I am cutting ties with Create Space, Amazon's subsidiary POD publisher. If you're a self-published author, you might want to consider doing it too. Here's my story.
This past Thursday, I checked my email and found this email from the Create Space Content Validation Request Team.
Thank you for publishing with Amazon.
I am contacting you regarding the following content:
Title: Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair:
Author(s): Larry Darter (AUTHOR)
Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else.
To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within four days
Acceptable documentation can include:
- If you are the author and you are republishing your book after your publication rights have been reverted to you, a signed reversion letter from your former publisher
- If you are the author and you are publishing under a pseudonym, please state that you have the rights of the content along with the pseudonym used.
- If you are the author and your content has not been published anywhere else, please state that you own the rights to the content you are publishing.
- If you are not the author, please provide documentation where the author confirms your rights to distribute the content, such as a signed contract between you and the author granting you the rights to publish the book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected or other similar documentation
Documentation we cannot accept includes:
- A statement by you that you have the publishing rights without verification by the author/copyright holder
- A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed
If you publish books for which you do not hold the publishing rights, you may lose access to optional services or your account may be terminated.
To learn more, please see:
We appreciate your understanding.
The Content Validation Request Team
After reading the email, I immediately logged onto my Create Space account and discovered that the paperback version of Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair, had been suppressed and was not available for sale.
Here is what I think provoked this, in my opinion, rude and slanderous accusation that I am not the author and copyright holder of this work. Earlier this past week, I uploaded new interior files for this book to correct some minor typos that were missed when the book was originally published last year. I also uploaded a new cover, because I'd recently changed the covers of the eBook and hardcover versions. I wanted all the covers to match.
I can't say this is the gospel truth, since of course, like Amazon, the parent company of Create Space, Create Space doesn't feel they need to explain their actions to anyone. They wouldn't even respond to my request for further information. And, if you read the email above, you will find not one single, solitary explanation for why Create Space had decided to question my integrity as well as my right to publish my own original work. This then is what I believe caused the entire problem.
I believe that the longer Create Space, once an independent book publisher and distributor, has been owned by the Amazon, the more the Amazon "no-customer service" philosophy and complete dependence on algorithms have filtered down to the Create Space operations. I think that updating my files somehow triggered one of those vapid Amazon algorithms and as a result, a canned automated email was dispatched to me without any human employee at Create Space bothering to investigate before the "demand" for validation was sent and my title was suppressed and made unavailable for sale.
I replied to the email, offering not one, but six obvious reasons why there could be absolutely no doubt that I was the author of Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair, that I owned the copyright, and that I had every right to publish it. I also took issue with the Create Space decision to capriciously and irresponsibly suppress my title, which was totally unwarranted.
By late afternoon, when I'd received no response from the jack-booted morons at the Create Space Content Validation Request Team, I sent a follow-up email to Create Space Customer Service. In fairness, I did receive a reply from them this morning, informing me they had forwarded my email to a representative of the Content Validation Request Team, who was in the best position to address my concerns. Wow! Seriously? Forwarding my email to the same people who had already refused to respond to me? How was that supposed to help?
I've used Create Space for more than a decade, and up until now, I've always been fairly satisfied with the service they provide. Even though, as mentioned, their customer service has grown more and more dodgy and unresponsive the longer they have been owned by Amazon. But I'm not happy with them now. I will not take having my integrity questioned by a two-bit POD publisher lying down. I will begin removing all of my titles from Create Space this weekend, and re-publishing them with another POD publisher who grasps the simple concept that rudely pissing off the people that you derive your income from isn't a real effective business plan to follow. That is if part of your plan is remaining in business.
As most self-published authors know, Amazon has for quite some time had a beta-paperback publishing option on the same Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard used to publish Kindle eBooks. I tried it once and found it very buggy and clumsy. For that reason, I remained loyal to Create Space and always used them for paperback versions of my books. But, once late-afternoon arrived today, and I'd still not heard a word in response from the ridiculously insipid team at Create Space Content Validation Request Team, I decided to re-publish a paperback version of Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair under a new ISBN on KDP. Here is what I learned.
The KDP paperback option is much improved since I last attempted to use it. I uploaded my interior print-ready files and custom-made one-piece cover in less than five minutes. Not only that, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to use the superior category and keyword tools on KDP that have always been far better than what is offered at Create Space. Finally, I was able to drop the retail price of the paperback by almost three dollars and still get the same royalty deal that I received at Create Space.
The one drawback of the KDP paperback publishing option is that authors aren't able to purchase copies of their books at cost, as can be done at Create Space. But for back-list titles where ACR copies are not needed for reviewers, this isn't really much of an issue. And for some time, Amazon has claimed that the copies at cost option will eventually be made available to authors. To be honest, I wish something had motivated me to try the KDP paperback option sooner. It achieves the same purpose that all of us authors have always used Create Space for, to instantly get our paperback titles on Amazon.
Bear in mind, the KDP paperback option won't get your books distributed to anyone other than Amazon. But that's actually all Create Space ever managed to do anyway, despite their so-called "enhanced distribution" option. Every bookstore out there from Barnes & Noble on down steadfastly refuses to purchase stock from Create Space because they know it is a subsidiary of Amazon and they aren't going to contribute to the profits of their greatest competitor. I don't blame them. Create Space attempted to achieve expanded distribution through Ingram, so what does anyone need Create Space for other than getting a book on Amazon? You can just publish with Ingram directly, as I have always done with hardcover versions, and reap the benefits of true world-wide distribution.
Once Amazon launched the KDP paperback option, many experts in the publishing industry predicted that the days of Create Space were numbered, at least as a place where print-ready files could be directly uploaded to. I doubt that the company will be completely shut down since Amazon will likely continue using them for POD printing. But, I agree with the experts and expect the business model at Create Space will change dramatically in the very near future. For that reason, to me, it just makes sense for authors to pull their titles from Create Space now before the rush and start re-publishing them with another POD publisher that can be counted on to stay in business.
Today, I utilized the KDP paperback option, mostly to get the same free ISBN that Create Space offers. But, from now on I'll just use Ingram for both hardcover and trade paperbacks. The quality is better, and having published a paperback with Ingram recently, I found I could set the retail price the same as I was doing at Create Space, and still earn the same royalty rate. Ingram has never had a problem getting my hardcover books on Amazon, and I suspect they will not have any more difficulty getting my paperbacks on Amazon with no Create Space version to compete.
In conclusion, Create Space, in my opinion, has long since outlived its usefulness to self-published authors. One would think they would be trying to improve their customer service to hang on to the business they have instead of driving their customers elsewhere. But, my experience with them this week suggests not. It seems to be lost on Create Space that the company is just another POD publishing option in a sea of POD publishing options. They certainly don't wield the kind of influence and power that their parent company Amazon does. So, how about this Create Space? When you make an egregious error, insult the integrity of one of your clients, and treat them with unjustifiable rudeness, you damn well better give them an explanation when they ask for it.