Cheaper Shipping, Less Mystery: I Heart CreateSpace


Any follower of this blog will know that I love CreateSpace, the Print-On-Demand service that I used for Mousetrapped, that I’m using for the soon-to-be-released Self-Printed (have you seen the cover? It’s here in 2-D and here in 3-D) and that I will use for the currently-being-written Backpacked. I’ve always found their service great, their products of good quality and their customer service second to none, but up until now there was one not-so-little thing that was spoiling all my fun: their shipping costs.

My shipping costs were actually greater than the costs of the books I was having shipped (although as I’ve said before, even taking this into account, they were still cheaper per unit than Lulu). By way of example, here are some orders I’ve placed with CreateSpace in the past:

  • On 19th March 2010, I ordered books which cost $181.50 and paid an additional $230.90 to ship them to me by standard shipping*
  • On 2nd April 2010, I ordered books which cost $90.75 and paid an an additional $131.90 to ship them to to me by economy shipping
  • On 25th April 2010, I ordered books which cost $174.24 and paid an additional $225.95 to ship them to me by standard shipping.

*CreateSpace had three shipping speeds: economy (forever), standard (a week or two) and priority (express courier). 

Anytime they sent me a survey or asked for feedback, I always said the same thing: I love you, but your shipping is killing me here. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, and CreateSpace were listening, because they are now offering far more reasonable shipping rates to all their customers. For example, I just ordered books that cost about $50 and the economy shipping was only $23.99. Better yet, I could upgrade to expedited shipping for just $34.49 (i.e. an additional $10.50).

But that’s not the best bit. Before, CreateSpace shipping costs were an utter mystery until you actually came to ordering your books. This wasn’t much good for a self-publisher who had yet to even decide on a service, let alone produce their book, and was looking to factor shipping costs into their budget, business plan or pros and cons list. I used to tell people to find a book similar in size and page count to theirs that was already published on CreateSpace and try to buy copies of it through the book’s CS eStore; this way you could guesstimate how much it was going to cost. But now CreateSpace have installed this:

A shipping costs calculator! Oh joy of joys. You can now work out how much buying copies of your own book will cost you before you even register for a CreateSpace account and get estimated quotes for how much it will cost you to ship those books to you by CreateSpace’s new shipping speeds. Hooray! You can access it here. Long overdue but hey, better late than never.

And another thing: One of the reasons I don’t like using CreateSpace’s forums is because of the disproportionate level of complainers on there. (But then same with TripAdvisor, ApartmentRatings, etc.) Reading the entries, you’d think that CreateSpace were in the habit of drowning peoples’ puppies and making them watch. So here is a nice CreateSpace customer service story, courtesy of me, and if you were getting suspicious, no, they’re not paying me to say nice things about them. (Although they should be.)

CreateSpace changed their shipping policies on March 29th, and sent out an e-mail to all customers saying as much. What this e-mail didn’t say, however, was that certain customers (i.e. international ones) wouldn’t be able to avail of the same shipping methods that they had in the past – at least not for the moment, anyway. What this meant was that I’d no longer be able to order books on a Friday, pay for expedited shipping and then have them arrive 7-10 days later, as I had done in the past. Trouble is, this is exactly what I was planning on doing for the copies of Mousetrapped I’m bringing to Mousemeets this Saturday. So I got a bit of a shock when I went onto the site and found that I’d have to wait six weeks for my books to arrive, or until May 20th. As you know, Saturday is April 30th, or The Day After The Royal Wedding Day.

I sent CreateSpace an e-mail asking what was up, and they responded by saying that for a few weeks, international shipping options would be limited while they changed things over. BUT as a courtesy to me, they would upgrade and thus expedite my order at no extra charge. Not only that, but they would upgrade any other orders I placed in the meantime. And so, thanks to someone called Ashley at CreateSpace, my books arrived on time (they’re already here) and at no extra cost to me.

(And they have now installed their new options, so no, you can’t go running off to get free upgraded shipping!)

So CreateSpace, I loved you before, but now I really love you. Now all I need is a hardcover option and I’m yours forever.

UPDATE: CreateSpace have since contacted me to say that they do have a hardcover option available for anyone who has published a paperback book with them. The upgrade fee is a one off $199, and then there’s charges onto that. HOWEVER this option is only available for books you are ordering from them yourself to sell on, and not for sale through their retail channels. It is this that I’m after. On Lulu, you can make a hardcover book and sell it just like you would any other book. I appreciate that they got in touch, but that’s what I hope CreateSpace eventually get around to doing. In the meantime though, I’m more than happy to keep selling my CreateSpace paperbacks…!

