know the market or the Amazon tools.

    But as far as real ink-on-paper publishers go, seems like my friend Barbara at Mercury Retrograde Press would love, love, love you and your work. https://www.facebook.com/barbarafriendish