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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A New Model For Publishing Your Dream

Authors Aren't the Only Ones Who Can Publish

Publishing a book is the stuff dreams are made of.

Readers everywhere talk about the book inside them. Grandmothers would like to give every single grandchild a Creative Memories scrapbook, but, oh the expense! Grandfathers have grandkids nudging them to publish their memoirs. Most of us wrote poems when we were children and many quit before their poems could mature. Books—half-written books, fully written books and book ideas—are cozied in the corners of drawers all over the world. Many of them have been forgotten and regrets hang heavy over many others.

I'm here to tell you it's time to get off your dime and just do it!

For several years now we've had digital presses that look like big Xerox machines you see in your local Kinko's. Publishers put a CD into a slot on one side and a book comes out the other. A book complete with a cover. Each book can cost about $5 to $10, depending upon how fat it is. The trick is in getting that disc to tell the machine how to do its thing. It's called by many "POD printing" (Print on Demand). Many consider this the wrong terminology, but that's what most call it, so for our purposes we needn't even go there.

To get that disc just right, small businesses have sprung up to help. We can call them subsidy publishers or partner publishers and they do the work for a writer (or a granny with a dream) for a fee. (Check out places like or for some different models.)

Some of these publishers will want you to be a true author, others not. It's the ones who don't care that you will need to find if you just want to publish for personal reasons. I came across one of those recently, sort of accidentally.

I've published almost every which way. I have books published traditionally, that is to say the old-fashioned way where a publisher takes a manuscript and does everything for a writer and even gives them an advance (meaning money!). I've published the subsidy route. I've self-published. I've published e-books and paperbacks. I have books available on Kindle (that's Amazon's neat new reader). And recently I came across

I was immediately in love.

CreateSpace is made for what we're going to call "personal publishing." That is, anyone can do it for any reason. They can do it super professionally or just do it with whatever they have lying around that they want to disseminate as holiday gifts to their relatives this December. I published a memory book for those who attended my mother's funeral. The cover took more tech expertise than I had (because I'm a writer I really felt it needed to look pretty darn good) so I had Mindy Phillips Lawrence (email) help me with it for a small fee. But I could have done it myself. Then I collaborated on a chapbook (for the uninitiated, that's a small book of poetry) with my fellow poet Magdalena Ball and we used CreateSpace for that, too. When the books come to me to sell at a poetry reading, I tie a sweet little pastel-colored satin ribbon into the book as a book mark. It's a personal touch!

And then I got a big bee in my bonnet about a new book I wanted to self publish. But I was worried about expenses because it targeted a niche (meaning a smaller group of people than would interest most publishers who want—indeed need—to make money on their books). It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques and CreateSpace did it for me fast enough to launch it under deadline at the famous National Stationery Show at Javits Center in New York. A book aimed only at retailers means that its audience will be small, compared, say, to a book on marketing in general. Further, I had never had a book targeted to that group before, so my list of possible readers was almost nonexistent.

CreateSpace to the rescue! It did the publishing for me absolutely free (it will for you, too!). Some may want to have help with cover design and formatting; others may be able to find friends or relatives to help them with that gratis or they may prefer to publish it in whatever form they have their books. Call it primitive publishing—sort of like Grandma Moses and her primitive painting.

I call this new kind of publishing "my new model," though, of course it isn't mine. There are many using it already. Here are the essentials. You can fill in details for whatever project you have in mind by going to the site yourself and nosing around. Or you can hire Mindy (see her email) at a fee to coach you through it. But if you go it on your own . . . well, here it is:

  1. You upload the cover of your book and its innards on CreateSpace yourself. There is even a template for creating a cover. None of this will cost you anything. Nada. But you won't get personal coaching or information. You'll need to figure it out.
  2. CreateSpace automatically lets you know if your upload will print clearly. If they say it's a go, you order a proof copy.
  3. You decide if you want CreateSpace to assign an ISBN number to the book so it can sell on Amazon. Most personal publishers won't want them to do this. Those who do will click "yes" and CreateSpace will automatically install the book for sale on the online bookseller
  4. If the book is to be sold, you'll need to fill out some other information.
  5. If the book is not to be sold because you plan to give copies to friends and relatives, you order the number you need. You'll have to pay for these plus shipping, but you'll be surprised at how little you will have to pay per book. Your book will likely be cheaper than some holiday cards you've sent.

Voilá. This is your introduction to the publishing world. You've achieved a lifetime dream. Or you've gotten the grandkids satisfied so they aren't nagging you anymore. You can sit back and rest on your laurels or you'll have the writing and publishing bug. If you decide to go professional, it's a long, hard but fun learning curve. If you just plan to do more personal publishing, get ready for the time of your life!


Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Personal Publisher's Tidbit: If you would like to publish only a few of your personal books, contact Creative Memories representative Debra Synott (email) and she'll coach you through a CM publishing service that is more expensive per book but ideally suited to reproducing tons of photos on colorful and creative pages complete with your poems and/or your descriptions (called cutlines) of each photograph.

Readers' Tip: If you are a retailer (online or brick and mortar) you will not want to miss A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. You may also be interested in seeing how a book published on this model comes out. Find it on

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