No Printed Proof: A Very Bad, Very Good Idea

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For a while now, many CreateSpace customers have been seeing this when they go to order a proof copy:

As part of a limited trial, CreateSpace are offering their customers the opportunity to skip the proof copy stage and instead make their book available immediately – without anyone ever having seen it in print. I think it’s a very bad, very good idea, depending on who you are and why you’re publishing your book.

Why It’s a Very Bad Idea

The obvious reason it’s a bad idea is bad self-publishers. They’re the ones who have apparently never actually seen a real book, and so use Cover Creator, put their text in point 16 Bradley Handwriting and start their book on page one. There was always the hope that when they held their book baby in their hands, they might actually notice that it looks nothing like every other book they’ve seen during the course of their life, but without a printed proof, that’s never going to happen. And thus the pool of self-published poop grows ever bigger.

This may sound strange considering the average proof copy from CreateSpace is under $10 and shipping, if you don’t mind waiting, only another $5 or so onto that even if you’re very, very far away, but having to pay for a printed proof acts as a deterrent against trigger-happy self-publishers. I know that if I had a manuscript in a drawer and discovered a POD site that let me get a book up on Amazon in mere hours without having to pay any money at all, I’d be so tempted to do a quick spell-check and chuck it up there now. But knowing that you have to pay for a proof (and shipping) is a little Stop sign in the road, a little pause button on your plans. Hopefully one that makes you reconsider, and do the POD thing properly instead.

The people I really fear for in all this though are the ones who work in CreateSpace’s customer service department. As it is, I’ve encountered plenty of self-publishers getting their knickers in a twist because “proof” is on the back page of their (wait for it) proof copy, who send death threats to CreateSpace HQ because one corner of one book in a shipment of fifty has a slight bend at one corner and who insist that the “you’re” that should be a “your” on page 6 was definitely a “your” in the PDF they uploaded and that the “you’re” in the finished paperback was all CreateSpace’s fault. Can you imagine what these people would be like if they could order personal stock without seeing how the book looks first, or if they could sell their book on Amazon without checking it themselves? Nightmarish, for sure.

Why It’s a Very Good Idea

One of the major benefits of Print On Demand is that you can update your book at any time and know that the only books without the update will be the ones on shelves in the homes of the customers who already bought them. You might want to update your books because:

  • You discover errors and want to correct them
  • You release another book (and so want to add it to your “Also by” or put an ad for it at the back of the book)
  • You need to update contact info, like a website or e-mail address.

The procedure for updating your book was:

  1. Put your book on hold so you could make changes (which usually listed your book as “Ships in 2-3 weeks”)
  2. Upload your new files and submit for review
  3. Order a proof and wait for it to arrive
  4. Check the proof and okay the files, so it becomes available again.

The problem was that (i) this cost a proof plus shipping every time and (ii) if you waited for your proof to arrive, your book would likely go to “Temporarily unavailable” on Amazon and so become unorderable. Normally I would order the proof, but as soon as it shipped, go back to CreateSpace and approve the files, “publishing” it again. I was taking a chance, of course, that everything was fine, but if I’d only changed a line or two I could be confident that it was. With this no printed proof option, I can make the changes, submit them for review and then as soon as they get the okay, approve them as is. It saves time, money and trees.

The Best of Both Worlds

I think CreateSpace will be making a mistake if they offer this option unequivocally, but I also think they’ll be making a mistake if they don’t offer it at all. I think they should make every customer order at least one printed proof per title but, once at least one printed proof has been ordered and shipped, changes can be made after which the files can be approved as is, i.e. with no printed proof.

That way, this is a win-win. It doesn’t open the floodgates for trigger-happy self-publishers, but it means correcting one word or adding a book title to a list won’t cost you a proof copy and ten days of no sales.

Have you seen the “No Printed Proof” option on CreateSpace? Have you used it? What do you think?

5 thoughts on “No Printed Proof: A Very Bad, Very Good Idea

  1. mattkrause says:

    You’ve described it very well here. I love the feature for the reasons you’ve mentioned, and would hate to see Createspace remove it because it got abused. It’d be like seeing a Lamborghini get chopped up because some 15-year-old kid with a learner’s permit wrapped it around a tree.

    Matt

  2. Angela Watson says:

    Lightning Source (POD service for self-publishers) charges $30 for a print proof. I would be DELIGHTED to pay $10 for a proof.

    That said, I agree that it’s nice to offer publishers the option of skipping the proof…but I also agree that it’s going to result in many, many problems for people. Whatever the proof costs and however long it takes, IT’S WORTH IT.

    • Tahir says:

      Actually, it may not be obvious from LS’s instructions but if you’ve already had a proof and are on your 2nd or 3rd (or more) round you are allowed to simply click on “approve proof” without seeing the proof and the workflow will continue..after which you can order a regular copy for yourself. If you still need to correct it, it will of course cost you $40 to upload a new file as usual. If you are hesitant about the no-proof option you can always double-check with your rep. The other option is to of course use Lulu for “proofs” with the no ISBN option until your book is satisfactory because they use LS anyway! (Not sure how Lulu gets around skipping the $30 proof stage, but I guess they get special treatment as they are so big).

  3. Leonard Kinsey says:

    I agree 100% with your solution to the “bad” part. That is, don’t make this option available for the first proof, only for subsequent ones.

    It’s great that they’re offering this, though. I don’t need a printed proof if I’ve only corrected a single misspelling or added a comma. That said, twice now I’ve made changes and checked the “no printed proof” option, but then ended up ordering a new copy anyway so that I can have one “perfect” copy for my bookshelf!

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