11 thoughts on “Cheaper Shipping, Less Mystery: I Heart CreateSpace

  1. adrian white says:

    Catherine, it’s also about time Create Space offered matt finishes to their jackets and paper that feels like a paperback book. The books are fine for non-fiction but they don’t look a thing like any novel in any book store apart from self-published/self-printed books. I want my novel to look and feel like every other paperback in the shop. I want to be normal. But it’s good that you’re so full of love.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Adrian I’ll try not to take that as an insult! 🙂

      I think my book looks great and I see no difference in the paper whatsoever. It’s actually thicker than some traditionally published books on my shelves. Sure, the cover card is below par but this is POD. Sacrifices have to be made. You can’t expect to get a perfect book when there’s no outlay and the books are just printed as they’re needed.

  2. Lissa says:

    Thanks for letting me know about this. I must have zoned out when I got the email. I’ve just tested the shipping to both my homes in Australia and England – there is a major cost discrepancy between the shipping for 100 books. Priority is cheaper to Australia! I’ll show you the prices:
    $163.99 Standard 31 business days
    $226.99 Expedited 18 business days
    $381.99 Priority 2 business days
    $204.99 Standard 33 business days
    $249.99 Expedited 17 business days
    $341.99 Priority 3 business days

    It’s a little odd that it would be cheaper to send something further away.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Funny you say that about zoning out – I took no notice of that e-mail either (I can’t even remember reading it) and only twigged that something was up when I tried to order books and couldn’t get priority shipping. Then when I contacted CS customer support they sent me a copy of the e-mail, which really just read like nothing exciting whatsoever – so you won’t the only one! 🙂

      That IS a bit weird. I wonder what’s the reason. But the fact that in the Oz example there’s only a $40 difference between standard and expedited shows what an improvement they’ve made – it used to be as much as double to speed things up!

      Of course this is all beside the point, because we shouldn’t be ordering on own books! That is the biggest mistake I made – ordering in stock to sell to friends, family, at launch, etc. Nightmare. You’re better off getting a few review copies, a few for yourself to keep and letting everyone else order online. Best way to keep your costs down!

  3. wordituk says:

    Thanks for this Catherine. I got the Createspace email too, but put it aside. My first thought was that with their previous prices being so disproportionate, how significant could the improvements be?
    But, what a great surprise, it turns out that shipping is now actually affordable. I might just get my short story, which I’m starting off with to test the waters, actually printed now instead of ebook only, wooh!

    Oh, question. Does CreateSpace handle images inside books, and what’s the quality like?
    (I have some illustrations I got an artist to do for the short story. Could be nice chapter headings.)


    • catherineryanhoward says:

      CreateSpace will print whatever you upload but with a black and white interior all your images will be in black and white.

      Marcus, please don’t put links in your comments. (I deleted it before approving this comment.) A link to your blog appears alongside your gravatar as you’re already logged in, so there’s no need. I’m not advertising space.

  4. Tahir says:

    Nice to see a happy ending to this Catherine…I’m from the “other side” (lightning source, never used createspace) so it’s interesting to compare. For your hardback version there is no reason why you couldn’t do that with lightning source because you have to get a new ISBN anyway and the rights are nonexclusive for both LS & createspace. LS also have a wider range of paper types. I think maybe the shipping was where createspace made their only money but perhaps they have enough of a client base now to relax it. In case anybody is interested, LS also charge a lot for proof shipping ($30 per copy) but once the book is ready to go the shipping is normal and in fact very good for bulk: for 50 books I paid less than a dollar a piece for shipping. They also have a UK center which makes international shipping more viable. As for Lulu, I have worked with them as well but found that the reason why they are so expensive is that they cleverly put a huge mark up in the printing and absorb it into “manufacture cost.” They then pay LS a fraction of what they charge you. Not only that, Lulu give the wrong instructions for a color book, forcing you to buy an infinite number of proofs unless you realize what’s going on (my credit card company has extracted some money back from them and now *they* have to prove that they haven’t been dishonest).
    Lissa: the australia shipping is less because they probably have a deal with a printer there maybe? LS is setting up a plant in australia in June which will make things more viable for us on the other side of createspace to reach that part of the world.
    (I don’t work for LS, just thought people might be interested to know the options).

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I actually investigated Lulu before I went with Createspace and I wasn’t impressed. They didn’t have the trim size I wanted and their unit price was 3 X TIMES what CreateSpace’s was for me, before we even get to shipping. (They say this was because of “doing business in the Euro zone.”)

  5. Renee says:

    That’s fabulous about shipping. I hadn’t even noticed and definitely skipped right over that e-mail if I received it. I agree with you that Createspace has amazing customer service. They handle any problems you may encounter so quickly, and you only wait for about a minute max to get in touch with someone by phone. Here’s another fan of Createspace! 🙂

  6. Michelle Rattigan says:

    Thanks so much.I have decided that createspace is for me. Thanks so much for your opinion it really made me feel good about my decision xxx Michelle

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