Today I'd like to share a tale of three POD publishers I've dealt with over the past couple of months. If you're a self-published author, perhaps you will learn a thing or two from my experiences.
Maybe I was a Bit Hard on Barnes and Noble Press
In April I posted My Advice to Those Thinking of Using Barnes and Noble Press for a Print Book – Don’t, where I took them to task over the difficulty with meeting their file requirements. Now that I've managed to solve the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma that is Barnes and Noble Press, in hindsight, perhaps I did protest too much. However, I'm not going to walk back the opinions I expressed in the April piece because while I did manage to successfully get my book onto Barnes and Noble, it wasn't due to any assistance from their print division. I was left to flail about and overcome the learning curve all on my own. Here is what I learned.
When my files were rejected, I'd receive a notice of rejection on my dashboard which was completely confusing. The notices were a mix of comments that referred to both interior files and cover files to the point it was literally unintelligible gibberish. Eventually, after multiple rejections, I finally figured out by trial and error that there was never anything wrong with my interior files, it was the cover files. I'd have sorted that much sooner, had Barnes and Noble Press simply identified the actual problem instead of obfuscating that by including irrelevant information in the rejection notices.
It seems that, unlike every other POD printer I use, Barnes and Noble Press cannot deal with RGB color images in print-ready image files. They can only deal with CMYK colors. For the uninitiated, RBG color are the type used when dealing with the web. RGB colors rely heavily on light to get the colors right. CMYK however, is the standard when it comes to printed material. Trying to print an image that is composed of RGB colors results in the printer dispensing excessive amounts of ink which will cause saturation and streaking.
I'd always uploaded RGB print-ready covers to the other POD publishers, and had never had a problem. I tried to do the same at Barnes and Noble Press, but that was no bueno. Once I figured out that was the problem from one cryptic sentence in the rejection notices, it was actually an easy fix. I found a free website that will convert RGB images to print-ready CMYK PDFs. The very first time I uploaded CMYK cover files to Barnes and Noble Press, they were accepted. Problem solved. A good rule of thumb then is that anything dealing with the web should always be in RGB. Printed material should be in CMYK. No doubt this applies to all POD printers, not just Barnes and Noble Press, so I suspect the others simply do the extra bit of converting RGB to CMYK for you, where Barnes and Noble Press does not.
In the end, Barnes and Noble Press may not be as daunting to work with as I first surmised. However, if you're thinking about using them, be forewarned. There is a much steeper learning curve involved than you will find at other POD printers. And, you will not get anything in the way of real assistance or direction from them if you run into a problem.
So, if they are as hard to work with as I claim, why bother? There is only one good reason to do it. For self-published authors, it is the only way you will get your print versions on Barnes and Noble with certainty, and the only chance you will get at having copies of your print books physically stocked in Barnes and Noble stores. While they will allow customers to order your books that are printed by someone like Ingram, they won't stock them or in many cases even show on their site that print versions are available. They won't deal in CreateSpace print books at all, since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and viewed as a competitor.
Let's just say I won't continue to actively discourage anyone from publishing with Barnes and Noble Press. Just be aware you may experience a good bit of frustration before getting your files accepted by them.
A Partial Apology to Lulu Press
When I posted Lulu Press Review -Thinking Of Using Lulu To Publish Your Book?- earlier this month, a good long time after publishing a hardcover version of Mare's Nest there, the book had not appeared anywhere other than the onsite Lulu store. In the post, I questioned whether they were actually able to distribute the books published with them. I was wrong about that. Mare's Nest has now shown up on Amazon and the sites of other booksellers. It took much longer for the book to get into distribution than any of the books I've published with Ingram. But, I'm manning up and admitting I was wrong about the distribution bit.
That said, I still have the issues with transparency and product quality that I mentioned in the post on May 2. I still recommend Ingram over Lulu Press because at Lulu you will pay essentially the same printing costs to get less quality. But I'll say this again too. The dust cover Lulu created was outstanding.
My most recent unsatisfactory dealings with a POD printer came just last week when I uploaded new interior and cover files for a book I originally published in 2017. I detailed the circumstances in Why I am Cutting Ties With Create Space and Suggest You Do Too so I won't regurgitate it all here. But, for the benefit of those who read that post, I will update the story.
After demanding proof that I was the author and copyright holder of Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair, my title was suppressed for four full days before I ever received a response from the Content Validation Team. This past Saturday, I received a cheerful email from them indicating that they were satisfied I was indeed the author and copyright holder. I was told my files were under review, and barring any problems, I'd be able to review a proof copy and approve the title for sale. However, the title continued to show a "suppressed" status until late Sunday.
Firstly, those files had already been reviewed by CreateSpace and approved by me the week before. The book with the changes I'd submitted was already back on Amazon when CreateSpace decided to suppress it and demand proof that I owned the rights to publish it. They put the book into review again for no reason, other than I suspect, to show me who was boss because I had sent strongly worded complaints about them suppressing the title in the first place. And, to add insult to injury, there was, of course, no apology for their egregious error or for questioning my integrity.
It was all moot by that point anyway. I'd already republished the book under a new ISBN, and it was already back on sale on Amazon the day before I heard back from the Content Validation Team. Instead of reviewing the proof, once the title was no longer suppressed and I had access to it, I deleted all the sales channels so that it was no longer available for distribution by CreateSpace. I then emailed customer support and told them to retire the title as I'd published it elsewhere. This morning I received a reply from customer service telling me they were unable to retire titles that weren't active. I'd have to review and approve the proof before they could do that. My response, screw it. Let it stay in "review" for all eternity for all I care. I'm done with it. And with all the sales channels blocked, they can't distribute the book. In fact, as of this morning, the CreateSpace version has already dropped off Amazon.
The most frustrating bit is that this entire controversy could have been easily avoided. Had a CreateSpace representative done literally two minutes worth of checking before my title had been suppressed and my integrity questioned, they would have easily discovered ample proof that I was the author and copyright holder. Instead, the company behaved irresponsibly and earned my permanent ill will.
I continue to urge caution when it comes to using CreateSpace. Especially, if you're considering updating book files for titles, you previously published there or perhaps are considering moving titles to them that you've previously published elsewhere. I think there are many better options available from companies that will provide something called "customer service," something that CreateSpace seems to have little if any awareness of. I'll never use them to publish another book, and I'll remove my other titles out of CreateSpace as time allows.
In conclusion, it may seem to those who don't know me that I'm a difficult person and hard to please. I'm not. I do, however, expect to be treated with courtesy and transparency by companies I entrust with my business. And, as an aside, since publishing the piece relating my experiences with CreateSpace, I've heard from several other authors with similar horror stories about their own experiences with CreateSpace.